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If you love beaches, boating and biking, head to California’s Central Coast. Monterey’s quaint seaside shops, sandy shores, wine tasting rooms, miles of trails and marine life attract millions of visitors a year. This historic California town is a nature lovers dream and was once the key trading hub for the West Coast.
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Cannery Row & Fisherman’s Wharf
One of the nation’s most famous streets gets its namesake from John Steinbeck's novel “Cannery Row.” The area honors its industrial roots where fisheries, fleets, and warehouses once brought the booming sardine canning industry to Monterey in the early 1900s. Today, visitors can soak up the history while shopping for souvenirs or dining on a plate of fresh seafood. Nearby historic Old Fisherman’s Wharf was also once a hub of commercial fishing operations and today welcomes guests to see a live show, or watch the native sea lions bask in the sun and nap on nearby piling and buoys.
Monterey Bay Aquarium & The Outdoors
Head to Monterey Bay Aquarium and get a glimpse of seals and sea otters, or get up close from the decks of rafting and eco tours.
Explore the 18-mile Monterey Bay Coastal Trail or hit the Monterey Peninsula Recreational Trail on foot or bike and breathe in the ocean air. Make your way to San Carlos Beach and Breakwater Cove a popular spot for scuba divers and a common stomping ground for sunbathing sea lions.
Rent a boat or kayak, and watch the majestic whales and dolphins as they eat and play in their habitat. Nature lovers will immerse themselves in the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary that stretches from the Central Coast all the way up to San Francisco. Known as the "Serengeti of the Sea," the sanctuary hosts the nation's largest kelp forest and more than 700 species of marine mammals, seabirds and shorebirds, and fish.
Walk among beautifully preserved colonial buildings for the 2-mile Path of History. Then, visit Colton Hall where California’s first constitutional convention was held in 1849. Walk across Friendly Plaza to see a variety of California art, photography, contemporary art and Asian works at the Monterey Museum of Art. A few blocks north, The Museum of Monterey holds a variety of maritime artifacts including more than 50,000 photographs and 6,000 books.
Music aficionados should walk through Monterey County Fairgrounds, where the first Monterey Jazz Festival in 1958 hosted legends like Billie Holiday, Louis Armstrong, Dave Brubeck and the Modern Jazz Quartet.
Tee-off at Monterey Peninsula Dunes Golf Course, located in Pebble Beach, and adjacent to the 17-Mile Drive that offers stunning views of the sea, wildlife and coastal mansions. For one of the most scenic drives in the country, take a day trip down Highway 1. Discover Garrapata Beach with bluffs and quiet shores overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Then wind your way down to Big Sur – a natural wonder where the Saint Lucia Mountains rise from the sea. Along the way, stop at historic vistas, Bixby Bridge and Point Sur Lighthouse. On your way home, cap off the road trip with a glass of local wine from one of Monterey County’s 85 wineries.
South of Monterey, Carmel-by-the-Sea welcomes guests with its small-town vibe to unique storefronts, and down-home restaurants. See a show at the Sunset Center or Forest Theatre. Shop at Carmel Plaza, picnic at Devendorf Park, or sunbathe on the pristine shores of Carmel Beach.
Just a couple miles north of Monterey, catch a wonder of nature as thousands of Monarch Butterflies take to the sky in Pacific Grove. Play another 18-holes at Pacific Grove Municipal Golf Links. Then, climb to the top of the 1855 Point Pinos Lighthouse for 360 degree ocean views or share a sunset view at Lover’s Point Park.
Whether you’re traveling on a family vacation or for a romantic getaway, one of our Best Western Monterey hotels awaits.
Things to do in Monterey