When to visit
- Very Favourable
What to do
- Worth the detour
- Must see
Monterey is a fishing town whose economy and activities are all closely tied to the ocean, as are its main attractions: Monterey Bay Aquarium, Fisherman's Wharf, lighthouses and marine sanctuaries.
Once the capital of Alta California under Spain, Monterey is much less known and less popular with tourists than Los Angeles and San Francisco, but is a charming and authentic destination.
Fisherman's Wharf is a historic wharf that served as a fish market into the 1960s. It is an integral part of Monterey's history as the first European explorers came ashore close to this spot four centuries ago.
Today Fisherman's Wharf is a tourist attraction in its own right. It is lined with candy and gift shops, restaurants, a theatre, boat rentals and fish markets. It is easy to park in the area, even with an RV, in one of the 4 nearby parking lots.
Open 365 days a year.
MONTEREY BAY AQUARIUM
The Monterey Bay Aquarium was built in 1984 in Cannery Row, on the site of a defunct sardine cannery. It receives around 1.8 million visitors each year and houses some 35,000 animals belonging to 600 species, including sea otters, penguins, jellyfish and sharks. The aquariums are filled with fresh ocean water from Monterey Bay, which is pumped continuously into the different exhibits. It is without a doubt one of the largest, most beautiful and best-known aquariums in the world.
Open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (opens earlier and closes later in high season).
17-Mile Drive is a private, paid scenic route between Pacific Grove and Carmel that passes through one of the richest and most famous residential neighborhoods on the West Coast of the United States. The 17-Mile Drive gates are open to the public from sunrise to sunset.
You will wind through wind-sculpted forest of cypress trees and along a rocky coastline with stunning views of the Pacific Ocean.
Several points of interest deserve a stop including Seal Rock where you can enjoy a picnic and watch the sea lions, Cypress Point whose lookout offers spectacular views of the ocean, and the iconic Lone Cypress , one of the most photographed trees in North America, which has been clinging, alone, atop its rocky perch for over 250 years.
At less than 7 km from Monterey, Carmel-by-the-sea (or Carmel) is a town that abounds in inspiring vistas. Picture a white sandy beach, a small town by the sea… Isn't that a sight you'd like to wake up to every morning? As you stroll along the beach, you will feel like one of those celebrities who seek refuge in the anonymity of a town rocked by the sound of the waves...
Fun fact about Carmel: not only does the one-square-mile village have no streetlights or parking meters, its businesses, cottages and houses have no street numbers.
Take a walk along Ocean Avenue , which is lined with shops and leads to Carmel Beach .
If you only drive one scenic route in California, it should be Highway 1, especially the stretch between Carmel (to the north) and San Simeon (to the south), which is widely considered to be one of the most scenic driving routes in the United States, if not the world. For the most spectacular views, we strongly suggest going in the afternoon, as the coastline is often cloaked in fog in the morning (especially from June to August).
You're in for an exciting ride along Highway 1, with its dizzying mountains, rugged terrain, coastal landscapes, coves and stunning beaches. Here are the Top 3 must-see stops along this section of Highway 1:
Point Lobos State Reserve
Located just 4 miles south of Carmel, Point Lobos State Reserve is an area of headlands, coves and rolling meadows. The offshore area forms one of the richest underwater habitats in the world and is very popular with divers.
Wildlife includes seals, sea lions and sea otters and migrating gray whales (from December to May). Thousands of seabirds also make the Reserve their home.
Hiking trails follow the shoreline and lead to hidden coves, such as Bird Island Trail and Sea Lion Point Trail which provides views of sea lions.
At Whalers Cove, which used to be a whaling station, a small cabin built by Chinese fishermen at the turn of the century still remains and is now a cultural history museum.
Open daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission fee is $10/vehicle
Big Sur Village is even quieter than Carmel and has a population of only 1,000. Intrepid surfers like to brave the impressive waves crashing on its rocks. Being at the foot of a mountain, access to the village is occasionally blocked by the closure of Highway 1 due to a landslide.
Once you get there, you must stop at the legendary Nepenthe Cafe (48510, Highway 1, Big Sur). In operation since 1949, it is perched on a cliffside overlooking the coast, allowing you to take in breathtaking scenery while enjoying a delicious meal.
Open daily from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. (closed on Christmas Day and Thanksgiving, the 4th Thursday in November).
This magnificent beach is off the beaten path in the heart of Big Sur and a favourite with the locals. It can be hard for tourists to find as there is no road sign indicating its presence. From Highway 1, near Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, turn onto Sycamore Canyon Road, which is unmarked but has a small yellow sign indicating "Narrow Road" and "No RVs - Trailers".
Don't miss this beautiful beach with its breathtaking ocean scenery, dramatic outcroppings of rocks, intense waves (be careful, there can be a dangerous undertow), and purple-tinged sand coloured by the presence of manganese garnet.
The beach is generally open ½ hour before sunrise and until ½ hour after sunset (unless it is closed because of bad weather). There is an entrance fee of $10/car.
Where to eat
- $ Inexpensive
- $$ Moderate
- $$$ Upscale
- $$$$ Fine dining
Loulou’s Griddle in the Middle ($-$$)
Located in the middle of Municipal Wharf 2, Loulou's Griddle in the Middle is a great little spot for breakfast and lunch. At breakfast, don't miss the pancakes, omelettes, French toast and house specialities like Crab Cake & Eggs. The lunch menu features clam chowder, calamari, seafood plates, burgers and sandwiches.
Open Wednesday to Monday from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Monterey’s Fish House ($$)
For the best seafood in town, go to Monterey's Fish House. This casual yet elegant restaurant is always crowded. If the dining room is full, you can wait at the bar while sampling delicious fleshy oysters. Seasonal local salmon is available from spring through fall, or you can enjoy huge local shrimp and fresh fish: grilled, blackened or with butter, lemon and capers. Reservations recommended.
Open for lunch Monday-Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and every evening from 5 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.
Sapporo Japanese Restaurant ($$-$$$)
If there is one good reason to go to Sapporo, it's for the spectacular Hibachi Grill experience, where you sit around a flat-topped grill while the chef prepares your meal in front of you with great flair and expertise. When you arrive, you will be asked if you would like to eat Hibachi Grill or sushi, because the restaurant is divided into two sections. Forget about the sushi, go for the hibachi grill: a must for the whole family if you've never tried it before!
Open Sunday-Thursday from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Friday-Saturday from 11:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.
Montrio Bistro ($$-$$$)
The menu offers European-inspired American dining with the best of Italian, French and California cuisine. Chef Tony Baker uses local produce, organic meats and sustainable seafood to create imaginative dishes that reflect local agriculture. Examples of what you might find on the menu include: crispy crab cakes with spicy remoulade, oven-roasted portobello mushroom with polenta and ragout of vegetables, baby artichoke hearts with risotto, pesto sirloin with spinach and red wine reduction.
Open daily from 4:30 p.m.
Bistro Moulin ($$$)
The concept is simple: an authentic bistro with a simple menu of classic European bistro fare, prepared by French chef/owner Didier Dutertre. From its open kitchen, rich aromas float through the dining room: coq au vin, mussels and fries, confit de canard, escargots, and the signature dish, spinach gnocchi au gratin. An unforgettable dining experience.
Open every evening from 5 p.m.
Where to sleep ?
Monterey Car Week
Dates: August 7-16, 2020
This week of festivities presents a host of automobile events and activities including races, rallies, exhibitions and auctions. Presented since 1950, the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance is one of the festival's flagship events, where you can admire the most beautiful collector cars in the world. Held at “The Lodge at Pebble Beach”, on 17-Mile Drive.
Monterey Jazz Festival
Dates: September 25-27, 2020
For more than 60 years, the Monterey Jazz Festival has been bringing the world's best jazz to the region for 3 nights and 2 days of musical enjoyment. Each year, more than 100 shows feature 500 artists performing on 8 different stages.
- Very Favourable