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The Ultimate 4-Day Guide to Monterey County, California

How to Eat, Drink, and Travel Responsibly through California’s Central Coast

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 This blog post was published in paid partnership with the Monterey County Convention & Visitors Bureau. This post may contain affiliate links that I make a small commission off of, at no additional cost to you. All opinions are my own. 


About Monterey County

A gem in the heart of California’s Central Coast, Monterey County is a feast for the senses. Home to more than 1.4 million acres of land and some of the most scenic vistas in the world, it boasts 20 beaches across its nearly 100 miles of coastline. A quick 2-hour drive from the hustle and bustle of San Francisco, it’s the perfect destination for a long weekend getaway. 

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Ultimate Guide to Monterey California
Photo by East Coast Contessa

With some of the world’s most coveted soil, this region produces 150 different crops. This includes the freshest strawberries, lettuce, and artichokes, just to name a few. The land and sea is not only bountiful for the locals that work it, but are respected by them, too.  

A year-round agricultural mecca, everyone from restaurateurs to suppliers to winemakers instil sustainable practices . Environmentally responsible programs ensure everyone does their part to keep it one of the most pristine regions in the world.

Monterey County Agriculture
Photo by East Coast Contessa.

Read below to learn more about where to eat, stay, and play during a four-day trip to Monterey County, California!

 

Getting There

There are numerous ways to travel to Monterey County safely and conveniently. 

First, Monterey Regional Airport (MRY) is only 10 minutes from downtown Monterey. It’s 15 minutes from Carmel-by-the-Sea, and 25 minutes from downtown Salinas. Daily flights are available from San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, Las Vegas, Denver, Dallas, Seattle, and more. 

Monterey County Regional Airport
Photo by Monterey County Regional Airport.
Air, Land, & Sea

MRY is connected to more than 95 domestic and international destinations with just one connection. Other airports within driving distance to Monterey County include, San Francisco (SFO), San Jose, and Oakland. 

There are two scenic routes to Monterey County by car which are Highway 1 and Highway 101

Amtrak and Greyhound also operate routes through Monterey County. Both stop in Salinas with connecting services to downtown Monterey. 

Tip: Fly into San Jose and pick up a rental car from the airport. The airport is small and easy to navigate and not too crowded. However, plan to wait at least 30 minutes to an hour in line to pick it up. There are only a few rental car companies.

What to Pack

With mild weather most of the year, expect highs in the upper 60’s and lows around 50. Pack layers for the changing weather patterns which can include coastal mist, chilly mornings, and warmer afternoons. 

What to Pack
Photo by Travel & Leisure.

Below are the must-have items to pack for four days in Monterey County

  • Light sweaters
  • Wind breaker or light jacket
  • Rain poncho if whale watching or spending time on the water
  • Clean socks 
  • Non-slip hiking shoes or sneakers
  • Bathing suit (or swim trunks)
  • Sandals (not flip flops)
  • Jeans
  • Leggings (or sweatpants)
  • White cotton button up shirt 
  • Long sleeve white shirt
  • Maxi sundresses (or dress pants)
  • Khakis 

 

Day 1: Evening in Monterey

Where to Stay

Monterey County has a plethora of lodging options from low key affordable to ultra luxurious. There is a hotel for every budget!

For those seeking to stay in ultimate luxury, the Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa is an easy choice.

Monterey Plaza Hotel
Photo by East Coast Contessa.

Sitting quaintly overlooking Monterey Bay near historic Cannery Row,  it’s the closest property to the ocean on the California coast. It also sits in close proximity to many of the region’s most popular sights including the Monterey Bay Aquarium, Big Sur, and the 17-Mile Drive at Pebble Beach.

Built in 1980 and remodelled in 2018, it boasts 290 rooms, many which offer partial or full ocean views. 

Photo by East Coast Contessa.

After driving from San Jose, we leave our car in with a valet upon arrival and head for check in. From the lobby, we immediately hear crashing waves and the barking of seals at the beach below.

We are each given a glass of complimentary regional Pinot Noir and led to our rooms across a courtyard that offers full views of Monterey Bay.

Accommodations

Our room is a 400 sq. ft. Ocean View Two Queen Balcony. Sitting directly over the crashing ocean below. It’s equipped with all of the essentials and more: microfiber beds, spa amenities in the bathroom, a Nespresso machine, and marble bathroom. A pair of complementary binoculars stand on the table next to the balcony for wildlife viewing. 

Monterey Plaza Hotel
Photo by East Coast Contessa.

We unpack and a knock at the door yields the most beautiful charcuterie board from Monterey Plaza’s on-site restaurant, Schooners. It’s scattered with local meats, cheeses, and jams with assorted crackers, bread, and of course, a bottle of local Pinot Noir for pairing. 

We pull back the curtains and open the windows to the ocean view balcony and take in the sights and sounds before freshening up for dinner.

Dinner at Coastal Kitchen

A brand new dining experience at Monterey Plaza Hotel, Coastal Kitchen features an ever-changing tasting menu highlighting the region’s best ingredients.

Coastal Kitchen Monterey
Photo by East Coast Contessa.

Executive Chef Michael Rotondo brings years of knowledge and expertise in blending flavors and textures. This paired with the preciseness of Sommelier Conrad Reddick, guests experience one of the most impressive pairings on the West Coast.

Coastal Kitchen Monterey
Photo by East Coast Contessa.

The six course tasting menu has no shortage of fresh and sustainable seafood — Maine Diver Scallops and Miso Marinated Black Cod — as well as tastings of more unexpected plates like Tortellini en Brodo and 48-hour Braised Beef Short-rib. 

Coastal Kitchen Monterey
Photo by East Coast Contessa.

The meal is polished off with a wine pairing for each of the six tastings. Vinos from Spain, France, Hungary, and Austria headline the table and create an artistic design as the light reflects off the glass. An early favorite is the French Brut Rosé from Gaston-Chiquet.

Wine Tasting Monterey
Photo by East Coast Contessa.

Each dish shines equally, but the dessert is the perfect finale to enjoy with a stunning sunset over the Pacific. 

A beautiful marriage of raspberry, lychee, rose, champagne, and pink peppercorn paired with Tokaji- Aszu Royal is sweet perfection.

Best Dessert in Monterey California
Photo by East Coast Contessa.

Make a reservation and view the current tasting menu at Coastal Kitchen here

 

Day 2: Monterey, Salinas Valley,  Big Sur, Marina

 

Tidal Coffee at Monterey Plaza Hotel

Our second day is a busy one, so we rise before the sun to take to the road. But first, we make a pit stop at another local favorite: Tidal Coffee

Tidal Coffee Monterey
Photo by East Coast Contessa.

 

Attached to the Monterey Plaza Hotel, it serves craft coffee, breakfast sandwiches, baked goods, and snacks. It’s the perfect spot to grab a to-go meal, but this morning we decide to sit and take in the view of the bay with our breakfast. 

Since the morning is a chilly one, we order a raspberry mocha with almond milk and a dark hot chocolate with whipped cream to warm up.

Tidal Coffee Monterey
Photo by East Coast Contessa.

 

For food, we choose to go half-savory- half-sweet combo with a salmon lox sesame bagel with sun-dried tomatoes, and a raspberry Kouign Amann pastry.

Tidal Coffee Monterey
Photo by East Coast Contessa.

 

Tip: Tidal Coffee opens at 7 a.m., and it’s best to get there as early as possible to beat the line out of the door. It’s that good!

View hours of operation and full menu here.

Ag Venture Tours

After breakfast, the agricultural haven of Castroville is our next destination.

Known for its extensive number of artichoke crops and the annual Artichoke Festival, it rightfully earned the nickname, “The Artichoke Capital of the World.” 

Castroville Artichokes
Photo by East Coast Contessa.

We arrive at the meeting place for the day’s first activity, the Instagrammable roadside Pezzini Farm. One of the area’s most respected artichoke farms, Pezinni specializes in growing and selling Heirloom artichokes and other local produce and gifts. 

We meet Evan Oakes, a local tour guide and owner of Ag Venture Tours — a wine tasting, sightseeing, and agricultural education tour. Since 1997, Evan has shown visitors the very best of the region’s booming agriculture industry. 

Ag Venture Tours
Photo by East Coast Contessa.

Both half-day walking tours and driving tours are available daily. This day, we board a comfortable air conditioned van to explore the fields in the surrounding towns. 

From Castroville, we drive through other areas of the Salinas Valley, known as the “Salad Bowl of the World” for its vibrant and vast array of farmland.

Monterey County California
Photo by East Coast Contessa.

Monterey’s Agricultural History

Along the drive, Evan describes the differences in crops and soil, how they are planted, watered, and harvested. We pass fields growing strawberries, lettuce, cauliflower, broccoli, and blackberries that span as far as the eye can see. 

Towards the end of the tour, Evan reveals a local hidden favorite: the small roadside stop of Driscoll’s Berry Shop in Aromas. Here, locals get their daily fruit fresh from the vine. 

Driscoll's Berry Store
Photo by East Coast Contessa.

We order a bushel of strawberries, blackberries, and blueberries and take a seat in the picnic area to take in the sights and flavors. It’s the freshest strawberry I’ve ever had!

We end the three-hour tour back at Pezzini Farms where Evan demonstrates how to properly cut, steam, and eat an Heirloom artichoke. 

Pezinni Farm Monterey
Photo by East Coast Contessa.

The tour not only teaches guests valuable insights into the hospitality and agriculture industries in the area, but gives a unique perspective on local life in the community. 

Book a half-day van or walking tour via Get Your Guide, Peek, or by contacting Ag Venture Tours directly. You can email Evan at Evan@agventuretours.com. Booking in advance is encouraged. Guests with disabilities can also be accommodated with advance notice.

Artichoke Capital of the World
Photo by East Coast Contessa.

Tip: Don’t leave Pezzini Farm without placing an order of fried artichokes with garlic aioli dipping sauce from the Choke Coach food truck. Take a homemade artichoke cupcake to-go — you won’t regret it. 

 

Lunch under Wharf #2

Under Wharf #2 at Fisherman’s Wharf (also known as the Commercial Wharf), you can find one of Monterey’s best hidden gems — literally. 

The Sandbar and Grill hangs underneath the pier in a dramatic fashion, but it is anything but forgotten. 

Sand Bar & Grill Monterey
Photo by East Coast Contessa.

A favorite meeting spot for locals, the Sandbar and Grill offers an uncomplicated menu with fresh local seafood paired with stunning views of the marina. 

We hear that the homemade clam chowder can’t be missed here. To oblige, we order a large bowl along with a toasted French baguette for dipping.

Sand Bar and Grill Monterey
Photo by East Coast Contessa.

To share, we order a bowl of steamed mussels with dry sherry, garlic, tomatoes, and tarragon, and the famous “Sanddabs” — local catch — with homemade tartar sauce. 

Other menu items worth trying are the calamari steak with lemon and capers, and the Prawns Scampi.

Best Restaurants in Monterey
Photo by East Coast Contessa.

Tip: Make time to walk down the wharf to admire the sail boats, and keep an eye out for seals and otters!

View hours of operation and full lunch, dinner, and Sunday Brunch menus here.

Big Sur Salts

From lunch, we head back to the Monterey Plaza Hotel to meet Carlo Overhulser, the founder of Big Sur Salts.

After a run-in with a rogue wave while hiking in Big Sur, Carlo decided to take some water home with him in a beer bottle. Weeks after forgetting the beer bottle was there, he found it. 

What remained was not water but the purest salt he had ever laid eyes on. His fascination of salt dehydration began, thus, so did the idea of Big Sur Salts

Big Sur Salts
Photo by East Coast Contessa.
Respecting Nature’s Bounty

Currently, Carlo is the only company licensed to responsibly and sustainably harvest salt from Big Sur. This is done in an effort to preserve the coastline’s unique habitats and fragile ecosystem.

To see first-hand where the harvesting magic happens, we head to the coastline for a short hike. Our destination is one of Carlo’s many salt holes. From above, Carlo explains the process from harvesting to dehydration, and finally, to production and sale. 

Big Sur Salts
Photo by East Coast Contessa.

We then drive to Carmel Valley and make our way through the property at Carmel Valley Ranch. Propped on a beautiful hillside sits one of Carlo’s numerous salt houses where the magic happens. 

The process of “sel gris” made popular by the French is one that Carlo has perfected, reflecting the classic and laid back vibes of Monterey County in each jar.

Big Sur Salts
Photo by East Coast Contessa.

Currently, Carlo’s salt blends are featured in dozens of retail stores and regional restaurants. He also partners with big-name brands for innovative collaborations. This includes the Monterey Bay Aquarium which sells the exclusive “Deep, Dark, and Salty” chocolate bar. 

His Barbera salt blend is also featured on the menu at Salt Wood Kitchen in the popular Grilled Ad Astra Olive Bread.

Carlo of Big Sur Sea Salts
Photo by East Coast Contessa.

Carlo offers personal tours to give visitors a chance to learn about his process of creating Big Sur Salts first hand. His salt blends are also for sale at nearly 50 retailers across California.

Shop all of Carlo’s Big Sur Salts blends here.

Dinner Among the Dunes

Near Marina State Beach, the stunning property of The Sanctuary Beach Resort lies among towering sand dunes. 

Best Restaurants in Monterey
Photo by East Coast Contessa.

In the middle of the property is Salt Wood Kitchen and Oysterette.

One of the region’s leading culinary destinations, Salt Wood serves refined California coastal classics and craft cocktails with no shortage of stunning views.

Saltwood Kitchen Monterey
Photo by East Coast Contessa.

With three main dining environments, guests can enjoy their meals at the full service bar, the outdoor patio, or the main restaurant. A wood burning fireplace sets the scene for the ultimate coastal dining experience. 

Cocktails, Crab, & Coastlines, Oh My!

First, I order a lemony cocktail called the “Summer Fog” to pair with the “Grilled Ag Astra Olive Bread” made with Big Sur Salts. The two together taste like a sunny summer day.

To share, we order an appetizer of the Dungeness Crab Mac n’ Cheese with chunks of fresh crab meat and a blend of creamy cheeses. 

Salt Wood Kitchen Monterey
Photo by East Coast Contessa.

We’re told not to pass up the Coffee Crusted Scallops, so we get a plate of those too.

For mains, I choose the “Ora King Salmon” with Shrimp Etoufeé and pickled peppers, and my dad goes for the “Oak Wood Smoked Half Chicken” with a side of mac n’ cheese.

The portions are very generous in relation to the prices, so there is no leaving hungry. 

Salt Wood Kitchen Monterey
Photo by East Coast Contessa.

Other menu items that can’t be missed are the “Wasabi Crusted Ahi Tuna,” and the “Baby Lettuce Caesar.”

View Salt Wood’s hours of operation and full brunch, dinner, and wine menus here.

 

Day 3: Monterey, Soledad


Breakfast on the Bay

We start our third day in Monterey with breakfast on the bay at the elegant oceanfront restaurant, Schooners.

Schooners Monterey
Photo by East Coast Contessa.

On site at the Monterey Plaza Hotel, Schooners specializes in serving contemporary American cuisine using sustainable seafood.

On the heated waterfront terrace, it’s easy to see why it’s known as “the best drink with a view.” 

Seafood & Fresh-Pressed Juices

First, we order two vanilla lattes and a perfectly pressed juice called “Summer Love” to start. The breakfast menu features plenty of fresh seafood including Dungeness crab, prawns, and smoked salmon. 

Best Restaurants in Monterey
Photo by East Coast Contessa

Second, we choose two of the most popular dishes: the “Dungeness Crab Benedict” with breakfast potatoes, and the decadent “Buttermilk Pancakes” with local blueberry jam and yuzu marmalade. 

Other breakfast dishes that are worth trying are the “Barrel Aged Smoked Salmon”, and the “Monterey Seafood Omelette” with Dungeness crab and smoked prawns.

If an early morning drink is your thing, the “Plaza Mary” is a popular choice, and comes adorned with two slices of crispy bacon, fresh olives, pickle, and seared prawns. It’s voted the best Bloody Mary in Monterey for a reason!

Schooners Monterey
Photo by East Coast Contessa.

Learn more about Schooners and view the full breakfast, lunch, dinner, wine, and kids menus here.

Wine Tourism in Monterey County

Home to a robust wine region with nine American Viticultural Areas (AVAs), Monterey County has no shortage of award-winning wineries. 

Visitors can not only participate in wine tastings, but can experience educational vineyard tours or food and wine pairings featuring dishes made from the bounty of the region. 

Monterey County Wine Tourism
Photo by East Coast Contessa.
Prime for Growing Vines

The Santa Lucia Highlands AVA alone is the largest grower of Chardonnay in the United States. It also produces the largest amount of Pinot Noir in California!
Both the scenic Salinas Valley and Carmel Valley areas continue to expand their tasting room scene — three have opened in the past six months at vineyards within 22 miles from each other. 

We spent a day exploring two of Monterey County’s most unique wineries: Chalone Vineyard and Joyce Wine Company.

Chalone Vineyard

As Monterey’s first winery, Chalone Vineyard is a must-visit. 

It sits at the base of the Pinnacles National Park on the Gavilan Plateau, 1,800 feet above the Salinas Valley.

Here, the volcanic limestone soil of the Chalone AVA gives these wines a very distinctive and award – winning flavor. It’s the only winery in this particular AVA, a federally designated area that has rare climatic and geologic features. 

Chalone Vineyard
Photo by East Coast Contessa

However, it’s not just the wines that draw visitors to Chalone each year, but rather the history. The first vines were planted in 1919 and still grow in the front of the vineyard to this day.

With a focus on Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, Chalone winemaker Greg Freeman also produces limited amounts of Pinot Blanc, Chenin Blanc, and Syrah. The entire process from vine to bottle is controlled and completed at the estate. 

Chalone Vineyard Monterey
Photo by East Coast Contessa.

For the tasting, we sample a Pinot Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Grenache, and Syrah each. The Pinot Blanc and Chardonnay are an easy favorite, but it’s the 2019 Reserve Pinot Noir that takes the prize. 

Learn more about Chalone and view its full wine selection and prices here

Joyce Wine Company

A short 30 minute drive from Chalone, we arrive at Joyce Estate Winery in Soledad. 

Monterey County Wine
Photo by East Coast Contessa.

A part of the Arroyo Seco AVA, owner and founder Russell Joyce places importance on harvesting locally grown organic fruit from the estate. Joyce Vineyards also works with trusted local growers to promote innovation and sustainability. 

Joyce has been in the wine making business since he was a kid, when the first vines were planted behind his family’s home in Carmel Valley. 

Joyce Wine Co
Photo by East Coast Contessa.

Since then, the self-taught Joyce has built Joyce Wine Company into two locations — a tasting room in Carmel Valley, and the Estate Winery in Soledad. 

Laid Back Cali Vibes

The vibe at the Soledad location is typical of a laid back California summer day. Families enjoy games of corn hole outside, groups of friends enjoy wine tastings, and couples have picnics paired with their favorite blend. 

Joyce Wine Co.
Photo by East Coast Contessa.

Here, we sample a Submarine Canyon Chardonnay, a 2021 Sauvignon Blanc, an Arroyo Seco Rosé, and two different blends of Pinot Noir. 

The 2021 Arroyo Seco Rosé and the Submarine Canyon Pinot Noir are my favorites, but the Pinot Noir wins a coveted spot in my suitcase.

Joyce Wine Co.
Photo by East Coast Contessa.

Tastings at the Estate Winery can be completed inside or outside. They can be reserved for parties of one to six people on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays.

Learn more about Joyce Wine Company wines and make a tasting reservation here

17-Mile Drive

There are nearly 100 miles of coastline in Monterey County, but one of the most beautiful is easily the 17-Mile Drive located within Pebble Beach.

Since 1881 when horse-drawn carriages would travel the road from the former Hotel Del Monte, it’s been a source of scenic history for those visiting Monterey County

17 Mile Drive
Photo by East Coast Contessa.

Today, guests follow the red-dashed line in the middle of the road to wind through the Del Monte Forest to lay their eyes on one of the most scenic drives in the world.

17-Mile Drive’s Best Stops
  1. The Lone Cypress. A more than 250 year-old Cypress Tree sits atop a rocky pedestal overlooking a dramatic Pacific Ocean coastline. It’s also the halfway point of the 17-Mile Drive.

    Lone Cypress Monterey
    Photo by East Coast Contessa
  2. Ghost Trees at Pescadero Point. Explore hundreds of spooky sun-bleached Cypress trees.

  3. Seal Rock/Bird Rock. This wildlife hub is buzzing with hundreds of birds, harbor seals, and dramatic sea lions. It’s also a great spot for a picnic, a walk among the tide pools, or a stretch.

    17 Mile Drive Monterey
    Photo by East Coast Contessa.
  4. Cypress Point Lookout. This is the best spot on the drive to enjoy a California sunset against pure white sand. Keep in mind it’s closed from April 1 to June 1 each year for pupping season.

It costs $11.25 per vehicle to enter the 17-Mile Drive. The gate fee can be reimbursed with a purchase of $35 or more at all Pebble Beach Resorts restaurants. 

Tip: Plan to spend at least a full day exploring all of the stops on 17-Mile Drive. There are 17 stops along the route and all of them are worth getting out of your vehicle for. 

Dinner in Carmel-by-the-Sea

A short 10-minute drive South, we arrive at the quaint beach town of Carmel-by-the-Sea

Known for its fairytale cottages and village-like town center with European influenced architecture, it also has a bustling food scene. 

Basil Seasonal Dining

We’re here for dinner at Basil Seasonal Dining, a locally-sourced casual spot serving Italian fare with California flare. As Carmel’s first Certified Green Restaurant, menu ingredients change four or five times a year. The menu features only organic ingredients and sustainable seafood is delivered daily.

Owner Denis Boaro, a native of Venice, Italy, is no stranger to the restaurant business, serving cuisines that bring guests back again and again.

Carmel by the Sea
Photo by East Coast Contessa.

Cozy and romantic both inside and out, the outdoor patio is a local favorite for its dog-friendly atmosphere. 

Since it’s slightly chilly, we take a seat outside under the heating lamps.

Italian Cuisine with a Cali Twist

First, we order a large bowl of creamy artichoke soup to warm up. 

Second, we savor Basil’s famous bruschetta on fresh ciabatta bread. It is topped with cherry tomatoes, black truffle sauce, buffalo mozzarella, Monterey Sea Salt, and Basil’s very own pesto.

It’s the freshest and most flavorful bruschetta I’ve had (and I’ve been to Italy five times!)

Basil Seasonal Dining
Photo by East Coast Contessa.

For mains, I order the special of the day which is a tender lobster ravioli in a creamy pink sauce. My dad orders the Traditional Lasagna with beef bolognese, ricotta cheese, and San Marzano marinara. We both get mounds of fresh Parmesan shavings on top and it’s a necessary addition. 

Lastly, Basil offers a full bar and an ever changing list of both local Monterey County and Italian wine selections. Selections on this wine list are hand-picked by Boaro himself. 

Basil Seasonal Dining
Photo by East Coast Contessa.

View Basil’s hours of operation and the current seasonal menus for brunch, dinner, dessert and wine here.

 

Day 4: Monterey, Seaside

As the sun rises over the water and peeps through the cracks in the curtains, we make our way to the hotel property’s private beach. 

We finish watching the sunrise with a hot latte and take a stroll along Cannery Row, the historic remnants of Monterey’s former sardine canning industry. 

Cannery Row

Once the most famous street in America, it’s now home to specialty shops, local art galleries, and more than 25 restaurants to bring a new vibe to downtown Monterey. 

Vista Blue Spa

We have some downtown before our breakfast reservations, so we take the elevator up to the penthouse to explore Vista Blue Spa.

Vista Blue Spa Monterey
Photo by East Coast Contessa.

This award-winning luxury spa and fitness center offers generous doses of sunshine and relaxation with full views of Monterey Bay from any viewpoint. 

It’s been named one of Travel + Leisure’s Top 25 Spas, and for three years in a row has been named one of Conde Nast’s Top 75 Hotel Spas in North America. It’s easy to see why.

Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa
Photo by East Coast Contessa.

The sundeck is the most impressive component with two whirlpool hot tubs and a fireplace. Without hesitation, we take advantage of the two hot tubs which we have all to ourselves for the moment. 

Vista Blue Spa offers classic massages, warm stone massages, prenatal massages, European style facials, and nail and waxing services. A private spa suite is also available for 45 minute or two hour reservations. 

Best Hotels in Monterey
Photo by East Coast Contessa.

Vista Blue Spa’s entire service menu and hours of operation can be found here.

Arrive at the spa as soon as it opens at 8 a.m. Both the facility and the uninterrupted views of Monterey Bay will be all yours — at least for a little while.

 

Breakfast at Googie Grill

With a long day of travel ahead, we drive to the town of Seaside for our last breakfast of the trip at Googie Grill.

Googie Grill 2
Photo by East Coast Contessa.

A 1950s-era vintage cafe, Googie’s is a brightly hued and colorful local favorite. Since 2014, it has been serving locals traditional American fare with a California twist. 

Most known for their delicious breakfast specialties and cooked-to-perfection steak and fish, the French-style beignets take the title. 

Googie Grill
Photo by East Coast Contessa.

Beignets come towering with mounds of powdered sugar and a side of fresh blueberry preserves. They are a must.

Another can’t miss dish is the “Calamari Steak & Eggs”. It includes a lightly breaded calamari steak. After all, Monterey is known as the “Calamari Capital of the World”!

Calamari Capital of the World
Photo by East Coast Contessa.

Googie Grill’s hours of operation and full breakfast, lunch, and dinner menus are here.

 

Know Before You Go

  • Monterey County is beautiful year-round, but the best months to visit this coastal haven are the fall and spring months.
  • Eat more than just the clam chowder bread bowls! While delicious, the region’s fertile soil creates a food and wine scene unlike any other. 

    Monterey County California
    Photo by East Coast Contessa.
  •  While the aquarium is a must-see attraction in its own right, Monterey County has so much to offer. Walk along a coastal park trail or drive down River Road Wine Trail to explore tasting rooms.
  • Order local and buy local. Shopping local not only helps businesses financially, but is a great way to practice responsible travel.

    Monterey County California
    Photo by East Coast Contessa.
  • Don’t eat at restaurants you can enjoy back home. Dine at local restaurants that feature produce grown in Monterey County.  For many of these restaurants, fresh seafood is caught hours before.
  • Many restaurants participate in the Monterey Bay Aaquarium’s Seafood Watch program. This program supports environmentally responsible products and suppliers. 

    Monterey County California
    Photo by East Coast Contessa.

Planning a U.S. Road Trip this Summer?

Do you have plans to visit Monterey County soon? Leave any questions for me in the comment section below!

Planning a U.S. vacation this year? Read some of my other destination guides here and here

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Ultimate Guide to Monterey

25 Comments
  1. Jenn says

    So many beautiful things to see and the food looks AMAZING! That dessert at Coastal Kitchen is such a feast for the eyes, I’m sure it must have been delicious. Monterey is one of my favorite places to visit, gotta get back there again!

    1. Alexandra Booze says

      Yes! The food at Coastal Kitchen was my favorite, though all of the produce and seafood in Monterey County is next-level! So fresh and flavorful. I hope you make it back there someday soon!

  2. Cristina says

    I hadn’t heard much about Monterey until I discovered your blog. After reading it, I am adding it to my list! This is such a lovely place with beautiful nature. I would love to try the food in the places to eat you have covered too. It looks delicious!

    1. Alexandra Booze says

      I’m so glad I could introduce you to Monterey County! The food here is truly incredible, but the nature is next-level! So much wildlife and gorgeous landscapes. I hope you can visit someday soon!

  3. Erin says

    17 mile drive is my favorite thing to do! I absolutely loved this drive with amazing golf courses and the lone cypress! Great itinerary!

    1. Alexandra Booze says

      It was definitely one of the highlights of my trip there too! Such a unique thing to do and so full of beauty! Thank you for reading my itinerary 🙂

  4. Brittany says

    We drove through Monterrey on a Pacific Coast Road Trip when I was younger, but we didn’t stop to explore. This post has convinced me I need to go back! Thanks for sharing. I would love to check out the wineries!

    1. Alexandra Booze says

      It’s definitely worth stopping to explore! It’s a good excuse to go back to that area for round two 🙂

  5. Krista says

    This looks like a gorgeous part of California to explore! And the food all looks amazing too.

  6. Kathryn says

    Love love LOVE Monterey!! We have friends in Santa Cruz, so have vebtured to Monterey a couple times. You’ve got great recommendations here!

    1. Alexandra Booze says

      Ohh so lucky! I definitely want to get back at some point within the next year to explore more of Big Sur, Carmel-by-the-Sea, and whale watch! It’s a lovely area.

  7. Bea says

    Monterey County looks like a dream!!! I love all the vineyards and your food photography is exquisite. I’ve made note of your suggestions for my next visit to the region.

    1. Alexandra Booze says

      The vineyards are one of the biggest draws to Monterey County! The wine is also exceptional. I hope you get to visit again soon!

  8. Alma says

    Monterey County looks like the place to soothe all the senses! That food looks & sounds delicious. Learnt a few interesting things about Monterey and California as well, so thanks for sharing this info.

    1. Alexandra Booze says

      It’s definitely a place to go to relax! Everything about it is just heavenly. I hope you get to visit someday soon!

  9. Pam says

    I’ve heard of Monterey because of the whale watching, but it looks so beautiful and quaint! What a great getaway place.

    1. Alexandra Booze says

      I need to go back to experience the whale watching! I have heard it is quite epic myself. It’s certainly great spot for a long weekend getaway!

  10. Alexandra says

    Okay- so I’m certainly going now and I’m going to totally take this food tour! Your choices look so so good!!!

    1. Alexandra Booze says

      Ah yay I love to hear that! You will absolutely love it!

  11. Elizabeth says

    The Vista Blue Spa sounds like the place for me. I also loved the idea of visiting a farm. Thank you for giving this local girl so many new and interesting ideas for exploring my Northern California home.

    1. Alexandra Booze says

      That spa was the dreamiest! I could have spent an entire day just there let alone the rest of the hotel. It’s so nice! You definitely have some exploring to do hehe

  12. Yvonne says

    What a great itinerary! I found the packing list especially helpful! And the food looks absolutely incredible! What an incredible, relaxing and indulgent getaway!

    1. Alexandra Booze says

      So glad you found it helpful! The weather is usually mild but always nice to pack it all just in case 🙂 The food is the freshest I’ve tasted pretty much ever. Definitely bring an appetite if visiting Monterey!

  13. Terri says

    Your post definitely fires me up to visit California and do a winery trek! Great ideas and photos. The food looks yummy.

    1. Alexandra Booze says

      I love to hear that! Yes, the food is sooo good in this region of California. Bring an appetite when you go!

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