Monterey (California)

See also: Monterrey

Monterey is a city (population 28,000) in the Monterey County area of Monterey Bay in California.


View from Lover's Point

Monterey is one of the more beautiful coastal cities of California and can make for a great two day trip for those visiting San Francisco or a weekend getaway for California natives. It was originally the state capital of California, and has more historic buildings in its downtown than any other city west of Santa Fe. Today it is best known for its beautiful coastline, its world-class aquarium and from the many John Steinbeck novels set there, including Cannery Row and Tortilla Flat.

Rugged terrain and vicious Pacific currents made much of the California coast virtually unexplorable to European ships. After a disastrous attempt to explore this new territory by sea, Spanish missionaries in Mexico launched a series of overland expeditions from San Diego. Monterey was established in 1770 by Father Junipero Serra and soon became a Spanish military base with a small fort or "presidio" located near a calm harbor that could provide shelter to supply ships. The military presence eventually gave way to a thriving commercial trade that brought in many enterprising foreign merchants.

Once Mexico gained its independence from Spain, Monterey became the capital of Alta California under Mexican rule. From this era come many classic stories of flirtation, fashion, and politics in the Mexican colonial era. Lands once owned by the government began to come into private hands, and local families began to consolidate their property and power into business enterprises based on the ranches or "ranchos," where they raised cattle or invented the famous Monterey Jack cheese.

Monterey soon fell under American power in the Mexican-American War and remained the capital of the territory. A delegation of writers drafted the constitution which marked the entrance of the State of California into the United States of America. This era saw the mass northward migration of ambitious people in search of gold, which led to a near desertion of the town. Monterey soon recovered, however, and today is known for its magnificent natural beauty, world famous Aquarium, and temperate year-round climate.

The Monterey Peninsula has the largest population of sea otters on the California coast. The abundance of marine wildlife visible from the shoreline is one of the primary attractions of the region. Seals, sea lions, and sea otters are visible year-round, and migrating whales are commonly seen in the fall and spring months.

Alvarado Street serves as downtown Monterey's "main drag." It has superb restaurants, a selection of bars, and unique shops.


 Climate Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Daily highs (°F) 58 60 61 62 63 65 66 68 70 68 63 58
Nightly lows (°F) 44 45 45 46 48 50 52 53 53 51 47 44
Precipitation (in) 4.4 3.9 3.4 1.5 0.6 0.2 0.1 0.1 0.2 1.1 2.3 3.4

   Data from NOAA (1981-2010)

Get in

By car

If heading to Cannery Row or the Aquarium, look for brown signs that advise which exit to take. (If Highway 1 has ceased to be a freeway, you've gone past Monterey and are near Carmel.)

Again, for a scenic but slower route, you can take State Route 1 along the coast north to Monterey through Big Sur. That route is extraordinarily scenic but also full of very tight turns and a lot of stretches that require patient, careful driving. From Morro Bay (on the Pacific Ocean, to the west of San Luis Obispo), the drive to Monterey through Big Sur takes, in good driving conditions, about a half hour longer than going via Salinas and US 101. But the Big Sur coastal route should be avoided if there is any chance of fog, or in darkness—it's just too twisty, with too many dropoffs, to be advisable for drivers unfamiliar with the route, in adverse driving conditions. In the winter rainy season, it is always wise to check to make sure that the Big Sur route is actually open to through traffic—occasionally, a rock slide will close the road for a short period.

Despite Monterey's popularity, all of the above routes will require you to traverse a two-lane road section at some point: State Route 1 between just south of Watsonville and Castroville, State Route 156 between Prunedale and Castroville, State Route 68 between Salinas and Monterey, or State Route 1 from most of the way from Morro Bay up to Carmel. Unfortunately, because the Monterey Peninsula is so popular with tourists, all of those roads are often busy with traffic, particularly on weekends, which means there is a higher risk of traffic delays and even of head-on crashes. No matter which route you take, drive with caution.

By train

Amtrak's Coast Starlight train stops in Salinas. From the Salinas transit center, take the Monterey-Salinas Transit route 21 or 56 to Monterey. Amtrak runs a Thruway bus service from the station to the major hotels of Monterey and on to Carmel.

By bus

MST runs a bus service (which is a part of Amtrak's Thruway) from San Jose to Monterey Transit Plaza (temporarily diverted to nearby stops for road construction). The ticket costs $10 (one way).

By plane

Monterey Peninsula Airport has regular flights from San Francisco, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Denver, Salt Lake City, and Las Vegas on United, American, and Allegiant Air. From the airport it is a short drive west along Highway 68 and onto southbound Highway 1, where the two right lanes lead straight downtown.

Get around

Monterey-Salinas Transit provides convenient public bus service to the nearby towns of Carmel and Pacific Grove, as well as to historical Salinas and breathtaking Big Sur. MST also provides a "wine route" which stops at several of the area's most notable wineries . MST runs a trolley-like bus through Monterey's downtown during the summer months, especially busy weekends.

For car drivers, garage parking is available, and street parking is often free for periods of two hours on weekends and after 6PM. Many hotels offer parking for an additional charge. The Cannery Row area (where the Aquarium is located) has an aggressive, expensive parking ticket policy. A few minutes over at a meter and you will be welcomed to town with a $25 parking ticket.


Jellyfish in the Monterey Bay Aquarium
Sea lions near Fisherman's Wharf




A sampling of some sea food, available at Monterey's Fisherman's Wharf

The local specialties are artichokes and sanddabs. Artichokes can be found at nearly every restaurant - fried, grilled, broiled, boiled, in soup, on pizza and almost any other way you can imagine. The nearby town of Castroville is "the artichoke center of the world," and the local source for the wealth of artichokes. Sanddabs are a local seafood, often served fried. Clam Chowder in sourdough bread can be found at Fisherman´s Wharf. Abalone is available, too, but expensive. The area is notable for other seafood delicacies, including calamari and Dungeness crab.

The Monterey Bay Aquarium runs a "Seafood Watch" program, and keeps a list of which sea life is overfished and which are safe, and environmentally friendly, to eat. Pick a copy of the list up at the Aquarium, or around town. Many local restaurants have signed on to the Seafood Watch program.

Monterey's status as a tourist destination have provided it with a wealth of restaurants beyond what might be expected in a community this size. Almost every cuisine, from oriental to occidental, may be found represented - and usually represented well - in the local area, including the neighbouring communities of Pacific Grove, Seaside, and Carmel-by-the-Sea and the Carmel Valley.


Monterey has many superb vineyards located near the town. There are a number of tasting rooms located on Cannery Row, all within an easy walk. Some, such as Scheid Vineyards, Bargetto Winery, Baywood Cellars and Silver Mountain Vineyards provide wines from only one winery. A Taste of Monterey allows visitors to try wines from throughout Monterey County, while taking in a spectacular panoramic view of Monterey Bay through their windows.

Monterey-Salinas Transit's bus route Number 24, also called "The Grapevine Express", leaves from downtown Monterey and stops at all the wineries in nearby Carmel Valley. A daypass, which allows riders to hop on and off at will, is $4.50 as of December 2008. Maps and schedules, which detail the wineries that the route stops at, are available at Monterey County Visitors Centers.

Alvarado Street has the densest collection of bars and pubs in the area. The Mucky Duck is famous for its weekly trivia nights, while Lallapalooza has the widest selection of martinis.


This guide uses the following price ranges for a standard double room:
Budget Less than $100
Mid-range $100-$200
Splurge $200+




Go next

Lone Cypress at 17-Mile Drive
Routes through Monterey

Santa Cruz Seaside  N  S  Carmel San Luis Obispo
END Pacific Grove  W  E  Salinas Ends at

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Thursday, March 24, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.