Located along the rugged coastline of California, the oceanfront settlement of Monterey exudes seaside charm. Play on the dunes at public beaches, observe sea lions at the wharfs and embark on scenic walks along the coastal cliffs.
Get acquainted with the history of this coastal city, which was originally founded by the Spanish in 1770. Wander around Old Monterey and be on the look out for the Path of History plaques, which are placed along the sidewalk and point toward the landmark historical buildings.
During the earlier half of the 20th century, Monterey made its money from sardine canning, an industry that Steinbeck wrote about in his novel Cannery Row. Although the sardine canning businesses have closed, Cannery Row still exists. Stroll down the street and look for a bronze bust of Steinbeck and the old workers’ shacks, which show the harsh living conditions the workers here would have endured.
Take a stroll down Fisherman’s Wharf, browsing souvenir shops, seafood markets and admiring the 360-degree harbor views along the way. Sea lions and seals can often be seen in the waters here.
Don’t miss the Monterey Bay Aquarium its tanks are filled with kaleidoscopic marine creatures. The aquarium is right next to Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, where seals, sea lions, whales and dolphins can all be spotted. Of particular note is the aquarium’s kelp forest and the surreal jellyfish exhibit.
For visitors who want to see the California coast’s signature crashing waves and oceanfront cliffs, head for Garrapata State Park. Follow hiking trails along steep coastal bluffs and through towering redwood forests. Point Lobos State Reserve is another good place to get back to nature. Rent a kayak and paddle through coves, looking for orcas, sea lions and seals. The 18-mile (29-kilometer) long Monterey Bay Coastal Trail is open to walkers and cyclists.
From San Francisco, reach Monterey by car in about 2.5 hours. Buses are also available from San Jose, while internal flights touch down at Monterey Regional Airport. In downtown Monterey, make use of the free trolley service check the Monterey-Salinas Transit website for the schedule.