Through the centuries, the small, charming city of Monterey has drawn great artists who fall in love with the city's lively, energetic wilderness and peaceful shores. Monterey has great cultural significance, a thriving food scene, and incredible natural beauty. You'll quickly be charmed by its centuries-old heritage sights and secret coves hidden along the coast.
Sneak away from the well-worn hiking trails and famous parks and head to this beautiful spot in the Point Lobos State Natural Preserve. China Cove is a bit out of the way, but that’s what makes it such a peaceful and ideal destination. It’s a favorite spot for spotting local wildlife, including seals.
An imposing structure with a sharp-eyed eagle staring down at you, the Sloat Monument is a testament to what small numbers of determined people can achieve. It stands in honor of the 226 men who secured California for the United States, changing history in the process. The monument is part of an active US Army installation, but you can still access it. The local graduates share many myths about the monument, including that, someday, the eagle is going to fly away.
Anyone with a love of nature and the outdoors should pay a visit to the Pacific Groves. The Museum of Natural History celebrates a distinct aspect of California's incredible natural beauty. You can see 400 exhibits dedicated to the migratory birds that flock through Monterey, and the life cycle and migratory patterns of the monarch butterfly. If you visit at the right time of year, you can see the butterflies fill the sky.
If you visit Monterey in October, you need to see the monarch butterflies as they migrate south to warmer climates. The Monarch Grove Butterfly Sanctuary in Pacific Grove is a protected location and a haven for them. If you visit at the right time of year, you’ll be treated to thousands of them flocking through the area.
If you’re a Steinbeck fan, visit the real Cannery Row. Cannery Row in Monterey is where Steinbeck lived and wrote his most famous work. Ed “Doc” Rickett’s lab still stands to this day, and visitors can take tours four times a year. The rest of Cannery Row has transformed since the days it served as the heart of the sardine packing industry, but is still worth checking out.
The San Carlos Cathedral is a beautiful, historic structure constructed in 1794 that later became the seat of the diocese of Monterey. Time wasn’t kind to it, and by 2006 it had fallen into a state of disrepair. However, an exhaustive restoration effort has turned it into one of the most beautiful sandstone buildings you’ll find in California. You can learn all about it at the local heritage center, located right next door.
Monterey City Hall is an excellent place to learn about California’s history. It served as the pre-statehood capital of the US, and it’s where California’s leadership drafted the Constitution. You can read about it at the adjoined Colton Hall Museum on the second floor of City Hall, where visitors may enter and take a tour free of charge.
The Point Sur Lightstation lets you take a look into the days where towers with oil lamps helped wooden ships navigate treacherous waters. It’s a protected heritage site, and the only 19th-century lighthouse in California that’s fully open to the public. On days of good weather, the view from the top of the light station is one of the most romantic spots you could hope to find. But whether the sea is pleasant and calm beneath clear skies, or violently stirring under a storm, it’s always a sight to behold.
A walk along the beautiful Asilomar Conference Grounds and the sand dunes will eventually take you the Proposal Bench. The Proposal Bench is a locally famous spot, where couples sometimes go to watch the sunset. Even if your itinerary doesn't include proposal plans or you're traveling solo, Proposal Bench is a beautiful spot to take in the views.
You can walk in the footsteps of your favorite celebrities when you dine at the Chef’s Table at Lucia Restaurant and Bar. While you wait for your food to be prepared, read messages left by all sorts of celebrities who’ve eaten at the same spot. Fans of Leonardo DiCaprio are sure to appreciate seeing notes left by the famous actor.