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Monterey County, California Travel Guide

Monterey County Summary


  • Abundant marine life: sea lions; whales; otters
  • Rich Hispanic heritage prevalent within the community
  • Cute shops and local art galleries along Cannery Row in the town of Monterey
  • Very “green” – lots of restaurants only use local ingredients with minimal eco impact
  • Monterey Bay Coastal Recreation Trail – a beautiful 18-mile trail over hills and sand dunes
  • Very romantic area, especially Carmel
  • Lots of outdoor activities, such as kayaking, golfing, and sailing
  • Great surfing at Big Sur
  • Beautiful Highway 1 lining the coastline
  • Mild winters, averaging in the mid-40s with a good bit of rain, which keeps the scenery lush and green
  • Some of the most beautiful sunsets imaginable


  • Expensive
  • Highway 1 can be very winding and slow-paced

What It's Like

Monterey County encompasses some of the west coasts's most beautiful coastline, and charming seaside spots such as Monterey, Big Sur, and Carmel. Monterey was one of the first counties in California, created in 1850 at the time that California declared statehood. The winding Highway 1 traces the county's coast, showcasing the rocky cliffs, sea lions, and beautiful misty shores that Northern California is known for. Architecture in the area is diverse, and includes 18th- and 19th-century Spanish and Mexican adobe clay buildings, fairytale-like wood cottages, Art Deco landmarks, and Crafsman-style homes. The town of Monterey, one of the most popular destinations in Montery County, is home to former sardine factories on Cannery Row, made famous in the John Steinbeck novel; Fisherman's Wharf, where visitors can eat fresh seafood and watch sea lions and otters cavort near the rocks below; and the excellent Monterey Bay Aquarium. Visitors seeking a historic experience may enjoy Salinas, the largest city in Monterey County, with its Gold-Rush-era buildings, rowdy rodeo and regular festivals, such as the California International Airshow.

Monterey County is a great choice for outdoor enthusiasts. Lover’s Point Park in Pacific Grove offers a romantic lookout onto Cyprus-dotted hills and the vast Pacific Ocean, and kayaks are available to rent along the Bay. Sailing is a long-time tradition in this area, and Monterey Bay Sailing offers packages for individuals and groups. The ancient redwoods and jaw-dropping ocean views in Big Sur are draws for nature-loving visitors as well. Meanwhile, golf enthusiasts tend to gravitate towards Pebble Beach's world-renowned courses.

Where To Stay

Attractions such as Fisherman's Wharf and the Monterey Bay Aquarium make Monterey a great spot for families, though all types of visitors can appreciate its charm and beautiful sea views. For a romantic stay, consider Carmel -- a coastal town that’s absolutely magical, with fairytale-esque cottages (that come with hefty prices per night). Pebble Beach is one of the most famous golfing destinations in the world, while water sports enthusiasts and hikers may enjoy Big Sur. (Though Big Sur draws many travelers who come simply to experience its natural beauty.) The streets of Cannery Row in Monterey and the little Spanish town of Salinas are good destinations for those seeking history and culture.

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