A stunning coastline, storybook-looking villages, wineries, and so much more are the hallmarks of picturesque Monterey County, California.
Getting to Monterey is easy—it’s just a short 1.5-hour flight from Phoenix into Monterey Regional Airport, a small, well-run locale where you’ll often have your bag and be on your way 15 minutes after landing (unless you stop to eat at Woody’s At The Airport, a destination in its own right … but more on that later).
You can see the ocean from the airport, and that’s just the beginning of this destination’s striking welcome.
Monterey (SeeMonterey.com) sits about 5.5 hours north of Los Angeles and just under three hours from San Francisco on California’s coast, and there is plenty to explore and experience here.
Wander Through Carmel-by-the-Sea
This charming village by the sea is filled with storybook architecture, cute shops, wine-tasting rooms, art galleries, and restaurants. The main street—Ocean Avenue—leads to Carmel Beach, which offers both soft sand and the perfect place to catch a sunset.
Take in Pebble Beach
Those who love golf will enjoy Pebble Beach Resorts’ world-renowned golf courses. But even those who don’t want to hit the links will enjoy the destination. There’s also a visitor center and shops, as well as several restaurants where you can enjoy a great meal and a great view.
Drive the 17-Mile Drive
To get to Pebble Beach you can drive along the 17-Mile Drive. There are gates at each end of the drive, and once through (there’s a small fee, reimbursed with purchases in the restaurants), you’ll follow a red-dotted line that leads the way through changing scenery, including giant trees, open beach views, and more. There are stops along the way, including at the Lone Cypress tree.
Go Wine Tasting
Monterey County is one of the largest wine-growing regions in California. There’s a wine trail of tasting rooms in Carmel-by-the-Sea (make sure to stop by Dawn’s Dream) as well as other locales, and numerous wineries to visit in the region itself.
Dine at Woody’s At The Airport
As Chef Tim Wood—of Carmel Valley Ranch and Bernardus fame—jokes, “We’re a restaurant with an airport attached.” Indeed Woody’s, Chef Wood’s restaurant at Monterey Regional Airport, is both a popular local hangout and a favorite of travelers. Make sure to stop by for a meal and a drink.
Drive a Classic Car Along the Coast
Monterey Touring Vehicles is a unique locale, offering a selection of iconic classic and vintage cars for rent, starting at just a half-day.
Visit Carmel Valley Ranch
This luxurious, 500-acre destination not only offers a place to stay, but a variety of activities—including golf, a farm tour, biking, and more, as well as a top-notch restaurant on-site.
Relax & Rejuvenate
Stop by a spa—I loved Vista Blue Spa at Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa (check out the view from the outdoor area). There are plenty in the area.
Explore Life in and Under the Sea
If the kids are in tow, make sure to add a stop at the renowned Monterey Bay Aquarium to your list. There are more than 35,000 creatures on view.