I’ve indulged you on the highlights of Carmel and the gorgeous road to Big Sur already, so you might be wondering what else is left to see in this area. Well, let me tell you, there is A LOT! Monterey is our next stop on this California Coasting (coastal) tour and you will find that the beauty surely doesn’t stop, the scenery is just as amazing, and the To Do List you’ll need to make keeps on growing.
One thing I think most people have on their bucket lists at some point in time is whale watching. Whether you envision yourself doing this in tropical Hawaii or chilly Alaska [or maybe Monterey], you have probably thought about it at least once or twice – I know I have! And when I got to cross this off my bucket list on this amazing trip, I felt pretty lucky. To make me feel even luckier, I got to see two different kinds of whales (orcas and humpbacks) during my tour. While they didn’t leap out of the ocean like you see in movies and on TV (I learned that takes a lot of their energy), even catching glimpses of their fins and tails was pretty amazing. I will openly admit that I have a fear of fish, so I wasn’t too sure how I would feel seeing these massive creatures while floating out in deep water, but that nervousness quickly subsided. They are so majestic it makes you appreciate their beauty more than worry about their size. You might remember an epic 90’s movie, Free Willy? Well, this whale watching adventure gave me my own Free Willy moment, which made my inner child very happy! (I actually found it on TV one night not long after I got home, and you better believe I watched it!) I recommend going with Princess Whale Watching for your tour. Within a two hour tour I saw many whales and learned a lot from my very informative guide.
My appetite grew quite a bit during whale watching, you know, since sitting on a boat looking around is so much work, so I had to find lunch afterwards. Being right at the wharf it was not too hard, as there are countless restaurants just steps from the dock. All of them entice you to come in as they hand out samples of their delicious chowder….and I found one lucky winner….maker of the best chowder I have EVER eaten, and that winner was Old Fisherman’s Grotto . I cannot even begin to describe how delicious this meal was [or how large – it came in a GIANT clam shell bowl], you will just have to try it for yourself! And if you want to take your food to a whole new level, literally, you must go to Schooners, where you can enjoy a fabulous meal directly above the cliffs. I recommend arriving early for cocktails on the outdoor patio, listening to the waves crash and watching the sunset, followed by a delicious fine dining experience indoors. They also have the cutest bar I think I have ever seen, so if nothing else, stop in for a quick look! Then, to end your food tour, you need a sweet treat of course, and why not make it a unique one in Monterey. Head downtown to Revival Ice Cream, where you can find unusual flavors, such as Blackberry Geranium or Olive Oil & Strawberry Jam. Best of all, they have gluten free waffle cones! I’ve never loved waffle cones to be honest, even when I could eat gluten, but when you find something without gluten that you have never seen, you try it…and I loved it!
Besides the chowder and other amazing food, one of the things I found most fascinating about Monterey was the helpful guides stationed around the city. Near the aquarium (which I did not go to but heard great things), I encountered my first guide. A nice older man armed with many pairs of binoculars who approached me as I was looking out over the harbor. He told me that there are volunteer guides all over Monterey to answer questions and help people see the wildlife. Pretty cool if you ask me! He showed me the otters napping out in the harbor, and explained that they wrap themselves in seaweed to anchor themselves while they sleep. Who knew?! He also told me that seals raise a fin out of the water to keep cool. My next guide interaction was during a walk past Cannery Row out toward Lovers Point, as I came upon a large crowd gathered around a beach. It happens that this beach was home to tons of Harbor Seals. And it turns out the timing of my visit just happened to be when the seal pups were being born, so I saw so many mama seals with their new pups, some of whom were only days old. The guides were so helpful and truly loved what they were doing and you could definitely tell. What a great way to share your passion with visiting tourists and help them really understand the local wildlife, don’t you think.
If you are in need of a place to stay, which you should be since you will want to spend a good amount of time here, I have recommendations for you of course! I enjoyed my time at the Hyatt Regency Monterey very much. It was a great resort with a spa, golf course and multiple restaurants on the premises. They also had two pools and two hot tubs [side note: hot-tubbing is a great rainy day activity should mother nature cry on your trip – of course with a bottle of local wine in tow it is even better]. The Hyatt was such a quiet and peaceful place. Being from Chicago, I am not used to going to bed with the “sounds” of silence, but here, I definitely did enjoy it. Now if you prefer to be located in the hustle and bustle, another fabulous hotel, a bit closer to the action, is the Monterey Plaza Hotel. It’s adjacent to the harbor, the Aquarium, Cannery Row, and is home to Schooners (see above) making it a great spot if you want to be within walking distance of many activities.
Speaking of those activities, the Monterey Bay Aquarium is renowned as one of the best aquariums in the country and is located in the famed Cannery Row district. They have a Kelp Forest that is nearly 28 feet tall, one of the tallest aquarium exhibits in the world, among many other fishy exhibits. And while I hear you could spend an entire day, some people even said two, inside the aquarium, there is a lot to see around it in the Row as well. Lots of cute shops, great restaurants and plenty of natural wildlife viewing as you enjoy the harbor.
The last adventure of this great trip was the 17 mile drive through famed Pebble Beach, which we will talk all about next, in the last of my California Coasting tour. Stay tuned for more!
Signed with Style,