Featured Members: Carmel Food Tour, The Wine Experience, Passionfish, Roy's at Pebble Beach, The Bench, Stillwater Bar & Grill, Carmel Mission, Monterey Bay Aquarium, Cannery Row, Cindy's Waterfront, Earthbound Farm, Ag Venture Tours, Monterey Zoo, Esalen, Vista Blue Spa, Peter B's, Alvarado Brewing Company, Bruno's Market, Sunset Center, Basil, Spindrift Inn
We San Franciscans are seriously spoiled when it comes to food. With an abundance of ethnic eats, food trucks, home-grown specialties and craft beers, our city by the bay boasts a formidable foodie culture fueled by diversity. We’ve embraced it, cultivated it, and now, we expect it to follow us wherever we go.
Luckily, our fair neighbor to the south, Monterey County, is not only suffused with stunning natural beauty, but enjoys an impressive foodie culture of its own. So whether you’re planning the next big family vacation, a girls’ weekend, or a romantic getaway for two, Monterey County is poised to satisfy all your dining desires, with a marathon of food and wine experiences to match the pace of any trip. Whatever your traveling style, you’ll find your fix in Monterey—and it will be delicious.
Wine and dine. In Monterey County, excellent cuisine and fantastic, locally produced wines go hand in hand. True foodies should start their trip with the Carmel Food Tour, a three-hour guided exploration of Carmel-By-The-Sea’s best attractions and top plates, from vinegar-drizzled ice cream to Kobe beef ribs. Here, culture and cuisine go hand in hand, and you’ll get to taste-test seven of the city’s most iconic eateries. Choose from the classic walking tour or the Gimme-A-Breakfast tour to start your day right.
Later, visit The Wine Experience on Cannery Row. An oenophile’s dream come true, this unique hotspot offers a wide variety of vino-centered experiences, including wine tastings, wine classes, wine blending and wine making, along with perfectly paired small plates for those with room in their bellies. Customers get to design their own bottles and labels and take home any wine they make.
For dinner, head to Passionfish in Pacific Grove, where famed chef Ted Walter serves up slow-cooked meats and spectacular seafood like basil-stuffed rainbow trout and sea scallops in tomato truffle butter. As an officially recognized restaurant partner of the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program, Passionfish is dedicated to serving only the most sustainable seafood, so you can feel good about what tastes good.
Soak up the scenery. As one of the most stunningly beautiful regions on the planet, Monterey County is brimming with Instagram-ready sights to see and capture. You’ll need no filter for the cerulean waves crashing against soaring cliffs, ancient missions weathered by centuries of California sunshine, and emerald green valleys fringed by mountains. These picturesque scenes are dotted with an abundance of wildlife, from the sunbathing sea lions of Monterey Bay to the soaring California condors of Pinnacles National Park.
Cruise down the famous 17-Mile Drive to see some of the area’s most treasured landmarks, including the famed Lone Cypress and an array of gorgeous seaside mansions. Grab a bite with a view at one of the many award-winning seafood restaurants along the coast, including Roy’s at Pebble Beach for Hawaiian fusion and bagpipe-playing at sunset. The Lodge at Pebble Beach features multiple dining options, depending on your view of choice. Try The Bench for sophisticated international fare overlooking the famous Pebble Beach Golf Links’ 18th hole or Stillwater Bar & Grill for breathtaking panoramas of Carmel Bay, fresh-caught seafood and legendary Sunday brunch.
Bring the whole family. Sure to enchant children of all ages (and parents, too!) Monterey County has something for everyone. Check into the Carmel Mission Inn, an affordable and family-friendly hotel with a pool just off the Pacific Coast highway, providing a perfect vantage point for some of the region’s best activities. Kids will love the life-sized cow statues that guard the resort, and parents will appreciate the wealth of unique shopping options within walking distance
Families must not miss the famous Monterey Bay Aquarium, located on historic Cannery Row and packed full of marine delights, from playful sea otters to giant Pacific octopus. Stop for lunch at one of several on-site restaurants; you’ll find kid-approved pizza and burgers at the Café and creative plates like Pacific rockfish tacos and oysters bingo at Cindy’s Waterfront.
Teach youngsters about the importance of sustainable agriculture at Earthbound Farm, an organic paradise nestled in the mountains of Carmel Valley. Bursting with family-friendly activities, the farm has a cut-your-own herb garden, chamomile walking labyrinth, and Kids’ Garden with a maze, teepee and pint-sized picnic tables. Create your own family feast with fresh produce from the farm stand or grab a tasty meal from their certified organic kitchen.
Seize your own adventure. From biking to hiking to boating to hang-gliding, Monterey County’s rugged coastlines and soaring mountain vistas offer no shortage of white-knuckle adventure. For those whose adventurous spirits extend to their palates, the Ag Venture Tour is a must. Hop into a van with one of their friendly and knowledgeable guides for a cross-country excursion deep into the Salinas Valley, focusing either on wine tasting, sightseeing or agricultural education. Known as “the Salad Bowl of the World,” this gorgeous green expanse provided the backdrop for some of John Steinbeck’s most famous literary works, and today supplies much of our nation’s produce, including lettuce, cauliflower and broccoli.
For something totally different, Vision Quest Ranch at the Monterey Zoo is a one-of-a-kind animal sanctuary housing more than a hundred exotic birds and animals. Here, you can spend the night in one of the ranch’s cozy bungalows, sung to sleep by the chirps and howls of your wild neighbors. In the morning, breakfast is served by an African elephant. How’s that for a once-in-a-lifetime culinary adventure?
Sit back and relax. Many people come to Monterey County for one thing and one thing only: to break away from life’s hectic pace, take a deep breath of coastal valley air, and reee-lax. For this, the region offers a wide variety of luxurious spas, from the natural hot spring baths of Esalen Institute to Monterey Plaza Hotel’s Vista Blue Spa overlooking the water. Foodies with a taste for serenity must not miss the VinoTherapy Pedicure at the Spa at Bernadus Lodge. Start by sipping a glass of award-winning Bernardus Chardonnay and munching on an artisanal cheese plate while soaking your toes in a Chardonnay bubble bath. Then there’s a pure cane sugar and grape seed scrub, Chardonnay moisturizer massage, and polish. It’s the perfect marriage of “yum” and “aaah.”
Then, head to downtown Monterey to kick back with a cold one at one of the many chilled-out bars and breweries. Peter B’s Brewpub at the Portola Hotel is Monterey’s original craft brewery. Relax on their pet-friendly patio with fire pits for cool evenings or watch the game while sampling local brews and tasty pub food. A few steps away, there’s the Alvarado Street Brewery & Grill, which pairs house-made beers with locally sourced dishes like truffle crawfish mac ‘n cheese and heirloom tomato pomodoro. Walk it all off with a sunset stroll along Del Monte Beach.
Make time for romance. Is Monterey County the most romantic destination in America? Quite possibly. For an unforgettable getaway with the one you love, check into Monterey Bay’s Spindrift Inn, twice voted the most romantic hotel in America by TripAdvisor. Listen to the waves crashing on McAbee Beach as you soak up the boutique hotel’s European-inspired charm from the comfort of a plush canopy bed. A silver tray of complimentary breakfast in bed comes complete with fresh local fruit.
Next, stop by the adorable Bruno’s Market & Deli in Carmel-By-The-Sea to stock up on locally-sourced sandwiches, fruit, cheese, wine and chocolate for a starry-eyed picnic on the beach. Sand like powdered sugar and water bluer than the sky make for a seriously dreamy date spot. Spend the day sunbathing, take a kayak ride for two or catch a performance at the intimate Sunset Center before heading to Basil (Carmel’s first certified green restaurant) for dinner. Beautifully plated seasonal dishes like local Monterey abalone, grilled Niman Ranch pork chop, and five hour braised beef cheeks pair perfectly with California vino and craft cocktails in an intimate setting. Romantic and delicious—that’s what Monterey County is all about.