The best things to do in Monterey, from sightseeing and whale watching to where to find the best restaurants for a romantic sunset dinner.
Whether you’re looking for a romantic beach weekend, an active outdoorsy trip, or a fun family day out at the aquarium, the California Central Coast city of Monterey has something for everyone.
Monterey has a wild history as a military stronghold, sardine canning empire, surfing Mecca, and leader in marine life research.
The rich waters of the bay initially brought Monterey riches, but overfishing of the sardines almost brought the city to catastrophe. The city rallied by pivoting to eco-tourism, building a world-class aquarium and marine research program.
But there’s more to Monterey than whale watching, kayaking, or the Monterey Bay Aquarium.
This is the place where you can relax in a spa, discover secret gardens, trace the footsteps of literary legends, and hike in one of California’s most beautiful state parks.
I never get tired of this city of fresh ocean breezes, amazing food, and a surprise around every corner. I’m excited to share my favorite spots so you can discover Monterey for yourself!
Note: this post contains affiliate links, which help run this site at no extra cost to you so I can keep providing free travel advice and tips.
Get your FREE California Travel Planner – including printable checklists and my favorite two-week itinerary for the state.
Top Things to do in Monterey
Visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium
The Monterey Bay Aquarium is a one-of-a-kind destination and one of the best things to do in Monterey.
From luminous jellyfish to shoals of swirling silver sardines, the exhibitions offer an immersive oceanic experience without getting wet (unless you dip into the touch pool).
The biggest exhibit is a million-gallon tank full of small sharks, sunfish, and tuna. You can sit in the darkened room on benches, feeling as though you have descended to the ocean floor.
My favorite is the jellyfish gallery, where the colorful creatures drift gracefully through illuminated tanks.
Plan to spend a whole day at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, or at least an entire afternoon.
You can take your own food as long as you eat on the benches outside, but the cafe’s food is excellent as well. I always feel weird about ordering the fish and chips though.
Walk Along Cannery Row & Old Fisherman’s Wharf
Cannery Row is the heart of Monterey, where historic warehouses have transformed into chic hotels, boutiques, and enticing restaurants. Taking a stroll down Cannery Row is an absolute must when you’re looking for things to do in Monterey.
At one end, you’ll find the world-famous Monterey Bay Aquarium. Keep walking and you’ll find 20 oceanfront restaurants, a Ghirardelli store, art galleries, jewelry stores, and many boutiques to browse. As you explore, look out for local landmarks on this historic street.
Follow the waterfront to find Old Fisherman’s Wharf, another iconic Monterey destination. This is where you can find amazing clam chowder, see sunbathing sea lions, and hop on a whale watching tour.
Here are a few must-see sights in and around the Cannery Row area:
Cannery Row Monument
The Cannery Row Monument is a bronze sculpture dedicated to the people who contributed to Monterey’s famous sardine canning district. Sitting right at the top is John Steinbeck, the famous American author who wrote Cannery Row.
Below Steinbeck sits Ed Ricketts, a pioneer in marine biology, and other local characters immortalized in his novel. A Chinese fisherman is also represented, recognizing the city’s origins as a Chinese fishing village.
This small but beautifully landscaped space by the waterfront is a great spot to sit and people watch. Several restaurants ring Steinbeck Plaza, with a statue of namesake John Steinbeck presiding over the center.
Old Fisherman’s Wharf
A visit to Monterey wouldn’t be complete without a visit to Old Fisherman’s Wharf, the former fishing hub turned tourist attraction.
This is where you’ll find restaurants, shops, and wildlife cruises. You can also go on a fishing trip, charter a sailboat, or explore Monterey Bay in a glass-bottomed boat.
You can also check out Monterey’s Custom House, the oldest standing public building in California, built in 1827. In 1846, this is where the American flag was raised, claiming California for the United States.
Enjoy a Fresh Seafood Dinner at Sunset
Local and sustainable are the watchwords in Monterey, a city committed to healthy oceans for everyone. Enjoying a great meal with an incredible view is one of the best things to do in Monterey at night.
Look out for restaurants working with the Monterey Bay Aquarium that only serve fish caught responsibly, such as The C Restaurant at the InterContinental Clement Monterey. The sweeping ocean views at sunset are an added bonus.
You could also check out Wild Fish in Pacific Grove, which lists the names of the fishing boats alongside the dishes on the menu, so you know everything is locally caught and fresh.
Or visit Old Fisherman’s Grotto, a family-run seafood joint operating since 1950, whose clam chowder is voted best in town year after year.
Visit a Museum
Local artists, California history, wildlife and fun play spaces – Monterey has a variety of cultural hubs with something for everyone.
Whether this is your first time in the city or a repeat visit, going to a museum is one of the most interesting things to do in Monterey.
Monterey Museum of Art
Located in Old Monterey, the Monterey Museum of Art celebrates Californian artists, showcasing early paintings and photography alongside modern works.
Collections are varied and tackle current social issues as well as a glimpse into the state’s history. Monterey Museum of Art is open Thursday to Saturday, with a $15 admission fee.
Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History
Discover the wildlife of California’s Central Coast at the Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History in downtown Pacific Grove.
Most notably, this is where you can learn more about the famous monarch butterflies who overwinter here.
Aside from monarchs, the museum also has a beautiful native plants garden and an exhibition on the history of Monterey’s origins as a Chinese fishing village.
Colton Hall Museum
California’s 1849 bilingual constitution was drafted in this historic building, which was also one of California’s first dedicated schools. If you’re into history, or your kids are studying California’s beginnings as a state, Colton Hall Museum is the place to visit.
Presidio of Monterey Museum
In addition to fishing, Monterey has a long history as a military base. Find out more about this fascinating side of the city at the Presidio of Monterey Museum. The museum charts 7,000 years of human history on the peninsula.
Located in the Lower Presidio Historic Park, the museum is open Saturday and Sunday, with no entrance fee.
Monterey County Youth Museum
Small children will love Monterey County Youth Museum, which is designed to encourage imaginative play. There are nine interactive galleries, with themes based on the local area, such as farms, golf, and the beach.
Road Trip the 17-Mile Drive
The famous 17-Mile Drive is a winding road running through a gated neighborhood in Carmel with stunning views of the ocean.
It’s the only route to see the lone 300-year-old Cypress Pine and Pebble Beach. This unique, private toll road is one of the most popular things to do in Monterey County.
If you want to drive this road, you’ll need to pay an entrance fee at the gate. It’s $10.75 per vehicle, which you can get reimbursed if you spend over $35 at one of the luxury hotels.
Make the most of the drive by downloading an audio tour of the neighborhood, so you don’t miss any of its interesting stops.
Or skip the car, and the entrance fee, by taking an e-bike guided tour of 17-Mile Drive from Pacific Grove. Everything is provided on the tour, including a tandem option for children.
Spend the Day in Carmel-by-the-Sea
Carmel-by-the-Sea is a charming seaside village filled with fairytale cottages. Make your way slowly down Main Street, stopping in at art galleries, boutiques, restaurants, and bakeries along the way.
Then, head downhill, past the beautiful homes to the white-sand beach, one of the prettiest on the Central Coast. After a stroll on the beach, stop for lunch at Hog’s Breath Inn, the restaurant once owned by Clint Eastwood.
At just one square mile in size, you can ditch the car and explore this sunny seaside town on foot. Carmel-by-the-Sea is known for some of its quirky traditions and by-laws.
There are no addresses or house mail service. Homes have names instead of numbers and locals pick up their mail at the post office. You’ll also need a permit to wear high heels!
Step Back in Time at the Monterey State Historic Park
Monterey is one of California’s oldest cities and was a capital city under Spanish, Mexican, and US military rule. Fortunately, many of its old buildings have been preserved and you can tour them at Monterey State Historic Park.
Check out Robert Louis Stevenson’s 1840s adobe, which is filled with artifacts from the author’s life, or the Larkin house, former consulate, and now museum. This is one of the best places to visit in Monterey if you’re interested in early California history.
Tickets for tours of either building can be bought from Custom House, next to Old Fisherman’s Wharf.
Free Things to do in Monterey
Take the Little Ones to Dennis the Menace Playground
Don’t skip this if you’re looking for things to do with kids in Monterey!
Dennis the Menace Playground was designed by the creator of the beloved comic book character, Dennis the Menace. The playground is packed with imaginative and fun structures, including rope bridges, climbing walls, and swings.
The playground, located near the beach in El Estero Park, has been delighting kids for over 50 years and is one of the best things to do in Monterey for families. In addition to the playground, there’s also a 1924 steam engine to admire and a lake with ducks.
Head to the Beach
Whether you prefer your beach wild and rugged or wine bar adjacent, Monterey has a stretch of sand for you.
Lovers Point Park
This little cove offers protection from the surf, making Lovers Point Park an ideal spot for a paddle or to watch the sunset. The picnic benches also make this a great snack stop if you’re cycling the coastal trail, which runs right by the beach.
San Carlos Beach
San Carlos Beach is popular with scuba divers, but there are also plenty of picnic benches where you can sit and enjoy views over the bay.
Del Monte Beach
If you were a fan of HBO’s Big Little Lies, you might recognize Del Monte Beach from many of the scenes. It’s beautiful, with plenty of space for running or staring at the water contemplating your life choices, depending on which character you most relate to.
Asilomar State Beach
If beautiful beaches with rocky outcrops, dunes, and wildlife are your thing, head over to Asilomar State Beach. It’s also very accessible – visitors can borrow a beach wheelchair from the Phoebe Hearst Social Hall.
Opposite the beach is a boardwalk, where you can stroll through the dunes. Asilomar State Beach is especially beautiful at sunset.
Located in the heart of Cannery Row, McAbee Beach is a small but pleasant spot to sit and watch the kayakers in the bay. Check out the concrete ruins that point to Monterey’s industrial fishing past.
Monterey State Beach
The long, flat Monterey State Beach is perfect for walking or jogging. It’s also the best beach for tide pooling. On the water, surfers take advantage of the crashing waves, while divers explore the marine sanctuary below.
Carmel River State Beach
If you love bird watching, don’t miss Carmel River State Beach, which has a lagoon located by the river as it meets the ocean. A variety of songbirds and waterfowl hang out here and it has been designated as a bird sanctuary (don’t forget your binoculars).
Bike the Monterey Bay Coastal Trail
Monterey has a great cycle track following the path of the Old Southern Pacific Railway. There are separate sections for cyclists and pedestrians, which makes for an easier ride.
The Monterey Bay Coastal Trail stretches 18 miles from Pacific Grove to Castroville, with breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean along the entire route.
Spot the Sea Lions at Coast Guard Pier
If you get sea-sick, there’s an easy way to see marine life without setting foot on a boat. The Coast Guard Pier jutting out from San Carlos Beach is a sea lion, seal, cormorant, and sea otter hang-out spot.
It’s a really easy walk, with great views over the bay and a high chance of encountering cute animals, a win-win. After visiting the sea lions, grab a bite to eat at nearby Old Fisherman’s Wharf.
Go for a Hike at Jacks Peak Park
Hike through a rare Monterey pine forest and enjoy sweeping vistas over Monterey Bay at Jacks Peak Park. Pick up a brochure at the park entrance and take the Skyline Self-Guided Nature Trail to discover more about the area.
If you want to bring a picnic, head to Alta Bakery and Cafe for sandwiches and takeout coffee – it’s one of the best bakeries in Monterey.
Learn the History at San Juan Bautista
It’s a short drive inland to the San Juan Bautista Mission, which was founded in 1797 as the 15th mission in California. The mission is still active as a parish church, but open to tourists every day.
The tiny town of San Juan Bautista has preserved the mission plus hotels, stables, and houses around a grassy square, creating an impressive state historic park. There’s also a preserved stretch of the El Camino Real, the original Spanish route linking California to Mexico.
Do the Self-Guided Path of History Tour
Take a self-guided tour of Monterey’s historic buildings on the two-mile Path of History Tour. Download the brochure or pick up a copy from outside Pacific House next to the Portola Hotel.
Tour highlights include Colton Hall, where the California constitution was drafted, California’s first theater, and Stevenson House in Monterey State Historic Park, where Robert Louis Stevenson lived.
If you’re hoping to learn something about California’s history, this is one of the best things to do in Monterey.
See California’s First Theatre
Monterey has undertaken numerous transformations over the years, and the unassuming adobe on Pacific Street has weathered them all.
Originally built as a sailors lodge in 1844, it was converted into a theater to entertain the soldiers from New York who were stationed in the town in 1850.
California’s First Theatre was the first place to stage public performances at the birth of the state, but the temptation of the Gold Rush soon lured away the performers.
The building then became a whaling station, drug store, tea shop, theater again, and museum at various times over the years. It’s currently closed for restorations, but once it opens again, it’s a very cool historic building to go see for yourself.
Discover the Hidden Gardens
Many of the historic homes also have beautiful gardens to visit. Monterey has a mild climate and flowers bloom all year round, which the city uses to its advantage by planting in every available space.
You can use this map to find the hidden gardens around Monterey. The Memory Garden at Monterey State Historic Park is the most visited (and photographed) due to its graceful arches and peaceful walkways. I like the Sensory Garden, which is planted not only for color but touch and scent too.
Visit John Steinbeck Landmarks
John Steinbeck, a giant in American literature, was born in nearby Salinas and wrote about Monterey in his novel Cannery Row. His work and life are celebrated all over the area.
Visit the author’s childhood home and enjoy a great lunch at Steinbeck House Restaurant in Salinas, open Tuesday to Sunday. While you’re in the neighborhood, check out the National Steinbeck Center, which has a museum dedicated to the author and frequently holds literary events.
Back in Monterey, take a seat at Steinbeck Plaza, where you can soak in the hustle and bustle of Cannery Row. The plaza also has a sculpture dedicated to Steinbeck and other local luminaries.
Enjoy the Seaside Views at Point Lobos
Point Lobos State Natural Reserve is one of the most beautiful stretches of coast in California. It’s often called the jewel in the crown of California’s state parks. On sunny weekends, you’ll need to get to the parking lot early because this place draws serious crowds.
Trails take you through meadows of wildflowers, past cypresses, and pine, down to the shoreline where sea lions bask in the sunshine.
The reserve extends out into the water, where kelp forests sustain an aquatic ecosystem. Point Lobos State Natural Reserve is popular with scuba divers, as well as hikers, photographers, and nature lovers.
Read our guide to planning the perfect Pacific Coast Highway road trip.
Unique Things to do in Monterey
Enjoy an Afternoon of Wine Tasting
Visit some of Monterey’s best vineyards without leaving Cannery Row by taking a tasting room tour. Start with A Taste of Monterey on Cannery Row, which showcases 95 Monterey County, winemakers.
The wine bar, bistro, and marketplace are rated as one of the best Monterey Bay attractions. Sample local wines and food while enjoying ocean views from the wall of windows. If you want to tour the wineries themselves, the knowledgeable staff will point you in the right direction and provide maps.
Cannery Row also features Bargetto Winery and Wine Experience, where you can take a class in addition to wine tasting.
Imbibe on the Carmel Wine Walk
Although not as well known as Napa or Sonoma, Monterey’s ocean-breeze-cooled grape fields produce some of the best wines in the country.
Discover some of these vintages for yourself by taking a self-guided tour around Carmel-by-the-Sea on a Carmel Wine Walk.
Carmel-by-the-Sea has plenty of tasting rooms located downtown, so you can sip and stroll around town. Reservations are recommended, but many welcome drop-ins.
Check out the list of participating wine tasting rooms here.
Play a Round or Two of Golf
Three of the best golf courses in the country are located at Pebble Beach Resorts, the luxury hotel complex on the Monterey peninsula. All three are pretty pricey, but they’re bucket list destinations for golfers.
Pebble Beach is the most famous (and expensive) but two more courses consistently make the top ten best courses in the U.S right next door.
Play golf at the number one public golf course in the country, Pebble Beach. The legendary course has hosted the US Open six times, more than any other location.
Del Monte Golf Course
The oldest golf course in continuous operation west of the Mississippi, Del Monte is considered a classic and tough course.
Located in the same beautiful area as Pebble Beach, Spyglass Hill has a reputation as a challenging course.
Get Lost in the Monterey Mirror Maze
The trippy Monterey Mirror Maze is one of the more unique, fun things to do in Monterey and is a challenge for all ages. If you can find your way out, the Cannery Row venue also has a Lazer Challenge room, where you can compete for the lowest time through the obstacle course.
Enjoy a Sunset Dinner at Mission Ranch Restaurant
Mission Ranch Carmel is an inn and restaurant owned by Clint Eastwood, one-time mayor of Carmel. The actor rescued the 1800s-era building from demolition and transformed the ranch into a rural retreat.
Book a table at sunset on the patio and watch the sunset over the ocean while sipping a cocktail or local wine.
Take the Original Monterey Walking Tour
A walking tour is a great way to learn about the history of a city, and Monterey has a lot of history.
The two-hour Original Monterey Walking Tour takes you down Cannery Row, and back to the days of sardine fishing. The tour shows you all the top things to see in Monterey and is perfect if you’re short on time.
Visit the Robert Louis Stevenson House
In 1879, a young writer stayed for a summer at the French Hotel in Monterey, while recovering from illness. As he took rejuvenating walks along the cliffs, an idea about pirates, adventure, and a quest for buried gold took hold.
No one knows for sure if Robert Louis Stevenson found his inspiration for Treasure Island while staying at the two-story rooming house on the Monterey peninsula, but I like to think so.
Visit the Robert Louis Stevenson House in Monterey, which is now a museum to the author, and decide for yourself.
Go for a Walk in Rip Van Winkle Open Space
Soak up some claiming forest vibes at Rip Van Winkle Open Space, a 20-acre park in the heart of Pacific Grove. This beautiful spot is welcoming to leashed dogs, so it’s ideal if you’re looking for things to do in Monterey with dogs.
Hop on a Whale Watching Tour
Set sail on a whale watching tour in Monterey Bay, where you can see whales, dolphins, sea otters, sea lions, and seals.
The migrating and mating seasons overlap in Northern California, so your chances of spotting a whale are high. Humpback and gray whales are most commonly seen between April and November, but you may see a blue whale or orca too.
Take a three-hour or four-hour tour with Discovery Whale Watch from Fisherman’s Wharf. The onboard naturalist offers commentary, points out sightings, and answers your wildlife questions.
Spend the Afternoon Kayaking
Kayaking the calm waters of Monterey Bay is one of the most popular Monterey activities and is the perfect way to enjoy the stunning scenery. Rent a kayak from Cannery Row and paddle through the kelp forests, looking out for cute sea otters as you go.
Or head to nearby Elkhorn Slough, one of the last remaining marshlands in California, which is filled with wildlife.
In the springtime, the six miles of waterways are a nursery for seal and otter pups. In summer and early fall, take a guided night tour to experience the magic of bioluminescence, when the algae sparkles in the water.
Adventures by the Sea in Cannery Row rents out kayaks, stand-up paddleboards, and bicycles for all your land and sea adventures.
Experience the Bud Allen Hour
Carmel protects its traditions, rejecting modern developments in favor of its traditional architecture. One local tradition you can benefit from is the Bud Allen Hour, a happy hour like no other.
Turn up to the cozy bar at La Playa, at 5 pm sharp on Sunday for 10 cent drinks – for ten minutes. Bring dimes, because anything other than exact change will be rejected.
The offer started with hotel owner Howard “Bud” Allen, who wanted to attract drinkers when he opened the bar back in 1968. He reduced the cost of martinis to a dime on Sundays, and a cherished local tradition was born.
Sign Up For Carmel Valley Goat Yoga
Reconnect with nature through goat yoga in Carmel-by-the-Sea, where cuddly animals join in your practice. Interactions with animals are good for lifting spirits and bringing calm.
Combine that with the positive effects of yoga on your physical and mental wellbeing for an all-around great experience. Check the Carmel Valley Goat Yoga website for a class schedule or to book an event. This is certainly one of the more unique things to do in Monterey County.
Do a Sea Car Tour
Jump in a banana-yellow three-wheeled scooter and zip around town on a GPS-guided tour with Sea Car Tours. The little cars are perfect for people who like to sightsee independently and feel the wind in their hair, and this is perfect for those looking for unusual things to do in Monterey.
Take a predetermined route around the most popular spots, or choose your own adventure. Whatever you do, Monterey sightseeing is more fun in these cute cars.
Visit the Tor House
Over the years, many artists and authors have been drawn to the Central Coast, inspired by the breathtaking scenery. Follow in their footsteps by visiting the places they called home, such as poet Robinson Jeffers’ Tor House.
The castle-like home and rugged natural surroundings inspired Robinson Jeffers’ work, which celebrated nature and questioned humanity’s place in the world. Visit the stone cottage and learn more about Jeffers’ literary legacy with a tour of the striking Tor House.
Have a Spa Day at Spa at The Refuge
The Refuge is a day spa with a difference – the retreat has a strict no-cell phone and no-talking policies, so guests can fully immerse themselves in the experience without distraction.
Guests are encouraged to take part in the thermal cycle, which involves alternating a sauna, steam room, or hot tub with the icy plunge pools. Massage services and warm swimming pools are also available to round out the relaxing experience.
It’s one of the best things to do in Monterey for couples seeking a romantic day together.
Go Paddle Boating on El Estero
Located in the heart of Monterey, El Estero Park has a small lake next to Dennis the Menace Playground. Rent a little peddle boat and glide around with the ducks.
Swan or regular boats are available and fit up to five people, so this would be a fun activity with kids, especially if you want to get out on the water with children too young for kayaks.
See the Monarch Butterflies at the Monarch Sanctuary in Pacific Grove
Pacific Grove has one of the largest overwintering populations of monarch butterflies in the world. Between November and February, the bright orange insects gather to rest and refuel on their epic migration south.
The Monarch Sanctuary in Pacific Grove is free to the public year-round and docents are on hand to point out the butterflies during the winter months. Don’t miss this natural phenomenon, it’s one of the best things to do in Monterey Bay during the winter.
Do a Day Trip to Big Sur
Take a road trip through Big Sur, one of the most scenic drives in the world. Instead of attempting to navigate the winding roads yourself and potentially missing the outstanding views, go on a private tour instead.
Your driver guide from California Pacific Excursions can take you to the best stops, and tell you everything you need to know about the area. You’ll get to see landmarks such as Bixby Bridge, Pfeiffer State Park, and Nepenthe. It’s a great way to experience this beautiful stretch of coast.
If you’re looking for an overnight stay, read our guide to Big Sur camping.
Monterey Jazz Festival
The Monterey Jazz Festival is the longest-running jazz festival in the world and takes place annually over three days in September.
Old favorites and new talents take to eight stages over the long weekend, and previous headliners have included Chris Botti and Diana Krall.
Brighten the Harbor Lighted Boat Parade
Celebrate the holiday season with Monterey’s Brighten the Harbor, a lighted boat parade that sails from Coast Guard Pier to Lover’s Point on the first Sunday in December.
Laguna Seca Races
Soak up the thrill of motor racing at Laguna Seca Raceway. Races are held throughout the year, culminating in the Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey in September.
Watch a race or take the wheel yourself at the raceway motorsports school on a one, two, or three-day training course.
Carmel Sandcastle Competition
Carmel’s annual sandcastle competition in October is a free event open to the public. Anyone is encouraged to turn up, register, and join in.
The rules are fairly straightforward – keep it clean, make it creative, and above all, have fun. Food-based bribery of the judges is actively encouraged and all skill levels are welcome.
The Festa Italia Fisherman’s Festival is three days of Italian cuisine, dancing, and fun in September. The free annual festival takes place in the historic Custom House Plaza and honors Monterey’s fishing heritage.
Monterey Car Show
Monterey Car Week in August is the largest auto show in America, drawing car fans from across the world. Dealers, classic car enthusiasts, and motorsports fans gather to share their love of autos at a variety of events.
From brand new car reveals and supercar parades to beloved rust buckets, there is an event for everyone.
Pacific Grove Butterfly Days
Celebrate the return of the monarchs with Pacific Grove Butterfly Days held on the first weekend of October. Kids take part in a parade, a local tradition going back decades, which is then followed by the Butterfly Bazaar, a series of butterfly-themed events.
Where to Eat & Drink in Monterey
- Mission Ranch Restaurant
- Acme Coffee
- Louie Linguinis
- Phil’s Fish Market (Moss Landing) – although it gets very crowded
- Papa Chevo’s
- First Awakenings – for breakfast
- Gianni’s on Lighthouse
- Old Monterey Cafe
- Alvarado Street Brewery
- Fieldwork Brew
For more recommendations, check our our guide to the best restaurants in Monterey.
Where to Stay in Monterey
- Senator’s Cottage at Tickle Pink Inn
- Monterey Tides
- Portola Hotel and Spa
- Monterey Plaza Hotel and Spa
- Intercontinental The Clement Monterey
Staying in a short-term rental is ideal if you are looking for a home away from home when traveling. However, not all cities welcome the model: Monterey and Carmel have banned rentals under 30 days.
However, if you’re looking for an Airbnb in Monterey, check out neighboring Pacific Grove, which is just minutes away from downtown Monterey.
Best Time to Visit Monterey
Monterey is beautiful all year round, with a mild Mediterranean climate. Springtime is the best time for wildflowers and walks at Point Lobos. Summer is warm, and the popular Monterey Car Week takes place in August.
Fall is the Central Coast’s “secret summer” when the fog briefly withdraws. September and October often bring the sunniest days of the year. Winter is California’s rainy season, but it’s also the time when you can catch the monarchs at Pacific Grove.
Tips for Visiting Monterey
- Hotels fill up quickly around Monterey Car Week, so book early if you want to visit during those dates.
- The sun is strong despite the cool coastal breeze, so pack sunscreen.
- Parking is scarce in Monterey’s center but a free bus connects the outer parking lots with the city’s attractions.
- Dress in layers as the temperatures can drop quickly when the fog rolls in.
What to Pack for Monterey
- Light, comfortable layers such as a rain jacket or fleece top
- Warm layers for the evening – like a sweater and jacket
- Sun hat or beanie depending on the season
- Daypack, wheeled backpack, duffel bag (like the Pakt One), or crossbody travel purse
- Reusable water bottle
- Good walking shoes
- Durable phone case
- Downloaded hiking apps or outdoor watch (like a Garmin watch) if you want to go hiking during your trip (or just want to track your steps).
- Portable charger
- Bathing suit
- Beach bag
- Travel insurance
Get your FREE California Travel Planner – including printable checklists and my favorite two-week itinerary for the state.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Sarah McDonald is a travel writer based in the Bay Area. She writes for the national parenting website Red Tricycle and on her own family travel blog, Tiny Trailblazers. She loves exploring California’s outdoors and has a weakness for a national park gift shop.
Looking for more California travel inspiration? Check out these related posts below!
Things to do in Santa Cruz (From a Local)
Best Weekend Trips from San Francisco
Morro Bay Camping Guide: Morro Bay Campgrounds
Things to do in San Luis Obispo, California
Things to do in Solvang, California
Pin this image for future reference
- 11 BEST Camping Kitchens for Easy Outdoor Cooking  - June 1, 2023
- 12 Best Wheeled Backpacks (Ultimate 2023 Buying Guide) - May 31, 2023
- 12 BEST Camping Canopies for Your Next Outdoor Trip  - May 31, 2023