We love Monterey, which makes a perfect stopping-off point on a Pacific Coast Highway drive. In fact there’s so much to see and do here, you might want to break the journey and spend two nights. You can spend at least half a day just at the fantastic Monterey Bay Aquarium, and then there’s Cannery Row with its John Steinbeck connections, the Monterey State Historic Park with some fine old buildings (including the oldest government building in California), the fun of Fisherman’s Wharf, whale-watching cruises, and lots more.
At the Monterey Bay Aquarium. All Photos (c) Donna Dailey
Here are some of the things we love about Monterey:
The Monterey Bay Aquarium is definitely one of our top Pacific Coast Highway attractions, and one of the finest aquariums in the United States. Allow at least half a day if you want to have a chance to see everything, including of course popular events like feeding the sea otters, the penguins, the sharks, and catching some of the talks and displays that change regularly. (Check the Daily Activities page on the Monterey Bay Aquarium website for details.)
We couldn’t get enough of fascinating creatures like the jellyfish and the sea dragons (above), while other big attractions include the hauntingly beautiful Kelp Forest, the Giant Pacific Octopus Exhibit, and the Open Sea Exhibit, where you can gaze through a 90-ft window onto sea creatures including tuna, turtles, sharks and puffins, all enjoying the natural feel of their 1.2 million gallon home. It’s not surprising that the Monterey Bay Aquarium has been called one of the best family attractions in the USA. See our separate page that tells you much more about the Monterey Bay Aquarium.
See our Cannery Row page.
You can’t visit Monterey without going to Fisherman’s Wharf, where you’ll probably be greeted by the sounds of sea lions barking, and some of the restaurant owners trying to tempt you in with free samples of their clam chowder, and other food. There are several restaurants along the Wharf, and after a mouthful of their clam chowder we just had to eat at Abalonetti’s, where we had a great front seat view to watch the sea lions playing in the water. The Wharf has lots of shops too, and a choice of several whale watching cruises. If you want to go see some whales, just head straight to Fisherman’s Wharf. Read our Whale Watching in California page first, to find out when the best whale watching seasons are.
To find out more about Fisherman’s Wharf visit the official Fisherman’s Wharf website.
As well as being a lively town with its many visitor attractions, one of the things we love about Monterey is that it’s so steeped in history. You can take a walking tour around the historic district, following the markers on the ground that guide you along the Path of History. We picked up a leaflet at the tourist office, or you can get one from the Monterey State Historic Park Visitor Center on Custom House Plaza, a few short blocks back from Fisherman’s Wharf. We were fascinated to see the house where the Scottish writer Robert Louis Stevenson lived for a while in 1879, and the 1827 Custom House, the oldest government building in California.
For more information visit the official Monterey State Historic Park website.
See our separate page about our visit to the Point Lobos State Reserve, a few miles south of Monterey and right on the Pacific Coast Highway. Don't miss it!
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Pacific Coast Highway Travel's website recommendations on Where to Stay in Carmel include reviews of the Mission Ranch, Sea View Inn, The Cypress Inn, Lamp Lighter Inn and Vagabond's House Inn.
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This Carmel dog-friendly hotel, the historic Cypress Inn, is co-owned by movie legend Doris Day and offers luxury lodgings for pet-loving travelers (cats welcome too) in Carmel-by-the-Sea.
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Carmel on the Monterey coast stretch of the Pacific Coast Highway is known for artists and celebrity residents, but there's also a mission, beaches, historic houses, and abundant wildlife.
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To help you in choosing your Pacific Coast Highway hotel, guesthouse, inn, bed-and-breakfast, resort, motel or other accommodations, we've prepared our Pacific Coast Highway Hotels Guide. In it we do mini-reviews of accommodations along the Highway, from Seattle to San Diego, through Washington, Oregon, and California.
In all there are over 200 hotels listed, complete with 8 pages of color maps showing the towns where our recommended hotels can be found. There are both alphabetical and geographical indexes, helping you plan your journey.
We also include color photos of all the hotels that are our Personal Favorites. Here's the link to read more about our ebook guide to Pacific Coast Highway hotels.
The 2016 edition of our Hotels Guide is available with maps and color photos (if you have a color reader) in the US Kindle Store for only $4.99 and in the UK Kindle Store and other Kindle stores worldwide at prices based on the US price.
If you want a paperback edition of the 2016 guide with only black and white photos and black-and-white maps, it costs $6.99 at the US Amazon Book Store and £4.99 in the UK Amazon Store.