Monterey, CA located just north of Big Sur on California’s beautiful Central Coast is a world-class destination. Visitors can enjoy learning about the local history, trying the delicious local cuisine and wine and taking in the breathtaking views of Monterey Bay. Travel can cost a pretty penny, but if you do it right, you can enjoy your time in Monterey without breaking the bank. Here are some suggestions for the budget-friendly traveler in Monterey:

1. Stay at The Monterey Hotel. Conveniently located in the heart of downtown Monterey, they’re just minutes away from the best of Monterey’s attractions like Fisherman’s Wharf, Monterey Bay Aquarium and Cannery Row. Amenities include free breakfast, a fitness room and hot tub and pet-friendly rooms. The Monterey Hotel is also one of the most budget-friendly hotels in the area! Book your room on their website or by calling 800.966.6940 (pet-friendly rooms are available and need to be booked over the phone).

The Monterey Hotel

2. Take Monterey’s free trolley around town to save on parking and/or Uber and Lyft fees. The trolley runs almost every day and makes stops at all of the most popular attractions in town. Learn more about the schedule and stops here.

Electric Trolley

3. Take advantage of some of the great happy hours around town! Here are a few favorites:

  • Hula’s Island Grill (622 Lighthouse Ave, Monterey, CA 93940): Located just a 5 minute walk away from Cannery Row, their happy hour boasts $6 cocktails and small plates. See the menu here.
  • Lalla Oceanside Grill (654 Cannery Row, Monterey, CA 93940): Right on Cannery Row, Lalla Oceanside Grill has a magnificent view of the ocean. Sip on a drink and enjoy a snack while taking in the beautiful setting. Happy hour is from 4 - 6 pm daily.
  • Peter B’s Brewpub (2 Portola Plaza, Monterey, CA 93940): Across the street from Fisherman’s Wharf, Peter B’s is a craft brewery with an excellent happy hour. Available 4 to 6:30 pm every day and 9:30 to 10:30 pm Sunday through Thursday, their happy hour menu includes $5 cocktails and pints along with small bites from $3 to $9. See the menu here.

Peter B's Beer

4. Browse the local shops at Cannery Row and Fisherman’s Wharf. There are a ton of local shops at both of these locations, boasting gifts, local art, jewelry and more! 

  • Cannery Row used to be the bustling industrial center of Monterey. It is packed with history and is even the inspiration for John Steinback’s novel Cannery Row. Learn about this part of Monterey’s history while you shop around.
  • Old Fisherman’s Wharf offers a great view of Monterey Bay and all of the fishing boats that come and go from the area. Many of the restaurants also offer samples of clam chowder outside their door, if you find yourself needing a free snack while you browse the shops.

Cannery Row

5. Visit a museum. Admission to the local museums, while not free, is generally cheaper than some of the more popular attractions in the area. 

  • The Monterey Museum of Art (559 Pacific Street, Monterey, CA 93940) has permanent collections of Californian art, photography and contemporary art! Admission is $10 for adults and everyone under 18 is free. 
  • The Monterey County Youth Museum (425 Washington St, Monterey, CA 93940) is a great place to go if you have young kids in need of entertainment. You’ll find numerous interactive exhibits and fun, educational drop-in classes. Admission is $8, free for little ones under 2 years. 

MY Museum

6. Enjoy the beautiful scenery and nature in the area. 

  • Take 17-Mile Drive, a beautiful drive along the coastline with some of the most beautiful and famous views in California, like the Lone Cypress Tree and Seal Rock.  Admission to this stretch of road is $10.50 per vehicle. We would also recommend visiting any of the nearby state parks or beaches. 
  • If you don’t want to get in the car, hit the Monterey Bay Coastal Recreation Trail. It starts right next to Fisherman’s Wharf and is a great place to go for a walk, run or bike ride!

Pacific Grove Monterey Recreation Trail Sunrise

We’re sure if you build your trip’s itinerary around some (or all) of these ideas that you will have a great time and get to experience the best of what Monterey has to offer, all while sticking to your budget!