Monterey Getaway Guide – Monterey was never on my bucket list. I didn’t know how beautiful it was until we went. The area is so serene, lush, the views were amazing, and the kids really enjoyed themselves during our trip. If you’re looking to relax, enjoy some (or lots) of seafood, marvel at the scenic views, enjoy some history yet add in some kid-friendly things to do, you may want to plan a future getaway to Monterey County. A Monterey Road Trip or Central Coast Road Trip perhaps?
Monterey County is located in the west coast. You can drive or fly to it. Driving north from Los Angeles, it would take you over 5 hours or if you’re coming from the north, it’s 2 hours south of San Francisco.
Monterey County is mostly comprised of coastal towns and the views were magnificent and the area is lush. Follow our Monterey Getaway Guide and make a future trip during the summer break, spring break or even during a long weekend.
Driving from Southern California, you can make multiple stops along the coast for a longer road trip. For us, we drove straight to Monterey for our Central Coast Road Trip that comprised of Monterey County & Santa Cruz and added a few cities inland like San Jose and Gilroy. We wanted to visit Yosemite and Sequoia too since we’re already up north, but we decided to save it for another trip.
MONTEREY GETAWAY GUIDE & MONTEREY ITINERARY:
DAY 1: Cannery Row & check-in at Holiday Inn Express, Monterey, CA
We arrived at Holiday Inn Express at the Historic Cannery Row which is located across the waters of Monterey. Cannery Row once housed multiple sardine canning factories back when it was still called the “Sardine Capital of the World”. Now, those factories became retail stores next to various hotels, restaurants, more retail establishments, and kid friendly attractions minus the smell.
We stayed at Holiday Inn Express so we can just walk to the various attractions the historic Cannery Row has to offer. We arrived late in the afternoon from our long drive and went back to the hotel immediately after dinner. Parking is available at the basement of the hotel. The hotel is courtyard style and was pretty clean.
CHECK OUR STAY AT HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS
There are 2 other hotels you can also consider staying at – Intercontinental (which is the hotel closest to the Monterey Bay Aquarium) or Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa (which is located on the quieter part or Cannery Row. Holiday Inn Express is located in the middle of the two.
The coast at the City of Monterey is pretty rocky, so it’s not really for swimming. But the historic Cannery Row is very charming especially at the quieter end, it has a European feel to it.
Since we drove a long way, we went back to our hotel and slept early after dinner. I also forgot to take a picture but we had Chinese food.
Day 2: Monterey Bay Aquarium & MST Trolley, Monterey
After breakfast at our hotel, we rode the free trolley which was like 30 steps away from our hotel to get to Monterey Bay Aquarium. Monterey Bay Aquarium is also walking distance but with kids in tow – the trolley is simply better and more fun.
We spent many hours at Monterey Bay Aquarium and the kids really enjoyed the whole place. From the tide simulator, the play area, to the various interactive exhibits. My personal favorite was actually the view outside. Plan a full day when visiting the aquarium.
CHECK VARIOUS WAYS TO AVAIL OF MONTEREY BAY AQUARIUM DISCOUNT TICKETS & CHECK OUR TIPS FOR VISITING
We may not have timed the whole thing properly that we were late for lunch though. By the time we got out to grab lunch, it was packed everywhere so we couldn’t get seafood. We ended up at Johnny Rockets as the kids were already hungry but I wouldn’t suggest that place as service was really slow. We went back to Monterey Bay Aquarium for another hour or 2 before heading out. After leaving, we explored Cannery Row some more and if you have the time, I would suggest renting a surrey bike to bike with the family along the Monterey Bay Recreational Trail which is a small street parallel to Cannery Row.
CHECK OUR POST REGARDING FUN THINGS TO DO IN MONTEREY
While you’re at the Cannery Row, make sure to visit the Ghirardelli Ice Cream & Chocolate Shop and go up the glass elevator to visit the Candy Shop at the same building where Johnny Rockets is.
Before grabbing our car at our hotel, we decided to ride the trolley once again, this time – to loop us around Downtown Monterey & Fisherman’s Wharf before dropping us off our hotel.
We checked in at Springhill Suites for our second night which surprisingly had an indoor pool so after settling in into our hotel room, we were off to the pool! Yey! Monterey is pretty chilly to hit the beach, so it’s a welcome surprise to see the indoor pool available at our hotel.
Our stay at Springhill Suites was very relaxing, the room is really big. Besides the 2 beds, there’s a separate pull-out bed/couch. The hotel is newer, I believed built in 2017 and just in front of the hotel is a huge retail complex where you can grab dinner & desserts and go shopping. The hotel breakfast buffet is great too!
CHECK OUR STAY AT SPRINGHILL SUITES MARRIOTT, MARINA, CA
Day 3: 17 MILE DRIVE, PEBBLE BEACH, CA & CARMEL RIVER STATE BEACH, CARMEL, CA
My favorite part of our Monterey County trip is the 17 Mile Drive! It’s so beautiful. For $10 a car, it would be one of the most beautiful coastal scenic drive you’re ever going to take. It’s also here where you can stop and take pictures at the famous Lone Cypress Tree. But my personal favorite is the Pescadero Point/Ghost Tree Stop – there’s no way to explain how beautiful those rocky cliffs are with waves splashing though it, just go visit and stop here. There are 21 points of interest that you can stop at when driving through the 17 Mile Drive. Make sure not to miss it when you do your own Monterey Getaway or Monterey Road Trip.
CHECK OUT OUR 17 MILE DRIVE TIPS & MUST SEE ATTRACTIONS
After checking the 17 Mile Drive, you can drive through the Scenic Road and go to Carmel Beach or make a stop at the very end – which is Carmel River State Beach. The kids had fun here dipping their toes in the wave for a little bit (it was freezing cold) and playing in the sand. Carmel River State Beach is part beach, part lagoon.
CHECK OUR VISIT TO THE CARMEL RIVER STATE BEACH
After visiting the beach, you can also visit the Carmel Mission at Carmel by the Sea, CA. Mission San Carlos Borromeo del río Carmelo, also known as the Carmel Mission or Mission Carmel was first built in 1797 and is one of the most authentically restored Roman Catholic mission churchess in California.
After our visit, we checked out the coast in Marina, CA (the city where our second hotel was located), checked out various Asian stores to grab snacks for the kids, and met up at BBQ place in Salinas with relatives. We had a restful sleep back at our hotel that night before heading out to Santa Cruz the next day where our Central Coast Road Trip continued unto.
If you’re near Monterey, I would suggest doing a day trip but if you have more days to spare and will be traveling from afar, 2 – 3 days or more would be great. There’s also a lot of RV camps to park at, should you wish to go that route. I believe the RV parking at Marina, CA goes for $100 a night.
We usually also post a lot about what we ate, but let’s just say we save all the eating (and the calories) when we were at Santa Cruz so watch out for our Santa Cruz Getaway Guide.
For a detailed write-up & more pictures of our stops in our Monterey Getaway Guide. Check these articles for your future trip to the Central Coast of California. Plus, also visit our Travel Tips for more travel ideas:
- Hotel in Historic Cannery Row
- Monterey Bay Aquarium Discount Tickets + Tips
- Fun Things to do in Monterey
- Part Beach & Part Lagoon in Carmel
- 17 Mile Drive: Tips & Must See Attractions
- Hotel with an Indoor Pool in Chilly Monterey