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Top 10 Most Beautiful and Best Places to Visit in Monterey

Best Places to Visit in Monterey

Monterey is a small coastal city in California with many historic sites and modern attractions. Capital of the Spanish state of California from 1770 to 1882, Monterey was once an important city for the fish canning industry. With the disappearance of sardines, the industry collapsed, but the town’s Cannery Row was immortalized by local writer John Steinbeck and his novel of the same name.

Today, it is a beautifully restored community with the original fish-packing area, shops, restaurants, and several attractions. Also along the beach are Fisherman’s Wharf and the Monterey Bay Aquarium. These world-famous attractions offer full-day adventures and are the reason for many Monterey vacations.

Monterey also boasts several stunning sceneries. The nearby Point Lobos State Preserve is the crown jewel of the California state park system. In neighboring communities like Carmel-by-the-Sea and Pacific Grove on the Monterey Peninsula, places like 17-Mile Drive and Carmel Beach have even more stunning coastal views.

Have a look at our list of the Best Places to Visit in Monterey and make your trip enjoyable.

10 Best Places to Visit in Monterey

Let’s explore the top 10 Most Beautiful and Best Places to Visit in Monterey:

1. Monterey Bay Aquarium

One of the most popular things to do in Monterey is to visit the always fun Monterey Bay Aquarium. The exhibits are fascinating, well laid out and the waterside setting is perfect. If you visit at the right time, you can catch some of the daily shows, watch penguins or otters fed by the aquarium keeper, or see tuna, sharks, turtles and other sea creatures foraging through the huge windows of the Open Sea exhibit.

The aquarium focuses on the rich marine life of Monterey Bay, but special exhibits can give you insight into other areas. The exquisite aquarium complex has been converted from the former Hovden Cannery, one of the largest of the eighteen on Cannery Row, which was located here from 1916 to 1980.

Address: 886 Cannery Street, Monterey, California

Official website:

2. 17-Mile Drive

For beautiful scenery and breathtaking views, 17-Mile Drive is a must if you’re in the area. It is located in the pretty seaside town of Carmel on the south side of the Monterey Peninsula, just a few miles from Monterey.

While there is a more direct route from Monterey to Carmel, the countryside’s scenery and a multitude of charms make it well worth the walk on 17-Mile Drive. The route starts at Pacific Grove Gate and passes through the Del Monte Forest, home to abundant cypresses and Monterey pines, picturesque beaches, isolated cliffs and several key attractions.

Of particular note are the north-south views of the iconic tree Cypress Lookout, known as the Lone Cypress, the famous Pebble Beach golf course, and The Lodge at Pebble Beach. At the end of the drive, take some time to explore the town of Carmel.

3. Cannery Row

Cannery Row was originally a seaside street that was a fish-packing area, but today it is one of Monterey’s main tourist areas, with shops, restaurants, and a scenic waterfront. Over the years it has grown from its original warehouses, brothels and budget hotels to a relatively upscale chain of shops, boutiques and restaurants. Today, it’s a great place to take a walk.

Salinas-born local writer John Steinbeck immortalized this vibrant area in his 1945 novel Cannery Row. Some tributes to the book and its author can be found on modern Cannery Row, including Steinbeck Square and the Cannery Row Memorial.

Visiting Cannery Row is easy, with stops at the Monterey Bay Aquarium and Fisherman’s Wharf. The Monterey Bay Shore Walk connects all these must-sees, exploring the beautiful coastline between each stop.

Official website:

4. Monterey and Del Monte State Beaches

Monterey’s beaches come in all shapes and sizes. From rugged recesses teeming with wildlife to expansive beaches better suited for swimming, there’s something for every type of ocean vacation. One of the most popular waterfront areas begins east of Monterey Municipal Wharf #2. Here, beaches stretch for miles along the coastline and connect several designated beaches.

Monterey Municipal Beach is the closest to the pier. It’s not a long beach but it’s very popular as it’s close to the parking lot and the rest of the beach area. The marina is also a popular beach for swimming and getting into the water as it prevents unsafe swimming conditions elsewhere in the area.

Monterey State Beach and Del Monte Beach border the shores of Monterey Municipal Beach. The state beach is divided into two parts, with Del Monte State Beach in the middle. The portion of Monterey State Beach closest to the pier is also known as the Window in the Bay Beach, possibly due to the natural entry point provided by Monterey Bay Park.

The northern portion of Monterey State Beach surrounds the Monterey Tide Hotel. Del Monte Beach in the middle offers a beautiful and peaceful ocean. There is no immediate parking, making this beach a place to avoid the crowds.

5. Point Lobos State Nature Reserve

About 15 minutes’ drive south of Carmel from Monterey is a beautiful stretch of coast surrounded by Cape Robles National Nature Reserve. The reserve is one of the best places for photography, hiking or just enjoying nature. Plan to arrive early as parking is difficult on weekends.

The extraordinary landscape includes stunning granite cliffs and unusual rock formations formed by erosion, as well as headlands, caves and rock-enclosed ponds. Tidal pools reveal tiny marine life as waves crash against the rocks. Point Lobos also has several beaches, including the largest sandy beach, Gibson Beach.

There are many interesting hiking trails in the area with magnificent views of the headland, ocean and meadows. It takes a short walk to reach almost all points of interest. If they’re lucky, visitors may spot sea otters, seals, sea lions, and whales in the winter.

Point Lobos State Nature Reserve also includes a large underwater area where scuba diving is popular.

6. Coast Guard Pier

If you are into wildlife watching or photography in the Monterey area, this is the place for you. Located between Old Fisherman’s Wharf and Cannery Row, adjacent to San Carlos Beach, the Coast Guard Pier is frequented by numerous sea lions, seals, sea otters and seabirds. As you get closer, you will be able to hear the bark of the seals.

The pier is actually a 1,700-foot breakwater that was built in the 1930s and was later covered by the pier. Today, the U.S. Coast Guard is Long Island’s home port. Fishing is allowed on the north side of the pier.

Apart from a small parking fee, guests can use it for free. If you’re traveling from other attractions in the area, the pier is also accessible from the Monterey Bay Shore Trail.

Apart from a small parking fee, guests can use it for free.

7. Monterey State Historic Park

Monterey State Historic Park borders the waterfront of Old Monterey, once the state capital of California. The park consists of historic houses and buildings, some of which are mud-brick, most of which date back to the early 19th century.

The space is relatively small and the yellow tiles on the sidewalks connect the views, making it very easy to explore. Besides the majestic houses and buildings, the gardens are particularly impressive. These range from stunning rose gardens to cypress hedges and educational herb gardens.

You can see the Monterey Harbor from Custom House Gardens. Look below as you walk through the park to see the rare whalebone walkway. State Historic Parks are often the starting point for exploring Cannery Row and other shores.

Address: 20 Custom House Plaza, Monterey, California

8. Lovers Point Park and Beach

Lover’s Point Park is one of the most beautiful parks on the Monterey Peninsula. It is located at the end of 17th Street in Pacific Grove and is accessible via Monterey Bay Beach Road. The 4.4-acre park features open meadows, beautiful sandy beaches and a rocky ledge known as Lovers Point.

The beaches at Lovers Point Park are unique as they face east. This provides early risers a rare opportunity to enjoy the west coast sunrise. The beaches are popular the rest of the day thanks to their idyllic setting.

Take some time to explore Lovers Point in the park, which offers views up and down the coastline. For those with a high appetite, the on-site Beach House restaurant offers a variety of casual options nearby. There are numerous picnic tables in the park to support outdoor picnics.

The park is also a suitable place to get into the water with a kayak or canoe, scuba gear, or stand up paddle board.

9. Monterey Art Museum

The Monterey Museum of Art has a strong focus on Californian art and artists. There are two distinct locations: the Pacific Avenue location, known as the Monterey Museum for short, focuses on photography and contemporary art by the likes of Ansel Adams, Armin Hansen, William Richell, and Edward Weston, among others.

The second location, the Monterey Museum of Art – La Mirada is housed in a beautiful old mansion surrounded by lush grounds and a beautiful rose garden. It showcases changing exhibits.

Official website:

10. San Carlos Beach

San Carlos Beach is adjacent to the Coast Guard Pier and easily accessible from the Monterey Bay Beach Walk. It’s a popular spot for diving and discovering sunken treasures on nearby Cannery Row. It’s also a popular spot to enjoy postcard ocean views or dine al fresco, with picnic tables and parks at the back end of the beach.

Within Cannery Row, McAbee Beach also provides a wonderful beachfront retreat away from surrounding attractions. Accessible only at low tide, this small beach is another common place to start a scuba diving adventure. The Cannery Row Memorial is part of Steinbeck Square, located above the beach, with a variety of seating options and viewpoints.


Hope you like our choice of the best places to visit in Monterey. If you think there are some more beautiful places to visit in Monterey, we should cover them. Write us below in the comment box.

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