This Town Is The Most Underrated Destination In California
By Shontel Horne
From the picturesque wilderness of Big Sur and the glitz of Los Angeles to the desert oasis of Palm Springs and Joshua Tree, there are countless experiences in a state as diverse as California. With so many destinations to choose from, you can visit California multiple times, or live there your entire life, and still only scratch the surface of what the Golden State has to offer.
One town that often flies under the radar for visitors is Monterey, a quaint coastal community located just 115 miles south of San Francisco that recently got a lot of attention thanks to the HBO show Big Little Lies. Even with the added attention, Monterey is still largely missed by travelers, so if you’re on a quest to experience a laidback town with West Coast charm, we’ll tell you what to do during a journey through Monterey.
Getting to Monterey
For California locals, Monterey is a convenient road trip no matter where you live in the state. If you’re traveling from Los Angeles, expect the 320-mile trip to take 5 1/2 hours, while those coming from San Francisco can get there in less than two hours. If you’re flying into town, you’ll likely arrive via Monterey Regional Airport, but the drive along the coast is half the fun of getting to the region.
Ubers and cabs are available throughout Monterey, but it’s the gorgeous drives that make the region special. Coming from L.A., the trip across Bixby Creek Bridge is a magnificent photo opp, and the best way to enjoy Monterey is from behind the wheel so you can stop and enjoy the scenery.
Stay in the heart of Monterrey
InterContinental The Clement Monterey is located in the heart of the town and is just steps from restaurants, boutiques, and outdoor activities. The Monterey Hotel is a budget-friendly option, and this private cottage on Airbnb is an excellent low-cost alternative for accommodations.
Go kayaking in Monterrey Bay
First time and experienced kayakers alike can take to the water for an aquatic adventure where kayakers will get a closer look at sea life, observe the resident sea otters, and get a good workout in the process. Just be careful not to disturb the marine life.
Have lunch on Fisherman’s Wharf
In the mood for seafood? Head to Fisherman’s Wharf and take your pick among several restaurants all serving up chowder and grilled and fried seafood, most of which was caught nearby. Here you’ll also find shops and activities, and the Wharf offers excellent views of the bay.
Tour the Monterey Bay Aquarium
One of the largest aquariums in the US, the Monterey Bay Aquarium has daily sea otter and penguin feedings as well as countless tanks and exhibitions, and the oceanside location is a stunning sight to behold.
Browse the art in Carmel-by-the-Sea
Carmel-by-the-Sea is a small beach town located in the Monterey Peninsula, and it’s home to more than 100 art galleries in just one square mile. California’s Central Coast has inspired artists for more than a century, and expect to see many paintings and photographs of the rugged coastal landscape as well as contemporary work.
Have wine on Cannery Row
John Steinbeck’s Depression-era novel made Cannery Row famous, and the district, which used to be home to sardine canning factories, is now the place to be for a bite or drinks. The Wine Experience is an excellent option if you want to try your hand at blending your own wine.
Indulge in sustainable seafood at Passionfish
Sustainable seafood is the draw at the intimate fine dining restaurant called Passionfish, where guests can enjoy ethically sourced fish and shellfish and local wine at reasonable prices.
Cruise the 17-Mile Drive
The two hours it takes to conquer the scenic 17-Mile Drive is worth the effort, especially since the drive, which costs $10.25 per car and includes 21 stops at white sand beaches, clifftop overlooks, and dramatic natural landmarks, is regarded as one of the most scenic trails in the world.