11 Best & Most Fun Things To Do In Monterey, CA in 2023

Monterey is one of the most beautiful cities in California which is famous for its marine life and seafood. It is one of the most diverse marine environments on the entire planet. If you are considering paying Monterey a visit, you better be sure of what are the things to do in Monterey. You will find a wealth of recreational Monterey activities and various opportunities to enjoy your trip.

Monterey’s rich coastal history implies that it is filled with various points of interest of several kinds. Thus, it can even be hard to pick which activities you will prefer for yourself. This place is popular for its year-round whale watching. Also, visiting the Monterey Bay Aquarium is one of the most preferred things to do in Monterey with kids. Such an amazing zoo in CA!

best things to do in Monterey, California

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This place has a rich history and scenic walking trails. Therefore, if you are planning an affordable weekend getaway in California, Monterey is an intelligent choice. However, if you are confused about what to do in Monterey, we are here to help.

Below are listed all you need to know about Monterey and what are the unique and fun things to do in Monterey. Therefore, if your interest is piqued, all you need to do is go and give this article a read!

Fun Facts about Monterey

Monterey is much more than just a fun place to visit or a great place in California for couples. It is also a county with a network of villages and towns, each of which has its own compelling backstory. The list below mentions some of the intriguing quirks about Monterey that you should know before planning out your Monterey activities:

  • This place is home to one of the most diverse tide pools in the entire world.
  • There are some of the most famous golf courses here.
  • The Monterey Bay Aquarium houses more than 35,000 marine species which are some of the rarest marine species in the world.
  • Monterey is amongst the top ten wine travel destinations. There are wineries in almost every city, including Carmel-by-the-Sea, Salinas, Marina, Carmel Valley, and Soledad.
  • There is a mix of different climates and ecosystems in Monterey County. You can find wetlands, woodlands, grasslands, salt marshes, mountains, and estuaries. There are a lot of nature preserves in Monterey which allows you to experience all of these ecosystems.

Best Things to do in Monterey

1. Go and visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium

If you are listing up the things to do in Monterey Bay, this has to be your topmost choice. The world-famous Monterey Bay Aquarium is housed by the ocean on Cannery Row. This activity in Monterey is equally popular for both kids and adults.

The visit to the Aquarium will allow you to explore a variety of marine habitats starting from kelp forests, to the open sea along with rocky shores. You can view sharks, sea bass, and even the giant Pacific octopus. The colorful inhabitants of tide pools are the other interesting creatures for which this place is famous.

You can even visit the aviary which features a varied range of local bird species and the endangered snowy plover. The aquarium usually gets very crowded during the day and especially on weekends. So, if you are planning a visit, try to schedule it on weekdays and try to arrive early right at the opening time. In that way, you can enjoy a not-so-crowded view.

Monterey Bay Aquarium
Monterey Bay Aquarium

2. Stroll Cannery Row

Cannery Row is one of the most beautiful tourist attractions in Monterey. It is full of various shops, hotels, restaurants, and more.  If you are listing some of the exciting and free things to do in Monterey, this might turn out to be your best shot.

Look for wine tasting rooms, small gardens, boutiques, fountains, sculptures, art galleries, along with the views of the bay in between the buildings. You can stroll around the historic street. It will allow you to discover various informative plaques that talk about the early history of Monterey and Cannery Row. So, if you are someone who loves historical tales, this is your place. Thus, make sure you cover this place while planning the Monterey itinerary.

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There are spots where you can access water at various small beaches and coves. The Cannery Row is an exciting walk, especially in the evenings which makes it a hitlist amongst the things to do in Monterey at night.

Things To Do In Monterey_Cannery Row
Cannery Row

3. Go on a Whale Watching Tour

Whale watching is undoubtedly one of the most popular things to do in Monterey. The Monterey Submarine Canyon allows a close view of dolphins and whales. The view is so close that one can even enjoy it with a naked eye.

If you book a whale watching tour, you can enjoy seeing them spouting, fluking, and breaching. The best part is such whale watching trips are usually offered year-round. It depends on the seasons whether you see gray whales, blue whales, humpback whales, or killer whales. Fin whales and minke whales are comparatively less common around the bay.

Dolphins, porpoises, and a wide range of sea birds are the other popular sights to catch here. A tour to explore marine life sounds fine if you are listing what things to do in Monterey this weekend.

4. Enjoy Ice Cream with a View of Ghirardelli

If you are looking for romantic things to do in Monterey, this is undoubtedly going to be one of your best shots. Ghirardelli Ice Cream and Chocolate Shop is one of the most popular visits on Cannery Row. If you want to enjoy some sweet treats to satisfy your taste buds, this is a fun stop.

The balcony features an exquisite view of the ocean. You might even get lucky if some gulls perch on the railing. The sundaes are deliciously decadent and creamy for you to enjoy while sitting on the balcony outdoors. You can also try the varied range of Ghirardelli chocolate squares of your preferred flavor along with various souvenir packs.

Ghirardelli Ice Cream
Ghirardelli Ice Cream

Enjoying a day at Pebble Beach Golf Links in Monterey is an unparalleled experience for golf enthusiasts. Nestled along the stunning California coastline, Pebble Beach offers world-class golfing amidst breathtaking natural beauty. Tee off with the Pacific Ocean as your backdrop and navigate challenging fairways bordered by iconic cypress trees. Each hole presents a new adventure, with famous landmarks like the seventh hole offering unforgettable views.

After your round, indulge in the luxurious amenities of the clubhouse and treat yourself to gourmet dining overlooking the 18th green. Take a stroll along the scenic 17-Mile Drive to admire the coastline’s rugged beauty, or explore nearby attractions such as the Lone Cypress and Bird Rock.

Whether you’re a seasoned golfer or a casual player, a day at Pebble Beach Golf Links promises excitement and relaxation in equal measure. Capture the memories of your golfing adventure against the backdrop of one of the world’s most renowned courses.

Pebble Beach Golf Links
Pebble Beach Golf Links

6. Plan a Trip to Big Sur

Big Sur is one of the most popular tourist attractions of Monterey. The wildflowers always seem to be blooming. The California Condor flying overhead throughout and the California Sea Otter’s rafting in the kelp beds are some of the natural wonders that make Big Sur one of the most breathtaking beauties in California.

The Central Coast will beckon you with unparalleled natural beauty. The wide range of other scenic attractions will definitely make your Big Sur road trip worthwhile. The sparsely populated area has several state parks which are suited destinations for hiking, beachcombing, and camping.

You can also book Pacific Coast Highway self-drive audio tour and discover the coastline of Big Sur at your own pace.

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7. Enjoy the Monterey Bay Coastal Recreation Trail

In case you are looking for things to do in Monterey in winter, this is a pretty smart choice because it allows you to burn off some calories. Walk the thrilling and beautiful Monterey Bay Coastal Recreation Trail. It runs for approximately 18 miles from Castroville in the north to Pacific Grove in the south.

You can even enjoy a surrey ride or a regular bike ride in either direction. Some parts of this trail are specially paved for bike rides and pedestrian lanes, which makes it one of the ultimate things to do in Monterey.

Monterey Bay Coastal Recreation Trail
Monterey Bay Coastal Recreation Trail

8. Pay a Visit to the Monterey State Historic Park

If you are someone who loves digging history, this has to be one of the most preferable things to do in Monterey. Monterey State Historic Park is an aggregation of numerous historic buildings. That makes it a must-visit if you enjoy local history. You can even join in the guided walks offered there. That will allow you to enjoy a fascinating peek into the past of this beautiful city.

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On the walk, you will enjoy a view of a dozen historic buildings and adobe homes. You can also enjoy fascinating sights of beautiful heritage gardens and even a whalebone walkway. The view exhibits at the Pacific House Museum that comes prior to your walk. So, if you prefer a walking tour of historic Monterey, this should definitely be your first choice.

This tour will also allow you to imbibe lots of fun information on the significant place Monterey holds in the history of California. The tour will take approximately two hours or a bit longer.

Read Also: 10 Fun Things to do in Solvang, California

9. Try Some Sample Local Wines

When you are in California, wine is a must. You will easily discover a lot of wine tasting rooms in downtown Monterey. There you will be allowed to explore through a variety of sample California wines. If you love the idea of exploring and tasting sample wines while touring the downtown of the beautiful city, this is undoubtedly one of your top things to do in Monterey.

Some of the best places to go to are listed as follows:

  • Pierce Ranch Vineyards: This place has its tasting room on Wave Street in downtown Monterey. The tasting room features some of the best-limited productions of estate wines from their San Antonio Valley vineyards. Their wines are undoubtedly excellent.
  • A Taste of Monterey: This place also offers food and they feature a gorgeous oceanfront setting on Cannery Row. You can enjoy a variety of local wines or local craft beers with a serene ocean view at this place.
  • Bargetto Winery: They have their tasting room on Cannery Row and another in Santa Cruz. Their dessert wines are highly recommended.

If you are a wine lover, I will highly recommend booking a Wine Country Tour in Monterey, one of the largest premium grape producers in the state. Enjoy the amazing views and learn about the beautiful Monterey Wine country scene and taste some great local wines.

A Taste of Monterey
A Taste of Monterey

10. Enjoy the Monterey Museum of Art

No matter where you head to while you are in Monterey this weekend, the Museum of Art is one of those places that the art aficionados can hardly miss. This place was first opened in 1959 as a home to display art collections dating back from the 19th century to now. It holds its place in two different locations. One of them is popularly known as La Mirada and the other is seated on Pacific Street.

The Monterey Museum of Art holds a permanent collection of California Art and photography with rotating displays. Thus, if you are a seeker for the same, this should be listed as one of the best things to do and see in Monterey for you. The early California artworks from 1945 showcase the history of this area as being an art colony. So, make sure that you don’t miss this chance.

If you get lucky, you can even enjoy or be a part of art classes, summer camps, community programs, educational programs, and docent programs which are hosted by the Museum of Art.

11. Go to the Old Fisherman’s Wharf

In case you are listing the top-most things to do in Monterey in summer, make sure you plan a visit to the Old Fisherman’s Wharf. Walk the wharf to enjoy the beauty and serenity of the ocean views. Walk around the harbor and explore the shops.

Dining on the fresh seafood by the water in the Old Fisherman’s Wharf is definitely one of the best things to do in Monterey. This place is the departure point for Monterey whale-watching cruises. You can enjoy sailing trips, glass-bottomed boat tours, and even fishing charters from the wharf.

Monterey attractions_Old Fisherman’s Wharf
Old Fisherman’s Wharf

Where to Eat in Monterey

While looking for exciting Monterey activities, anyone is bound to be tired. But there is no need to worry because Monterey is home to beautiful restaurants serving hot and tasty delicacies.

You can enjoy an extensive range of various delicious food items according to your preferences. Thus, if you are searching for places to eat at Monterey, look no more, because the list below mentions two of the best restaurants to walk in when you are in Monterey.

Flaherty’s Seafood Grill and Oyster Bar

If you are a big fan of seafood and have landed up near the bay, you should not miss this place at all. Its food and ambiance are ranked to be one of the best in Monterey. You should try at least either of the local cuisine, American cuisine, or seafood. The place is vegetarian-friendly and there are also vegan options for you to try.

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Montrio Bistro

The best place to walk in if you are looking for some top-notch cocktails, delicious food, and excellent services. American cuisine is the best here and the place is vegetarian-friendly. There are also vegan options for one to try.

Foodie people can join a walking food tour experience and get a taste of delicious local foods and drinks. You can also learn local history and culture while visiting different food spots.

Where to Stay in Monterey

If you have already planned your Monterey itinerary, you will know that in order to visit and explore most of the options there, one needs at least a stay of 2 days. There arises the question, “Where should one stay in Monterey?”

Worry no more, cause this article has it all. The below list will mention three of the best hotels to stay in Monterey. Thus, if you have already planned what things to do around Monterey, this is all you need:

InterContinental The Clement Monterey, an IHG Hotel

This place is located in the heart of Monterey’s historic Cannery Row. It is one of the most elegant accommodations in Monterey which features on-site dining and modern amenities. Other perks include a golf course, fitness center, hot tub, massage, spa and wellness center, pool, jacuzzi, and more. The rooms come with a TV and in-room movies, an electronic charging station, and a lot more.

Monterey Tides

Monterey Tides offers direct beach access and a year-round outdoor heated pool. It is exactly 4.8 km away from the Monterey Bay Aquarium which makes your stay much easier. The best part of it is that they allow pets which allows you to enjoy the dog-friendly things to do in Monterey. You also get unlimited wifi access, a fitness center, golf course, hot tub or jacuzzi, fishing, and windsurfing.

Where should one stay, in Carmel or in Monterey?

Monterey and Carmel are not very far away. They are just a few minutes away from each other. But where to stay amongst these two beautiful places solely depends on your preferences.

Because if you are looking to take from local wineries, or want to spend a romantic weekend by either eating in a modern restaurant or going to boutique shops, Carmel should be your go-to location. On the contrary, if you are planning to spend some time with your family, Monterey is the best-suited destination. There are numerous things to do in Monterey with family which can make your family trip much more interesting.

Final Words

If you were searching for the top 10 things to do in Monterey, this article must have proved to be a boon for you. This article has allowed you to choose amongst eleven of the best things to do in Monterey California as per your preferences. All you need to do is pick one of these Monterey attractions and plan for your trip there.

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FAQ: Things to do in Monterey

1. Is Monterey worth visiting?

A: A trip to Monterey is definitely worth a visit. Therefore, it hardly matters whether it is your first trip or tenth, the stunning Monterey sightseeing and scenery will never fail to charm you. The beaches and coastal terrain make the whole trip far better.

2. How many days do you need in Monterey?

A: There are plenty of things to do in Monterey and to enjoy them all you might need a couple of days. 3-4 hours must be reserved to enjoy and explore the world-famous Aquarium on Cannery Row because that is one of the most fun things to do in Monterey. For exploring the rest of Monterey, do allow a minimum of two days for the trip. If you can allow some more, you will be at a profit because there is a lot to do and see around Monterey.

3. Is Monterey safe for solo female travelers?

A: Monterey is considered safe if compared to the other cities in California. The chances of ending up as a victim of either property crime or violence in Monterey is 1 out of 29. However, according to FBI crime data, Monterey is not among the safest communities in America. In comparison to California, Monterey holds a crime rate that is higher than 90% of the cities and towns of all sizes in the whole state.

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