Top Outdoor Activities in Monterey, California

The Monterey area is often considered a luxury destination with beautiful views, great wine, and top notch restaurants. While entirely true, some of the best things you’ll find are the outdoor activities in Monterey. From witnessing the wildlife to getting out on the water to hiking the mountains, you’ll find countless outdoor adventures that will keep bringing you back.

One of the perks of the Monterey area is the weather is perfect a large part of the year. In the summer, it’s the ideal place to get away from the head you can find inland. The fall is when I find it at it’s best with sunny days in the mid-70s. Even in the winter, you’ll find them staying significantly warmer than most of Northern California. Making the outdoor activities in Monterey a perfect reason for a getaway all year round.

The natural beauty of this area makes you want to get outside and explore it. Whether you’re walking the beach or through the wine country, there is so much to see. On top of being some of the can’t miss things in the area, fitting in many of the outdoor activities in Monterey can help you keep the cost of your trip down. While playing a round of golf at Pebble Beach will set you back a bit, taking a hike along the coast is entirely free.From hiking to whale watching. See the best of the Monterey Bay with these top outdoor activities in Monterey, California.

Note: Some tours and passes were provided at no cost to the author. As always, all opinions remain my own. You’ll find affiliate links in this post on outdoor activities in Monterey which allow me to continue to improve Traveling Nine to Fiver. I hope this article is useful for you. 

Whale Watching

The Monterey Bay is home to some of the most robust wildlife you can find without getting far from the coastline. Much of this shows itself above the surface, including otters, sea lions, birds, dolphins, and, of course, whales.

The bay is on the migration path for a variety of whale species, and while there time times better than others, it’s common to find whales in the bay all year long.

You’ll find tour companies that will take you out on the bay for a chance to witness these majestic creatures up close. I particularly enjoyed getting out on the bay with Fast Raft (read about my adventure here).From hiking to whale watching. See the best of the Monterey Bay with these top outdoor activities in Monterey, California.

Kayaking the Bay

Another great way to get out on the water is renting a kayak to explore the bay. You can paddle around different parts of the bay, get up close and personal with some of the wildlife around the bay, all while getting a little exercise.

You can either rent your own kayak or you can take a guided tour of the area. A variety of companies offer tours of the harbor and bay. You’ll find ones that fit your level from beginner to advanced.From hiking to whale watching. See the best of the Monterey Bay with these top outdoor activities in Monterey, California.

Exploring the Wetlands

On top of the bay itself, Monterey is home to a unique tidal wetlands ecosystem with the Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve. You can explore this area that goes seven miles inland and offers a protective space for a diversity of wildlife to eat and rest.

You can explore the are through the hiking trails, hop on a kayak or take a boat tour.

Hiking the Coast

This might be my favorite of the outdoor activities in Monterey. Taking longer hikes is something I’ve grown to appreciate and Monterey is filled with places to explore.

Head just south of Carmel and you’ll find Point Lobos, a state natural reserve, where you can take hikes as short as one mile to the seven-mile loop. It is a popular spot for people traveling the Pacific Coast Highway, but you’ll find trails that are more out of the way and perfect for solitary hiking.

You can also take a nice hike right in Monterey along Lover’s Point. A beautiful view just past where you find the Monterey Bay Aquarium that is a short mile each way.From hiking to whale watching. See the best of the Monterey Bay with these top outdoor activities in Monterey, California.

Trekking the Mountains

Monterey County is also home to a piece of one of the newest National Parks, Pinnacles National Park. The park is home to over 30 miles of trail that bring you through a beautiful mountain side without having to drive far.

This landscape offers a contrast from the coastlines that are often explored.  You’ll find large boulders throughout the park formed by volcanic activity millions of years ago. The mountains are home to the Balconies and Bear Gulch Caves with both short and long hikes to explore them.

The area is also home to the California Condor, a majestic endangered species. Yes, it’s a vulture but it’s also the largest land bird in North America.

Hitting the Links

The Monterey area is famous for its golf courses and hosts the U.S. Open at least once a decade. Golf is a great way to get outside and enjoy the scenery the area offers.

The best-known course in the area is Pebble Beach, along with the other courses on 17 Mile drive including Spyglass and Poppy Hills. All of these have breathtaking views and challenge even the pros. It can be a once in a lifetime experience to play one of these courses, and with that,  carry a high price tag.

Around the region, you will also find top-notch public courses that might not be world renowned but still offer a challenge and a beautiful view. They can be a great bang for your buck to any golf fan.From hiking to whale watching. See the best of the Monterey Bay with these top outdoor activities in Monterey, California.

Making the Most of Outdoor Activities in Monterey

The best things in Monterey are truly the opportunities provided by nature. Get beyond the luxurious resorts, tasting rooms, and restaurants for a chance to try the outdoor activities in Monterey.

The Monterey offers so much you can do while spending little or no money. And if you’re anything like me, you spend too much of your time at home indoors. Making your travels the perfect time to get a little sun and enjoy the outdoors. Whether you’re escaping for a day from your trip to San Francisco or planning a week on the Central Coast taking some time to explore some of the outdoor activities in the Monterey area will be well worth your time.

For more information about Monterey & Carmel check out these great books on Amazon including Day Hikes On the California Central CoastFodor’s Northern CaliforniaLonely Planet Pacific Coast Highways Road Trips, and Lonely Planet Coastal California.


Traveling to Monterey Soon?

Above are a few of my favorite places to stay in the Monterey & Carmel area.
Learn more about and book more fantastic hotels in Monterey on  Priceline and TripAdvisor.


What are your favorite things to do outdoors? Have you visited the area and tried any of the outdoor activities in Monterey? Leave a comment below.  

From hiking to whale watching. See the best of the Monterey Bay with these top outdoor activities in Monterey, California. From hiking to whale watching. See the best of the Monterey Bay with these top outdoor activities in Monterey, California.

About Megan

Megan MacNee is the founder of Traveling Nine to Fiver. From nine to five she works in the non-profit world in California. She focuses on exploring the world from her own backyard to across the globe. You'll find her sharing about explorations through food, books, travel, and more.