Monterey may be one of the most popular West Coast destinations on the list, but it’s also a place you can keep re-discovering every time you visit. Along with neighboring Pacific Grove and Carmel-By-the-Sea, Monterey boasts a timeless maritime charm that speaks to its history as a bustling 19th century port of entry for goods crossing the Pacific. With state parks in nearly every direction, the Monterey Peninsula is a hub for outdoor and culture enthusiasts alike; there are enough fine dining, luxury lodging and out of the box shopping opportunities to give you something to look forward to after a day of exploring rugged trails and cliffside overlooks. Monterey’s small town atmosphere will help you feel like you’re coming home every time you stop by, and summer is the best time of year to get to know this slice of the Central Coast a little bit better.
The Sanctuary Beach Resort
True to its unforgettable name, the Sanctuary Beach Resort is a hideaway out in the open- you can’t miss it from the outside but from the inside, you’ll feel as if you’ve stumbled upon a well-kept secret in the dunes. The resort offers curated activities from bonfires on a private beach to guided hikes along the shoreline to keep you busy throughout the day. Your ocean view room or suite will be well-equipped to leave you rested and ready to do it all over again in the morning. Rent out a full-sized cottage for family and friends or enjoy a retreat with your significant other, complete with spa appointments and wine tasting. The newly unveiled Salt Wood Kitchen and Oysterette is on site with local flavor centering around wood fired recipes fine- tuned to smoky perfection by head chefs.
The Sanctuary is part of the Independent Collection of Hotels and Resorts, which includes hotels chosen for their emphasis on local connections and community-driven exploration. The Collection is currently offering a limited time Summer Getaway Sale to help you save while booking your next tailored stay.
Carmel Valley Ranch
If you’re willing to venture slightly from the Monterey coast and swap Pacific views for rolling greenery and a truly tailored experience, look no further than Carmel Valley Ranch, located fifteen minutes from the heart of Carmel-By-the-Sea and twenty from Monterey, The Ranch is an exclusive resort designed around making sure you’re doing what you love and finding entirely new passions while on vacation. The resort itself is an ecosystem of its own, featuring its own creamery, bee hives, stables and golf course, all of which you can participate in and learn about during your stay. The Valley Kitchen prepares gourmet meals using ingredients from the Ranch’s own gardens, among other local sources. To make sure you’re in touch with the local soul of the Carmel Valley area, the resort works with a team of artisans whose diverse skill sets keep the ranch interesting. With an emphasis on play, education, and stepping out of your comfort zone, Carmel Valley Ranch provides a growing experience, luxury escape and respite from the daily grind all in one.
Seven Gables Inn
Situated right across from the Monterey Bay Sanctuary Scenic Trail, Seven Gables Inn invites you to discover the beauty of the bay from your backyard, possibly while enjoying a glass of local wine from the Inn’s Wine Welcome Package. Seven Gables is on a mission to introduce you to the Monterey area via the comforts of a thoughtfully curated boutique hotel. Built to please, the Inn building dates back to 1886 and the antique decor and oceanfront windows speak to its former glory as a beachside mansion. You’ll be staying in the heart of Pacific Grove, with shopping and dining within walking distance. Opt for a standard room outfitted with modern amenities, a premium suite or choose from five celebratory packages to personalize your stay at Seven Gables.
La Playa Carmel
Also known as the “Grande Dame of Carmel”, La Playa Carmel is a historical artifact as much as it is a luxury hotel, and its significance to the village of Carmel-By-the-Sea is palpable. Constructed in 1905 as a gift of love, the building has provided lodging to travelers for over a hundred years, and the seventy five rooms the hotel currently offers continue to carry the torch of hospitality. Choose from ocean, garden, and estate views, with the option of a patio or fireplace as well. Wander down to Bud’s for dinner or evening cocktails; the newly improved bar and restaurant is part of what makes La Playa Carmel a time capsule by the sea.
For a quaint and spirited stay in Monterey, Jabberwock Inn is waiting to host you as one of their own. For the duration of your stay, your home will be one of eight cozy, carefully decorated rooms, each with their own distinguishing characteristics. If you’re traveling with family or friends, consider the inn’s newly added Tumtum Tree Cottage; step out onto the redwood deck that encircles the cottage to feel like you’re in a luxury treehouse. The inn offers plenty of space to relax thanks to its private gardens, and is centrally located within walking distance of shops, restaurants, and the beach. As a bed and breakfast, Jabberwock Inn will greet you with a lovingly prepared morning meal complete with Jabberjuice (or just plain coffee, for the faint of heart). Enjoy evening hors d’oeuvres on the sun porch as well as cookies and milk before bedtime. Staying at the Jabberwock means the focus is on you!
With locations in Monterey and Salinas, First Awakenings is a casual breakfast spot committed to serving you familiar, homestyle meals with fresh ingredients and creative spins. The menu is expansive enough to accommodate the pickiest or most outgoing eaters, and the atmosphere is just as inviting.
Cultura Comida Y Bebida
When in Carmel, don’t miss Cultura for Oaxacan favorites, an array of seasonal cocktails, and renowned mezcal collection. Cultura’s founders are two friends with local roots and years of experience in fine dining on the Central Coast. The result is a specialty restaurant that focuses on diverse flavor, the power of tradition, and the communal experience of food and drink.
Old Fisherman’s Grotto
The Old Fisherman’s Grotto (or simply the Grotto), is a Monterey mainstay, having survived seven decades of changes on the peninsula. The Grotto is now located on one of the most popular tourist walkways in the nation, but its founding father’s values are still a priority. The restaurant relies on local seafood and produce to truly capture the taste of Monterey, just as it did in the 1950’s. Founder Sabu Shake Sr. ‘s generosity and labor of love are part of the restaurant’s spirit, upheld by Sabu’s son, Chris.
Dust Brewing Co. Tap Depot
No Central Coast weekend is complete without a brewery pit stop, and Monterey has you covered with stouts and stories; especially since Dust Brewing Company opened its second taproom on Figueroa Street in 2019. The craft beer menu is varied and the company’s Dust Bowl family lore adds a curious twist to the Monterey location. Enjoy the fire pit, live music Thursdays, a resident taco truck, historic decor and growlers to take some of Dust Bowl’s best along for the ride.
A Taste of Monterey Wine Market and Bistro
Wine is a natural part of the Central Coast, and A Taste of Monterey is exactly what it sounds like; a Wine Market and Bistro bent on bringing you the best the county’s vineyards can offer. Whether you’re visiting for a wine tasting, gourmet fare or both, you’ll walk away with knowing exactly what Monterey tastes like in its purest form. Don’t hesitate to pick up one of the many bottles or wine packs for sale on your way out, and linger for the incredible views.
Where to Shop:
Carmel Honey Company
Carrying honey products and gifts, Carmel Honey Company is one of Carmel-By-the-Sea’s growing businesses and well worth the visit. Try the signature Meadowfoam or Sage Honey or send a packaged gift set to a loved one. The shop is owned by a local young entrepreneur who donates part of his proceeds to honey bee research and can teach you more about the firsthand honey production process than any online source.
Pilgrim’s Way Books and Secret Garden
As an independent book and gift store, Pilgrim’s Way has held on fast to its roots in Carmel-by-the-Sea. The shop carries lesser known titles and one of a kind mementos, with a special focus on alternative education and discovery. Twenty years ago, the shop acquired The Secret Garden, where you’ll find an inventory of special items to place in your own outdoor space. Pilgrim’s Way is a place to duck into and expect the unexpected on your day out.
If you find yourself on Monterey’s Lighthouse Ave., pop into Lilify to browse the shop’s range of artisan goods hand-crafted by people following their passions. You’ll find everything from body and skincare products to edible creations and homeware. Meet the makers on the shop’s website and shop confidently, knowing that the next addition to your home was crafted with care.
What to Do:
Pebble Beach Equestrian Center
Located on the Southern edge of the Monterey peninsula, the Pebble Beach Equestrian Center offers memorable horseback excursions through miles of seaside forest. The Center offers trail rides as well as group rides, pony rides, and the chance to meet rescued horses.
The Center’s Priceless Picnic and Coastal Ride is an exclusive opportunity to spend a day traversing the beach with a guide and includes a picnic as well as the chance to learn about horse care and grooming. Remember to book at least forty-eight hours in advance!
While you’re in Pebble Beach, take a few minutes to visit the Lone Cypress, a Monterey cypress that is known to be one of the most photographed trees in the country. The cypress stands tall on a rocky outcrop right off of 17 Mile drive and has become an iconic image representing the Central Coast; it has seen its share of wear and tear, so stop by and pay your respects to the tree that has been through it all.
Cannery Row Antique Mall
Housed in an original canning company building, the Cannery Row Antique Mall will draw you in with the promise of hidden treasures. With more than one hundred vendors, each with their own array of vintage pieces, browsing the mall can easily take you the better part of a day. The building it’s set in is an artifact itself, so history buffs will have a great time looking for gifts and personal finds on Cannery Row.
Monarch Grove Butterfly Sanctuary
Every year, Pacific Grove’s Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary hosts a generation of butterflies that live months longer than most other Monarchs. The phenomenon makes the sanctuary a unique destination for kids and adults alike, especially if you catch the Butterfly Parade in early October. The summer months are the perfect time to see the butterflies as they stop in Pacific Grove before migrating south. Expect to see the monarchs like you never have before; they’ll be hanging from branches in a natural resting position.
Thanks to its rich history and diverse present, Monterey will always be a medley of classic and contemporary. The peninsula lies somewhere between an urban center, seaside village and nature preserve, meaning your ideal itinerary is never far from reach. Whether you’ve visited the Central Coast before or are experiencing the area for the first time, let this be the year you discover Monterey’s best-kept secrets.