Monterey Bay, Carmel and Pebble Beach

Photo by Kim Grant

Monterey Bay, Carmel and Pebble Beach Itineraries

Steinbeck Country in the Salinas Valley

Steinbeck Country on the Monterey Peninsula

Where to “Stop and Smell the Roses” around Monterey Bay

A big, blue playground for all forms of life, wild and tame alike

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One of the most scenic natural wonderlands on the planet, Monterey Bay—including famous towns and small cities like Carmel and Pebble Beach— edges a prime swath of California coastline about 90 miles south of San Francisco. The ocean here is mostly protected, and all forms of marine life, from blue whales and dolphins to otters and sea lions, thrive in these nutrient-rich waters. On land, many of California’s most popular state parks, replete with towering redwoods and spectacular beaches, welcome day visitors and campers year-round.

While natural wonders star at center stage, many other attractions lure millions of visitors to Monterey Bay every year. Its farms, vineyards and ranches — along with delectable bounty from the nearby ocean — supply restaurants and shops with ingredients that inspire brilliant menus devised by the nation’s finest chefs.

The city of Santa Cruz anchors the northern half of the bay, and the Monterey Peninsula in the south. In between lies an almost continuous string of beaches, villages, coves and parks to explore. Part of the huge Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, magnificent Point Lobos juts into the Pacific just south of the Carmel River, marking the northern gateway to Big Sur via legendary Highway 1.

Monterey Bay, Carmel and Pebble Beach Towns and Cities

Monterey: Explorer Sebastián Vizcaíno stopped here in 1502 and claimed California for Spain, and Monterey served as the epicenter of the state’s history for centuries. The entire city is a living museum, with historic sites at every turn. Monterey has dozens of other attractions, too — the world-famous Monterey Bay Aquarium, Cannery Row, Fisherman’sWharf, plus top-notch wineries, golf courses and restaurants.

Carmel-by-the-Sea: Eclectic shops, galleries, tasting rooms and restaurants line the streets of tiny Carmel, a charming one-square-mile village. Carmel is one of the dog-friendliest towns in the nation.

Carmel Valley: The sunny inland river valley east of Carmel-by-the-Sea is home to well-to-do residents who have an aversion to the often-cool coastal climate. Golf courses, ranches, exclusive estates and lodges pepper the hills and meadows. This is also wine country — Carmel Valley is an official appellation with many vineyards and tasting rooms.

Pacific Grove: Founded by a group of Methodists in 1875, Pacific Grove (aka PG) is a gorgeous, mostly residential community on the coast between Pebble Beach and Monterey.

Pebble Beach: Pebble Beach is one of the West Coast’s ritziest private enclaves, with three upscale resorts, four golf courses and cutting-edge residential estates. You too, can, share the scenic views and lifestyle by paying the $10 entrance fee at one of the gates along famous 17-Mile Drive (or walk or bike in for free).

Moss Landing: A busy fishing and boating port, Moss Landing edges the Elkhorn Slough National Marine Estuary where you can hike on trails and kayak through an amazing wildlife area.

Castroville: Most of the world’s artichokes are born and raised in tiny Castroville — a tiny farm town a few miles inland from the bay.

Salinas: Salinas, aka the salad bowl of the world for its humongous agriculture industry, is the birthplace and childhood home of Nobel Prize-winning author John Steinbeck. Here you can visit the National Steinbeck Center and more than two dozen wineries, mostly along River Road. Salinas is also home to the Monterey Zoo, a sanctuary for 180 wild and exotic animals. Get in-depth information about John Steinbeck and his Monterey area connections in our handy guides, Steinbeck Country in the Salinas Valley and Steinbeck Country on the Monterey Peninsula.

Garden enthusiasts should check out our guide to Monterey Bay Gardens.

What it Costs

Abstract Pricing at a Glance

Prices often fluctuate dynamically depending on capacity, seasonality and deals. We don’t want to lead you astray by quoting exact prices that quickly become wrong. To give you a rough idea for budgetary planning purposes, though, we have indicated general price ranges for all points of interest.

Price ranges are quoted in $US.

See & Do
N/A => Not applicable
$ => Tickets less than $10 per person
$$ => Tickets $11–25 per person
$$$ => Tickets $26 per person

$ => Rooms less than $150 for a double
$$ => Rooms $150–$300 for a double
$$$ => Rooms $300 for a double

$ => Up to $15 for average main at dinner (or lunch/breakfast if no dinner is served)
$$ => $16–22 for average main at dinner (or lunch/breakfast if no dinner is served)
$$$ => $23 for average main at dinner (or lunch/breakfast if no dinner is served)

N/A => Not applicable

$ => Tickets less than $10 per person
$$ => Tickets $11–25 per person
$$$ => Tickets $26 per person


Getting There

Just three miles east of downtown Monterey, the small but oh-so-convenient Monterey Airport (MRY) offers daily flights to and from Denver, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Phoenix, San Diego and San Francisco. Airlines include Alaska, Allegiant, American Eagle, United, and US Airways.

If you’re arriving by bus or train (actually the Amtrak bus from the Salinas station) and want to pick up a rental car, head for the airport — it’s one of the region’s car rental hubs.

Getting Around

Stop at the Monterey Visitors Center near Lake El Estero when you arrive to get oriented.

Monterey-Salinas Transit (MST) makes it easy to get around to all major destinations in Monterey County. Buses service all major cities and towns, plus express service to San Jose. It also connects with Santa Cruz Metropolitan Transit District at the Watsonville transfer station. For information visit the website or call (888) 678-2871.

MST also operates Line 22 Big Sur Shuttle, Line 24 Carmel Valley Grapevine Express. Line 55 San Jose Express offers daily service to downtown San Jose and the Amtrak/CalTrain/VTA trains, busses and light rail.

MST operates free seasonal trolleys in Monterey, Carmel-by-the-Sea and Salinas. The Monterey shuttle runs along the waterfront in summer about every 10-12 minutes from 10 am to 7 or 8 pm. It begins at the Monterey Transit Plaza and continues through downtown Monterey to Fisherman’s Wharf, then along Cannery Row to the Aquarium and back.

The best way to explore Carmel is on foot. From Highway 1 turn off at Ocean Avenue (Carmel’s main drag) and head west toward the coast. Park near the visitor center on San Carlos, between 5th and 6th avenues, and pick up a map to get your bearings. There are no street addresses – everyone gets around by finding cross streets. Toll-free phone: (800) 550-4333

Transportation Hubs

Transportation services, including buses and trolleys, center around these major hubs:

Monterey Transit Center bounded by Pearl, Munras and Tyler streets.

Salinas Transit Center at Central and Salinas streets


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