california travel series: monterey peninsula

There is lots to see on the Monterey Peninsula, and your journey down the Cabrillo Highway is just the beginning. The distance between San Fran and Monterey is not great, but the 55 MPH speed limit will give you about 3 hours on the road. Enjoy it. You will be passing through the city of Santa Cruz, which has an enjoyable boardwalk. Stop here for an ice cream cone, or to watch windsurfers utilize their wet suits in the cold Pacific. Point Montara Lighthouse Hostel in Montara also makes for a great photo-opp; you’ll see this on your right hand side.

When you arrive in Monterey, splurge on a couple of nights at the Spindrift Inn, located right on Cannery Row and at the center of all things Monterey. With a professional staff, sumptuous suites, and complimentary wine and cheese hours, you will be wishing your stay was more than just a visit. Wake up early to enjoy a Pacific Coast sunrise alongside your complimentary breakfast, and to start a day of sight-seeing early.

Although we didn’t have time, the Monterey Bay Aquarium is a must-see. It’s $30 for a general ticket, as it has been highly acclaimed as one of the best in the country. Enjoy Cannery Row and Wave Street as well, as these strips offer fun shops and good eats, such as The Sardine Factory–where celebrities feel at home and every guests feels like a celebrity.

Point Lobos

On our first day in Monterey we took Highway 1 to Point Lobos. This is a park you cannot miss! It’s a $10 fee per car, and although you can park outside the gate and walk, don’t; reserves like Point Lobos are maintained only by our support, and this beautiful spot deserves our contribution. We arrived when the park opened at 8 AM, as the park becomes busier throughout the day, and spent time hiking and photographing the flawless coastline.

The Cypress Grove Trail appears to be most popular, and with good reason. Here you can hike along the high cliffs and rocky terrain through shaded Cypress groves for spectacular views of the ocean. The Bird Island Trail, although less popular, is notable for its turquoise water and tropical feel. Here, during season, birds will flock to a large rock just west of China Cove. I’m not sure why, but they do. And it’s beautiful.

Pebble Beach

After Point Lobos is a good time to enjoy Pebble Beach and the 17-mile drive, as it is just north of the park and on your way back into town. This 15 MPH roadway through Pebble Beach Golf Course and its surrounding neighborhoods offers some views you won’t want to miss, such as Spanish Bay, Bird Rock, and the Lone Cypress. You will stop often, so either get used to redoing your seatbelt frequently, or bearing with the alarming “ding-ding-ding-ding” that your car is going to make. This drive is also perfect for sneaking a peek of the seals, otters and sea lions.


After a relaxing drive, stop in Carmel-By-The-Sea for window-shopping and lunch. This gem of a town is home to many boutiques, art galleries, and candy shoppes, all of which embody their own charm and small-town appeal. I recommend lunch at Little Napoli on 7th, if you’re a fan of warm hospitality and Italian country cooking. A cannoli or scoop of ice cream at the Carmel Bakery and Coffee Co. is perfect for dessert. It rests at the corner of Ocean Avenue and Lincoln.

Big Sur

If you don’t stay at the Spindrift but still wish to feel like royalty, treat yourself to a four-course prix-fixe meal at the Post Ranch Inn –an aesthetically pleasing restaurant located off Highway 1 in Big Sur. The drive south will lead you over the Bixby Bridge and along the winding coastal highway. Reservations are highly suggested, and you can time your reservation so that you’ll catch a glimpse of the setting sun. The ambiance here is unlike any other, as the open architecure allows the eye to wander westward to enjoy the beautiful coastal landscape of the Big Sur. The menu changes daily, providing a truly spectacular dining experience each time.

Day 5

  • Drive to Monterey from San Fran {3 hours}
  • Stop in Santa Cruz for an ice cream
  • Stop at Point Montara Lighthouse Hostel for a photo opportunity
  • Check-in at the Spindrift Inn
  • Take a walk around Cannery Row
  • Dinner and margaritas at El Torito, waterfront Mexican dining within walking distance
  • Order in-room breakfast for tomorrow and early retirement to bed

Day 6

  • Wake up early and have in-room breakfast
  • Hiking and Sightseeing at Point Lobos {1-4 hours + a 20 minute drive}
  • 17-mile drive along Pebble Beach Golf Course {1.5 hours}
  • Window-shopping and lunch in Carmel {2 hours}
  • Dinner at the Post Ranch Inn {1 hour drive}


Filed under Travel

2 responses to “california travel series: monterey peninsula

  1. Gorgeous photos! I especially love the blue door photo. I really need to make it back to California…

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