Monterey travel guide

Monterey Tourism | Monterey Guide

You're Going to Love Monterey

Monterey is one of California's most popular coastal destinations and the Central Coast town is known for beautiful beaches, historic landmarks and musical events.

If you're a nature lover, you'll be in your element in Monterey. It's the whale watching capital of the world and the scenic peninsula is home to California's largest population of sea otters.

Literature fans adore Monterey too and the town's Cannery Row, once the heart of the sardine canning industry, was the setting for John Steinbeck's famous novel, 'Cannery Row'. Other Steinbeck novels set in Monterey include East of Eden and Tortilla Flat.

Monterey is popular with weekend visitors who pop up from San Francisco as well as with tourists from around the world. Fine dining, unique gift shops and 5 sandy beaches - it's ideal for both short or long breaks.

Top 5 Reasons to Visit Monterey

1. The Unique Beach Lifestyle

Monterey Bay's five beautiful sandy beaches are sheltered by rugged, tree studded cliffs that drop into the deep azure waters of the Pacific Ocean. Soak up the sun, watch spectacular sunsets or linger by beach bonfires long into the night.

2. Delicious Local Produce

Mention Monterey and people often think of cheese, wine or John Steinbeck. The county produces a wide selection of cheeses including the famous Monterey Jack cheese, and its vineyards are known for fine Pinot Noir and Chardonnay wines.

3. A Hit with History Fans

Watch trawlers unloading the catch at Fisherman's Wharf before setting out on the 2-mile Path of History past notable landmarks like the 19th-century Old Custom House and Whaling Station.

4. Fun Outdoor Activities

A popular scuba diving destination, Monterey's clear waters are home to a dazzling array of sea creatures who frequent the massive underwater kelp forests. Kayaking is a great way to explore the peninsula and land lovers can cycle the scenic Monterey Coastal Trail.

5. World-Famous Attractions

Monterey County Aquarium attracts over 1,000,000 visitors annually. A magnificent range of installations feature thousands of sea creatures including sharks, stingrays, jellyfish and giant octopuses.

1. The Unique Beach Lifestyle

Monterey Bay's five beautiful sandy beaches are sheltered by rugged, tree studded cliffs that drop into the deep azure waters of the Pacific Ocean. Soak up the sun, watch spectacular sunsets or linger by beach bonfires long into the night.

2. Delicious Local Produce

Mention Monterey and people often think of cheese, wine or John Steinbeck. The county produces a wide selection of cheeses including the famous Monterey Jack cheese, and its vineyards are known for fine Pinot Noir and Chardonnay wines.

3. A Hit with History Fans

Watch trawlers unloading the catch at Fisherman's Wharf before setting out on the 2-mile Path of History past notable landmarks like the 19th-century Old Custom House and Whaling Station.

4. Fun Outdoor Activities

A popular scuba diving destination, Monterey's clear waters are home to a dazzling array of sea creatures who frequent the massive underwater kelp forests. Kayaking is a great way to explore the peninsula and land lovers can cycle the scenic Monterey Coastal Trail.

5. World-Famous Attractions

Monterey County Aquarium attracts over 1,000,000 visitors annually. A magnificent range of installations feature thousands of sea creatures including sharks, stingrays, jellyfish and giant octopuses.

What to do in Monterey

1. Point Lobos State Reserve: California's Crown Jewel

You know a State Park has got to be pretty sweet if the nearest town is named Carmel! Nestled in a small bay in Northern California, Point Lobos State Park has become one of the most popular US State Parks since its initial establishment in 1967. Relax with your toes in the warm sand while you wait for that infamous Northern California fog to fade into the distance. It's also common to see visitors scanning the shallow tide pools for all manner of crabs, urchins, and other small marine life. Just make sure you leave the creatures where they are. This State Park has one heck of a volunteer crew making sure these two marine protected areas remain safe and clean.

2. Monterey Bay Aquarium: A Marine Life Paradise

Finding Dory fans will love visiting the inspiration for Dory's childhood home at the Monterrey Bay Aquarium. Here you can expect to get some up-close encounters with the local sea life including sea lions, sharks, otters, and stingrays. Make sure to check out the Aquarium's feeding times to see these colorful fish in action. The Monterrey Bay Aquarium also puts a fair amount of effort into conservation and educational programs aimed at creating a cleaner Northern California ecosystem.

3. Fishermans Wharf: Oceanfront Entertainment

What's a trip to the coast if you don't sample some of the local seafood? Fisherman's Wharf is a famous gathering place in Monterrey with many restaurant, bars, and shops. The clam chowder is a particular local favorite, utilizing freshly-caught fish, brightly colored vegetables, and warm, crispy bread. While you eat, enjoy the view of sea otters playing on the rocks just outside of the Wharf. If you play your cards right and stick around long enough, you may even be able to do some whale watching.

4. Pebble Beach Golf Links: A Hole-in-one Vacation Destination

T-off at one of the most scenic gold courses overlooking the Pacific Ocean in California at Pebble Beach Gold Links. The US Open has been hosted here on five separate occasions, making it a world-famous golfing destination. Here you can find amateurs and legends practicing side-by-side as the waves crash ominously in the distance. The Pebble Beach Golf Links' green is especially valued due to its unique landscape which presents a whole new set of challenges for players. Make a reservation before you arrive to make sure you can play on one of America's most prized golf courses.

5. Cannery Row: Steinbeck's Northern Legacy

Those who have read the American author John Steinbeck's novel by the same name will no doubt want to visit the old sardine canneries of New Monterrey. The now defunct factories were used as inspiration for Steinbeck's collection of vignettes on the Great Depression in California. Today, there are just a few restaurants and tourist shops left standing that are selling Cannery Row-related memorabilia. It may be little more than a nostalgic walk, but it's well worth a visit if you're in Monterrey.

1. Point Lobos State Reserve: California's Crown Jewel

You know a State Park has got to be pretty sweet if the nearest town is named Carmel! Nestled in a small bay in Northern California, Point Lobos State Park has become one of the most popular US State Parks since its initial establishment in 1967. Relax with your toes in the warm sand while you wait for that infamous Northern California fog to fade into the distance. It's also common to see visitors scanning the shallow tide pools for all manner of crabs, urchins, and other small marine life. Just make sure you leave the creatures where they are. This State Park has one heck of a volunteer crew making sure these two marine protected areas remain safe and clean.

2. Monterey Bay Aquarium: A Marine Life Paradise

Finding Dory fans will love visiting the inspiration for Dory's childhood home at the Monterrey Bay Aquarium. Here you can expect to get some up-close encounters with the local sea life including sea lions, sharks, otters, and stingrays. Make sure to check out the Aquarium's feeding times to see these colorful fish in action. The Monterrey Bay Aquarium also puts a fair amount of effort into conservation and educational programs aimed at creating a cleaner Northern California ecosystem.

3. Fishermans Wharf: Oceanfront Entertainment

What's a trip to the coast if you don't sample some of the local seafood? Fisherman's Wharf is a famous gathering place in Monterrey with many restaurant, bars, and shops. The clam chowder is a particular local favorite, utilizing freshly-caught fish, brightly colored vegetables, and warm, crispy bread. While you eat, enjoy the view of sea otters playing on the rocks just outside of the Wharf. If you play your cards right and stick around long enough, you may even be able to do some whale watching.

4. Pebble Beach Golf Links: A Hole-in-one Vacation Destination

T-off at one of the most scenic gold courses overlooking the Pacific Ocean in California at Pebble Beach Gold Links. The US Open has been hosted here on five separate occasions, making it a world-famous golfing destination. Here you can find amateurs and legends practicing side-by-side as the waves crash ominously in the distance. The Pebble Beach Golf Links' green is especially valued due to its unique landscape which presents a whole new set of challenges for players. Make a reservation before you arrive to make sure you can play on one of America's most prized golf courses.

5. Cannery Row: Steinbeck's Northern Legacy

Those who have read the American author John Steinbeck's novel by the same name will no doubt want to visit the old sardine canneries of New Monterrey. The now defunct factories were used as inspiration for Steinbeck's collection of vignettes on the Great Depression in California. Today, there are just a few restaurants and tourist shops left standing that are selling Cannery Row-related memorabilia. It may be little more than a nostalgic walk, but it's well worth a visit if you're in Monterrey.

1. Point Lobos State Reserve: California's Crown Jewel

You know a State Park has got to be pretty sweet if the nearest town is named Carmel! Nestled in a small bay in Northern California, Point Lobos State Park has become one of the most popular US State Parks since its initial establishment in 1967. Relax with your toes in the warm sand while you wait for that infamous Northern California fog to fade into the distance. It's also common to see visitors scanning the shallow tide pools for all manner of crabs, urchins, and other small marine life. Just make sure you leave the creatures where they are. This State Park has one heck of a volunteer crew making sure these two marine protected areas remain safe and clean.

2. Monterey Bay Aquarium: A Marine Life Paradise

Finding Dory fans will love visiting the inspiration for Dory's childhood home at the Monterrey Bay Aquarium. Here you can expect to get some up-close encounters with the local sea life including sea lions, sharks, otters, and stingrays. Make sure to check out the Aquarium's feeding times to see these colorful fish in action. The Monterrey Bay Aquarium also puts a fair amount of effort into conservation and educational programs aimed at creating a cleaner Northern California ecosystem.

3. Fishermans Wharf: Oceanfront Entertainment

What's a trip to the coast if you don't sample some of the local seafood? Fisherman's Wharf is a famous gathering place in Monterrey with many restaurant, bars, and shops. The clam chowder is a particular local favorite, utilizing freshly-caught fish, brightly colored vegetables, and warm, crispy bread. While you eat, enjoy the view of sea otters playing on the rocks just outside of the Wharf. If you play your cards right and stick around long enough, you may even be able to do some whale watching.

4. Pebble Beach Golf Links: A Hole-in-one Vacation Destination

T-off at one of the most scenic gold courses overlooking the Pacific Ocean in California at Pebble Beach Gold Links. The US Open has been hosted here on five separate occasions, making it a world-famous golfing destination. Here you can find amateurs and legends practicing side-by-side as the waves crash ominously in the distance. The Pebble Beach Golf Links' green is especially valued due to its unique landscape which presents a whole new set of challenges for players. Make a reservation before you arrive to make sure you can play on one of America's most prized golf courses.

5. Cannery Row: Steinbeck's Northern Legacy

Those who have read the American author John Steinbeck's novel by the same name will no doubt want to visit the old sardine canneries of New Monterrey. The now defunct factories were used as inspiration for Steinbeck's collection of vignettes on the Great Depression in California. Today, there are just a few restaurants and tourist shops left standing that are selling Cannery Row-related memorabilia. It may be little more than a nostalgic walk, but it's well worth a visit if you're in Monterrey.

Where to Eat in Monterey

Local must-try dishes are sanddabs, clam chowder and artichokes. Monterey is the artichoke capital and you’ll find them sautéed, grilled, fried or braised in sandwiches, soups and even on pizza in restaurants all over town. Try fried sand dabs or clam chowder in restaurants or at Fisherman’s Wharf.

Foodies will love landmark restaurant Rosine’s on Alvarado Street which is famous for its delicious cakes. For special meals, treat yourself to classic California cuisine at Tarpy’s Roadhouse, a hillside restaurant housed in a historic former homestead where you can choose local wines to accompany lunch or dinner.

When to visit Monterey

Monterey in January
Estimated hotel price
$276
1 night at 3-star hotel
Monterey in January
Estimated hotel price
$276
1 night at 3-star hotel

The summer season is from May to September, tourist attractions are open and beach life is in full swing. Monterey's population can double between Memorial Day and Labor Day, so visit in early Spring or in Fall if you prefer a quieter break. If you're hoping to spot those famous blue whales, their migration period is from January to March. May and September are the sunniest months and music fans can catch the world-famous Monterey Jazz Festival in September. Visit between November and March for spectacular sunsets and dramatic waves.

Data provided by weatherbase
Temperatures
Temperatures
Data provided by weatherbase

How to Get to Monterey

Plane

Monterey Regional Airport, also known as Monterey Peninsula Airport (MRY), has regular flights from Los Angeles, San Francisco, Denver, Salt Lake City, Las Vegas and Phoenix. The airport is three miles south-east of downtown Monterey; take Highway 68 west till it connects with Highway 1 for the center of Monterey.

Train

If you plan to arrive by train, Amtrak's Coast Starlight service to Salinas is the most convenient. Upon arrival in Salinas you can take Monterey-Salinas Transit buses (routes 21 and 56) to Monterey.

Car

PCH or Pacific Coast Highway is one of the world's most scenic roads. Featuring landmarks like the Bixby Bridge, it runs through Monterey from Big Sur in the north to Santa Cruz in the south. If you're driving from the San Francisco Bay Area, follow US 101 south to Prunedale then take State Highway 156 to merge with southbound US-1. Those traveling from the south can take US-101 north to Salinas then State Road 68 west.

Bus

MST (Monterey-Salinas Transit) operates a bus service from San Jose to Monterey as part of Amtrak's Thruway service.

Plane

Monterey Regional Airport, also known as Monterey Peninsula Airport (MRY), has regular flights from Los Angeles, San Francisco, Denver, Salt Lake City, Las Vegas and Phoenix. The airport is three miles south-east of downtown Monterey; take Highway 68 west till it connects with Highway 1 for the center of Monterey.

Train

If you plan to arrive by train, Amtrak's Coast Starlight service to Salinas is the most convenient. Upon arrival in Salinas you can take Monterey-Salinas Transit buses (routes 21 and 56) to Monterey.

Car

PCH or Pacific Coast Highway is one of the world's most scenic roads. Featuring landmarks like the Bixby Bridge, it runs through Monterey from Big Sur in the north to Santa Cruz in the south. If you're driving from the San Francisco Bay Area, follow US 101 south to Prunedale then take State Highway 156 to merge with southbound US-1. Those traveling from the south can take US-101 north to Salinas then State Road 68 west.

Bus

MST (Monterey-Salinas Transit) operates a bus service from San Jose to Monterey as part of Amtrak's Thruway service.

Airports near Monterey

Airlines serving Monterey

Lufthansa
Good (4,684 reviews)
KLM
Good (837 reviews)
SWISS
Good (956 reviews)
British Airways
Good (4,653 reviews)
Turkish Airlines
Good (2,234 reviews)
Delta
Good (4,565 reviews)
Austrian Airlines
Good (484 reviews)
Iberia
Good (1,604 reviews)
Air France
Good (985 reviews)
Emirates
Excellent (2,105 reviews)
Qatar Airways
Good (2,411 reviews)
United Airlines
Good (4,994 reviews)
Air Canada
Good (6,028 reviews)
Brussels Airlines
Good (228 reviews)
Finnair
Good (851 reviews)
LOT
Good (680 reviews)
Scandinavian Airlines
Good (799 reviews)
Singapore Airlines
Excellent (933 reviews)
TAP AIR PORTUGAL
Good (1,176 reviews)
Etihad Airways
Good (841 reviews)
Show more

Where to stay in Monterey

Old Monterey/Downtown - the important historic district includes the harbour, Fisherman's Wharf and the Presidio of Monterey. Alvarado Street is the city's main shopping street.

Popular Neighborhoods in Monterey

New Monterey - north of the Presidio of Monterey, this popular districts is where you'll find Cannery Row. Also known for hotels, shopping, fine dining and family-friendly attractions.

Skyline Ridge - the heart of Monterey and also its highest district. Adjacent to Veteran's Memorial Park, a beautiful pine tree-studded space with campgrounds, basketball courts and hiking trails.

New Monterey - north of the Presidio of Monterey, this popular districts is where you'll find Cannery Row. Also known for hotels, shopping, fine dining and family-friendly attractions.
Skyline Ridge - the heart of Monterey and also its highest district. Adjacent to Veteran's Memorial Park, a beautiful pine tree-studded space with campgrounds, basketball courts and hiking trails.

Where to stay in popular areas of Monterey

Most booked hotels in Monterey

The Quail Lodge
4 stars
Excellent (8.9, Excellent reviews)
$624+
Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa
4 stars
Excellent (8.8, Excellent reviews)
$567+
Intercontinental The Clement Monterey, An IHG Hotel
4 stars
Excellent (8.6, Excellent reviews)
$495+
Carmel Bay View Inn
2 stars
Excellent (8.5, Excellent reviews)
$332+
La Playa Hotel
4 stars
Excellent (8.3, Excellent reviews)
$946+
Arbor Inn Monterey
2 stars
Excellent (8.1, Excellent reviews)
$193+

How to Get Around Monterey

Public Transportation

MST runs buses between Monterey and the nearby towns of Pacific Grove and Carmel as well as to Salinas and Big Sur. Fares are $1.50 (adults) and $.75 (children/seniors/concessions) on city routes and $3.50 and $1.75 on regional routes. Pay on board or buy 7 or 31 day Go Cards and Go Passes online at http://mst.org/fares/overview/ or in person from MST customer service outlets.

Taxi

Yellow Cab or Coastal Yellow Cab of Monterey taxis are convenient for trips to Carmel, Pacific Grove or the Airport. Standard charges are $3.50 start fee plus $2.75 per mile.

Car

Many people rent a car to explore the peninsula and further afield. Monterey is easy to navigate and there are several parking garages in Downtown and New Monterey. Metered on-street parking is available in most parts of the city including Cannery Row and close to Fisherman’s Wharf.

Public Transportation

MST runs buses between Monterey and the nearby towns of Pacific Grove and Carmel as well as to Salinas and Big Sur. Fares are $1.50 (adults) and $.75 (children/seniors/concessions) on city routes and $3.50 and $1.75 on regional routes. Pay on board or buy 7 or 31 day Go Cards and Go Passes online at http://mst.org/fares/overview/ or in person from MST customer service outlets.

Taxi

Yellow Cab or Coastal Yellow Cab of Monterey taxis are convenient for trips to Carmel, Pacific Grove or the Airport. Standard charges are $3.50 start fee plus $2.75 per mile.

Car

Many people rent a car to explore the peninsula and further afield. Monterey is easy to navigate and there are several parking garages in Downtown and New Monterey. Metered on-street parking is available in most parts of the city including Cannery Row and close to Fisherman’s Wharf.

The Cost of Living in Monterey

Monterey’s Hottest Shopping Streets

You'll find lots of independent stores like Monterey Imports (art and accessories from India, Nepal and Tibet) on Alvarado Street in Downtown Monterey. Head to Cannery Row or Fisherman’s Wharf for gift stores or visit Del Monte Mall for clothing and other goods; this attractive mall also has a large cinema complex and several restaurants.

Groceries and Other Necessities

Buy food and basics from Monterey supermarkets like Trader Joe’s, Safeway and Whole Foods Market. For terrific sandwiches and snacks try Troia’s Market in Pacific Street or visit the Wharf Marketplace for gourmet foods and wine.

Cheap meal
$25.12
A pair of jeans
$73.75
Single public transport ticket
$4.46
Cappuccino
$7.25