One of my favorite getaways from San Francisco is Monterey – from the beautiful drive on Highway 1 to the fantastic Aquarium, there is a lot to take your mind off after your crazy work week. It’s also a great stop on my favorite road-trip along California’s Highway 1, so I have stayed here numerous times – and it’s a place I highly recommend!
One of the reasons I fell in love with San Francisco is that after a hard week of work there is so much to see and do in your time off – you can enjoy the wine country, hike or ski in the mountains or enjoy the seaside, all within a few hours drive. And Monterey is one of those weekend destinations. My favorite attraction is the Monterey Aquarium – I enjoyed it so much, I even became a member! It is one of the best designed, managed and maintained aquariums I’ve ever seen and the exhibits are not only well done, they are also very educational. Whether you go as an adult or take the kids, there is something for everybody to enjoy. And do bring your camera – some of the sealife is stunning and well worth capturing for your memories!
If you are on a road-trip down Highway 1, you should not miss the 17-mile-drive around the Monterey peninsula. It is one of the prettiest spots of dramatic coastline, including the iconic cypress tree everybody photographs on that stretch! The rugged charm of this coast line still amazes me after so many visits!
And if you prefer to see animals in the wild (or don’t want to buy expensive tickets, you can go for a stroll along the waterfront between Cannery Row (where the Aquarium is) and downtown. You’ll always get a view over the ocean and often enough, you’ll be able to see sea lions basking on the rocks in the sun! I love sea lions, more so ever since I went scuba diving with them in the Galapagos islands – they are such fun animals to observe. And I love the fact that even in populated California, you are still able to see them out on the sea shore! If you are brave enough to face the ice-cold water, you can even scuba dive in Monterey. After years of diving in tropical Asia and Australia, the thought of wearing 14mm of wetsuit is just not very appealing, so we passed.
And I do like that there is so much variety. If you can’t leave without visiting a t-shirt stand, by a souvenir or have some seafood, Cannery Row and the Wharf will be there for you. I find the souvenirs rather tacky and the seafood bad – but they are wildly popular for many… I prefer the small downtown area of Monterey. You’ll have some nice bars and restaurants for dinner, there are movie theaters for entertainment and a few more upscale stores to shop at.
TravelTips: If Monterey is part of a longer visit to California or a stop-over on the Drive of Highway 1, you should consider coming on a weekend. I’m not the only one who loves a weekend getaway and it gets crowded on weekends and prices are sky-high. It’s quieter during the week, hotel prices can be as little as half and you have a more leisurely time.
If you are staying overnight, my favorite hotel is the Intercontinental Clement on Cannery Row in the heart of things. While the area is not my favorite, the rooms are modern, service is good and the amenities make it very pleasant. If you prefer a smaller hotel, you’ll find a number of small inns and Bed & Breakfasts in Carmel for a more private experience. The most convenient area to stay is close to downtown, allowing you to walk to the sights during the day and to restaurants and bars at night, without paying higher prices. The Marriott Monterey is an upscale, but soulless hotel in the center. Casa Munras is a nicely updated motel, offering rooms with fireplace and a nice restaurant on site. If you are on a budget, there are plenty of options in downtown and along the coast, like the Super 8 Monterey or the Holiday Inn Express. You can find current hotel prices in Monterey here!
The Aquarium is open daily from 10:00-17:00h. Entrance fees are pretty steep, at $50 for adults and $30 for children. If you visit frequently, the memberships can be worth it. There are daily feeding shows, so check out the schedule, current times and prices here!