Best Things to Do in Monterey

The best things to do in Monterey, chosen by Pacific Coast Highway Travel, include the Monterey Bay Aquarium, Cannery Row, whale watching and Fisherman's Wharf.

Choosing the best things to do in Monterey is fairly straightforward, as it's not a big city with dozens of museums, art galleries, and other attractions. The main sites are listed below, in no particular order.

Fishermans Wharf in Monterey at sunsetFishermans Wharf in Monterey at sunset

Best Things to Do in Monterey

Monterey Bay Aquarium

The number one best thing to do in Monterey is definitely to visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium, one of the best aquariums in the world with over 550 different species. Highlights for us include the sea otters, the jellyfish, the kelp forest, and any of the feeding times (but especially the otters).

Jellyfish in Monterey Bay AquariumJellyfish in Monterey Bay Aquarium

For full details see our page on the Monterey Bay Aquarium, one of the very best attractions along the Pacific Coast Highway.

Address: 886 Cannery Row, Monterey, CA 93940

Phone Number: (831) 648-4800

Website: montereybayaquarium.org

Cannery Row

Street sign for Cannery Row in MontereyStreet sign for Cannery Row in Monterey

Monterey's Cannery Row was made famous by John Steinbeck's novel of the same name. Back when he wrote it, it was a place filled with sardine canneries, which is how it got the name. Today it's very different! See our page on Cannery Row for more details.

Address: Cannery Row, Monterey, CA 93940

Phone Number: (831) 655-3130

Website: canneryrow.com

Fisherman's Wharf

Mike of Pacific Coast Highway Travel tucks into clam chowder on Fisherman's Wharf in Monterey

Fisherman's Wharf is a popular spot for dining, shopping, and taking in the sights and sounds of the bay. It's a great place to just hang out, or book a boat trip (including whale watching trips), or watch the sea lions underneath the wharf. Best of all, we still remember the taste of the clam chowder we had there!

The wharf was originally built in 1845 for use by passenger and freight boats, but became more of a tourist attraction in the 1960s.

Address: 1 Old Fisherman's Wharf, Monterey, CA 93940

Phone Number: (831) 646-3474

Website: monterey.org/fishermans-wharf

Pacific House Museum

Built in 1847, the museum tells the story of Monterey’s early history, and its influence under Mexican and American leadership. One of the highlights of the museum is the Holman Collection of American Indian artifacts. The museum also has a gift shop that sells California State Park merchandise, books, cards, and items related to the Indigenous People of California.

Address: 20 Custom House Plaza, Monterey, CA 93940

Phone: (831) 646-5640

Website: historicmonterey.org

Best Guide to Carmel and Monterey

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Monterey State Historic Park

Monterey State Historic Park preserves and interprets the historic sites and buildings associated with Monterey's early history. You can explore the park's several historic buildings, take a guided tour, or attend one of the many events and programs offered. It was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1970.

Address: 20 Custom House Plaza, Monterey, CA 93940

Phone: (831) 649-7118 Or (831) 646-3474

Website: parks.ca.gov

17-Mile Drive

Scenic view on the 17-Mile Drive between Carmel and MontereyScenic view on the 17-Mile Drive between Carmel and Monterey

17-Mile Drive is a scenic drive from Monterey to Carmel that winds through Pebble Beach and offers breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean, golf courses, and mansions. See our page describing our experience of the 17-Mile Drive.

Point Lobos State Natural Reserve

Point Lobos State Natural Reserve is a beautiful reserve that features stunning rock formations, diverse wildlife, and scenic trails. You can hike, bike, or take a guided tour to explore the area. See our full page on a visit to Point Lobos State Natural Reserve.

Address: 6000 Hwy 1, Monterey, CA 93940

Phone Number: (831) 625-1470

Website: parks.ca.gov

Monterey Bay Coastal Recreation Trail

The Monterey Bay Coastal Recreation Trail is a scenic path that runs along the coast and offers stunning views of the bay and surrounding area. You can walk, jog, or bike along the trail and enjoy the beautiful scenery. The trail stretches 18 miles along the coast, from Castroville in the north to Pacific Grove in the south .

Address: Monterey Bay Coastal Recreation Trail, Monterey, CA 93940

Phone Number: (831) 646-3474

Website: monterey.org

Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary

Monterey Bay National Marine SanctuaryMonterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary

The Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary (MBNMS) is a large underwater park stretching along the central coast of California, from just north of the Golden Gate Bridge at San Francisco to Cambria in San Luis Obispo County. 

It's the biggest marine sanctuary in the contiguous United States, encompassing a vast 6,094 square miles of ocean and a coastline of 276 miles. It's been called the 'Serengeti of the Sea'.

The sanctuary protects one of the world's most diverse marine ecosystems, teeming with an abundance of marine mammals, seabirds, fish, invertebrates, and plants. 

This rich biodiversity is attributed to a unique combination of geology, weather patterns, and currents that create a very productive ocean environment. 

Animals travel vast distances each year to reach these feeding grounds. The MBNMS was established in 1992.

Website: montereybay.noaa.gov

Whale Watching Trips

Blue WhaleBlue Whale

Head for Fisherman's Wharf to sign up for one of the whale watching tours on offer there. It's hard to beat a few hours at sea on a sunny day with the excitement of searching for whales and other sea creatures.

Treasure Hunt: The Ride

Treasure Hunt: The Ride in MontereyTreasure Hunt: The Ride

The newest addition to the best things to do in Monterey is Treasure Hunt: the Ride, located right on Cannery Row, a 5-minute walk from the aquarium. It's a pirate-themed adventure that blends exciting twists and turns with interactive elements and is great for families.

Riders take part in an original pirate story, searching for hidden treasures beneath Cannery Row in specially designed cavern cars that seat four people.

Treasure Hunt: The Ride in MontereyTreasure Hunt: The Ride

The adventure is based on the legend of Captain Hippolyte Bouchard, a notorious pirate who supposedly raided Monterey in 1818 and stashed his loot in secret caverns beneath Cannery Row.

Riders become treasure hunters following clues and using interactive devices to unearth Bouchard's lost riches.

Address: 700 Cannery Row, Monterey, CA 93940

Phone Number: (831) 747-1426

Website: treasurehuntride.com

Our Pick of the California Guides

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    The best things to do in Monterey, chosen by Pacific Coast Highway Travel, include the Monterey Bay Aquarium, Cannery Row, whale watching and Fisherman's Wharf.

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