Monterey is one of the more beautiful coastal cities of California and can make for a great two day trip for those visiting San Francisco or a weekend getaway for California natives. It was originally the state capital of California, and has more historic buildings in its downtown than any other city west of Santa Fe. Today it is most commonly known for its beautiful coastline, its world-class aquarium and from the many John Steinbeck novels that used the town as their setting, including Cannery Row and Tortilla Flat.
Rugged terrain and vicious Pacific currents made much of the California coast virtually unexplorable to European ships. After a disastrous attempt to explore this new territory by sea, Spanish missionaries in Mexico launched a series of overland expeditions from San Diego. Monterey was established in 1770 by Father Junipero Serra and soon became a Spanish military base with a small fort or "presidio" located near a calm harbor that could provide shelter to supply ships. The military presence eventually gave way to a thriving commercial trade that brought in many enterprising foreign merchants.
Once Mexico gained its independence from Spain, Monterey became the capital of Alta California under Mexican rule. From this era come many classic stories of flirtation, fashion, and politics in the Mexican colonial era. Lands once owned by the government began to come into private hands, and local families began to consolidate their property and power into business enterprises based on the ranches or "ranchos," where they raised cattle or invented the famous Monterey Jack cheese.
Monterey soon fell under American power in the Mexican-American War and remained the capital of the territory. A delegation of writers drafted the constitution which marked the entrance of the State of California into the United States of America. This era saw the mass northward migration of ambitious people in search of gold, which led to a near desertion of the town. Monterey soon recovered, however, and today is known for its magnificent natural beauty, world famous Aquarium, and temperate year-round climate.
The Monterey Peninsula has the largest population of sea otters on the California coast. The abundance of marine wildlife visible from the shoreline is one of the primary attractions of the region. Seals, sea lions, and sea otters are visible year-round, and migrating whales are commonly seen in the fall and spring months.
Monterey is on State Highway 1, which meanders slowly along the coast. It's about 25 miles from US 101.
From the North, take US 101 south to Prunedale. At Prunedale go west 5 miles west on State Highway 156 until it merges onto southbound Highway 1. Then 15 miles along Highway 1 to Monterey. If you are heading to Cannery Row or the Aquarium, look for a brown sign which which will advise you about which exit to take. If Highway 1 ceases to be a freeway, you've gone past Monterey.
From San Francisco, if you have a lot of time to spend, you could consider travelling south along the coast on State Route 1. It's a slow road until you get to Santa Cruz, but the views are fantastic.
From the South, take US 101 north to Salinas, then State Route 68 west to Monterey.
From the Bay Area internet map sites, mapping software, and GPS systems will advise you to take State Route 17 to Santa Cruz and then take State Route 1 south. State Route 17 through the Santa Cruz mountains is often highly congested, filled with sharp curves and corners drivers take at high speed, and is occasionally blocked by accidents. Even though highway 101 takes you out of the way, it is often faster than State Route 17.
Note... taken at the right time of day and in good weather, Hwy 17 can actually be enjoyable, but realize it is in fact very curvy and hilly and won't provide the option for much sightseeing as a result. Although it is oft traveled by road-warrior locals, even an everyday, confident driver could take it on. But as forewarned - don't expect it to be a timesaver at busy driving times (unless of course Santa Cruz is your final destination and you are heading South). Do otherwise opt for routes 101 and 156W if you're rushed or it's a busy time.
Amtrak's Coast Starlight  passes through nearby Salinas. Amtrak runs a bus service from the station to the major hotels of Monterey.
MST runs a bus service (which is a part of Amtrak's Thruway) from San Jose to Monterey Transit Plaza (temporarily diverted to nearby stops for road construction). The ticket costs $10 (one way).
The recently reorganized Monterey Peninsula Airport offers regular flights to San Francisco, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Denver, Salt Lake City, and Las Vegas. From the airport a short drive will take you west along Highway 68 and onto southbound Highway 1, where the two right lanes lead straight downtown.
Alvarado Street serves as downtown Monterey's "main drag." It is along this road that you will find superb restaurants, a selection of bars, and many unique shops. Monterey's compact downtown is very walkable. WARNING: The Cannery Row area (where the Aquarium is located) has an aggressive, expensive parking ticket policy. A few minutes over at a meter and you will be welcomed to town with a $25 parking ticket.
A car is advisable if you plan on taking any side trips to surrounding towns. Garage parking is available, and street parking is often free for periods of two hours, on weekends, and after 6PM. Many local hotels offer parking for an additional charge.
Monterey-Salinas Transit provides relatively convenient public bus service to the nearby towns of Carmel and Pacific Grove, as well as to historical Salinas and breathtaking Big Sur. MST also provides a "wine route" which stops at several of the area's most notable wineries . MST also runs a trolley like bus  through Monterey's downtown during the summer months and especially busy weekends.
Jellyfish in the Monterey Bay Aquarium
Sea lion near Fisherman's Wharf
Monterey Bay Aquarium, 886 Cannery Row, ph: 831-648-4888 (24 hour information), 831 648-4800 (switchboard) or 800-555-3656 (Spanish), . This large aquarium specializes in exhibiting local sea life and should not be missed. The best exhibits include a large tank of silver anchovies that swim around and around your head and three sea otters raised in the aquarium and now too tame to live in the wild. Feedings of the various tanks are scheduled throughout the day and are fascinating. Don't miss the 4 resident sea otters! Best of all, perhaps, are the tanks of large jellyfish lit up so that they fluoresce. Admission is steep at $29.95 adults, $27.95 seniors, $27.95 students, $17.95 children and disabled, but well worth it. Open 9:30AM-6PM May 29-Sept 6 and all holidays, 10AM- 6PM at other times.
Monterey County Fairgrounds, located at Fairgrounds Road, the fairgrounds hosts the annual Monterey Jazz Festival and hosted a one-time Monterey Pop Festival (in 1967). Other music festivals occur throughout the year, and the locally famous Monterey County Fair occurs every year in late August.
The Carmel Mission, 3080 Rio Road, Carmel. +1 831 624-1271 (Fax: +1 831 624-8050). . One of the 21 Missions located along the California coast. Father Serra, the leader behind the greater Spanish mission to California, is buried along with his most faithful lieutenant at the front of the church. Self-guided tours take you through the remaining original buildings which now hold exhibits, a small museum, and a gift shop. Catholic Masses occur regularly. Keep in mind that the mission is a working Catholic church, so dress and act respectfully. M-Sa:9:30AM-5PM; Su: 10:30AM-5PM. Adults: $5; Seniors: $4; Children under 17: $1.
Presidio of Monterey Museum, Corporal Ewing Road (from Lighthouse Blvd. heading east, follow the signs to the Museum), ☎ +1 831 646-3456 (fax: +1 831 646-3917), . M: 10AM-1PM; Th-Sa: 10AM-4PM; Su: 1PM-4PM; Closed Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years Day. Gives the history of the Presidio of Monterey from pre-history through the War on Terror.Free.
The Pacific House Museum  at Custom House Plaza offers detailed displays on local history and Native American life.
The Maritime Museum of History, also at Custom House Plaza, showcases exhibits that revolve around Monterey's history as a port, and the history of both seafaring and commercial fishing, from the whaling era to the present day.
The Bay from a Sailboat, Monterey Bay Sailing offers tranquil sailing trips on the majestic Monterey bay. Sea otters, sea lions, and harbor seals swim by with only the sound of the water and sails. This is a safe and eco-friendly activity for all ages.
Don't miss the whalebone sidewalk in front of the Old Whaling Station , located near Custom House Plaza on Decatur Street. Whalebone was once a common material for sidewalks in seaside towns; it is very likely this is the last one of its kind
The Monterey Museum of Art  has two locations. The 559 Pacific Street location, across from Colton Hall, has eight galleries, with both permanent and rotating exhibitions. The La Mirada building is one of Monterey's Mexican-era adobes. Located at 720 Via Mirada, near Monterey Peninsula College, it has four galleries, plus great views of Monterey Bay. Admission is $5, with $2.50 admission for students and military. One Thursday a month, the Pacific Street location hosts "Art After Hours," with free admission, light appetizers and drinks.
Dennis the Menace Park A giant kids park that includes a full sized train, numerous bridges, ducks and geese you can feed and paddle boat rentals. One of the better free municipal parks in Northern California. It is located within a 10 minute walk south of Fisherman's wharf. The park is closed on Tuesdays.
Watch the Sea Lions at the Wharfs There are two piers and a breakwater that provide excellent viewing for sea lions. Fisherman's Wharf generally has a handful of sea lions lounging about, but a larger group can generally be found at the more industrial wharf that is a short walk to the east of Fisherman's Wharf. This wharf has a small fishing warehouse that is still in operation and as such there are numerous sea lions that have made this wharf their home. Closer to Cannery Row near the coast guard station is a large breakwater (not accessible to foot traffic) that is generally occupied by a huge number of the marine mammals. Additionally, sea otters can often be seen in the bay, and harbor seals can be found west of the Stanford research station (west of the aquarium) or in the calm waters next to Fishermans Wharf.
Go sailing with Monterey Bay Sailing and experience the bay in a peaceful and relaxing way.
Play on the dunes and the shore at one of the city's five public beaches. Enjoy a romantic or family style Monterey bonfire on the beach.
Walk or bike along part of the 29 mile-long (47 kilometer-long) Monterey Bay Coastal Trail. Bikes available for rent at several places along the path (and at some other places, e.g. Monterey Transit Plaza). Multi-passenger surrey bikes are particularly popular and available for rent .
Explore the unique estuary environment of Elkhorn Slough, either on foot or by kayak. (Very nice trip, but not in Monterey, 23 miles north on hwy 1 by car)
Monterey Bay Kayaks, 693 Del Monte Avenue,  offers kayaking equipment rentals as well as guided kayaking tours, classes, and fishing trips.
Catch a performance at the historic Wharf Theater. Shows often include local interpretations of hit musicals.
The recently refurbished Golden State Theatre offers diverse, family-friendly shows centering around the themes of classic cinema and musical theater. It's worth a trip just to see the ornate interior of the theater.
Several companies  offer year-round whale watching boat tours, departing daily from Fisherman's Wharf. The area is particularly famous for sightings of gray whales as they travel to warmer waters during the winter and early spring.
Guide yourself through Monterey's historical heritage by following the Path of History. Follow the yellow plaques in the sidewalk to take in some of the town's most intriguing buildings. Informational signs are posted at each stop. Maps can be found at the California State Parks office near Customs House Plaza. Guided tours are also available.
Get your wet suit on and go Scuba Diving. The Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary has the most amazing kelp forests on the West Coast, and an incredible collection of marine life.
Get a panoramic view of the Monterey Bay (and Carmel to the south) from Jack's Peak County Park, the highest point on the Monterey Peninsula and amazingly free of crowds.
Watch the hang gliders at Marina beach (in the town of Marina about 10 miles north of Monterey), and the parasailers at Sand City beach (about three miles north of Monterey). Both are easily accessible by car via Route 1 and by the Recreation Trail.
Laguna Seca Raceway, 1021 Monterey-Salinas Highway , in Salinas. Famous indy car and motorcycle race track.
Golf at the local public courses Rancho Cañada, Bayonet and Black Horse, Laguna Seca Golf Ranch, Monterey Pines Golf Course. If you're lucky, you might be able to get a tee time at the world-renowned Pebble Beach.
Find out about upcoming events on the events calendar of the Monterey County Convention and Visitors Bureau website.
Cannery Row IMAX Theatre Monterey, 640 Wave Street, ☎ (831) 372-4629, . The Historical Cannery Row Edgewater Packing Facility has been redeveloped into a 290 seat luxurious IMAX 3D Theatre, complete with concessions and the Edgewater Cafe featuring a traditional gelato selection.
Monterey Imports (Galarie Monterey), 482 Alvarado Street, Downtown Monterey, ☎ (831) 674-1773. assembles the finest examples of Indian, Nepalese and Tibetan jewelry, statues, sculptures, incense, meditation tools, music cds, textiles (including yoga clothing, pashmina shawls and casual wear) and accessories to be found on the Central Coast.
The Del Monte Shopping Center, 1140 Del Monte Center, Monterey, CA 93940 (off Highway 1 at Munras Avenue), . offers a selection of typical mall chain stores, as well as several local restaurants and a large cinema complex.
Fisherman's Wharf provides plenty of opportunities to find that perfect Monterey postcard or souvenir (who do you know who doesn't want a plush sea otter??). You can also buy the day's latest catch fresh off the boat.
Cannery Row sports a Pebble Beach Golf shop, where virtually every item on display somehow incorporates the famous Lone Cypress (C) logo. It also has a number of overpriced, tacky specialty shops and overpriced, mediocre restaurants, including a Ghiaradelli store.
The American Tin Cannery with outlets for several well-known brands.
The local specialties are artichokes and sanddabs. Artichokes can be found at nearly every restaurant - fried, grilled, broiled, boiled, in soup, on pizza and almost any other way you can imagine. The nearby town of Castroville is "the artichoke center of the world," and the local source for the wealth of artichokes. Sanddabs are a local seafood, often served fried. Clam Chowder in sourdough bread can be found at Fisherman´s Wharf. Abalone is available, too, but expensive. The area is notable for other seafood delicacies, including calamari and Dungeness crab.
The Monterey Bay Aquarium runs a "Seafood Watch" program, and keeps a list of which sea life is overfished and which are safe, and environmentally friendly, to eat. Pick a copy of the list up at the Aquarium, or around town. Many local restaurants have signed on to the Seafood Watch program.
Monterey's status as a tourist destination have provided it with a wealth of restaurants beyond what might be expected in a community this size. Almost every cuisine, from oriental to occidental, may be found represented - and usually represented well - in the local area, including the neighbouring communities of Pacific Grove, Seaside, and Carmel-by-the-Sea and the Carmel Valley.
Ambrosia India Bistro, 565 Abrego St, ☎ 831-641-0610, . 11:30AM-2:30PM, 5PM-9:30PM daily. Authentic Indian cuisine from appetizer to dessert. Faults in the service are redeemed by the extraordinary flavors and presentation of the meal.$10-$30.
The Fishwife's Turtle Bay Taqueria, 431 Tyler Street, . Creative Mexican dishes with Caribbean flair and a wide selection of salsas, served in a relaxed and colorful (literally) atmosphere. Claim your table with a number flag - stuck into the back of a rubber turtle.
Epsilon, 422 Tyler Street, . A truly charming restaurant - cozy, well-lit, hand-decorated, with superb Greek food and a passionate staff. The spanakopita with a Greek salad can make a meal on its own.
Rosine's, 434 Alvarado Street, . A downtown, family-friendly classic serving up wonderful portions of comfort food. Famous for its spectacular cakes - make sure you have someone to share with!
India's Clay Oven, 150 Del Monte Avenue. The second best Indian food in the area, after Ambrosia's. Try the "naan burrito" - a perfect blend of Indian tradition and Monterey historical heritage!
East Village Cafe, 498 Washington Street.
Stokes Adobe, 500 Hartnell Street, (831) 373-1110,  offers the finest in California cuisine in, appropriately, a gorgeously restored adobe landmark.
Tarpy's Roadhouse, 2999 Monterey-Salinas Highway, . For a taste of Monterey history head to this historic former homestead, housed in a beautiful stone building nestled into a hillside. Classy atmosphere with classic California cuisine - accompany your meal with one of the many local wines on offer.
Tabouli's Deli & Mid-Eastern, 309 Lighthouse Avenue. If you are looking for a relatively cheap (particularly for Monterey prices), but great meal, Tabouli's is a great place. Tabouli's has great food and great company. The owner and cook is friendly but not overbearing. Because he's the only one running the place usually, it's not place to go if you are in a hurry.
Pizza My Heart, Del Monte Center on Munras. Great, cheap pizza, made with all fresh ingredients, and open until 10PM. If you're looking for a live show that night, just ask the staff; they know everything going on in town.
Parker-Lusseau Pastries, 539 Hartnell St, . Tucked away in the historic Fremont Adobe building next door to the post office, this small patisserie offers some of the best French pastries and lattes this side of the Atlantic.
Monterey has many superb vineyards located near the town. There are a number of tasting rooms located on Cannery Row, all within an easy walk. Some, such as Scheid Vineyards,Bargetto Winery,Baywood Cellars and Silver Mountain Vineyards provide wines from only one winery. A Taste of Monterey allows visitors to try wines from throughout Monterey County, while taking in a spectacular panoramic view of Monterey Bay through their windows.
In addition, the public bus service Monterey-Salinas Transit has a route, Number 24, that is also called "The Grapevine Express". This route leaves from downtown Monterey and stops at all the wineries in nearby Carmel Valley. A daypass on the Grapevine Express, which allows riders to hop on and off at will, is $4.50 as of December, 2008. Grapevine Express maps and schedules, which detail the wineries that the route stops at, are available at Monterey County Visitors Centers.
Alvarado Street has the densest collection of bars and pubs in the area.
The Mucky Duck is famous for its weekly trivia nights, while Lalapalooza has the widest selection of martinis.
Wine from the Heart, 241 Alvarado St (Alvarado St brick walkway next to Portotal Hotel), ☎ +1-831-641-9463, . 11-8 Tue, Fri & Sat; 11-6 Mon, Wed & Thur. Boutique wine shop and tasting room specializing in wines from artisan, partner and family wineries throughout California, with a special selection of Monterey Bay Area boutique wines. Offers over 30 wines for tasting at either the bar or at their comfortable tables or sofas. Over 150 different wines are also available for purchase.Taste a Flight of Four (4) Wines for $10, $15 or $20 and purchase Wines from $20 and up.
Just across the Customs House Plaza (behind the Portola Plaza Hotel) you can find Indian Summer, a hookah bar with an exotic atmosphere and local brews. Try to plan a visit during a live bellydancing show.
On Cannery Row, Blue Fin offers drinks , a bar menu, billiards, and music (and it has been closed since 2006). Just across the street, Sly McFly's provides live musical entertainment most nights of the week.
Carbones Old School New Rules is on the 200 Block of Lighthouse Ave. This is a fantastic bar featuring a large back patio area with fire pit. On Fridays and Saturdays Carbones OSNR features both live music and belly dancers and on Sunday features free pool.
Relatively limited offerings on the club front include Club Octane downtown, Doc Rickett's Lab, and Planet Gemini (which often hosts live comedy nights) on Cannery Row.
Wave Street Studios (Wave Street Studios), 774 Wave Street, Monterey, CA 93940 (Walk down the stairs to the bike path to get to the entrance), ☎ 831-655-2010, . Both an intimate live venue and a recording studio, Wave Street Studios is a great place to see a show.
Scheid Vineyards, 751 Cannery Row, Monterey, CA 93940 (Across from the Intercontinental Hotel entrance), ☎ 831-656-9463, . 11AM-7PM. A tasting room with a swank wine-bar atmosphere, Scheid Vineyards sells wine, wine-related items, and locally produced cheeses and charcuterie.
This guide uses the following price ranges for a standard double room:
Less than $100
Casa Munras Hotel & Spa, 700 Munras Avenue, ☎ 831.375.2411, . Seven different room types and some with a fireplace. There is Esteban Restaurant & Lounge and Sano Spa.
Days Inn - Fisherman's Wharf, 1288 Munras Ave, ☎ (831) 375-2168, . checkin: 3PM; checkout: 11AM. Affordable hotel accommodations with comfortable, clean rooms.(36.58717315430589,-121.8999195098877)
Monterey Bay Lodge, 55 Camino Aguajito, ☎ +1 831 655-1900 (fax: +1 831 655-2933), . Grungy location next to Lake El Estero and walking distance of the beach and wharf. Featuring on-site restaurant, heated pool, and other amenities.$75-$100/night.
The world-famous 17-Mile-Drive begins just a short distance away. The road winds through miles of breathtaking coastal views, with turnouts along the way at the most historical and picturesque sites. Be sure to take a picture of the Lone Cypress tree! The $9.50 entrance fee includes a map, and the rights to gawk at the lavish homes within the Pebble Beach community's gates.
Take a drive up to Carmel Valley Village and go wine tasting. About half an hour's lovely drive away, it is often warm and sunny even when Monterey is socked in with fog.
Drive along the coast to Santa Cruz on the Northern end of Monterey Bay, or continue South down to Big Sur and Carmel.