You always have plenty to see and do in Silicon Valley. But sometimes you just need to get out of town and off the grid. A drive to Monterey Bay can be just the fix. With views of the Pacific Ocean and untouched coastal landscapes along the Coast Highway, even the journey to Ocean Avenue—Carmel-by-the-Sea’s main street—is part of the adventure. You get there from Silicon Valley by taking US-101 South to CA-156 West to CA-1 South, or take the more scenic CA-17 South to CA-1 South.
Begin your day in the Monterey Bay area at La Bicyclette, arguably one of the best restaurants in Carmel. Toward the back of the restaurant, you’ll find a wood-fired oven where the staff prepares a handful of the breakfast plates. If you want a little taste of everything, you can’t go wrong with the Sweet & Savory dish: French toast and eggs—and don’t forget to order it with a side of bacon.
After you’ve filled your belly, grab a cup of caffeine from the Carmel Coffee & Cocoa Bar. You can easily spend the day taking a leisurely stroll and shopping in Carmel. It may be a small town, but the streets are jam-packed with boutiques and art galleries. One place truly worth visiting is the Cottage of Sweets, a candy shop straight out of a fairy tale that appeals to kids and adults alike.
If you’d prefer to get more exercise, head south on Highway 1. Head toward Point Lobos State Natural Reserve, where you can take in the views and be as one with nature. The drive from Carmel through Point Lobos and continuing all the way to Big Sur is one of the most beautiful stretches of Highway 1.
Spend a couple hours exploring the park and its many hiking trails. When you’re done, it’s probably time for lunch, and you’ll want to make it a healthy meal. Drive back north on Highway 1 and into Pacific Grove, where you can replenish your body with a fresh cold-pressed juice at Central Coast Juicery. Then, grab a poke bowl at The Poke Lab a few blocks away in Monterey. These are great ways to replenish all those calories you worked off during your hike.
A trip to Monterey Bay is not complete without a visit to the world-renowned Monterey Bay Aquarium. You’ll see real-life sea otters in action. For a preview, check out the video the Aquarium has posted on its website of a day-old wild pup with its mother. After you’ve toured the exhibits there, check out the shops on Cannery Row, a historic area made famous by author John Steinbeck. Then make your way to dinner at the nearby Jeninni Kitchen + Wine Bar for tasty Spanish fare and excellent wine choices. Call ahead to find out if paella will be featured. Otherwise, the eggplant fries, prosciutto plate, shawarma, and bullfighter’s steak are always superb.
If you’d rather enjoy your dinner in Carmel, stop in at Grasing’s to start off with a cocktail in an intimate setting. Then head over to Il Tegamino for a great homestyle Italian meal—the Ragu Napoletano is highly recommended. The Monterey Peninsula is world-famous for its many golf courses. Whether you’re a golfer or you just want to see what all the fuss is about, visit The Bench, a restaurant and bar overlooking Pebble Beach Golf Links. Enjoy some drinks and small plates, and take in the scenery at the famous 18th hole.
If you’re planning on staying the night, try a room at the Carmel Valley Ranch, which features a luxurious spa. Other amenities at this resort that make it worth your while are onsite beekeeping, s’mores at night for guests, and more, depending on the season.
Monterey Bay is a tranquil, incredibly scenic coastal destination. It’s easy to get to, provides a break from the buzz of Silicon Valley, and offers great food and drink. Head there once, and you’ll soon be making plans for your next trip back.
Places to Visit in Monterey
Written by Joey Nguyen
Photography by Daniel Garcia
Article originally appeared in Issue 8.0 Explore