Good morning everyone. This past weekend, Laura and I did a mini road trip from the San Francisco Bay Area down to Carmel / Monterey. If you fly into San Francisco (SFO), Oakland (OAK), or San Jose (SJC), it is a 1.5 to 2 hour drive, depending on traffic. Alternatively, you can fly directly into Monterey (MRY), but that airport has a smaller route network and more expensive flights. I have been visiting Carmel / Monterey for 25+ years. Every year for Thanksgiving week, my extended family would drive up from Southern California to Carmel / Monterey and I would spend time with my grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles. As far as I can tell, not much has changed during that time in Carmel / Monterey. Here are some of my favorite places to stay, eat and visit.
Hyatt Regency Monterey Hotel and Spa on Del Monte Golf Course
Laura and I stayed at the Hyatt Regency Monterey Hotel twice in the last 3 years. This hotel is a category 4 Hyatt which costs 15,000 World of Hyatt Points or you can use your Free Night Certificate from the Chase World of Hyatt Credit Card. As of January 2020, there is minor construction on the main entrance road and outside the hotel lobby. They are also refreshing the hotel rooms and we stayed in one of the refreshed rooms. The hotel has plenty of parking (all free) and no resort charges. It is very easy to get to various parts of Carmel / Monterey within a 10-15 minute drive. I highly recommend this hotel and plan to come back next year after the construction and room renovations are complete.
Monterey Bay Aquarium
The Monterey Bay Aquarium is probably the best aquarium I have ever been to. Laura and I got there right when it opened at 9:30am and we stayed until 5:30pm. There are several feeding shows (sea otters, penguins, fish in the kelp forest (pictured below), and fish in the deep ocean) and several short documentaries about the animals. There are lots of hands on activities for kids to play with and learn about the animals. You can get your hand stamped and leave the aquarium for a few hours to wander around Cannery Row to do some shopping and eat lunch. We bought Monterey Bay Aquarium tickets through Viator, got 10% off our first Viator order, and earned cash back too.
Scenic 17-Mile Drive
If you are a golfer or a fan of scenic drives along the coast, Carmel’s 17-Mile Drive is a must see. I love driving through the forest and stopping at the beaches to watch the waves, seagulls, and loud seals. If you are looking for a nice place to eat lunch or watch the sunset, go to The Lodge at Pebble Beach – overlooking the 18th hole and Carmel Beach. “Admission to 17-Mile Drive is $10.50 per vehicle. The gate fee is reimbursed with a purchase of $35 or more at all Pebble Beach Resorts restaurants, excluding Pebble Beach Market.”
This is one of my favorite beaches in California. Carmel Beach is a few blocks away from Carmel-by-the-Sea and has plenty of free parking. The beach is dog friendly and you will see lots of dogs running around the sand, catching toys, and jumping in the water. If the surf is right, you will see a few surfers riding the waves. The beach is probably 2-3 miles long and offers great views of the multi-million dollar homes and Pebble Beach Golf Course.
Breakfast @ The Wild Plum Cafe
Every time Laura and I visit Carmel / Monterey, we have a few favorite restaurants we like to eat at, but we also like to try new restaurants too. One of our favorite new restaurants is The Wild Plum Cafe for breakfast. The coffee and tea drinks come out in huge soup bowls (chai tea latte for me and vanilla latte for Laura). They have several fresh baked pastries and lots of breakfast dishes. This place has a very “locals” vibe and the staff here were extremely friendly. We actually had breakfast twice here last weekend – it was that good!
Other Dining Options
Most of the restaurants in Carmel / Monterey are very good, so you really can’t go wrong. Here are some of my other favorite restaurants to eat at:
- Breakfast @ Katy’s Place (Carmel-by-the-Sea): this place has all the classic breakfast items, but they are cash only with limited seating, so get here early. After eating breakfast, you can walk around Carmel-by-the-Sea and then walk down to Carmel Beach.
- Lunch @ The Fish Hopper (Cannery Row in Monterey): this place is close to the aquarium and has great clam chowder and fish & chips.
- Lunch @ Brophy’s Tavern (Carmel-by-the-Sea): this place is an Irish sports bar with great food and drinks. If there is a sporting event going on, this is a great place to watch.
- Dinner @ Whaling Station Steakhouse (Cannery Row in Monterey): this place is close to the aquarium and has great steak and seafood.
- Dinner @ Rio Grill (Carmel): last but not least, this place has great food and a “locals” vibe. If you are staying at the Hyatt Regency Monterey, tell the front desk that you are going to Rio Grill and they will give you a card for a free appetizer (the calamari is terrific).
Did I miss any of your favorite places or restaurants? Share your thoughts below. If you have any questions about Carmel / Monterey, please leave a comment below. Have a great day everyone!