The Monterey region is my favorite in all of California and maybe even anywhere. I’ve fallen in love with the little towns that surround the region including Monterey, Carmel-By-The-Sea, Pacific Grove, Soledad (Wine Country) and Marina. They have just about everything I look for in a destination: beautiful beaches, delicious wine, savory food and plentiful of things to do.
The region is one of the best places to combine nature’s beauty and a luxurious getaway. It’s also a can’t miss stop when you’re driving along the Pacific Coast Highway. If you’re taking the road trip don’t skip my PCH road trip guide.
Note: Some tours, passes, accommodations and meals were provided at no cost to the author. All opinions remain my own. You’ll find affiliate links in this post which allow me to continue to improve Traveling Nine to Fiver. I hope this article is useful for you.
Where to rest your head
24815 Carpenter St, Carmel-By-The-Sea, CA 93923
Carmel’s only wine-themed hotel is a unique twist on bed and breakfast styled spots you find gathered around Carmel-By-The-Sea. You’ll find the rooms decorated by different local wineries. It’s a perfect place to spend a relaxing night or two with cozy beds and a patio or deck off each room to enjoy a bottle of wine at. The hotel sells local wines that you’d normally only find in tasting rooms. It’s a reasonable walk or short drive to downtown and a perfect place to explore the local wine walk from. Read more about the only wine hotel in Carmel here.
San Antonio Ave, Carmel-By-The-Sea, CA 93921
The perfect bed and breakfast tucked right about Scenic Drive. Relax in the cute cottages they offer during your evening, then join the hosts for a delicious breakfast in the morning. Just one block off, the beach and not far from the main drag, the Edgemere Cottages are an ideal place to stay in Carmel.
1 Old Golf Course Rd, Monterey, CA 93940
A great property tucked just up the hill from downtown Monterey. You are out of the main area, but only a couple minutes drive away. You have everything including two pools, a fire pit lounge with jazz music on the weekend, a top notch golf course, quality restaurants and a spa. They also often run Priceline Express Deals when they aren’t booked up, we’ve stayed for as low as $90 (excluding tax & fees). Learn more about those here.
625 Ocean View Blvd, Pacific Grove, CA 93950
A simple hotel in a great location with some perks. Rooms start at $145 (or less on deal sites) and many include partial ocean views. The property is just off Lover’s Point Beach and a breathtaking one-mile walk to the Aquarium and Cannery Row. It may be a two-star hotel, but it had everything we needed and I would have rated it a three. Additionally, for the AT&T Pro-Am if you stay there you get the free Pacific Grove shuttle to the course.
1386 Munras Ave, Monterey, CA 93940
I am pretty sure this property used to be an iffy motel and someone came in and did a lot of upgrading. While the front of the property isn’t much to look at the rooms and amenities were everything we needed. It has all be updated. Even though it was near a busy street we had no problem with noise, the beds were large and the pool and fire pit were great. Easy access to both Monterey and Carmel. We again got a great Priceline Express Deal on the room, only $80.
Traveling to Monterey Soon?
MY FAVORITE EATS
7166 Carmel Valley Rd, Carmel-By-The-Sea, CA 93923
Good Mexican food in a quirky building. I wasn’t sure about this spot but met some co-workers here when we had an event in the area. From the second I saw it though, I was impressed. It is a cute spot with Southwestern flavors and some very Monterey twists to their food. Such as the quesadilla with artichoke and shrimp.
San Carlos St, Carmel-By-The-Sea, CA 93923 (It’s inside the little shopping plaza)
In Carmel, it is not easy to find a casual spot without too much of a price but Carmel Belle is just that. They have some delicious salads and sandwiches that a prepared with fresh local ingredients and most have a good twist in their flavors. They also make fresh juice that was very refreshing after all the walking we’d been doing.
150 W Franklin St, Monterey, CA 93940
If you are in the mood for pub food this is it. You will walk down the stairs and feel as if you’ve stepped into an old ship. You might feel out of time, but the food is exactly what you’d expect out of a good British pub. Make sure to try their fish and chips.
223 17th St, Pacific Grove, CA 93950
Looking for a romantic dinner, this is the spot for you. It is built into an old house and has a fine dining but quirky feel to it. The menu is a blend of French and Italian. Their salads are delicious, the pasta melt in your mouth and their entrees are always pleasing. You can get away without spending too much, but we tend to splurge on a couple courses and a bottle of wine. Don’t forget dessert, I love their chocolate mousse.
6th Ave, Carmel-By-The-Sea, CA 93923
From their appetizers to the dessert, and of course, the entrees in between, you’ll enjoy every bite you come across at Flaherty’s. You can either sit on the casual oyster bar side of the restaurant or in the main room to get two different feels of the place all with the same amazing menu. Swing by for a bottle of wine and some oysters or enjoy your entire evening working your way through courses. My two favorites were the grilled oysters and the lobster bisque.
Junipero St, Carmel-By-The-Sea, CA 93923
Tucked up a little hill from the main drag in Carmel, this is a great spot to have a casual appetizer or dig in and enjoy their farm-to-fork offers. Carmel is filled with Italian food which isn’t the best option when you’ve got a gluten-free guest along, but Forge offered a wide array of options for us to enjoy. We sat inside the small bar room with a firepit, or you can enjoy their patio on a nice evening. From the half-bottles of wine available to the delicious entrees, we enjoyed every bite.
725 Lighthouse Ave, Monterey, CA 93940
You’ll feel like you’re in a New York Italian spot. The pizza is delicious, the wine is good and served in way too small glasses, and the staff is great. Build your own pizza or pick one of theirs. Don’t forget to order some garlic breadsticks or you will regret it.
Municipal Wharf No. 2, Monterey, CA 93940
A perfect diner with beautiful views of the bay since it’s situated on one of the piers and great for breakfast or lunch. They are famous for their giant pancakes that I think would take four people to finish just one. On top of that their french toast hits the mark and last time I was savoring over the breakfast burritos. They switch to lunch at 11am, but that is okay since it might be even better. I had the best tuna melt I’ve ever eaten, and I am a serious connoisseur of tuna.
170 Forest Ave, Pacific Grove, CA 93950
Some straight up hole in the wall Mexican food without being too much of a hole in the wall. Their enchiladas and fajitas are especially good. Their tacos are a bit of a different style with a large flaky deep-fried flour tortilla, but they were good as well.
662 Lighthouse Ave, Pacific Grove, CA 93950
Another restaurant built into a cute old house. Stop by for breakfast before you start your day and enjoy one of their benedicts in a relaxing environment.
THE BEST PLACES TO GRAB A DRINK
Monterey Canning Company, 700 Cannery Row kk, Monterey, CA 93940
Hidden in what looks like a lackluster shopping mall you will find a wine bar with delicious local wine and one of the best views you can find on the bay. Try some Hahn, Wrath, District 7 or one of the other great wines from the region. You can try a flight at the bar with a view heading south or you can sit and relax with a glass or more tailored flights in some very cozy chairs facing out to the open water. Overall, you have an 180-degree view of the bay. Also don’t forget to try their baked brie!
ACTIVITIES AND ADVENTURES TO TRY
Morro Bay, CA
The Monterey Bay area is a great place to go whale watching. Depending on the time of year you can see humpbacks, gray whales, blue whale, and even Orcas. On top of that, the bay can be filled with dolphins, sea lions, and otters. On top of being the perfect location to witness a variety of marine mammals (my favorite type of wildlife), Monterey has a unique way to whale watch with Fast Raft. Different from other whale watching companies you’re on smaller and very fast craft. Don’t worry smaller actually means a more stable boat. It also means you are closer to the wildlife and on a tour of a maximum of six instead of sixty.
886 Cannery Row, Monterey, CA 93940
Take the chance to get under the sea at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. A great experience for any age to spend a day watching marine life and learning a little more about the ocean just outside these doors. I can gush on about this place, and I did in this post.
A great way to wine taste without leaving town is the Carmel Wine Walk. You can explore downtown Carmel-By-The-Sea and visit many of the 14 wineries on the list. The $65 pass gets you nine tasting, which is a steal as most in the area are $10-15. Two of my favorite spots were Galante Vineyards and Silvestri Vineyards.
Various Entry Points
A great place to start a road trip or spend your entire day, I’ve done both and love it. Make sure to take a walk on the beach and check out the18th hole at Pebble Beach. Some breathtaking views as you wind through the cypress trees.
Wine Tasting in Carmel Valley or Soledad
The Monterey region makes some delicious wines from both regions. You will find wineries with views even more beautiful than Napa or Sonoma. The wines are rich and full of flavor. The valleys get heat bringing the grapes in one direction and the coast keeps the cool fog allowing a completely different flavor profile. Learn about some of my favorites in this post.
Cannery Row, Monterey, CA 93940
It might be a tourist trap, but it is still worth wandering by. Take some time and wander around the souvenir shops, hang out on the little beach, grab some clam chowder and finish with a Ghirardelli Sunday overlooking the bay.
Golf – Go Play or Watch a Tournament
This region has some of the top course in the world. Pebble Beach and Spyglass have some of the best views you can find anywhere, let alone on a golf course. They might be pricey but if you’re a big golfer they are worth playing. Otherwise, you can find some of the public courses or up in Carmel Valley for cheaper, but still quality, alternatives. Not interested in playing? Keep an eye out for the tournaments in the area, especially the At&t Pro-Am, read a here on why you should attend.
Walking Carmel By The Sea
Whether you are looking for cute shops, tasty bistros or art galleries, you will enjoy wandering the streets of Carmel. Stop at by a few before you wander down to the beach. While you can wander straight down to the main part of the beach its even better to take the trail on Scenic Road. It is a block before you hit the beach and turn South. You can walk the trail with beautiful homes and views of all angles of the bay including back to pebble beach, or you can head down to a spot on the beach that is quieter than the main entry point.
For more information about Monterey & Carmel check out these great books on Amazon including Day Hikes On the California Central Coast, Fodor’s Northern California, Lonely Planet Pacific Coast Highways Road Trips, and Lonely Planet Coastal California.