It’s been nearly four years since I joined Andrew on the west coast (I almost can’t believe it!). It’s crazy to think about how the time has flown by and all that we have been able to experience during our time here. I have been working on an ultimate Monterey guide, but have been receiving multiple requests recently for things to do in our area so I thought I would put together a short list of some of our favorites.
1. Rent Bikes and Cruise Along the Recreation Trail
Almost every weekend (when we’re home) we get out our bikes and make our way down along the Monterey rec trail. We’re lucky to live less than a mile from the trail and we primarily make our way down towards Cannery Row. It’s the perfect route to see Monterey Bay and takes you along Del Monte Beach, Fisherman’s Wharf, the Coast Guard Pier (stop here if you want to see lots of sea lions), and Cannery Row. Depending on the weather and how we’re feeling, we will sometimes take it all the way out towards Lover’s Point in Pacific Grove. Depending on where you are staying, many of the hotels in the area will have bikes that you can rent, but if not, Adventures by the Sea has multiple locations near the waterfront for you to rent bikes and surreys.
2. Drive Along 17-Mile Drive in Pebble Beach
This is an absolute must while you are in the Monterey area. This beautiful drive takes you into the world renowned Pebble Beach, home to some of the most gorgeous and prestigious golf courses in the world. The drive starts in Pacific Grove area before entering Pebble Beach. There are several gates and ways to get in, but our favorite route is taking Ocean View Boulevard (which then turns into Sunset Drive) and entering 17-Mile Drive from there. You do have to pay $10 to enter but it is well worth it with its phenomenal views of the coast. Other highlights of this drive include one of the most famous and photographed tress, the Lone Cypress, as well as The Lodge at Pebble Beach. If you have time, stop for lunch or a quick drink at The Bench, overlooking the 18th-hole.
3. Shop Carmel-by-the-Sea
Downtown Carmel is located right off 17-Mile Drive (take the Carmel exit) or off of Highway One. It offers loads of shops, restaurants, and sits right next to Carmel Beach. Andrew and I normally take Ocean Ave all the way to the bottom of the hill, towards the beach, where we park. We walk up the hill on one side and then down the other, being sure not to miss anything. In addition to Coach, Kate Spade, Anthropologie, and Sur la Table, some other notables are Kurtz Culinary, Istanbul Collections, Jewels on Ocean, and The Cheese Shop.
4. Visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium
A trip to Monterey wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. We have such a rich marine life in the Monterey Bay and you get to experience so much of that at the aquarium. With close to 200 exhibits, it can easily take up an entire day, but can also be done in a few hours.
5. Hike Point Lobos
Located just a few miles south of Carmel, this nature reserve is an amazing location for hiking. With multiple trails along the ocean, you are bound to see sea otters and sea lions in the wild in addition to fantastic ocean views. We’ve hiked all over the Monterey Peninsula and Big Sur and this is still one of our tops places to hike. The trails are fairly easy and if you don’t have time to make it to Big Sur, this offers similar views of the coastline.
6. Grab Happy Hour at Sardine Factory
Since Andrew and I are not big seafood eaters (we’re working on that) we counted this place out for a long time. But once we learned of their amazing happy hour and lounge menu it has easily become one of our favorite places to grab drinks and small bites. The restaurant is a converted Sardine Factory and is full of history…it even appeared in a few Clint Eastwood movies! As I mentioned before, they have an amazing happy hour from 5-6pm and then again from 9:30-10:30pm. They offer a fine dining experience in two dining rooms and then a more relaxed menu and atmosphere in their lounge.
7. Go Whale Watching
If time permits, a whale watching trip on Monterey Bay would be an ideal experience for a trip to Monterey. Monterey Bay Whale Watch offers two trips daily and depending on the time of year you go, they can be between 3-5 hours. Depending on the season, you could see blue whales, gray whales, humpback whales, orcas, and dolphins to name a few. Our first trip was incredible and we saw over 70 humpback whales and thousands of sea lions. Read more about our first whale watching trip here.