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.

What to do in Monterey

1. Visit Monterey Museum of Art

With eight galleries and an impressive range of exhibitions, the Monterey Museum of Art on Pacific Street is a must for culture lovers. If that’s not enough to sate your appetite, you’ll find another four galleries at its Via Mirada site.

2. Get Close to the Locals

See sea lions basking in the sun at Fisherman's Wharf, at the industrial wharf or on the breakwater near Cannery Row on most days. Sea otters are common around the bay and harbour seals can be spotted west of the Stanford research station.

3. Explore the Beach

Asilomar State Beach is 100 acres of dunes, beaches and tidal pools stretching from Del Monte Forest to Point Pinos. The area is popular with surfers, who come to catch the best breaks from November to March, and dogs are permitted if they're on a leash.

4. Take a Drive

Motor along 17-Mile Drive, the world-famous road that starts near Monterey and winds along the Pebble Beach coast. Be sure to stop to get a photo of the Lone Cypress tree and the fabulous Crocker Marble Palace.

5. Catch a Top Event

There are events and shows throughout the year. Visit in September for the Monterey Jazz Festival, the world’s longest continually running jazz event or catch the Monterey Country Fair each August.

1. Visit Monterey Museum of Art

With eight galleries and an impressive range of exhibitions, the Monterey Museum of Art on Pacific Street is a must for culture lovers. If that’s not enough to sate your appetite, you’ll find another four galleries at its Via Mirada site.

2. Get Close to the Locals

See sea lions basking in the sun at Fisherman's Wharf, at the industrial wharf or on the breakwater near Cannery Row on most days. Sea otters are common around the bay and harbour seals can be spotted west of the Stanford research station.

3. Explore the Beach

Asilomar State Beach is 100 acres of dunes, beaches and tidal pools stretching from Del Monte Forest to Point Pinos. The area is popular with surfers, who come to catch the best breaks from November to March, and dogs are permitted if they're on a leash.

4. Take a Drive

Motor along 17-Mile Drive, the world-famous road that starts near Monterey and winds along the Pebble Beach coast. Be sure to stop to get a photo of the Lone Cypress tree and the fabulous Crocker Marble Palace.

5. Catch a Top Event

There are events and shows throughout the year. Visit in September for the Monterey Jazz Festival, the world’s longest continually running jazz event or catch the Monterey Country Fair each August.

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 February
Estimated hotel price
C$ 114
1 night at 3-star hotel
Monterey in February
Estimated hotel price
C$ 114
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.

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Temperatures
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Celcius (°C)
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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.

Airports near Monterey

Airlines serving Monterey

United Airlines
Good (69,533 reviews)
American Airlines
Good (47,707 reviews)
Lufthansa
Good (28,435 reviews)
KLM
Good (3,812 reviews)
Delta
Good (30,770 reviews)
Air France
Good (4,368 reviews)
British Airways
Good (23,357 reviews)
Turkish Airlines
Good (23,635 reviews)
SWISS
Excellent (9,192 reviews)
Qatar Airways
Excellent (11,554 reviews)
Iberia
Good (6,176 reviews)
Air Canada
Good (25,065 reviews)
Austrian Airlines
Good (4,862 reviews)
Emirates
Excellent (15,783 reviews)
TAP AIR PORTUGAL
Good (5,585 reviews)
Brussels Airlines
Good (2,482 reviews)
Scandinavian Airlines
Good (5,456 reviews)
Alaska Airlines
Excellent (30,360 reviews)
Finnair
Good (3,885 reviews)
Spirit Airlines
Okay (63,108 reviews)
Show more

Where to stay in Monterey

Choose from friendly bed & breakfast establishments, boutique hotels, affordable chains and luxury spa hotels. If you're on a budget, try Day's Inn at Fisherman's Wharf or Monterey Bay Lodge. Well-known chains like Ramada, Marriott and Comfort Inn are good mid-range options while the Portola Hotel, Old Monterey Inn and Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa and Cannery Row are perfect for luxury breaks.

Popular neighbourhoods 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.

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

Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa
Excellent (9, Excellent reviews)
C$ 610+
Tradewinds Carmel
Excellent (8.8, Excellent reviews)
C$ 470+
Munras Inn
Excellent (8.4, Excellent reviews)
C$ 231+
Sanctuary Beach Resort
Excellent (8.4, Excellent reviews)
C$ 661+
Hyatt Regency Monterey Hotel And Spa
Excellent (8, Excellent reviews)
C$ 414+
Embassy Suites Monterey Bay
Excellent (8, Excellent reviews)
C$ 443+
See all hotels

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.

Car rental agencies in Monterey

Find car rentals in Monterey

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
C$ 19.86
A pair of jeans
C$ 58.32
Single public transport ticket
C$ 3.53
Cappuccino
C$ 5.73