This guide focuses on the town of Monterey only and you can plan your weekend getaway in a jiffy using the resources below.
Why Should You Go? Will You Like Monterey?
- Take a look at our Monterey Pictures.
- Monterey is popular with families. It's also a magnet for scuba divers and kayakers, who enjoy the bay's calm waters and abundant wildlife.
- This former cannery town is most casual on the peninsula. It also offers some of the lowest-priced accommodations.
Best Time to Go to MontereyMonterey weather is best in spring and fall, when the skies are clearer and crowds thinner. In summer (especially June), you're more likely to encounter fog and cloudy days when the foggy marine layer never clears.
Any time of year, Monterey is cooler than nearby inland locations, so bring an extra layer of clothing.
Hotels tend to fill up for the Monterey Jazz Festival, which is held the third weekend in September.
Don't MissOne of the most fun things to do in Monterey is watching sea otters, harbor seals and sea lions playing in the kelp forest. The best place in town to see them is from the outdoor decks near the Monterey Plaza Hotel. Walk past the dolphin sculpture and find a place to stand along the railing. A pair of binoculars will make this an even more fun experience.
5 More Great Things to Do in Monterey
- Monterey Bay Aquarium This place is one of California's most popular tourist attractions with good reason. Allow a half day to see it.
- Cannery Row You'll find most of Monterey's souvenir shops along this area, which still retains a scruffy ambiance from the days when sardine factories lined the shore. Our self-guided walking tour of Cannery Row will take about an hour (more if you shop or eat).
- Fisherman's Wharf It's pure tourist kitsch, but the views of the marina and bay from the wharf are terrific. Allow an hour here and more if you take a harbor cruise or explore the nearby historic park.
- Harbor Cruise: Several harbor cruises and whale watch tours leave from Fisherman's Wharf. The glass-bottomed boat tour promises a look at underwater life, but is better enjoyed for its close-to-the-water views.
- Dennis the Menace Park Kids and parents alike love this colorful playground designed by cartoonist Hank Ketchum.
Annual Events You Should Know About
Tips for Visiting Monterey
- Get an early start for the aquarium, before the crowds build up.
- During the festivals mentioned above and during the Pebble Beach golf tournament, it gets very hard to find a place to stay in Monterey. Plan far ahead or choose a different date.
- If you love watching Monterey's sea otters as much as we do, a pair of binoculars will help you see them better.
Best BitesA weekend getaway is a great time to enjoy a leisurely brunch and you have two nice options on Cannery Row. The Fish Hopper offers a nice selection of breakfast items and has great outdoor seating right over the water. For more lunch-like fare, try Schooner's Bistro at the Monterey Plaza Hotel, with umbrella-shaded tables and views of the kelp beds. Surprisingly, it's quite reasonably priced despite being in one of the most expensive hotels in town.
Where to StayCheck our recommended hotels and bed and breakfast inns.
If you're on a tight budget, learn how to find a good place to stay, cheap.
Getting To MontereyDriving? Monterey is on the Pacific coast at the south end of the Monterey Bay, just off Highway One. It's west of Salinas and 72 miles from San Jose, 113 miles from San Francisco, 186 miles from Sacramento and 322 miles from Los Angeles.
From San Francisco and the north, you can take Highway 1 all the way down to Monterey, or take US 101 and turn west at Highway 156 and south on Highway 1. Coming from the south, you can take Highway 1 up from Morro Bay and Hearst Castle or from US 101, exit at Salinas, following the signs toward Monterey.
Flying? Monterey has a small airport that receives some commercial flights (MRY), but the nearest big airport is in San Jose (SJC). Check airfares.