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Weekend Travel Guide to Monterey Bay: Hotels + Fun Things to Do

Explore some of California's most beautiful coastline, dine at locally famed restaurants, and learn more about the Pacific Ocean's aquatic life in Monterey Bay. This Central California destination has it all, whether you're seeking a romantic trip with your partner or a family vacation.

Weekend Travel Guide to Monterey California

When is the Best Time to Visit Monterey Bay?

The best time to visit Monterey is from July through September, when the weather and activities are at their peak. If you prefer to avoid the crowds, go in the spring time, starting in March, or in the fall, starting in October. The temperature is a little cooler but still comfortable, and the hotel prices are usually cheaper. If you are looking to enjoy whale watching season in Monterey, don't worry because this popular tourist attraction that can be enjoyed year around! Depending on the type of aquatic life you wish to observe on your whale watching excursion, you can figure out when the best time is to go.

Where is the Best Location to Stay in Monterey Bay?

If you want to be close to everything, you should stay near Alvarado Street, which is the heart of Old Monterey. Downtown Old Monterey is a cultural and historical melting pot with a wide range of dining, shopping, and entertainment opportunities. Another popular area for visitors to stay is Cannery Row, with its elegant waterfront hotels, charming restaurants, and local boutiques, it is the ideal place to soak up Monterey's culture and beauty.

Hotel Options in Monterey

For your stay in Monterey Bay, there are a range of 5 Star hotels, boutique hotels, and vacation homes to choose from. I personally love booking through and for the rewards points and flexible cancellation policies.

My friend and I chose to share a room at the Mariposa Inn & Suites for our girls weekend getaway in Monterey Bay. Overall, we loved this mid-priced hotel because it was clean, quiet, and walking distance to downtown. If I were to go back to Monterey I would love to stay in a hotel or vacation rental with an ocean view!

Luxury Hotels ($250+ / night) :

Budget Friendly - Mid Range Hotels ($100 - $250/night):

Unique Boutique Hotels & Inns:

See More Hotel Options in Monterey here

Fun Things to Do While You Visit:

Seals in the harbor in monterey california

Sea Car Tour

Cruise the streets of Cannery Row and Monterey Bay in this one-of-a-kind two-person convertible scooter car. Each sea car is equipped with GPS-guided navigation, allowing you to focus on the landscape instead of directions. In addition to GPS, the cars offer recorded commentary about Monterey's history as well as various photo opportunities along the journey.

Visit Fishermans Wharf

Fisherman's Wharf provides a variety of dining experiences with stunning views of the harbor, from fine dining to informal, and lunch-to-go as you pass by on your way to other activities on the Wharf. There are plenty of cute stores and gift shops to explore, and it's a great place to take the kids.

Learn about the history of Monterey's Fisherman's Wharf and the fishing industry on the Fishermans Wharf walking tour. In the Monterey State Historic Park, you'll be able to visit various museums and visit some of the Big Little Lies filming locations!

Monterey Bay Aquarium

Monterey Bay Aquarium is a public aquarium in Monterey, California, that is run by a nonprofit organization. It was the first to exhibit a living kelp forest when it debuted in October 1984, and it is known for its research and conservation on the marine habitats of Monterey Bay.

Whale Watching

Look for whales as they migrate throughout the Pacific Ocean on this half-day whale-watching cruise from Monterey. Your guide will discuss the fascinating behaviors and patterns of whales, dolphins, sea lions, birds, and other animals that pass through the area, as well as the varied marine life that moves through the area.

Take a Unique Walking Tour of Cannery Row

A local guide will take you on a tour of the Monterey shoreline and Cannery Row. Relive the glory days of the "Sardine Capital of the World" by following along the footsteps of Steinbeck's characters and learning about the book's connections to Monterey's history.

You can also take a self-guided tour of this historic area if you prefer to go at your own pace!

Where to Dine in Monterey Bay?

Breakfast Restaurants

In Monterey, there are numerous fantastic coffee shops and breakfast restaurants. Alta Bakery + Cafe is one of my personal favorites; it has a simple menu with wonderful pastries, but the grounds are stunning and housed in Monterey's historic Cooper Molera Adobe. If you enjoy French pastries, you'll love Parker Lusseau's charming location and Water + Leaves is an awesome location on the pier! See my top 5 Favorite Coffee Shops in Monterey County here.

Lunch Restaurants

Sushi Fly has a wonderful lunch special and offers a large variety of sashimi, nigiri, classic makis, chicken teriyaki, and other classics if you're craving sushi in Downtown Monterey. Fresh Seafood in Monterey is never a bad choice!

If you want to eat lunch near the water in Fishermans Wharf, there are many of possibilities. Old Fishermans Grotto is famed for its clam chowder, while Domenicos on the Wharf has a huge outside patio overlooking the harbor.

Dinner Restaurants

When visiting Monterey Bay, you must stop at Alvarado Street Brewing. Their beer assortment is well-known for being both a local favorite and highly inventive. Even if you don't drink beer, the elevated pub food offers a good blend of fusion cuisine.

Schooners Coastal Kitchen & Bar, located at the Monterey Plaza Hotel has a gorgeous waterfront terrace looking out on Monterey Bay, serving contemporary American cuisine with a focus on locally sourced seafood.  Schooners, voted “best drink with a view” in Monterey, is the classic spot for a drink with a view.

Hula's Island Grill is a nod to the popular tiki bars and restaurants of the 1950s and 1960s. Enjoy a tropical cocktail, a light snack, or a full dinner while taking in the island décor, unique music, and California vibes.

Shop my Favorite Monterey Travel Outfits + Accessories


We have great travel memories of several visits to Monterey. But always looking for new things to see and do for future visits. It would be fun to do a walking tour with a local guide in Cannery Row and learn the history of this interesting spot. Linda (LD Holland)


Martina Hardiman
Martina Hardiman
Jun 24, 2021

My pick would be whale watching as I love all things wildlife. Hope we can travel properly again soon! Thanks for the tips.


Melinda melonthego
Melinda melonthego
Jun 23, 2021

OMG That little car is adorable! And one of the best aquariums in the world is in Monterey. Great tips!


Lita Talisman
Lita Talisman
Jun 23, 2021

I love Monterey! I went as a child and then I went again in adulthood and it was still such a beautiful place. Thanks for the great tips for when I head there again!


Welcome to the Brittsbellavita Blog, a California based travel and adventure community geared towards inspiring others to find their "Bella Vita." I am a Licensed Drone Pilot and Content Creator with a passion for exploring the outdoors, finding hidden gems, and getting off the beaten path. I live in Northern California, and love showcasing the Golden State, West Coast, and beyond!

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