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50 Things To Do In Monterey in 2022

Set on the central California coastline, Monterey is known for its idyllic, small-city charm, abundant marine wildlife, and cool-summer Mediterranean climate.

Once the capital of Spain’s dominion over California, the history of this seaside town rivals amazing cultural and culinary spots.

Steinbech and Dalí lived here. The arts continue to flourish and attract visitors, and the Aquarium is world class.

Planning a trip to this charming city? Here’s 50 things t

50 Things to do in Monterey

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Check out the Monterey Bay Aquarium

What’s special about this place?

Located at 886 Cannery Row, the Monterey Bay Aquarium is a nonprofit public aquarium known for its focus on the marine habitats of Monterey Bay. With over 200 exhibits and 80,000 plants and animals, the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s world-class exhibits inspire guests to participate in the global effort of ocean conservation.

Who’ll enjoy it here?

The Monterey Bay Aquarium is ideal for families, marine conservationists, and nature lovers in general. From frolicking sea otters, to extremely misunderstood sharks, to the most colorful nudibranch, there’s an awe-inspiring specimen for everyone here!

What to do here?

Take a tour through the Monterey Bay Aquarium complex. Check out the aquarium’s numerous exhibits featuring a variety of marine habitats. Stop by the Sea Otters exhibit and enjoy the playful antics of southern sea otters, or explore the Splash Zone exhibit and come face-to-face with sharks, penguins, and the alien-like sea lemon!

Best time to visit

The Monterey Bay Aquarium is open daily, from 10:30 AM to 5 PM. It’s best to get there when it opens at 10:30 AM to make the most out of your trip, and to avoid large crowds. The aquarium usually gets packed at around 2 PM. There are no in-person ticket sales, so make sure to purchase your ticket online ahead of time.

Learn more about Monterey Bay Aquarium here!

Explore Monterey Bay

What’s special about this place?

Stretching from Santa Cruz in the north to the Monterey Peninsula in the south, Monterey Bay is a bay of the Pacific Ocean that is home to many species of marine mammals as well as many species of fish, mollusks and birds. It’s one of the most productive marine ecosystems in the world! As Monterey Bay encompasses all of Monterey’s beaches, some of its main attractions will be mentioned separately on this list.

Who’ll enjoy it here?

Marine conservationists and nature lovers would love Monterey Bay. Offering many great spots for water sports like kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding, Monterey Bay is also ideal for water sport enthusiasts and families who want to take in the city from its cold waters–arguably the best way to view Monterey!

What to do here?

Monterey Bay is home to many marine protected areas. As such, it’s one of the best places for marine wildlife watching! Check out Monterey Bay’s kelp forests and observe the different species of fish that thrive there. Try your hand at stand-up paddleboarding, and kayak along Monterey’s coast!

Best time to visit

There’s no bad time to visit Monterey Bay, but it is important to note that summers will always be packed, as it is one of the top destinations in Monterey city, and in other cities within Monterey County!

Visit the Cathedral of San Carlos Borromeo

What’s special about this place?

Also known as the Royal Presidio Chapel, is a Roman Catholic cathedral that is the oldest continuously functioning church and the first stone building in the State of California. It is California’s first cathedral, and is one of California’s architectural gems as well as one of its exceptional historic monuments.

Who’ll enjoy it here?

The Cathedral of San Carlos Borromeo is ideal for religious pilgrims, families, architecture enthusiasts, and tourists looking to learn about the Spanish-Mexican heritage of Monterey. The Cathedral of San Carlos Borromeo stands not only as a legacy of faith, but also as a living chronicle of California’s history!

What to do here?

For practicing Catholics and those on a religious pilgrimage, the Royal Presidio Chapel is a perfect place to hear mass. Otherwise, check out the cathedral’s exquisite Spanish Colonial architecture. Check out its beautiful portals carved in sandstone and their intricate molding and arches. Check out the statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe at the top of the cathedral’s facade. Stop by the cathedral’s Heritage Center Museum and check out the relic of the Vizcaino-Serra Oak!

Best time to visit

The Cathedral of San Carlos Borromeo is open for visitors on weekdays, from 8:30 AM to 4 PM. It’s best to go there on a Monday to avoid large crowds. That said, if you wish to attend mass, the weekday mass schedule and the weekend’s mass schedule vary quite a bit, so it’s best to check out the church’s website ahead of time.

Learn more about Cathedral of San Carlos Borromeo here!

Stop by Casa del Oro

What’s special about this place?

Located within the Monterey State Historic Park, at 210 Olivier Street, just a two-minute walk from Fisherman’s Wharf, Casa del Oro is a two-story limestone rock and adobe building that operated as a general store in the 1850s. It got its nickname from rumors that gold miners would arrange for the storeowner to store their gold in his safe. Today, the store offers 1850s-themed merchandise and sells both replicas and genuine antiques!

Who’ll enjoy it here?

Tourists looking to step into a time capsule and travel back to the 1850s would love Casa del Oro. The store owner’s original desk still occupies the store, and the store’s safe is still there to this day. While there’s no gold to be found, it’s a great place to shop for 1850s-themed souvenirs!

What to do here?

Observe Casa del Oro’s interior and immerse yourself in the Early American period of Monterey. Check out Casa del Oro’s famous safe and try to see if you can picture gold nuggets stored in it. Take pictures of the various 1850s-themed merchandise, and if you’re up for it, get a souvenir to commemorate your Monterey trip!

Best time to visit

Casa del Oro is open Thursday through Sunday, 11 AM to 3 PM. Since it’s one of the most frequently visited of Monterey State Historic Park buildings, it’s best to get there early to avoid large crowds.

Hike through the Monterey Bay Coastal Recreation Trail

What’s special about this place?

Stretched across 18 miles, from Castroville in the north to Pacific Grove in the south, the Monterey Bay Coastal Recreation Trail is a popular paved path that provides easy access to sandy beaches, fishing piers, and marinas in the Monterey Bay area.

Who’ll enjoy it here?

The Monterey Bay Coastal Recreation Trail is ideal for all kinds of tourists. The paved path is friendly to the avid outdoor adventurer, as well as the most inexperienced hiker. Nature lovers would enjoy a hike through the coastal trail as well, since it presents a convenient way to tour almost all the top destinations in the Monterey Bay area while providing a great view of Monterey Bay!

What to do here?

Start your adventure on the trail’s southern end, either in Pacific Grove or Monterey. Rent a bike and ride through the Monterey Bay Coastal Recreation Trail. If you’re not really into riding bikes, the trail is perfect for hiking as well. Check out the sea lions and sea otters along the coast, and the wildflowers on the trail.

Best time to visit

This depends on your itinerary. The Monterey Bay Coastal Recreation Trail is accessible to the public all year round. That said, it’s particularly beautiful during the summer, even if it gets quite packed. Another option would be during the months of December through May, when Gray Whales can be seen off the coast.

Dine at Passionfish

What’s special about this place?

Located at 701 Lighthouse Avenue in Pacific Grove, just over 2 miles northwest of Monterey, Passionfish is a seafood restaurant that features a unique California dining experience in a fun and casual atmosphere. Their ever-changing menu features only the freshest sustainable ingredients. They also have a great selection of hard-to-find wines. Vocal advocates of sustainable food, they’re the first officially certified ‘Green’ restaurant in Monterey County!

Who’ll enjoy it here?

Passionfish is ideal for families looking for quality, reasonably priced food. They’re also great for hungry tourists looking for a restaurant that champions the tenets of sustainable cooking. Of course, the fact that they serve seriously good food doesn’t hurt.

What to do here?

Try some of their bestsellers. Their Spicy Fish Stew and Dungeness Crab Salad are sinfully good! Try their Sea Scallop and Duck Confit as well! Wash it all down with some of their award-winning wines.

Best time to visit

Passionfish is open daily, from 5 PM to 9 PM. They’re usually busiest on Fridays and Saturdays, so it’s best to dine there on other days. That said, it’s recommended to make a reservation way ahead of time to make sure you’ll be accommodated.

Learn more about Passionfish here!

Tour Cannery Row

What’s special about this place?

Bordering Pacific Grove, Cannery Row is a street in Monterey that was the site of a number of the city’s now-defunct sardine canning factories. Formerly named Ocean View Avenue, the street was officially renamed Cannery Row in 1958 in honor of John Steinbeck’s novel Cannery Row. Today, it’s the site of luxurious waterfront hotels, restaurants, boutiques, and some of the city’s most iconic landmarks (some of which are mentioned separately on this list).

Who’ll enjoy it here?

An iconic Monterey city destination that’s been immortalized in fiction, Cannery Row is ideal for all tourists. It has everything a typical tourist would look for. Souvenirs? Restaurants? Hotels? A walk through the city’s history? All that and more can be found in Cannery Row!

What to do here?

Check out the restaurants and boutiques at Old Fisherman’s Wharf. Pass by the Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History. Stop by Lovers Point Park and take pictures of the beach, and try to catch the sunset here.

Best time to visit

This depends on your itinerary. Obviously, Cannery Row’s establishments may have varying hours. It’s recommended to ask a local guide for the best destinations on Cannery Row. As it is one of the best-known spots in Monterey, expect the street to be jam-packed with tourists, especially in the summer months!

Learn more about Cannery Row here!

Get some authentic Oaxacan fare at Cultura Comida y Bebida

What’s special about this place?

Located at Dolores Street, between 5th and 6th Avenue Su Vecino Courtyard in Carmel-by-the-Sea, Cultura Comida y Bebida is an upscale Mexican bistro featuring the traditional flavors of Oaxaca with the bounty of California’s Central Coast. Cultura pairs their Oaxacan-inspired dishes with a well-curated Mezcal selection!

Who’ll enjoy it here?

Cultura Comida y Bebida is ideal for families, tourists dining with friends, Mexican food aficionados, and adventurous tourists looking to try Oaxacan-inspired Mexican food and pair it with a wide variety of premium Mezcal. Cultura offers Oaxacan hand-made crafts, so it’s also great for tourists looking for unconventional souvenirs.

What to do here?

Try some of Cultura Comida y Bebida’s specialties, like their gluten-free Chicken Enchiladas, their Carnitas Burrito, and their Nachos Locos. For vegetarians, try their Plantain Burrito. Pair all that Mexican fare with some of the best traditional Mezcal. Support Oaxacan artists by buying from Cultura’s Oaxaca Mercantile.

Best time to visit

Cultura Comida y Bebida is open Tuesday through Sunday. 5 PM to 8:45 PM Tuesday through Friday; 12 PM to 2:45 PM and 5 PM to 8:45 PM on weekends. They’re usually only busy during weekends, but it’s recommended to make a reservation at least a few weeks in advance to make sure you get a table.

Learn more about Cultura Comida y Bebida here!

Tour Pacific Grove's historic houses

What’s special about this place?

Just 5 minutes away from Monterey, Pacific Grove is a small coastal city located between Point Pinos and Monterey. Founded in 1875 as a Methodist church retreat, many of the original Victorian-era houses and 19th and 20th century buildings remain in use today; some of which have been turned into bed-and-breakfasts.

Who’ll enjoy it here?

A tour through Pacific Grove’s historic houses is ideal for families, architecture aficionados, and tourists keen on checking out the remnants of a Victorian-era America, when it was still getting its bearings as a young nation.

Learn more about

What to do here?

Walk the streets of Pacific Grove and be on the lookout for its numerous historic homes. Check out their distinct architecture, from Vernacular Architecture to Gothic Revival to Queen Anne to Colonial Revival! Be on the lookout for little green historic plaques that indicate that a house was built before 1926. Not all historic homes in Pacific Grove have this plaque, but they’re still useful guides!

Best time to visit

This depends on your itinerary. Touring Pacific Grove would take at least a day, so make sure to plan your trip accordingly. The important thing to remember is that these houses are private property, as such, approach them how you’d like strangers to approach your house.

Stop by the historic Moon Tree

What’s special about this place?

Located within Friendly Plaza at 534 Pacific Street #500, Monterey’s Moon Tree is a Redwood tree grown from a seed exposed to cosmic rays. How did this happen, you ask? Well, hundreds of seeds were brought to the moon by Command Module pilot Stuart Roosa on the Apollo 14 mission in 1971. One of those seeds found its way to Monterey, and the rest is history.

Who’ll enjoy it here?

Nature enthusiasts and tourists curious as to whether or not cosmic rays affect the growth of trees in any way would love checking out Monterey’s Moon Tree. It’s also a living testament to the historic feat of humans landing on the moon and to our ever-growing potential as a species, so aspiring astronauts and astrophysicists would definitely find the Moon Tree inspiring.

What to do here?

Take a quick stop and check out the Moon Tree in Monterey’s Friendly Plaza. Take in the tree’s history and take pictures. Check out the park’s other redwoods and try to see how these trees could be different from the Moon Tree (aside from their history, of course).

Best time to visit

This depends on your itinerary. Friendly Plaza is only ever busy during the weekends, and people typically spend at most an hour checking out the Moon Tree. A mild sunny day would be ideal for light strolls in Friendly Plaza.

Get your cheese fix at The Cheese Shop

What’s special about this place?

Located at the corner of Ocean and Junipero Street in Carmel-by-the-Sea, just over 4 miles south of Monterey, The Cheese Shop is a long-running shop that offers world-class cheeses, gourmet food and wines. Established in 1973, The Cheese Shop is a Monterey Bay area institution, and is well-loved by locals and tourists alike!

Who’ll enjoy it here?

The Cheese Shop is a sort of Mecca for gourmands looking for some of the world’s finest cheeses and wines. It’s ideal for families and cheese-loving tourists looking to get their cheese fix in the Monterey Bay area.

What to do here?

Explore The Cheese Shop and check out their extensive selection of cheeses, chocolates, wines, honey, tapenades and jams, and other gourmet items! If it gets too overwhelming, The Cheese Shop offers preset gifts so you don’t have to go through the hassle of deciding what items to buy.

Best time to visit

The Cheese Shop is open daily, from 11 AM to 5:30 PM. If you want to avoid large crowds, it’s best to visit the shop Monday through Wednesday, as it’s usually busy approaching the weekends, and busiest during weekends.

Learn more about The Cheese Shop here!

Visit the Old Monterey Jail

What’s special about this place?

Located at 580 Pacific Street, the Old Monterey Jail is a historic jail that, more than its antiquity, is known for operating over a century without a single escape. The Old Monterey Jail was constructed in 1854 and served as City Jail until its official closure in 1959. No one’s ever escaped this simple jail with thick granite walls. Today, it functions as a museum accessible to the public daily.

Who’ll enjoy it here?

The Old Monterey Jail is ideal for all tourists. While it’s a small and simple jail (like most jails built in the 1800s), it gives visitors an idea of the kind of hardships prisoners endured during the early days of America. The jail log also gives visitors an opportunity to see the nature of the crimes and arrests made during those days.

What to do here?

Check out the recreated scenes in each of the Old Monterey Jail’s cells and see the kind of life its prisoners lived. Check out the jail’s thick granite walls and see how these would fare today compared to our modern prisons. Don’t forget to inspect the jail log for some insights as to the type of crimes that were made during the jail’s heyday!

Best time to visit

As of this writing, the Old Monterey Jail is indefinitely closed due to the COVID crisis. Normally though, it is open to the public daily, from 10 AM to 4 PM. People typically don’t spend more than an hour here, but it’s best to visit the jail around 10 AM to avoid large crowds.

Explore Elkhorn Slough

What’s special about this place?

Located at the heart of Monterey Bay in Moss Landing, just over 19 miles northeast of Monterey city, Elkhorn Slough is a 7-mile long tidal slough and estuary–the largest tract of tidal salt marsh in California outside of San Francisco Bay. Elkhorn Slough is home to a tremendous diversity of plant and animal life, and is a designated Globally Important Bird Area by the National Audubon Society and the American Birding Conservancy.

Who’ll enjoy it here?

Nature lovers, conservationists, birders, birdwatchers, and nature photographers would absolutely love Elkhorn Slough. Encompassing more than 5,000 acres of protected wetlands, the Elkhorn Slough’s flora and fauna are some of the richest and most diverse in California!

What to do here?

Explore all of Elkhorn Slough’s seven miles. Go hiking on some of its accessible trails and take pictures of its flora and wildlife. Check out the birds that nest on this biologically rich salt marsh, such as the white-tailed kite, the red-shouldered hawk, the barn owl, and the swallow and oak titmouse! Check out its year-round residents such as oysters, gaper clams and longjaw mudsuckers; as well as seasonal visitors like sharks, otters, and rays!

Best time to visit

Since it’s quite far from Monterey city, this largely depends on your itinerary. It’s recommended to spend at least a good half day here to make the most out of your visit, so it’s probably best to stop by Elkhorn Slough at the start or end of your Monterey adventure.

Learn more about Elkhorn Slough here!

Get authentic Paraguayan baked goods at Cafe Guarani

What’s special about this place?

Located at 111 Central Avenue in Pacific Grove, Cafe Guarani is a cafe that offers Paraguayan empanadas, pastries, traditional Paraguayan breads, yerba mate, and coffee. Although its menu is influenced by other South American cultures, Cafe Guarani is first and foremost a celebration of Paraguayan food and culture, particularly of indigenous Guarani culture.

Who’ll enjoy it here?

Cafe Guarani is ideal for families and tourists looking for Paraguayan cafe fare and good old-fashioned South American hospitality. While it’s relatively new compared to other establishments in Pacific Grove, it’s already staked its claim as one of the best cafes in the area!

What to do here?

Try some of Cafe Guarani’s specialties, such as their traditional Baked Chicken Empanada and Baked Beef Empanada. They also offer two American-style empanadas, the Texas Brisket and the South Carolina Pulled Pork. Don’t skip dessert and try some of their pastries and Paraguayan breads, and don’t forget to try their Yerba Mate!

Best time to visit

Cafe Guarani is open Thursday through Tuesday, from 7 AM to 5 PM. It’s usually quite busy around 9 – 11 AM, so it’s best to visit the cafe early in the morning, or late in the afternoon. Moreover, as with most cafes, it’s usually busiest during weekends, so try to stop by during weekdays.

Learn more about Cafe Guarani here!

Check out Carmel-by-the-Sea art galleries

What’s special about this place?

Just a few miles from Monterey city, Carmel-by-the-Sea is known as a thriving art hub in the Monterey Bay area, and houses over 80 (!) prestigious are galleries located conveniently within one square mile. From sculptures, to paintings, to photographs from local and international artists, there’s something for every art lover here!

Who’ll enjoy it here?

Artists and art connoisseurs would love exploring Carmel-by-the-Sea’s art galleries. It’s also ideal for families and tourists just looking to get a feel of the Monterey Bay area art scene. Exploring art galleries is a great way to spend the day in this quaint little seaside city.

What to do here?

Check out all the art galleries in Carmel-by-the-Sea. There’s too many to mention here, but be sure to check out historic art galleries like the Carmel Art Association, Carmel’s oldest art gallery. Moreover, check out Carmel’s Classic Art Gallery, which boasts one of the most complete collections of fine-art from European masters. For something more contemporary, check out the Dawson Cole Fine Art Gallery.

Best time to visit

This depends on your itinerary. There are so many galleries to choose from, and it can be overwhelming for newbies. It’s best to allot at least one full day to explore Carmel’s most prestigious art galleries, so plan your trip accordingly!

Explore Point Lobos State Natural Reserve

What’s special about this place?

Located 7 miles south of Monterey, the Point Lobos Natural State Reserve is a natural reserve that hosts over 550 fully protected land acres, and over 9,907 acres of protected waters. It’s an exceptionally beautiful reserve known as the crown jewel of California’s 280 state parks. It features a variety of hiking trails and dive spots, and is home to a variety of land and marine wildlife. Moreover, it is also one of the only two places where the Monterey Cypress are native.

Who’ll enjoy it here?

The Point Lobos State Natural Reserve is a top destination for all tourists: families, nature lovers, nature historians, outdoor enthusiasts, nature conservationists, and even tourists who care more about the ‘gram-worthy pictures than the actual nature!

What to do here?

Explore the Point Lobos State Natural Reserve. Get your scuba gear ready and check out some (or all) of the ten designated diving spots in Point Lobos. Check out its rich wildlife and flora, and check out the Whalers Cabin and learn about the history of Monterey Bay’s whaling industry. Obviously, don’t forget to take pictures; unless you’re a local, it’s not every day you get to visit the crown jewel of California’s state parks!

Best time to visit

This depends on your itinerary. Point Lobos State Natural Reserve is open year-round, from 8 AM to 7 PM. As of this writing, permits aren’t required, but there’s a growing demand for stricter regulations from locals, so it might be best to inquire ahead of time as to the reserve’s accessibility if you plan on visiting.

Learn more about Point Lobos State Natural Reserve here!

Pass by Monterey's Custom House

What’s special about this place?

Located at 1 Custom House Plaza in Monterey, directly across the entrance to Fisherman’s Wharf, Monterey’s Old Custom House is a historic building constructed in 1827 by Mexican authorities to collect taxes on imported goods at the Monterey Bay port. It is the first designated California Historical Landmark, and the oldest surviving government building in California. Today, it functions as a museum and gift shop.

Who’ll enjoy it here?

The Old Custom House is ideal for history buffs, specifically those interested in the history of maritime trade during Mexico’s occupation of California. However, it’s equally enjoyable for casual tourists who want to explore Monterey’s historic buildings.

What to do here?

Step into the 1840s and explore the Old Custom House. Check out the wide variety of imported goods and wares displayed inside. Check out the Custom House’s gift shop and browse through heaps of locally made greeting cards, games, crafts, and other souvenirs!

Best time to visit

The best time to visit the Old Custom House depends on your itinerary. It’s open seven days a week, from 10 AM to 4PM. As a general rule, it’s best to visit popular tourist spots during non-summer months to avoid large crowds.

Chill out at Del Monte Beach

What’s special about this place?

Located at 132 Tide Avenue, tucked away from Monterey’s main streets, Del Monte Beach is a hidden gem along Monterey Bay. It is part of a chain of Monterey State Beaches, and is located on the back side of a coastal housing community. Del Monte Beach features great dunes, a nice boardwalk, and some picnic tables. Moreover, it offers great views of the bay and of the historic Cannery Row.

Who’ll enjoy it here?

Del Monte Beach is ideal for families and tourists looking for a beach that is relatively unknown but still offers the same amazing views that other beaches in Monterey offer. It’s also a great spot for hikers as well as water sport enthusiasts. Sunbathing, surfing and kayaking are popular activities here.

What to do here?

Check out the dunes on Del Monte Beach. Examine the marine wildlife and flora present on the beach, and take pictures. Try your hand at surfing. While not especially ideal for experienced surfers, the rather flat waves on Del Monte Beach presents beginners a great opportunity to learn how to surf! Of course, it’s perfectly acceptable to just pass the time and just lounge around at the beach!

Best time to visit

The beach is open at all times, so the best time to visit Del Monte Beach really depends on your itinerary. Whether you’re planning to swim or surf or kayak on its waters, or planning to take a light stroll on the beach, as long as the weather is not too harsh, any time is ideal for visiting Del Monte Beach!

Have brunch at Poppy Hall

What’s special about this place?

Located at 589 Lighthouse Avenue in Pacific Grove, Poppy Hall is a restaurant that serves a unique California take on rustic soul food. Founded in 2018 by chef Philip Wojtowicz, Poppy Hall is a relatively new addition to the Monterey Bay culinary scene. That said, it has been rated as one of the top comfort food spots in the Monterey Bay area since its inception!

Who’ll enjoy it here?

Poppy Hall is ideal for families and tourists looking for comfort food fused with familiar Californian flavors. As it’s a small restaurant, it offers an intimate setting ideal for group brunches/lunches/dinners, and the restaurant’s comfort food menu is suitable for guests of all ages!

What to do here?

Bring a date to Poppy Hall! Try some of Poppy Hall’s bestsellers. For brunch, get their Grilled Salmon, or their Regal Seagull sandwich. For lunch, try their Saffron Risotto and Grilled Shrimp. For dinner, try their Grilled Pork Shoulder!

Best time to visit

The best time to visit Poppy Hall depends on your itinerary. Poppy Hall is open Wednesday through Sunday. 5 PM to 9 PM Wednesday through Saturday, and 10 AM to 2 PM on Sundays. It gets quite busy during peak hours, so it’s best to make a reservation way ahead of time if you’re planning to dine here.

Have yourself a Roaring Camp Railroads adventure

What’s special about this place?

Located at 5401 Graham Hill Road in Felton, a good 49 miles north of Monterey, Roaring Camp is a preserved railroad town that features an 1880’s style general store, a museum, and a train depot with authentically preserved trains. There are two available routes: one meanders through the redwood forest on Bear Mountain via an authentic 19th-century steam train, and the other takes passengers from Felton to Santa Cruz via the Roaring Camp’s Beach Train!

Who’ll enjoy it here?

Roaring Camp is a great place for families, history buffs–especially those with a particular interest in the history of the railroad industry and steam trains, and tourists looking to explore a piece of California in the 1800’s.

What to do here?

Ride the Redwood Forest Steam Train and check out the redwood forests leading to Bear Mountain. The redwood forests in the area are some of the best-preserved forests in the country. Don’t forget to explore the other route as well. Ride the Santa Cruz Beach Train and travel through Henry Cowell State Park, across a 1909 steel truss bridge and through an 1875 tunnel before arriving at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk!

Best time to visit

Since it’s quite far from Monterey, the best time to visit Roaring Camp really depends on your itinerary. The railroad town is open from 9 AM to 5 PM, but the trains’ schedules may vary. It’s best to inquire ahead of time as to the trains’ schedules if you’re planning to visit and ride the Roaring Camp trains.

Learn more about Roaring Camp Railroads adventure here!

Treat yourself at Lucia Restaurant & Bar

What’s special about this place?

Located at 415 W Carmel Valley Road in Bernardus Lodge & Spa in Carmel Valley, a good 16 miles southeast of Monterey city, Lucia Restaurant & Bar is a fine dining restaurant that features upscale Californian country cuisine and an extensive wine selection. Each dish from this Forbes four-star restaurant is crafted with the best organic, seasonal produce as well as regional seafood and artisan farmed meats!

Who’ll enjoy it here?

Lucia Restaurant & Bar is ideal for families, wine connoisseurs, and tourists looking for a casual yet upscale dining experience in a cozy, pastoral location. It’s also ideal for tourists looking for a unique private dining experience, so yes, it’s a great place for a romantic dinner!

What to do here?

Treat your partner to a romantic dinner here; or, take your family and friends on an upscale culinary adventure. In any case, try some of their bestsellers. Try their Tuna Tartare and their Garden Vegetables. Try their 8 oz Grilled Prime Beef Filet. Don’t forget to try some of the wines in their world-class wine cellar!

Best time to visit

Since it’s a bit far from Monterey city, the best time to visit Lucia Restaurant & Bar depends on your itinerary. The restaurant is open daily from 7 AM to 10 PM. Reservations are required, so plan your trip accordingly!

Learn more about Lucia Restaurant & Bar here!

Visit historic Colton Hall

What’s special about this place?

Located at 570 Pacific Street, Colton Hall is a government building and museum in Monterey. A historic landmark in the city, Colton Hall was the site of California’s first constitutional convention, which is why it’s known as the building where the state of California was born! Today, Colton Hall is part of Monterey’s city hall complex, with its first floor accommodating the city’s Planning and Building departments. Its second floor contains the Colton Hall Museum.

Who’ll enjoy it here?

As one of the most historically significant buildings as well as one of the best-preserved buildings in the country, history buffs, tourists with a thirst for local history, and architecture enthusiasts would definitely enjoy a tour through Colton Hall.

What to do here?

Check out Colton Hall’s classic Greek Revival style architecture. Try to examine the city’s departments on the first floor and see how they’ve integrated to the preserved structure. Explore the Colton Hall Museum on the second floor and walk through the assembly hall, which was faithfully restored to look like it had looked when the 48 delegates of the first Constitution Convention met there!

Best time to visit

The best time to visit Colton Hall definitely depends on your itinerary. As it’s just a few steps away from other historic landmarks like Casa del Oro and the Old Monterey Jail, it might be best to visit all three in one trip. Colton Hall Museum is open to the public every day, from 10 AM to 4 PM.

Get some rustic Italian fare at La Balena

What’s special about this place?

Located at Junipero Street in Carmel-by-the-Sea, La Balena is an Italian restaurant offering organic, sustainable, rustic Italian fare. While its menu changes daily, La Balena’s menu focuses on traditional Italian food that showcases the freshest locally sourced ingredients. They also have an extensive Italian wine selection!

Who’ll enjoy it here?

La Balena is ideal for families as well as tourists looking for sustainable authentic Italian fare. La Balena is a certified pet friendly restaurant and features a great outdoor dining area, so it’s also ideal for tourists vacationing with their pet/s!

What to do here?

Try some of their bestsellers, like their Rigatoni and Ricotta Gnocchi. Try their famous Bistecca and Pesce del Giorno. As for their sides, their Crispy Potatoes are particularly good. For the full experience, don’t forget to get a bottle of Italian red to pair with your meal!

Best time to visit

This depends on your itinerary. La Balena is open Wednesday through Sunday from 5 PM to 9 PM. As of this writing, due to the COVID crisis, La Balena’s indoor dining room is closed. As there’s less space, it’s best to make a reservation ahead of time to make sure you and your party are accommodated!

Learn more about La Balena here!

Tour Old Fisherman's Wharf

What’s special about this place?

Located at #1 Old, Fishermans Wharf, along the Monterey Bay Coastal Trail, the Old Fisherman’s Wharf is a historic wharf in Monterey. Built in 1870, the wharf was used as an active wholesale fish market into the 1960s. Today, the Old Fisherman’s Wharf is an iconic seaside complex lined with seafood restaurants, souvenir shops, art galleries, and candy shops!

Who’ll enjoy it here?

The Old Fisherman’s Wharf is, along with Cannery Row, one of the most known tourist spots in Monterey. It’s a great dining spot, it offers a great view of Monterey Bay, and it’s conveniently located near the Custom House Plaza. As such, it’s ideal for all kinds of tourists. Tourists traveling with family, tourists visiting Monterey for the first time, and tourists who visit Monterey every year!

What to do here?

Try some of the best seafood in the Monterey Bay area in one of the restaurants at the Old Fisherman’s Wharf. Try the clam chowder at Crabby Jim’s, or try the squid at Abalonetti Bar & Grill, or the wild-caught seafood specials at Paluca Trattoria! Go souvenir-hunting at the souvenir shops that line the wharf, or go on a Monterey Bay Whale Watching tour!

Best time to visit

The best time to visit the Old Fisherman’s Wharf depends on your itinerary. Restaurant and shop hours may vary, and if you want to go whale watching, it’s best to do so during peak whale watching months. That said, there’s really no bad time to spend a day here!

Learn more about Old Fisherman’s Wharf here!

Explore the Dennis the Menace Playground

What’s special about this place?

Located at 777 Pearl Street, within El Estero Park, the Dennis The Menace Playground is Monterey city’s most popular municipal playground. Designed by the creator of the iconic syndicated newspaper comic strip Dennis the Menace, the playground has all sorts of attractions, such as a maze, a rock-climbing wall, and a statue of Dennis the Menace!

Who’ll enjoy it here?

The Dennis the Menace Playground is an ideal destination for tourists traveling with children. However, its attractions are great for tourists of all ages, especially avid fans of Dennis the Menace. This playground inspires wonder in its young guests, and evokes nostalgia in its older visitors.

What to do here?

Tour the Dennis the Menace Playground. Explore the playground’s slides and tunnels. Check out its swings and try climbing up the very safe rock-climbing wall! Check out the Dennis the Menace statue and take pictures. If you’re more into water-related activities, rent a paddleboat and tour Lake El Estero!

Best time to visit

The Dennis the Menace Playground is open daily, from 10 AM to dusk. It can get very busy during weekends, so it’s best to visit the playground on weekdays. That said, it’s recommended to inquire about the playground’s hours ahead of time, as it may be closed occasionally for maintenance.

Drive/bike through the 17 Mile Drive

What’s special about this road?

The 17 Mile Drive is a scenic road through Pebble Beach and Pacific Grove. Much of the 17 Mile Drive hugs the coastline and passes through coastal cliffs. It passes through famous golf courses, beautiful mansions, and scenic attractions like the Lone Cypress! The 17 Mile Drive has four primary entrances: entrances in Carmel and Pacific Grove, and the main highway entrance at California State Route 1. Some of the stops within the 17 Mile Drive are mentioned separately on this list.

Who’ll enjoy this?

The 17 Mile Drive is ideal for tourists who want a comprehensive tour of one of the most beautiful coastlines in the Monterey Peninsula. That said, the 17 Mile Drive is also ideal for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts, as it features breathtaking views of the coast as well as the Monterey Peninsula’s flora and fauna.

What to do here?

Take one of the four main entrances to the 17 Mile Drive and ride, via car or bicycle, through the scenic road. Take a driving guide with you if you’re new to this. Stop by Spanish Bay and find a quiet spot on its beach. Check out Restless Sea and the rocky Point Joe. Take pictures of Bird Rock and the Lone Cypress!

Best time to do this

The best time to do the 17 Mile Drive is during fall or spring, as it’s rainy during winter and summer morning fog can last all day. It’s best to inquire about weather conditions before going on the 17-Mile Drive. That said, the drive is beautiful even in suboptimal weather conditions.

Learn more about 17 Mile Drive here!

Stop by McAbee Beach

What’s special about this place?

Located at 1 Hoffman Avenue, McAbee Beach is a small scenic pocket beach in the heart of Cannery Row. Often in the shadow of restaurants and hotels on Cannery Row, McAbee Beach is one of the more underrated beaches in Monterey.

Who’ll enjoy it here?

McAbee Beach is ideal for families and tourists who are keen on scuba diving and/or kayaking. Don’t let the urban hubbub of nearby Cannery Row fool you, it’s great for nature lovers as well. McAbee Beach contains a large kelp bed just a minute offshore that’s home to a variety of marine wildlife!

What to do here?

Take a break from shopping and/or aimlessly walking around Cannery Row and stop by McAbee Beach. Go swimming, scuba diving, and/or kayaking in its waters. Check out the marine wildlife that frequent the area, and if you’re going swimming or scuba diving, check out McAbee Beach’s large kelp bed!

Best time to visit

McAbee Beach is open from 6 AM to 9 PM. It’s best to stop by the beach during weekdays, as it can get really packed during weekends! If you plan on just sitting by the beach, it’s recommended to visit during low tide. If your plan includes water-related activities, though, any time should be ideal!

Visit the Steinbeck Center

What’s special about this place?

Located at 132 Central Avenue in Salinas, the Steinbeck House is a historic Queen Anne-style Victorian house. Built in 1897, it was the birthplace and boyhood home of author John Steinbeck. The building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1989. Today, it functions as a restaurant and museum.

Who’ll enjoy it here?

The Steinbeck House is ideal for literary enthusiasts, writers, architecture enthusiasts, and fans of the works of John Steinbeck. It’s also great for tourists who want to take a peek into the life of the young John Steinbeck by walking through the same halls and rooms the author lived in as a boy.

What to do here?

Book a tour through the John Steinbeck House and explore the author’s childhood home. Check out the well-preserved Victorian era structure and try to think about how this home influenced the great author. Check out the restaurant as well and try some of their bestsellers. Check out their gift shop as well!

Best time to visit

This depends on your itinerary. The John Steinbeck House’s restaurant is open Tuesday through Saturday for breakfast, lunch, and/or brunch, 11:30 AM to 2 PM. The John Steinbeck House is available for guided tours on Fridays and Saturdays, 12 PM to 3 PM. As of this writing, the John Steinbeck House is temporarily closed, but they’re set to reopen in September 2021!

Learn more about Steinbeck House here!

Go swimming near the Monterey Submarine Canyon

What’s special about this place?

Located near Moss Landing in Monterey Bay, the Monterey Submarine Canyon is a steep submarine canyon with canyon walls measuring up to 1,700 meters. The canyon is 12 kilometers across at its widest point, and reaches a depth greater than 4,000 meters on the abyssal plain. It is home to an abundance of deep-sea life, and is one of the deepest submarine canyons on the West Coast of the United States!

Who’ll enjoy it here?

Exploring the waters near the Monterey Submarine Canyon is ideal for nature lovers and marine wildlife enthusiasts. The area is a great spot to observe gray whales, humpback whales, and orcas! Sea turtles and a variety of fish can also be seen on the surface waters of Monterey Canyon!

What to do here?

Go swimming and scuba diving in the area near the Monterey Submarine Canyon. Check out its abundance of marine wildlife and marine flora! Go on a whale watching tour and check out herds of whales traversing the Monterey Canyon’s waters!

Best time to visit

This depends on your itinerary. If you plan on going on a whale watching trip, the best time to do so would be in the months of March through November. But really, there’s no bad time to explore the waters near the Monterey Submarine Canyon!

Get contemporary Mediterranean cuisine at Jeninni Kitchen + Wine Bar

What’s special about this place?

Located at 542 Lighthouse Avenue within the Holman Building in Pacific Grove, Jeninni Kitchen + Wine Bar is a casual bistro offering contemporary Mediterranean cuisine, and a meticulously curated wine list that pairs perfectly with Mediterranean fare!

Who’ll enjoy it here?

Jeninni Kitchen + Wine Bar is ideal for families and tourists looking for a casual Mediterranean dining experience. With its simple yet upscale Mediterranean menu, it’s considered a sleeper hit among the many popular dining spots in Pacific Grove, and is loved by locals and tourists alike!

What to do here?

Try some of Jeninni’s bestsellers. For small plates, try Jeninni’s Octopus with charred scallion purée and black lime vinaigrette. For entrees, try their Crispy Lamb Shank and Petrale Sole + Mussels! Don’t forget to ask their staff for the best wine to pair with your meal.

Best time to visit

Jeninni Kitchen + Wine Bar is open Thursday through Monday, from 4 PM to 8 PM. While walk-ins are okay, it’s best to make a reservation way ahead of time to make sure you and your party, family, or date are accommodated!

Learn more about Jeninni Kitchen + Wine Bar here!

Check out Comstock’s Fairy-tale cottages in Carmel

What’s special about this place?

Carmel-by-the-Sea is a charming seaside city that has been home to many artists throughout the years, some of which unalterably change the city. One such artist is Hugh Comstock. Inspired to build a whimsical, fairy-tale home for his wife, he ended up building more fairy-tale houses and buildings, and this fairy-tale aesthetic has since influenced most of the homes in Carmel-by-the Sea; and his fairy-tale cottages have since become some of Carmel’s most popular attractions!

Who’ll enjoy it here?

A tour through Carmel-by-the-Sea’s fairy-tale cottages is ideal for families, architecture enthusiasts, and all sorts of creatives. These fairy-tale cottages are living testaments to what an uncompromising artistic vision can do, no matter how quirky or “childish” it can be. Sometimes you just have to let your imagination run wild and allow it to inspire you!

What to do here?

Visit Carmel-by-the-Sea’s Visitor Center and procure a guide that maps out all the fairy-tale cottages within the city. Get your camera ready and spend a day walking through the city’s streets and check out all the fairy-tale cottages made by Comstock, and all the other houses and buildings inspired by Comstock’s aesthetic!

Best time to visit

This depends on your itinerary, but it is ideal to spend at least half a day here for you to be able to explore all of the fairy-tale cottages. While the weather in the Monterey Bay area is generally consistently cool and dry, it’s always good to inquire ahead of time as to the weather conditions of the city before undertaking a scenic hike through its streets!

Visit the Old Whaling Station

What’s special about this place?

Located at 391 Decatur Street, Monterey’s Old Whaling Station is a nationally registered historic landmark that was built in 1847. It served as a home for the Wight family before they left to explore the California gold fields. In 1855, the house was used by the Old Whaling Station Company for onshore whaling operations. Today, the Old Whaling Station serves as a museum and an event rental–great for weddings, bridal showers, and private dinners!

Who’ll enjoy it here?

The Old Whaling Station is ideal for families, history buffs, architecture enthusiasts, and tourists looking for a great venue for private events. It provides a great look at how an early 1800s Californian family lived, and how houses in those days were built!

What to do here?

Take a self-guided tour through the Old Whaling Station. Check out its architecture and furnishings. Explore its gardens and check out its distinct pattern created with actual whale vertebra! As mentioned above, the Old Whaling Station also functions as an event rental, so if you’re looking for a great place to host a private dinner, try renting the Old Whaling Station!

Best time to visit

This depends on your itinerary. As of this writing, the Old Whaling Station is temporarily closed due to the COVID crisis. Under normal circumstances, though, the Old Whaling Station is open Tuesday through Friday, from 10 AM to 2 PM!

Learn more about Old Whaling Station here!

Experience an elevated steakhouse experience at Seventh & Dolores

What’s special about this place?

Located at the southeast corner of 7th Avenue and Dolores Street in Carmel-by-the-Sea, Seventh & Dolores is an award-winning steakhouse serving elevated steakhouse fare, sustainable seafood, and local wines. The steakhouse exclusively sources its all-natural meats from Niman Ranch, including their famous 28-day dry aged steaks!

Who’ll enjoy it here?

Seventh & Dolores is ideal for families and tourists looking for an elevated version of the traditional American steakhouse experience, in an area replete with seafood-focused cuisine. The restaurant’s bright and airy dining space makes it ideal for dinner parties!

What to do here?

Try some of Seventh & Dolores’ bestsellers. Try their wet aged steaks and dry aged steaks. Try their Hand Cut Steak Tartare and Prawns a la Plancha. Don’t miss their Niman Ranch Lamb Rack and their Red Wine Braised Niman Ranch Short Rib!

Best time to visit

Seventh & Dolores is open Thursday through Monday, from 5 PM to 10 PM. It’s best to visit the steakhouse on Mondays and Thursdays to avoid large crowds. That said, as this is one of the most popular steakhouses in the area, expect it to be at least a little bit crowded at all times.

Learn more about Seventh & Dolores here!

Go scuba diving for sunken (Cannery Row) treasure at San Carlos Beach Park

What’s special about this place?

Located at 100 Reeside Avenue at the west end of Cannery Row, San Carlos Beach Park is a 2.87-acre beach park. Sometimes referred to as Reeside Beach Access, the San Carlos Beach Park is a popular jumping point for scuba divers, but it also has benches and picnic tables for those who just want to enjoy the view!

Who’ll enjoy it here?

The San Carlos Beach Park is ideal for avid scuba divers, hikers, and tourists just looking to lounge around on the beach after a long hike on the Monterey Peninsula Recreation Trail, or a long day of souvenir shopping on Cannery Row.

What to do here?

Get your scuba gear ready and explore the San Carlos Beach Park’s waters. Try to look for remains of the historic cannery factories and other underwater treasure. If you’re not keen on diving, spend a few hours lounging on the beach park’s benches.

Best time to visit

The San Carlos Beach Park is open daily, from 6 AM to 10 PM. It’s best to visit during weekdays, as the beach gets quite packed during weekends. It’s also particularly great to visit on a sunny day.

Explore the Palo Corona Regional Park

What’s special about this place?

Located at 4860 Carmel Valley Road, approximately 5.4 miles south of Monterey city, the Palo Corona Regional Park is a regional park surrounded by hills, offering pastoral views and breathtaking ocean overlooks. The park is nearly 10 miles in length and features over 4,500 acres of rugged terrain that boasts a wide variety of wildflowers and wildlife. Needless to say, it has some of the best hiking trails in Carmel!

Who’ll enjoy it here?

The Palo Corona Regional Park is one of Central Coast California’s most significant undeveloped open spaces. As such, it’s ideal for outdoor enthusiasts, avid hikers, and tourists looking for a more inland-oriented Monterey adventure!

What to do here?

Explore the Palo Corona Regional Park. Check out some of its main attractions, like Inspiration Point and Animas Pond. Check out the park’s woodlands and the wildlife that thrive in them. Check out the park’s enchanting oak groves, and as always, make sure to take pictures!

Best time to visit

The Palo Corona Regional Park is open all year round. Offering a variety of hiking trails, it’s best to visit the Palo Corona Regional Park on a cloudy or mildly sunny day. This allows for guests to have a better time exploring the trails.

Visit the Carmel Mission Basilica Museum

What’s special about this place?

Located at 3080 Rio Road in Carmel-by-the-Sea, the Carmel Mission Basilica Museum is a national historic landmark located at the mouth of Carmel Valley. Built in 1797, it is one of the most authentically restored Roman Catholic mission churches in California, and the only Spanish mission in California that has its original bell and bell tower.

Who’ll enjoy it here?

The Carmel Mission Basilica Museum functions as a church, a museum, and an architectural wonder. As such it’s ideal for those on a religious pilgrimage, practicing Roman Catholics, architecture enthusiasts, and American history buffs. While it is a place of worship, it is also a living testament to the bloody European conquest; as such, a tour here is also highly educational.

What to do here?

Explore the Carmel Mission Basilica Museum’s grounds. Check out its iconic bell tower. Check out the church’s distinct architecture. For practicing Roman Catholics, attend mass here; more importantly, learn about the history of Saint Junipero Serra. Check out the church’s shop as well, for Carmel Mission branded items and souvenirs.

Best time to visit

The Carmel Mission Basilica Museum is open Wednesday through Sunday. 10 AM to 4 PM on Wednesdays and Thursdays, 10 AM to 5 PM on Fridays and Saturdays, and 11:30 AM to 5 PM on Sundays. It’s best to visit the church on weekdays to avoid large crowds.

Learn more about Carmel Mission Basilica Museum here!

Explore Pinnacles National Park

What’s special about this place?

51.6 miles southeast of Monterey city, the Pinnacles National Park is a 26,000-acre American national park that is the product of an ancient volcanic eruption. Its chaparral, oak woodland, and canyon landscape is home to a variety of spring wildflowers and a rich diversity of wildlife. The park is also known for its magnificent rock formations connected by a series of trails. As such, it is a popular destination for technical climbers.

Who’ll enjoy it here?

The Pinnacles National Park is ideal for avid outdoor enthusiasts, avid rock climbers, hikers, aspiring geologists, nature and wildlife lovers, and tourists who are craving a more land-oriented experience after a day or a few days of coastal bliss.

What to do here?

Hike through Pinnacles National Park’s numerous hiking trails. Get your camera ready, and take pictures of the impressive rock formations within the park, as well as its wildlife. Keep an eye out for prairie falcons, bobcats, golden eagles, and cougars! Try to spot at least one of the thirteen species of bats living within the park’s talus caves; and if you’re an advanced rock climber, try some of the park’s most challenging climbs!

Best time to visit

The Pinnacles National Park is open all year round and is accessible for day use. It’s best to visit the park on clear sunny days to fully take in the park’s amazing landscape and views. For obvious reasons, it’s also ideal to go rock climbing on a clear sunny day.

Visit Fort Ord National Monument

What’s special about this place?

Located at Toro Creek Road in Marina, just over 12 miles east of Monterey city, the Fort Ord National Monument is a 14,658-acre former United States Army post that holds some of the last undeveloped natural wildlands on the Monterey Peninsula. With more than 86 miles of trails, it’s a popular destination for hiking, biking, and horseback riding. Fort Ord is also known for its diversity of animal and plant life.

Who’ll enjoy it here?

Fort Ord National Monument is ideal for avid hikers, outdoor enthusiasts, and recreationists of all ages. As a former United States Army post, it’s also great for military nerds who want to take a look at a real albeit abandoned United States Army post.

What to do here?

Hike through its numerous trails and pockets of chaparral and oak woodlands. Check out its abundant plant and animal life, and if you’re into golf, go for a round or two at Fort Ord’s golf courses. Don’t forget to explore the nearby Fort Ord Dunes State Park as well.

Best time to visit

Fort Ord is open daily, from half an hour before sunrise to half an hour before sunset. It’s best to visit Fort Ord on weekdays, as it’s quite busy during weekends. That said, Fort Ord is generally not too busy late in the afternoon, around 3 PM onward.

FAQ

FAQs – frequently asked questions about Monterey:

Is Monterey city safe?

Monterey is in the 18th percentile for safety, which means that 82% of cities are safer than Monterey. However, if one looks at the data, the majority of the crimes are property related, which may be due to the fact that Monterey is one of the prime retirement destinations in the country.

Is living in Monterey expensive?

In terms of costs Monterey is more or less equal to the rest of California. This means that yes, it is quite expensive, but not as expensive as Hawaii or New York.

Does Monterey have nice beaches?

Absolutely. Monterey has a range of beautiful beaches that offer a great variety of water activities such as scuba diving, kayaking, and surfing!

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