7 of the Best Things to Do, Buy or Eat in and around Monterey, California

categories: Central Coast

1. Best walk - Monterey Bay Coastal Trail

Bike or walk the Monterey Bay Coastal Trail from Fisherman’s Wharf to Lover’s Point. The Monterey Bay Coastal Bike Trail is around 29 miles long stretching from Castroville to Pebble Beach but the best stretch is along the bay near Cannery Row. This stretch is flat and only 2.3 miles long so it can make a great short ride or a long walk. The people-watching is good and so is the scenery.

2. Best street food – Walk-away shrimp cocktail from Fisherman’s Wharf

Popular with tourists and locals alike, nothing beats shrimp with a spicy cocktail sauce as you walk through the restaurants, fishing trips, and tacky tourist shops. Now some will argue for the clam chowder instead. Feel free to substitute the chowder if your tastes lean in that direction.

3. Best souvenir – fleece-lined squall jacket

Inevitably it seems when I visit Fisherman’s Wharf one of the shops will be having a closeout sale on a fleece-lined squall jacket with a hood for $20 that is embroidered with Monterey. I have that jacket and my wife has its twin from Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco. Many tourists come to Northern California thinking that California is one long beach with surfers and instead find a foggy Summer day. I suspect they sell a lot of jackets.

4. Best Place to Stay – A Victorian Inn in Pacific Grove.

Pacific Grove, which is adjacent to Monterey, has more Victorian houses per capita than any city in the United States according to the locals. Several of these have been turned into inns. The places I want to stay are the Seven Gables Inn or Green Gables Inn which are along the shore in Pacific Grove but I usually opt for the lovely but less expensive Centrella Inn which is closer to downtown. The Centrella is also near my favorite restaurant which is Peppers Mexicali Cafe.

5. Best hike – Point Lobos

An argument can be made for Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park which is further down the coast and a great day trip from the Monterey Peninsula, but I would opt for Point Lobos State Park which is just on the far side of Carmel from Monterey. The story is told locally that when Robert Louis Stevenson wrote Treasure Island he took a map of this point, cut it off from the mainland in his imagination, and filled it with pirates instead of whalers. You do need to get there early in the day as the small parking lots in the park can fill up.

6. Best Breakfast – First Awakenings in Pacific Grove

First Awakenings doesn’t have a great view. It is at David and Lighthouse three blocks up the hill from the Aquarium, but it does always have a line because the food is good, the service is pleasant and the price is reasonable.

7. Best Activity (I have yet to try) – Sea Kayaking

I have been sea kayaking in Curaçao but not in my own backyard at Monterey. But on a day when the water is calm, it looks wonderful to frolic among the sea birds, sea lions, and even the occasional otter.

Chris Christensen

by Chris Christensen

Chris Christensen is the creator of the Amateur Traveler blog and podcast. He has been a travel creator since 2005 and has won numerous awards including being named the "Best Independent Travel Journalist" by Travel+Leisure Magazine. He move to California in 1964.

2 Responses to “7 of the Best Things to Do, Buy or Eat in and around Monterey, California”

Brad Wetmore


Must say, the Sea Kayaking is incredible here. Two main spots I’ve been:

1. Monterey Bay Kayaks near the wharf area has rentals that you can go up as far as the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Lots of sea lions, sea otters, and kelp.

2. Elkhorn Slough at Moss Landing, about 20 minutes north Monterey. Wildlife sightings are far more numerous here. All of above, plus lots more birds and the occasional jellyfish. When I bring folks from out of town, we usually make a stop at the north end of the bridge (other end of the power plant) just to show off the ocean life. Monterey Bay Kayaks also has a shop here also.

(Full disclosure: I have no vested interest in MBK, just used them as an outfitter several times, and was happy with them. No experience is necessary for renting open-decked (sit-atop) Sea Kayaks. Basic strokes are explained before you leave.)



Simply beautiful area of the country. A visit to the famed Monterrey Bay Aquarium is a must as well.

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