Monterey Bay travel is truly all about the ocean; the seaside town, which is located on central California’s Pacific coast, is the home of one of America’s premier aquariums. Indeed, many tourists travel to Monterey Bay solely to visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium, where visitors can view an impressive array of sea life, including stingray, jellyfish, sea otter, seals, sea lion, dolphin, and blue fin and yellow fin tuna exhibits. The aquarium overlooks Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, which protects dense kelp forests and a sublime variety of marine life, including seals and sea lions, dolphins and whales. The city itself possesses the best-preserved historical evidence of California’s Spanish and Mexican periods, with many restored adobe buildings. An afternoon’s wander through downtown’s historic quarter promises to be more edifying than time spent in the tourist ghettos of Fisherman’s Wharf and Cannery Row.
Monterey’s activities and museums like the Monterey Museum of Art will keep you busy from the moment you get up in the morning until you rest your head at night. Take advantage of Monterey’s beautiful weather and walk the Path of History where you can experience what life was like when Monterey’s served as California’s capital. Or stroll among the city’s wine tasting rooms or along the glorious beaches. Avid shoppers can find antiques in New Monterey, unique boutiques on Cannery Row and among the historic buildings in Old Monterey. It is easy to understand why Monterey California Tourism is not a hard sell! For a list of all the area beaches << Click Here >>. Our Monterey Visitors Guide will help you plan a great vacation here. Keep reading!
Monterey Weather (When To Visit)
The best time to visit Monterey is between April and May. Spring offers warmer temperatures, fewer crowds and food festivals dishing out delectable eats, including Pebble Beach Food & Wine and the Artichoke Festival in Castroville. Summer is the most popular time to visit the Monterey Peninsula, but Monterey can still be chilly. Located right on the ocean, the region experiences bitter winds, so bring a sweater regardless of the season. Fall is another good time to visit, but the likelihood of rain increases starting in October. Monterey’s central California location subjects it to mild temperatures during the winter, with the average low reaching 48 degrees. Winter also brings lower hotel prices and the celebrity-heavy AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am event held in February, making Monterey an attractive destination year-round.
Best Monterey Area Beaches
Del Monte Beach
Del Monte Beach is a hidden gem known to Monterey Bay locals. There is a boardwalk trail through the dunes with benches and picnic tables to rest on. Del Monte is between two sections of Monterey State Beach, Window on the Bay Beach, walking distance to the south, and Houghton M. Roberts Beach, a short beach walk north.
At high tide it’s a small cove with smooth boulders and just enough sand to be called a beach. At lower tides and in the summer months there is more sand to enjoy. The beach is in the shadow of restaurants and hotels, but is still a scenic spot. On sunny days if you are just walking around and shopping on the waterfront, it is worth a stop to sit on the rocks behind the beach.
Monterey Municipal Beach
This is probably the busiest sandy beach in the city. The beach here is north facing and somewhat protected by the pier so it is safer for swimming. Next door to the north is Monterey Bay Waterfront Park with volleyball courts and grass areas.
This beach is an excellent spot to relax or walk at the edge of the water, but swimming here can be dangerous due to rip currents. The Monterey Bay Coastal Recreation Trail meanders through the dunes in this park.
San Carlos Beach
San Carlos Beach is known for scuba diving not sunbathing, but it’s a great place to visit on a sunny day. You can choose from grass lawns, sandy beaches, or benches and picnic tables to rest on.
Window on the Bay Beach
Window on the Bay Beach (aka Windows Beach) is the southernmost of three separate sections of Monterey State Beach. This state-owned beach is in front of the nicely landscaped city-owned and operated Monterey Bay Waterfront Park.
Best Monterey Tours & Activities
Monterey, Carmel and 17-Mile Drive – Full Day Tour
Drive down one of the most scenic roads in California on this full-day tour from San Francisco. Cruise along the coast-hugging Highway 1, passing the mansions of Pebble Beach on the iconic 17-Mile Drive. Enjoy free time to explore Monterey, where you can stroll down Steinbeck’s Cannery Row or visit the famous Monterey Bay Aquarium. Browse the ritzy boutiques of Carmel-by-the-Sea and get a glimpse of Silicon Valley’s tech campuses on the return drive to San Francisco. Learn more abou the Monterey, Carmel & 17-Mile Drive Full Day Tour.
Monterey Bay Aquarium Admission
Discover the fascinating underwater world of one of the United States’ top aquariums with this Monterey Bay Aquarium ticket. With a prime location on California’s Pacific coast, this renowned marine center is home to a wide variety of ocean life, from mesmerizing jellyfish to adorable penguins, plus crowd favorites like sharks and rays. Enjoy all-day access to the many exhibits, where you can observe mysterious octopus, playful sea otters, creepy eels and more. Learn more about the Monterey Bay Aquarium Admission.
Half-Day Whale Watching
Look for whales as they migrate through the waters of the Pacific Ocean off of California on this half-day whale-watching cruise from Monterey. Your naturalist guide shares commentary about the whales and their habitat as you search for gray whales (most common), humpback and blue whales, and other marine life such as dolphins and sea lions during your cruise. Get tips for great photo ops and learn all about the mighty creatures at one of California’s most famous whale-watching destinations. Learn more about the Half-Day Whale Watching Tour.
Golden Gate Park Segway Tour with the Exclusive Park Tour Co
Explore San Francisco’s beautiful Golden Gate Park on this 2.5-hour Segway tour. Led by a local guide, you’ll pass top attractions like the Japanese Tea Gardens, the de Young Museum and the California Academy of Sciences. All equipment is included, as well as a safety training. Cover even more ground on a Segway as you soak up Golden Gate Park’s rich history and hidden gems from your guide. Learn more about the Golden Gate Park Segwey Tour.
Old Monterey Walking Food Tour
Follow a delicious trail of local treats through historic Monterey on a small-group food tour that includes plenty of tastings for a full lunch. Committing to lunch at a single restaurant means missing out on the diverse cuisines that make Monterey food so interesting; try a little bit of everything as you go from neighborhood restaurants to frozen treats and California wine, learning about Monterey history along the way. Learn more about the Old Monterey Walking Food Tour.
Best Monterey Restaurants
Cafe Lumiere $11 – 30
Adjoining Monterey’s Osio Theater, this hipster-friendly cafe and coffee shop offers affordable made-from-scratch pastries, fresh salads and sandwiches, and truly beautiful weekday breakfast and Sunday brunch, including fluffy omelets, avocado toast, and breakfast sandwiches composed on croissant. Ground-level and balcony seating provide ample space to sip an espresso, nibble on a scone, or down an egg-filled Garden Goat burrito. Telephone: 831 920-2451 Web: Cafe Lumiere
Sandbar & Grill $11 – 30
Watch otters play outside the bay-view windows at this floating seafood kitchen on the wharf. Stick with the classics like creamy clam chowder, grilled sand dabs and jumbo crab-club sandwiches. Reservations strongly recommended. Ring the bell to let them know you’ve arrived. Telephone: 831 373-2818 Web: Sandbar & Grill.
Cultura $11 – 30
This Oaxacan-inspired restaurant includes a dining room, lounge, and outdoor fire pits. Cultura offers a seasonal menu of fresh, artistic dishes that range from $4 street tacos to $95 Wagyu ribeye. The full bar features a hand-picked selection of mezcals, offered on their own or in flights of three, along with traditional chapulines (grasshoppers), local orange slices, and sal de gusano (worm salt). Lunch and late-night menus available. Telephone: 831 250-7005 Web: Cultura.
La Balena $31 – 60
Menu highlights include tender grilled octopus, crispy fried chicken, hand-made gnocchi, and addictive chili-infused fried cauliflower. The extensive wine list features small producers and highlights female winemakers, as well as organic and biodynamic wineries. Though open for lunch, the space comes alive in the evening, when a bubbling fountain and soft twinkle lights set a romantic Old World mood on the front and back patios. Reservations recommended. Telephone: 831 250-6295 Web: La Balena.
Il Tegamino $11 – 30
A romantic, off-the-beaten-path restaurant, with a generous patio. Stop in (no reservations are taken) for dinner with a very European feel, from the space itself to the menu of Italian comfort food. Lasagna Di Carnevale offers layers of fresh pasta with ricotta, tomato sauce, parmesean, sliced hard boiled eggs, mozerella and fried meatballs, perfect for a foggy Carmel evening under the heat lamps. Telephone: 831 250-5790 Web: Il Tegamino.
Best Monterey Bars
Cannery Row Brewing Company
Sports bar meets brewpub in this family-friendly tap house where over 70 draft beers outnumber bottles three-to-one. Vintage beer paraphernalia and nostalgic neon signs hang on exposed brick walls of what was once a bustling cannery and is now a drinking destination that blasts the best of the 90’s. The sizable menu leans heavily toward comfort, and features a short rib grilled cheese, house made pastrami, a trio of sliders, and a parmesean pretzel large enough to serve as an entree. Telephone: 831 643-2722 Web: Cannery Row Brewing Company.
Alvarado Street Brewery & Grill
Alvarado Street Brewery & Grill is a local craft brewery and restaurant serving 20 draft beers, with tasty bar food in an historic space with an industrial feel. The full menu offers diverse but straight-forward options of the flatbread, pasta, and steak skewer variety, while the latticed outdoor beer garden serves a short menu of finger-foods, including dry-rubbed chicken wings and grilled fish tacos. Fan favorite IPA’s, kettle sours, and lagers are served all day with 3-6 pm happy hour all week long. Telephone: 831 655-2337 Web: Alvarado Street Brewing & Grill.
A cornerstone of Alvarado Street nightlife, The Brit – as it is affectionately called by its patrons – is a corner pub and sports bar by day and an entertainment center by night. With friendly wait and bar staff, a menu of classic pub grub, and a kitchen that stays open until 11 pm, you might be surprised to see this place transform into a trivia hall, karaoke bar, or dance floor when the sun goes down. Whether its trivia, sports, dancing, food, or karaoke, Britannia Arms of Monterey has got you covered. Telephone: 831 656-9543 Web: Britannia Arms.
Bull & Bear Whiskey Bar & Taphouse
The Bull and Bear boasts indoor and outdoor bars, a back patio for live music and a fire pit, this is a fun place to grab a drink and unwind, or to come out and dance. Located on Alvarado Street, as many of these bars are, the Bull and Bear is a real gem in the heart of Downtown Monterey. Telephone: 831 655-3031 Web: Bull & Bear Whiskey Bar & Taphouse.
Crown & Anchor Pub
A downtown British pub, Crown & Anchor neighbors the Bull and Bear and Britannia Arms on nearby Franklin Street. With walls covered in nautical themed memorabilia, the Crown offers an underground central bar, surrounded by barstools and booths, with additional outdoor seating. Grab a bite to eat, or a delicious drink. Telephone: 831 649-6496 Web: Crown & Anchor Pub.
Best Monterey Hotels
Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa
Perched dramatically on historic beachfront property above the crashing surf of the Pacific, Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa delights its guests with classic, California coastal experiences animated by an irresistible spirit of conviviality and play. Here you’ll be welcomed with warm hospitality and elegantly-appointed guest rooms with thoughtful extras and luxury touches.
InterContinental The Clement Monterey
Enjoy panoramic ocean views and radiant sunrises on beautiful Monterey Bay. Overlooking the sapphire waters of Monterey Bay on Cannery Row, this waterfront hotel, resort and spa is where beauty and luxury indulge your senses. Whether you are planning a family vacation, romantic getaway, or special event, InterContinental, the Clement Monterey is an inspiring Monterey Bay hotel with urban energy, modern luxury, and coastal charm.
At the Spindrift Inn, you’ll find European-style charm on the shores of McAbee Beach right along the bay. Plan an ocean view weekend escape on scenic Monterey Bay and discover why TripAdvisor travelers named us the most romantic hotel in the country. Accommodations feature canopy beds with plush feather bedding, hardwood floors, and marble bathrooms with Aveda bath products. Wake up to complimentary breakfast, delivered on a silver tray right to your room.
Hotel Abrego is conveniently located near the busy shops, boutiques, museums and restaurants of historic downtown Monterey. Explore local wineries, sandy beaches, take in scenic vistas along 17-Mile Drive, or relieve the stresses of the day with a massage in the comfort of your room. Our own Bistro Abrego serves up locally sourced fresh seafood dishes and morning favorites for breakfast.
Best Western Plus Victorian Inn
Relax in one of our spacious Monterey hotel rooms, which features a marble fireplace, 42-inch flat screen TV, free Wi-Fi and one king or two double beds. Complimentary Monterey County wine and a selection of cheeses are served in the parlor every afternoon. Enjoy the fresh coastal air from your private patio, balcony or window seat overlooking Cannery Row or our lovely garden courtyards.