Travel Guide to Monterey and Its 5 Best Attractions

Visit John Steinbeck's Central Coast and find something new, modern, beautiful.

Hopper Editors - Oct. 26, 2017

This waterfront community has all you need for a fun family trip: warm weather, the seaside and numerous water sports. Monterey is two hours south of San Francisco by car, but it also has it’s own airport too, the Monterey Peninsula Airport. Along with all your usual water-based activities, like kayaking, scuba diving and surfing, there’s also an abundance of wildlife in the area, so whale watching in Monterey Bay is an option too. On land travelers can go for a spot of golfing or simply drive along the scenic coastlines to take it all in. One of the most popular attractions in Monterey is the Monterey Bay Aquarium, as is Cannery Row, a place that inspired one of John Steinbeck’s novels.

The Monterey Bay Aquarium is one of the world's best

Photo by Monterey Bay Aquarium via Flickr

See jellyfish, sea turtles, otters and sharks at this impressive aquarium. Daily shows and activities are held too, like feeding the animals and musical-style performances. Families with small children will especially love visiting the aquarium, as it’s very family friendly. Every evening, experience a different side to the aquarium with live music from Monterey Jazz Festival musicians and food and drink, all enjoyed against the backdrop of a huge aquarium tank.

Drinking, eating and shopping on Monterey's Cannery Row

Photo by Joao Eduardo Figueiredo via Flickr

This seaside stretch was made famous by Monterey County author John Steinbeck, who sang its praises in his novel Cannery Row. And you can see why, there’s so much to do! Grab a bite to eat at one of the many authentic Monterey restaurants or splurge in the shops. There are all sorts of fun activities to do as well, like the mirror maze and aquarium. The good times go on into the night in the many bars and nightclubs on Cannery Row.

Barking seals and family fun at Fisherman’s Wharf

Photo by Justin Spelbrink via Flickr

Fisherman’s Wharf is one of the top family friendly attractions in Monterey, as its old wharf is a like a smaller, slightly more authentic version of San Francisco’s famed Pier 39. There are tons of restaurants and shops on the pier, including some really amazing seafood places, but the real attractions are the barking – and terribly cute – seals that live on platforms surrounding the wharf.

Check out the adjacent town of Pacific Grove and try Passionfish

Photo by Passion Fish via their Facebook page

Owners Chef Ted Walter and his wife Cindy are passionate about the environment. Their dedication to the sustainable food movement is evident in the seasonal, organic menus they design for Passionfish. They’re not about unnecessary pomp and ponce either. What they are about, however, is well made dishes that respect the fresh ingredients they’re made from, like their basil stuffed rainbow trout served with red wine braised vegetables. The prices are reasonable too.

Luxury lodging and sea views at the Monterey Plaza Hotel and Spa

Photo by Monterey Plaza Hotel and Spa via their Facebook page

Situated right at the edge of Monterey Bay, the views from this elegant, European-style hotel are stunning. Expect plush armchairs, fireplaces and marble floors. Guests will especially enjoy the hotel’s private beach and its water sports offerings. There are a number of restaurants and bars within the hotel complex, including the Schooners Coastal Kitchen and Bar, which is suspended right over the water with 180 views of the bay. The food is contemporary American cuisine with a focus on sustainable seafood. There’s also a great spa onsite.

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