Hang out in the historic bay of Monterey
Two hours south of San Francisco and sitting just beneath the sweep of Monterey bay, the city of Monterey has been both an artist's retreat and a fishing hotspot in its time, and now counts among America's best dive sitesthe National Marine Sanctuary offshore is home to kelp forests teeming with dazzling shoals. Whale-watch out in the bay, come face to face with the local harbor seals and the not-so-local African penguins at Monterey Bay Aquarium, or just breathe in the sea air as you walk along Cannery Row. Monterey has plenty to recommend it back on dry land: a yearly jazz festival and theatre and film scene keep the culture vultures happy.
Where to stay
Downtown is where you'll find the marina, Fisherman’s Wharf and other main attractions near the bay. Hotels range from as low as $140 per night to higher-end hotels that include full spas and all the amenities at upwards of $400 per night. The familiar faces of Travelodge and branches of Marriott are here.
Pacific GroveNorth of the main center up the coast, stay in the peaceful Pacific Grove neighborhood for easy access to the water by way of kayak, surfboard and the Coastal Recreation Trail, as well as the Cannery Row waterfront for the best in seafood suppers around these parts. Hotel-wise, the so-called 17-mile Drive lines up the budget guesthouses and ocean-view suites to rent, and there's even an inn located right on Lover's Point Park for those sunset picnics on the shore.
Things to do
If you're a golfer, Monterey is a great place to hone your swing in earshot of the Pacific waves. The Links at Spanish Bay is located right on the ocean with a full spa for that post-game massage. Visit during the springtime when the plant life is in full bloom, or check out courses in the area, including Del Monte and Pebble Beach.
Monterey Bay Aquarium
The pride and joy of Monterey is the aquarium located in Pacific Grove right next to the water. From sharks and eels to seals, otters and sea lions, budding marine biologists will not be disappointed. This fully interactive museum has a variety of tours and activities that allow its guests to learn more about the sea creatures inhabiting the area, and guests can even get involved in feeding sessions.
Cannery Row and the Path of History
Make time for Monterey's storied past with a ‘Path of History’ walking tour around coastal Monterey, starting at Downtown district with its Maritime Museum and 19th century pier at Fisherman’s Wharf, as well as the adobe architecture of the old casas from the city's time as a colonial Spanish capital. Further into Pacific Wharf, stop off at Cannery Row for a browse around the boutiques, officially christened after John Steinbeck made the sardine canning district famous in his novel. Finish up by heading to Point Pinos for the West Coast's oldest operating lighthouse.
Best time of year to visit
As with most of the California Coast, there is never a bad time to visit Monterey. While the ocean can bring chilly mornings and evenings, the weather is near perfect for most of the year, with only 20 inches of rainfall and average temperatures of a comfortable 68 degrees Fahrenheit in July. Although you don't have to worry about extreme weather during your stay, you should travel during the months of spring to see the plant and animal life that makes this area so spectacular.
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