Monterey Bay is a beautiful region with diverse wildlife, fascinating history, great food and even better wine! We’ve compiled a list of some of the most popular spots and activities you may like to explore during your free time. Below you’ll find recommended activities, free activities, and suggested restaurants.
You can find even more ideas and links on the See Monterey website, and more free things in particular.
Recommended Activities (some cost involved)
- Join a whale watching tour (highly recommended), leave from Fisherman’s Wharf or Moss Landing Harbor.
- Explore the Monterey Bay Aquarium.
- Kayaking and stand-up paddle board rentals are available. Kayak the Bay and kelp forests (leave from Cannery Row area), or kayak up Elkhorn Slough in Moss Landing (half hour drive north), where you’ll see lots of bird life, seals, and otters.
- SCUBA Dive the kelp forests. Guided tours are available with Bamboo Reef.
- Tour 17-mile drive (free to bike, $10 to drive through).
- Tour Carmel Valley for wine tasting (lots of great wineries throughout the valley); you can even take the Wine Trolley!
- Visit Monterey Museum of Art.
- Visit/tour beautiful Carmel Mission in Carmel-by-the-Sea.
- Tour the coastal trail by bike or surrey rental.
- Surf at Asilomar, Monterey Municipal Wharf, or Carmel Beach (can rent boards or take lessons).
- Stroll through the Pacific Grove Natural History Museum and native garden.
- Visit Cannery Row and Fisherman’s Wharf (can walk between the two), take self-guided walking tour of history, including Ed Rickett’s Pacific Biological Laboratories.
- Stroll from Asilomar beach over the boardwalk to Spanish Bay (particularly recommended at sunset).
- Ride the free Monterey Trolley between downtown and Cannery Row (only runs on weekends).
- Walk the coastal trail from Pacific Grove through Monterey, lots of beaches and tide pools
- Listen to the bagpiper play around 5:30 p.m. at the Spanish Bay Resort, sit by fire pits and watch sunset (and have a cocktail if you like); can walk from Asilomar.
- Walk through the monarch butterfly grove. (It may be too early in Oct to see many but there could be a few!)
- Visit Lover’s Point park and beach
- Walk the cute streets of Carmel-by-the-Sea (about a 15-minute drive south from Asilomar on highway 1, or a bit longer via 17-Mile Drive).
- Visit/tour Point Pinos Lighthouse (suggested donation: $4).
Some Local Favorite Restaurants
Asilomar serves delicious breakfast, lunch, and dinner, which will be covered by participants’ registration. Still, you might find yourself arriving back late after a Tuesday afternoon adventure or just want a change of scene one night.
Sit Down Meals
- Passionfish: upscale seafood restaurant serving all sustainably-sourced seafood
- Mandos: authentic Mexican restaurant
- Beach House at Lover’s Point: great views of the bay and diverse menu, great at sunset
- Red House Cafe: Lovely setting and great American and European meals, good for brunch and dinner
- Pacific Thai: Classic Thai cuisine
- Hula’s Island Grill: Tiki-themed restaurant with a big list of creative cocktails; they also have an extensive gluten-free and vegetarian/vegan menu available
- Old Fisherman’s Grotto: located on Fisherman’s wharf, lots of seafood choices and great views
- Crystal Fish: one of the favorite sushi spots among locals
Coffee and Pastries
- Pavel’s Bakery: absolutely the BEST croissants, cinnamon rolls, & other breakfast goodies you can get on the Central Coast (get there early especially on weekends before things sell out)
- Bookworks: cute cafe with good coffee, pastries and snacks, attached to bookstore
- Carmel Valley Coffee Roasting Company: the local version of a Pete’s Coffee type cafe
- Crema: pricey but tasty coffee/espresso drinks, pastries, and sit down meals (upstairs)
- Julia’s Vegetarian Restaurant: mouth-watering pizzas, curries, salads and more made from organic, local produce and ingredients from scratch
- Happy Girl Kitchen: all-vegetarian cafe serving yummy and health breakfast and lunch options plus great coffee and tea; lunch menu changes daily, using organic/locally sourced ingredients
- El Cantaro: completely vegan Mexican/South American food, casual dining; amazing mole sauce, enchiladas, homemade tortillas and chips, and so much more
- Saffron Cafe: Mediterranean vegetarian food from falafel and hummus to salads, hearty bowls, and sandwiches