A Weekend in…Monterey

Many a tale of Monterey start one of two ways: either citing it as the place where John Steinbeck drew his inspiration or as the ultra-posh backdrop of “Little Big Lies.”

This story, however, starts with Great White sharks. That is because there are more than 300 adult sharks and likely even more of their babies live in the waters around Monterey. Together with the Farallon Islands and Bodega Bay, Monterey is part of what is called the “Red Triangle,” a name many erroneously say is due to all the blood in the water when in reality the region simply makes a triangle on a map.

The magical waters of Monterey, which also happen to be home to 34 species of marine mammals, more than 180 species of seabirds and shorebirds, at least 525 species of fish and an abundance of invertebrates and algae, will undoubtedly woo those with a love of sharks. During a weekend visit, we were bowled over to learn the region was so much more. So, let’s (metaphorically, of course) dive in.

The King of Aquariums

Given the region is teeming with sea life, a visit to Monterey Bay Aquarium – even if without children – to learn more about everything swimming around you is a must. It is home to 35,000 creatures and more than 550 types of sea life including sea otters, sharks, seahorses, tuna, penguins and much more. In addition to ever-evolving special exhibitions, the acclaimed permanent exhibits include a towering three-story kelp forest (one of the tallest aquarium exhibits in the world); touch pools and other hands-on exhibits; the award-winning Splash Zone family galleries; and the million-gallon Open Sea exhibit. A can’t-miss attraction this winter – the sea otters. On the second floor of the exhibit, you can watch them swim at the surface, while first-floor windows offer an underwater view of their lively acrobatics that usually go unseen by the human eye.  It is located in the heart of Cannery Row, to boot, which means you can walk to about a dozen other attractions before or after your visit as well, not to mention eateries and shops.

Photo credit: See Monterey

Beaching It

Eager to get into – or at the least near – the water to check things out for yourself? The region’s beaches beckon, as do copious tours. If into SCUBA, McAbee Beach right on Cannery Row is for you. Diving there feels like you are in an underground forest thanks to the lush kelp forest. If surfing is more your style, opt for Asilomar State Beach, Marina State Beach or Moss Landing State Beach to hang 10 any time of year.

If you prefer to explore the open seas, consider a whale watching (and so much more) tour in the area. A favorite is Discovery Whale Watch. In addition to sharks, who mostly keep to themselves, think of Monterey Bay as ground zero for whales, with winter being prime time to see the mighty grey whale and several species of dolphins. When fully grown, the gray whale can measure more than 50 feet long. Discovery Whale Watch not only guarantees you to see the majestic mammals on their daily three- to four-hour trips, but has a marine biologist or naturalist aboard each trip to narrate the entire adventure. In addition to teaching you about the wildlife, their experts provide information about the natural history of the local area and talk about conservation, often while collecting actual data for scientific research right with you there.

(For other ideas on where to enjoy a beach day or water-related activity, there is also a great rundown here.)

Time FORE Golf

If a fan of the PGA – or playing golf – you already know what will be written in this paragraph. That is because greater-Monterey is home to Pebble Beach Resorts, which owns and operated four of the most renowned golf courses in the world in Pebble Beach Golf Links, Spyglass Hill Golf Course, The Links at Spanish Bay and Del Monte Golf Course. In addition to these, each a challenge in its own way, golf lovers can also look to book a tee time at Pebble Beach Resort’s new short course, The Hay. The 20,000-sq.-ft. putting course designed in partnership with Tiger Woods is already a hit with the less-seasoned players more out to have fun than work on handicaps.

Portola Hotel and Spa

Rest and Relax

There are no shortage of hotels and resorts from which to choose in the area, and of course at Pebble Beach thanks to The Lodge at Pebble Beach, The Inn at Spanish Bay and Casa Palmero near the courses. If going this route, be sure to check out the boutique Casa Palmero. Known as a “resort-within-a-resort,” it offers luxurious Mediterranean-inspired design sensibility. Tucked below the first and second holes at famed Pebble Beach Golf Links, Casa Palmero is an elegant and intimate estate with just 24 private rooms.

Outside of Pebble Beach, a favorite given it is a step or two from historic Old Fisherman’s Wharf is the Portola Hotel and Spa in downtown Monterey. While already a beauty, Portola recently had a facelift that updated and upgraded its rooms and several public spaces, so even more reason to check it out. Its spa is re-opened after COVID-19 as are its restaurants, including Monterey Jacks (get it?), which focuses on California cultural cuisine, emphasizing small plates, fresh seafood.

Photo credit: See Monterey

Wine and Dine

Speaking of food, Monterey is a foodie’s paradise at every meal. Open for breakfast and lunch, Alta Bakery and Café offers an elevated New American menu inside the restored Cooper Molera complex. Enjoy locally grown, seasonal ingredients in both savory and sweet forms, as well as a robust coffee and tea menu. Redefining the modern wine bar experience, jeninni kitchen + wine bar offers a contemporary take on the sultry cuisines of the Mediterranean coast – with a special emphasis on southern Spain – alongside unique, quality wines and house-made specialty beverages. Other spots to sip and savor: Scales Seafood & Steaks, The Sardine Factory (do not let the name fool you as it is fabulous), Crab House, Fin + Field, Lalla Oceanside Grill, Vizcaino Waterfront Food & Drink and the list goes on (seriously, you cannot go wrong dining anywhere in the region).

For more, or to plan your Monterey escape, click here.

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