What? : 

Monterey, a main tourist attraction town on the California coastline.

The town is popular destination by itself and as a popular stop when doing California highway 1 road trip. The city is located just north of Big Sure coastline section, 1 hour drive south from Santa Cruz and a day trip from San Francisco.

The town known for its wealth of marine life, ragged ocean beaches, small bays and delicious seafood. Monterey Bay Aquarium is one of the local must-visit attraction.

You can easily spend in Monterey and the surrounding area 2-3 full days.

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Where? : 

Monterey located at the central California coastline, 120 miles south of San Francisco on highway 1.

South of Monterey you can find one of California most bountiful state parks, Point Lobos, if you keep driving south you will enter Big Sure area, this is no drought one of the most scenic drive in the USA.

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Due note 1: I will advise to dedicate one full day visit at Monterey. Half a day in the Monterey Bay Aquarium and the nearby popular strip of gift shops, seafood restaurants and bars in converted factories. The second part of the day can be spending at the many others town attractions.


Due note 1: Monterey is not only a attraction destination by itself for few days getaway but also can be use as base for trips in the area, south, on the most beautiful highway 1 into Big Sur or north up to Santa Cruz or east to the Pinnacle National Park.


Due note 1: An excellent way to explore the Monterey ocean front is by renting a bike. You can rent them at the town center and ride along the protected bike trail that will take you to Monterey Aquarium, Lovers Point Park and to Point Pinos Lighthouse park at the far west.


Due note 1: I will not cover restaurants options; I will just say that you have many of different options to dine at. As for or night accommodation arrangements, there are many places to sleep in Monterey but if you want to look for lower coast hotels try at the nearby Sand City.


Due note 1: Around Monterey and near major attractions you can find many available and large parking lots, park legally.


My thoughts: We really like Monterey and visit it many times.

The town has a lot to offer and many attractions to visit and see. On nice weekends it can be overcrowded.

In my view the Monterey Bay Aquarium is a must-visit attraction, and you should plan your stay here around it.


The visit:

As you can read below attractions list Monterey is a destination by itself for few days of exploration.

If you’re visiting here as part of your California highway 1 road-trip you probably need to plan for a one-day visit.

For people that have additional time to spend here are many local things to see as well as additional nearby attractions like:

  • Famous 17-Mile Drive with its coastal scenery
  • Carmel-By-The-Sea up-scale town
  • Carmel Valley with all it wineries
  • Point Lobos State Natural Reserve, just 20 minutes’ drive south on highway 1.


I will try to cover the town main attraction-points in the order you are getting into town following the bay coastline.


Old Fisherman's Wharf:

the Old Fisherman’s Wharf is one of Monterey’s most tourist attraction places to visit. In the past, it served as a fish market, only ending this occupation in the 1960s.

This peer boardwalk has a wide range of seafood restaurants (from casual to fancy).

There are also, numerous local stores selling candy, ice-cream, art, jewelry, and souvenir shops.

If you just want to see it 30 minutes will be enough.


State Historic Park section:

Monterey was the capital of Spanish California from 1770 to 1882. 

Walking along the sections of the old restored buildings with historical significance to this California city. Many of these structures date back to the early years of the 19th century. From here you will go to town center on one side or to the Old Fisherman's Wharf on the ocean side.


Whale watching tours:

Monterey Bay is considered to be a premier destination for whale watching year-round as these animals are often spotted there, especially when they migrate during winter months.

Many boat tours start at Fisherman's Wharf in Monterey and they are taking 2-3 hours.

We did it only one and it was a foggy day with high sea, so we did not see much (only dolphins), others went to a sale and saw wales from close distance.



Monterey Bay Aquarium:

The main attraction on Cannery Row, and one of the top California visitors’ attractions, is the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

I highly recommend investing the time (and money) to visit this Aquarium live and educational museum.

Plan to be here at list for 3 hours if not for a half a day.

Although not a huge in size it has excellent exhibits, explanations, and programs, covering many aspects of the local and deep ocean marine life.

Do not miss the famous Kreisel tank that hosts red/orange jellyfish astonishing display.

Another attractions is the large water tank that hosts many sharks’ as well as yellowfin tuna and Bluefin tuna. 

Others notable displays in the aquarium are the huge kelp forests, Penguin’s and the Sea Otters water tank.

Check in advance when are the feeding times, it is always interesting to see this because than the animals are very active.


The aquarium is consistently ranked among the top attractions in the California.

You will not be here alone, with average of 1.8 million visitors each year, this is a crowded place. Nevertheless, it has plenty of exhibits and things to see and discover, the crowd will not ruin your experience.

Make sure to read latest updates and opening hours at the Aquarium website:


Ticket and reservations:


Few Covid 19 changes:

Tickets will not be available at the Main Entrance. You must reserve tickets online for a specific entry date and time in advance.

You will follow a one-way path through the Aquarium.



Cannery Row:

In January 1958, the City of Monterey re-named the street leading to the Aquarium to "Cannery Row". Once upon a time, Cannery Row was the location of the bustling canning industry – hence its name.

The same factory buildings used for cannery processes are still being used today, you can find in this district many shops, local galleries and many restaurants. This is the perfect place to spend some time, eat something or get an ice-cream after your Aquarium visit.

There are many large parking-lot garages nearby. You can spend here 15 min, just to drive through and get the atmosphere, or for much longer visit depending of your interest.



Butterfly House:

A short 15-minutes stop at one of the side neighborhood streets. A private house covered with butterfly arts, park nearby, take a few pictures at the colorful place and keep on to your destination.


Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary:
Located in a small local tree garden in Pacific Grove not so far from Point Pinos Lighthouse.
Here migrating Monarch Butterfly spend the winter months (Nov. - Feb.) on their journey from Canada down south to Mexico.
To see monarchs cluster on the trees, visit the Sanctuary in the morning, in the mid-day when it warms up the Monarchs will start to fly around. Other popular monarch winter locations in California are: Natural Bridges State Park in Santa Cruz and Pismo State Beach.

Lovers Point Park:

A small sandy bay park that is good for swimming, surfing or tide pool exploration, kayak & bike rentals


Point Pinos Lighthouse and Asilomar State Beach:

The waterfront sights are exquisite, as are the parks, beaches, and similar locations you’ll pass along the way.

The Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary is an area that offers marine wildlife viewings even from shore, spot migrating whales at the winter months, sea lions, seals, and many birds.

For divers it is one of the most impressive protected marine locations not just in California, but across the country.

There are many places to park along the road and just explore the nearby beaches and rocks or just enjoy the sunset colors at the afternoon.



17-Mile Drive:

This famous coastal landmark drive runs from Pacific Grove to Pebble Beach, featuring coastal rocky landscapes vistas and many places to explore. Among other you can see here the Lone Cypress, one of the most photographed trees in North America, explore the shores of Spanish Bay and drive along the famous Pebble Beach Golf course.

If possible, I recommend taking this drive late at the afternoon before and at sunset, the sunset into the ocean coloring the sky, ragged cliffs and the ocean wave will be perfect ending to your Monterey day, just before you are heading to one of the local restaurants.

Plan for around 2 hours’ drive with stops at the many viewing point along road.


Fort Ord Dunes State Park:

North of Monterey you can find this coastal dune park. This is not a must visit if you are just passing by as part of your round trip but if you have 2 hours to spend on your way north and you want to spend some hiking time at less crowded, long, sandy beach this is the place.


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