IMG_1180 The breathtaking sunset view from Kula Ranch, overlooking Sanctuary Resort. “Monterey County has no shortage of spectacular views” was the first thing I thought as soon as I parked at Kula Ranch Island Steakhouse. This restaurant, located in Marina, is perched atop the spectacular sand dunes that frame this area of Monterey County. The National Marine Sanctuary sprawls beneath and the Pacific Ocean beyond that. Amazing, but I digress. Kula Ranch exterior Kula Ranch: Imagine if Hawaiian and Californian cuisines hooked up for a surf session and wanted to enjoy a good meal after. I was late for a business dinner so I tore myself away from my parking spot’s sunset view and entered the Pacific Island-themed steak house. I was greeted by the roar of the crowd watching Monday Night Football in the bar and then by a friendly host who led me to our table. For the record, I am always leery of steakhouses after one-too-many misadventures at themed chain restaurants. But once situated in our cozy booth, I could tell this one was the real deal. Kula Ranch interior The cozy booths at Kula Ranch. It hits the sweet spot, capturing a laid-back island vibe without being over the top and chintzy. Kula Ranch’s wine list touted some great vintages and local wines (plus a notable selection of beers on tap and foo foo cocktails). I opted for a glass of Central Coast Pinot Noir and settled in. This was a spot for all walks of life. Tourists, locals, families, football fans and my fellow colleagues all seemed to be enjoying themselves. Once I opened the menu, I realized why. The entrees were incredibly diverse, ranging from coffee-rubbed steaks to sustainably caught seafood and sushi. It was as if Hawaiian and California Cuisines were on vacation in Monterey County, hooked up for a surf session and wanted to go out for a killer meal without the bogus prices, dude. I opted for the Cajun Spiced Halibut (not authentic but whatever) to go with the Pinot. As soon as our PuPu platter appetizer arrived, we descended upon it. Almost immediately I was covered in Miso glaze from the steak kabobs, lemon cilantro aioli from the grilled artichoke, and Teriyaki sauce from the wings - not business-dinner friendly, but very tasty indeed. My halibut arrived atop a bed of risotto-esque Spanish rice au gratin and grilled asparagus. Now, I’m fairly picky when it comes to how my seafood is prepared and it’s important to note that Kula Ranch did a good job here; not too much seasoning and the halibut was still flaky and buttery with a moist center. It was an excellent piece of fish and a great meal overall. To those heading to Marina to stay at the adjacent Sanctuary Beach Resort or perhaps explore the National Marine Sanctuary below Kula Ranch: it is well worth the visit to this restaurant for its unique menu, moderate prices and laid back atmosphere. Kula Ranch Island Steakhouse 3295 Dunes Road Marina 831-883-9479 Open Mondays 4pm–9pm, Tuesdays—Thursdays and Sundays 11:30am-9pm, Fridays and Saturdays 11:30am-10pm.