While watching the US Open earlier this year, it popped into my head that the world-class golf courses on the Monterey Peninsula attract thousands of golfers every year to play the iconic locations. But if you don't play golf, what do you do there? Exactly one half of my house household plays golf - there are two of us in said household, and the golfer is not me. I have a long list of things to do in scenic Monterey, the picturesque burg of Pacific Grove, warm sunny Carmel, and surrounds; here are five of those things:
The name alone contains all the essential vacation elements. The 18-mile trail is smooth pavement from Castroville in the north to Pacific Grove in the south. It can be busy at times - cyclists, runners, strolling families (with strollers!), so be watchful and obey the rules of the road by staying to the right. The scenic waterfront trail takes you past Fisherman's Wharf, Cannery Row, the Monterey Bay Aquarium, beaches, parks, restaurants, historic sites and downtown Monterey. Local businesses rent bikes, kayaks, surf- and paddle-boards, in-line skates, and quadricycles that seat up to six people. The beautiful scenery includes wildlife: harbor seals, sea otters, sea lions, birds and sometimes even whales!
You should probably dedicate a whole day to this, to get the most out of it. It's not just a fun place to enjoy sea creatures; the aquarium's conservation and science programs keep them at the forefront of many of today's critical environmental issues affecting the health of our oceans. In one of my blogs I highlighted the Hukilau Lanai Restaurant on the island of Kaua'i. Their website mentions the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch, a program that supports healthy oceans and sustainable fisheries. I'm only mentioning this to demonstrate that the aquarium has an exceptional mission and reputation. There is much to learn here, for all ages.
The restaurants, boutiques, spas, hikes, beach, wine tasting - oh my! Guess what - you'll need a day for this place. Let's face it, The state of California is not a place you can rush through so you may as well take your time and enjoy it thoroughly. You'll need to take many trips, clearly, but this is how you live a full life, no? Carmel-by-the-Sea has romance, fun, cuisine, history and scenery. Park the car and walk.
Well, since you have a car, (yes, you need one during this trip) you should take a ride along the most iconic drive in history (my words). You've seen it in almost every car-maker's commercial sometime in the last X (pick a number) years. I'm talking about California State Route 1, which runs north-south along the entire California coast. Your drive will take you from the Monterey Peninsula, over the Bixby Creek Bridge, to Big Sur, then on to Hearst Castle. These place names are probably not unfamiliar to you. When you get this close to them, you've got to take the time to see them. You wouldn't go to Paris without seeing the Eiffel Tower, right?
Even the locals enjoy this. A great place to walk and see all that the Monterey coast offers. If you aren't familiar with the drama of the Pacific coast, this is a treat. Be warned: the parking lot can fill up quickly.
As with most of California, the Peninsula is not the cheapest place to visit - but it is possible to find affordable restaurants and cafes. However, accommodations are much more affordable in the nearby cities of Seaside and Marina. The absolute best time to visit is during what for most parts of the US is considered fall; from late September to November, the sky clears, the fog rolls away and the daytime temps warm delightfully. The rest of the year be prepared with cold weather and/or a rain jacket - fleece, hoodies, long pants - especially in the evening hours. This is not flip-flop/tank top California, but it is a spectacularly beautiful coastline.