15 Best Things To Do in Monterey, California

Monterey with its scenic seashores, beautiful parks, excellent museums and restaurants offering mouth-watering cuisines is undoubtedly one of the most preferred weekend destinations on the West Coast of California. Monterey, with mix American, Spanish, and Mexican cultures is a perfect blend of incredible natural beauty, wildlife, and beaches offering a food range of outdoor activities. There are so many things to do, but in case one does not want to miss out the most happening things in the coastal city, here is a comprehensive guide to the top tourist attractions in Monterey.

Let's explore Monterey points of interest and 15 best things to do in Monterey:

1. Monterey Bay Aquarium

Monterey Bay Aquarium termed as one of the “Most Captivating Aquariums in America” by Forbes Traveler.com is, by far, in the most popular destination in the city. If one has been to Monterey and hasn’t been to this breathtaking marine research and conservation center, then the trip can safely be pronounced as an utter failure. Sea turtles, stingrays, sharks, jellyfish, schools of fish, octopus, birds the enclosure exhibits the marine life in the most astonishing way. One can observe and admire them, and at some exhibits, one can feed them too. This place makes the time flow like water.

2. Cannery Row

Cannery Row - ImageImage Source: pixabay.com

Previously known as Ocean View Avenue, this place was renamed as Cannery Row in honour of renowned author John Steinbeck who introduced this district to the world through his famous book, Cannery Row. It is appraised as one of the major attractions of Monterey and depicts a multicultural history of European and Asian immigrants. Cannery row packed with restaurants, boutique hotels, shops and a string of historical attractions attracts thousands of visitors each year.  There is also a lesser known small McAbee beach from where one can get an amazing panoramic view of Monterey Bay.

3. Old Fisherman’s Wharf

Old Fisherman’s Wharf - ImageImage Source: pixabay.com

When one hears Wharf, he automatically imagines a smelly, salt-water stained place. But Old Fisherman’s Wharf is nothing like that. One can spend hours observing and clicking pictures of the seals bathing at the nearby rock, seagulls trying to steal a catch or two from the fishermen, or sea lions and otters frolicking in the harbor waters. Old Fisherman’s Wharf hosts a line of fancy restaurants serving fresh Monterey Bay seafood and also a string of souvenir shops. The place also offers mesmerizing deep-sea fishing and whale watching tours. One can also opt for a refreshing kayaking excursion on the bay. One should not forget to taste the clam chowder while on a stroll.

4. Pebble beach

Pebble beach - ImageImage Source: pixabay.com

Having a round of golf at the one of the most beautiful golf courses Pebble Beach Golf Club is the dream of every golfer. The lucky visitors who have got the opportunity to play here describe the experience as something magical, especially the 18th hole which is particularly scenic. Experts advise people to make the booking a year in advance to not to miss out on it. Even if one isn’t keen on playing golf, the place should be on the checklist for its serene scenery.

5. 17-Mile Drive

17-Mile Drive in the Pebble Beach is one of the most ecstatic scenic drives in the world. It takes the visitors past stunning homes, spectacular coastline and the splendorous Del Monte Forest. The drive between the Pacific Grove and the Carmel and the view of ocean and forest is worth savoring.

6. Carmel-by-the-Sea

Situated south of Monterey and Pebble Beach lies a cute little seaside city with designer stores and gourmet eateries. The place is renowned for the natural scenery and rich history and for its extreme dog-friendly nature with establishments warmly welcoming guests with their fido friends. While visiting the city, one cannot help but be awestruck by the fairy tale cottages and galleries. It is the perfect location for a romantic getaway on the picturesque seaside.

7. Point Lobos Natural Reserve 

Point Lobos Natural Reserve - ImageImage Source: pixabay.com

Located at the South of Carmel-by-the-Sea, the Point Lobos State Natural Reserve consists of dramatic rock formations arising from the ocean with marine creatures like southern sea otters frolicking about. The reserve’s 13 trails provide tourists with hiking opportunities amidst scenic beauty. The reserve also offers 10 diving spots where one can swim through kelp forests and magnificent coral reefs. If lady luck is being favorable, one can have a lifetime experience of watching whales, sea lions or dolphins swimming around the area.

8. State Historic Park

To explore the history of Monterey, one has to necessarily visit the Monterey Historic Park. It is where the Spanish first landed back in 1602. On visiting the place, one gets to see historical 19th-century brick and adobe houses which played significant roles in shaping the heritage of the region. They are surrounded by aesthetic gardens and self-guided yellow-tiled marked walkway called the ‘Path of History.’ Though charming gardens and stroll ways are open throughout, some of the buildings can be accessed only through a tour.

9. Monterey Museum of Art

Established in 1959, the Spanish styled Monterey Museum of Art houses a permanent collection of over 14,000 art pieces belonging to a range of genres including the early California painting, American and Asian art, and the contemporary art and photography. On visiting the museum, one can find art pieces by famous artists like Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, and photographers like Ansel Adams and Armin Hansen. One can enhance his educational base by participating in the programs, workshops, art classes and summer camps organized by the museum.

10. Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary

If one is looking out for a fun and exciting place to visit with the family, then Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary is just the place. Established in 1992, the Sanctuary is the most famous marine protected areas of the nation. With a shoreline of 276 miles, it supports a diverse range of marine ecosystems and is home to various mammals, birds, fishes and, plants. This place provides visitors with panoramic view wonderful Bay, glimpses of diverse wildlife and scenic drive. The various information boards placed at different viewing locations is exciting as well as educational. It would be a shame to visit Monterey and not to get into the water to view the marine life up close.  One can go kayaking along the shoreline and watch the whales and otter pups swim by. 

11. Monterey Bay Coastal Recreational Trail

One essentially needs to visit the Monterey Bay Coastal Recreational Trail for the quintessential and breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean. The stunning coastal trail extends 18 miles beginning at the Lovers Point Park in Pacific Grove to Castroville. The trail offers one with many photos capturing venues along the beach scenes for the Instagram account. Along the trail, visitors can rent bikes and surreys, in-line skates, paddleboard, surfboard and kayaks for outdoor activities. There are numerous stops to get a bite of delicious food, or one can even pack a picnic basket and enjoy the impressive view of boats and kayaks while having it.

12. Dennis the Menace Park

Everyone laughed with and loved the comic character, Dennis. But little do people know that the creator of the famous Dennis the Menace comic strip lived nearby Carmel. Monterey is the home to a park dedicated to the beloved comic strip. Hank Ketcham the creator of the comic personally helped plan the park from the suspension bridge to the hedge maze. The park houses a Southern Pacific Steam engine from 1924 and a statue of the menace himself. Visitors can forget everything and relive their childhood by playing in the various slides and bridges in the park.

13. Dali17 Museum

Dali17 is a museum dedicated to the artifacts of the surrealist Salvador Dali. The name Dali17 is formed by the confluence of Dali’s influence to the 17 Mile Drive where he lived and worked between 1941 and 1948. Though the museum does not have more famous works of Dali, but it does shelter an excellent range of works and styles from throughout his career. Whether a Dali fan or not, one will surely enjoy his art through film, sculpture, paintings, prints and written materials. As reported by previous visitors, one can spend the whole day admiring his work but still won’t be able cover the entire exhibition of his artworks.

14. San Carlos Cathedral

The first cathedral in California is extremely attractive, and a must-visit site in Monterey. The historical building gives one the feel of the old Monterey. One can opt for free tours and enhance their knowledge about the history of the magnificent building. The interior of the cathedral has been restored, and the colorful paint makes it alluring and cheerful. There is also a small museum to its right which is highly recommended to drop by if one visits the San Carlos Cathedral.

15. Stevenson House

Monterey has been home to various famous personalities, and the ‘Treasure Island’ author Robert Louis Stevenson is one of them.  Part of the historical path walk stands a colonial-style building with a lovely garden to explore. For ardent Robert fans, his abode is a must visit location where he spent several months after traveling from Scotland. The building amidst a beautiful garden is a perfect location for one to sit, relax and walk around admiring the tranquillity of the place.

Author
After five years of her teaching career, Shraddhanvita decided to make 'travel' her passion. For her 'a rolling stone does gather moss'. She is a wanderlust driven soul, a poet, a pluviophile, and a humanist. Fascinated by nature's bounty, she finds ...

Must see places in Monterey ranked on popularity. Here is the complete list of best attractions in Monterey and point of interests to visit.

  1. # 1 of 110 Things To Do in Monterey | Added 4266 times in trip plans
    Monterey Bay Aquarium

    Tags: Museum, Aquarium, Educational Site, Food And Drinks

    Address: 886 Cannery Row, Monterey, CA 93940, United States

    Timings: 10:00 am - 05:00 pm Details

    Monterey Bay Aquarium is public aquarium in Monterey, California. This second largest aquarium in the world located in California's central coast, end of Cannery Row. Almost 2 million p...Read more

  2. # 2 of 110 Things To Do in Monterey | Added 4029 times in trip plans
    Cannery Row

    Tags: Hotel, Walking Area, Restaurant, Tourist Center

    Address: 649 Cannery Row, Monterey, CA 93940, United States

    Timings: 24-hrs Details

    “A poem, a stink, a grating noise, a quality of light, a tone, a habit, a nostalgia, a dream." That’s how John Steinbeck described Cannery Row. They used to call it the Ocean View Avenue, ...Read more

  3. # 3 of 110 Things To Do in Monterey | Added 3080 times in trip plans
    Carmel Mission Basilica

    Tags: Church, Religious Site, Museum, Landmark

    Address: 3080 Rio Road, Carmel, CA 93923, United States

    Timings: 09:30 am - 05:00 pm Details

    Listed on the National Register of Historic Places and a U.S. National Historic Landmark, this was California’s second mission, and it played a significant role in California’s late 18th c...Read more

  4. # 4 of 110 Things To Do in Monterey | Added 2150 times in trip plans
    Coast Guard Pier And Old Fisherman's Wharf

    Tags: Trail, Walking Area, Pier, Dine In

    Address: 32 Cannery Row, Monterey, CA

    Timings: 07:00 am - 07:00 pm Details

    This is a Monterey not-so-hidden surprise! But we’ll get to that. So, extending 1700 feet out into the bay, this pier is super popular among fishermen. Publicly accessible during the day, it&rsq...Read more

  5. # 5 of 110 Things To Do in Monterey | Added 1676 times in trip plans
    Monterey State Historic Park

    Tags: Church, Garden, Tour, Historical Site

    Address: 20 Custom House Plaza, Monterey, CA 93940, United States

    Timings: 10:00 am - 04:00 pm Details

    The Monterey History and Art Association must be saluted for what they did for this place. It is nothing short of fantastic. Along a two mile path lie 55 historic buildings, this self-guided tour is m...Read more

  6. # 6 of 110 Things To Do in Monterey | Added 1367 times in trip plans
    Garrapata Beach

    Tags: Beach, Wildlife Sanctuary , Park, View Point

    Address: Garrapata Beach, Monterey, CA

    Timings: 24-hrs Details

    This is pretty much everyone’s favourite beach in Monterey. It’s a little way out, but completely removed from the crowds. The sand is white and the water is blue. The flowers blanket the ...Read more

  7. # 7 of 110 Things To Do in Monterey | Added 675 times in trip plans
    Monterey Museum Of Art Pacific Street

    Tags: Art Museum, Museum, Park, Educational Site

    Address: 559 Pacific Street, Monterey, CA 93940

    Timings: 11:00 am - 05:00 pm Details

    The museum organisation has one simple purpose – To preserve the best of Californian art from the 19th century to present day, and to promote contemporary Californian art through exhibition. Thr...Read more

  8. # 8 of 110 Things To Do in Monterey | Added 676 times in trip plans
    Jacks Peak County Park

    Tags: Beach, Trail, Park, Picnic Spot

    Address: 25020 Jacks Peak Park Road, Monterey, CA 93940, United States

    Timings: 08:00 am - 05:00 pm Details

    The local dog-walker’s favourite break-away is more than simple trails. There are fossils embedded in the shale here right from the Miocene epoch of prehistoric Earth, beautiful vistas of Monter...Read more

  9. # 9 of 110 Things To Do in Monterey | Added 521 times in trip plans
    Museum Of Monterey

    Tags: Art And Culture, Museum, Beach, Historical Site

    Address: 5 Custom House Plaza, Monterey, CA 93940, United States

    Timings: 11:00 am - 05:00 pm Details

    Opened in 1992, this delightfully free attraction has thousands of Monterey related artefacts. It’s all about seeing the history of the city through the lens of it’s relationship with the ...Read more

  10. # 10 of 110 Things To Do in Monterey | Added 564 times in trip plans
    Colton Hall Museum

    Tags: Museum, Landmark, Historical Site, Entertainment

    Address: 570 Pacific Street, Monterey, CA 93940, United States

    Timings: 10:00 am - 04:00 pm Details

    Initially built to function as a school, in 1849, this building saw California’s first constitution drafted, which makes it one of the most important buildings in the state. In 934, it was regis...Read more

  11. # 11 of 110 Things To Do in Monterey | Added 437 times in trip plans
    Monterey County Youth Museum

    Tags: Museum, Golf Course, Educational Site, Play

    Address: 425 Washington Street, Monterey, CA 93940, United States

    Timings: 10:00 am - 05:00 pm Details

    These 8500 square feet full of hands on exhibits are a children’s favourite. There’s just something nice about a museum that will let your child run around, touching everything, and won&rs...Read more

  12. # 12 of 110 Things To Do in Monterey | Added 397 times in trip plans
    La Mirada Monterey Museum Of Art

    Tags: Art Museum, Garden, Educational Site, Tour

    Address: 720 Vía Mirada Monterey, CA 93940,United States

    Timings: 11:00 am - 05:00 pm Details

    The museum organisation has one simple purpose two preserve the best of Californian art from the 19th century to present day, and to promote contemporary Californian art through exhibition. Through ed...Read more

  13. # 13 of 110 Things To Do in Monterey | Added 474 times in trip plans
    Monterey Bay Coastal Recreation Trail

    Tags: Beach, Trail, Park, Aquarium

    Address: Monterey Bay Coastal Recreation Trail, Monterey, CA

    Timings: 24-hrs Details

    The South Pacific Railroad once ran the length of this trail. The Monterey Peninsula Regional Park District saw this abandoned railroad and figured this is no way to waste the beautiful views of this ...Read more

  14. # 14 of 110 Things To Do in Monterey | Added 542 times in trip plans
    El Estero Park Complex

    Tags: Beach, Park, Play Ground, Bridge

    Address: 777 Pearl Street, Monterey, CA 93940, United States

    Timings: 24-hrs Details

    Lake El Estro was once a brackish saltwater lagoon, until in 1874, the stream connecting the lagoon to the bay was cut off, and this became freshwater paradise. And what paradise! The lake hosts a thr...Read more

  15. # 15 of 110 Things To Do in Monterey | Added 2 times in trip plans
    Monterey Veterans Memorial Park

    Tags: Park

    Address: 1200 Veterans Dr, Monterey, CA 93940, USA

    The beautiful 50 acre park is a retreat from your busy schedules. Be it camping or hiking, you can look forward to both in this park. The pine forest with bay views, barbeque picnic areas, basketball ...Read more

Explore the best things to do in Monterey. These are the most preferred tourist activities.

  • Los Coches Rancho

    Historic and Protected Sites
  • Gabilan Lodge No. 372 - Independent Order Of Odd Fellows

    Historic and Protected Sites
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  • San Benito County Saddle Horse Show Grandstand

    9000 Airline Hwy

    Amusement Parks Arcades
  • Greenfield Public Recreation District

    42603 Elm Ave

    Amusement Parks
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  • Soledad Bar & Grill

    235 West St

    Bars Pizza Billiard and Pool
  • Panoche Inn

    29960 Panoche Rd

    Bars Burgers Mexican
  • The Watering Trough

    235 West St

    Bars Bowling
  • Dom Bar

    433 Brockman Dr

    Bars
  • Casa Del Pollo

    32701 Silliman Rd

    Mexican Bars
  • Ven-A-Mexico

    955 Front St

    Mexican Bars
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  • Pinnacles National Monument

    5000 Highway 146

    Natural Parks
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  • High Peaks Trail

    Hiking
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  • Taylor Farms

    Hunting and Fishing
  • Doc Bar Ranch

    10001 Willow Creek Rd

    Hunting and Fishing
  • Handley Family Ranch

    25485 Iverson Rd

    Hunting and Fishing
  • Rock Springs Ranch

    11000 Old Hernandez Rd

    Hunting and Fishing
  • Rancho Del Robles

    30100 Chualar Canyon Rd

    Hunting and Fishing
  • El Rancho Posey

    34951 Airline Hwy

    Hunting and Fishing
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  • Bear Creek Picnic Area

    Picnic Areas
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