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Monterey, Monterey County Travel Guide

Monterey Summary


  • Abundant marine life: sea lions; whales; otters
  • Rich Hispanic heritage prevalent within the community
  • Cute shops and local art galleries along Cannery Row
  • One of the best aquariums around – the Monterey Bay Aquarium
  • Fun for the whole family at Fisherman’s Wharf
  • 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
  • Lots of outdoor activities, such as kayaking, golfing, and sailing
  • Beautiful Highway 1 leading into and out of Monterey
  • Mild winters, averaging in the mid-40s with a good bit of rain, which keeps the scenery lush and green


  • Expensive
  • Difficult to find parking on Cannery Row
  • Slow drive into Monterey via Highway 1

What It's Like

Many know of Monterey from the writer John Steinbeck, who shared a genuine passion for this coastal town, as expressed through many of his acclaimed novels. Travelers enter the town via the winding Highway 1, which showcases the rocky cliffs, sea lions, and beautiful misty shores that Northern California is known for. Monterey is also known as having one of the most distinctively historic downtown areas west of Santa Fe.

In town, Monterey boasts a unique mix of 18th- and 19th-century Spanish Colonial buildings, many with New England architectural influences (the "Monterey Colonial" style was born here in 1835 with the building of the Larkin House). Popular attractions include the famous Monterey Bay Aquarium, Fisherman's Wharf (where visitors can eat fresh seafood and watch marine animals such as sea lions and otters cavort near the rocks below), and of course, Cannery Row, now lined with art galleries housed in the former sardine factories. Downtown is home to a number of wine tasting rooms, and superb beer can be found at Cannery Row Brewing Company, which offers outdoor seating by fire pits.

Of course, Monterey is an excellent 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 peaceful packages for individuals and groups.

Where To Stay

Monterey isn't an exceptionally large town, but most visitors will want to stay downtown, within walking distance of the restaurants and popular sites, or near the beach. Some hotels are in between, within walking distance of both.

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