My two best friends and I recently went on a quick escape out of the city to Monterey and it was the perfect weekend trip! Monterey is only a two-hour drive south of San Francisco but can seem worlds away with its quiet streets, trails, and beaches and local restaurants, cafes, and shops.
It was a great place to relax and spend some quality time with my two best friends as our schedules don’t allow us to do this all the time. The whole trip was definitely a treat. Here are some tips for how you too could have the perfect weekend in Monterey.
Visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium
The Monterey Bay Aquarium is not surprisingly the biggest attraction in Monterey. It’s an amazing multi-level aquarium on Cannery Row containing every incredible sea creature from sea otters and octopus to jelly fish, penguins, and sea turtles.
I loved the jelly fish room the most – so mesmerizing and also reminded me of Finding Nemo a little bit. The whole aquarium reminds me of that movie in fact. My friends and I spent a couple hours or so walking through each exhibit and took a break in the aquarium’s cafe with cups of tea while looking out at the bay.
We also sat in on a couple short 20-minute video presentations that the aquarium holds throughout the day to talk more about specific animals and how they are cared for. One presentation we went to was about a baby sea otter the aquarium rescued after it was separated from it’s mother and how they raised it to go back into the wild and find another mother to attach to – I dare you not to get emotional!
It does get crowded with lots of families, especially during the summer, so try and get there early or maybe go during lunch time or when the kiddies are taking naps. The Monterey Bay Aquarium is definitely not an attraction to miss! I would love to go back there with my nephews in tow because I know their minds will be blown!
Stroll along Cannery Row
After we finished up at the aquarium, my friends and I took a walk around Monterey’s historic Cannery Row. This main street is a tad touristy but it’s fun to explore for a bit. You’ll find art and photography galleries, clothing and jewelry stores, specialty food shops, and restaurants.
There are also quite a few wine tasting rooms along Cannery Row that you can try and there are many hotels and inns in the area to make your stay really convenient – you’ll have food, drink, the aquarium, and beautiful views all within walking distance.
Have lunch on Lighthouse Avenue
If you want to get away from the bustle of Cannery Row, you could drive five minutes to the nearby town of Pacific Grove like my friends and I did. We had lunch at Red House Cafe on Lighthouse Avenue.
The cafe use to be a Victorian House from the early 1900s so it looks very cozy inside and we sat on their outdoor patio in the back of the restaurant and dug into hearty burgers and quiches. They have big menus for breakfast, brunch, lunch, and dinner and while you may have to wait a little while for a table, it is well worth the wait!
There are so many independently owned shops on Lighthouse Ave to explore but my friends and I made a bee line for BookWorks across the street from Red House Cafe. I love to visit a bookstore in a new town and this was one was a good find. There are plenty of tables and chairs and couches when you first walk into the store to sit and enjoy a coffee from the cafe and in the back of the building is a well-stocked bookstore.
Indulge in dinner at Passionfish
My friends found a nice little AirBnB within walking distance of Lighthouse Avenue and so we decided to come back to this street for a great dinner at Passionfish. Passionfish has received a lot of rave reviews for their seafood dishes and we feasted!
Try the fried oysters and smoked trout ceviche tostaditas to start, sea scallops or pork shank for your entree, and the maple banana bread pudding for dessert. All of these dishes were delicious! Be sure to make a reservation ahead of time though to ensure you get a table at this popular place.
Grab breakfast to go and walk at Lovers’ Point
The recreational area has a swimming pool, picnic area, a beach volleyball court, and a restaurant and snack bar, all of which I’m sure are put to good use when the weather is warm and sunny.
The weather was overcast the morning my friends and I took our walk but we enjoyed climbing the rocks to get a good view of the bay. And since it was early there weren’t a lot of other people out and about yet so we felt we had the place to ourselves and it was nice to get some fresh air and stretch our legs.
Get a massage at the spa
If you need to relieve some stress and relax, go to the Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa and treat yourself to a massage like we did. This luxury hotel is located near Cannery Row and is really beautiful with great views of the bay.
We each enjoyed our hour-long massages and the hot tub on their top deck. They also have saunas and a gym as well as a restaurant for a post-massage lunch. So even if you can’t splurge on a night at the hotel, you can at least visit their spa for a few hours.
Dine in nearby Carmel
Before our two-hour drive home to San Francisco, my friends and I decided to drive the 15 minutes to the nearby town of Carmel. The main street in Carmel has lots of restaurants, clothing stores, and specialty food stores to explore. We had lunch at the wonderful La Bicyclette.
This European bistro serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner but don’t be deceived by the name of the place. Yes they do serve appetizing French fare but they also make amazing wood-oven fired pizzas. My friends and I must have been very hungry because we finished every last slice of the above pizzas. They were that good and were the perfect end to a fun and relaxing weekend!
Have you been to Monterey? Share your recommendations in the comments below!