The city of Monterey lies south of the San Francisco Peninsula along the central Californian coastline. Its cool Mediterranean climate and breathtakingly beautiful location on the southern shore of Monterey Bay have long made it attractive to writers, artists, musicians, and visitors. Monterey and the surrounding towns offer spectacular scenery, fine dining, world-class golfing, thrilling water sports, and an abundance of museums. Book a Monterey vacation rental today. Check out the top attractions in and around Monterey.

1. West Monterey

Source: Pixabay/Pexels

West Monterey, also known as New Monterey, hosts some of the city’s most iconic waterfront attractions. Monterey Bay Aquarium is one of the largest and most popular aquariums in the United States. Its unique exhibits include a 28-foot-tall kelp forest, open sea galleries with enormous windows, and temporary displays of captive great white sharks. Historic Cannery Row commemorates the novel of the same name by Nobel-prize-winning writer John Steinbeck, who lived in Monterey and frequently used it as a background for his stories. West Monterey also has a number of art galleries and wine-tasting rooms as well as San Carlos Beach Park, a beautiful stretch of sand popular with waders, beachcombers, and scuba divers.

2. East Monterey

many fishing boats at the pier
Source: Flickr/Scott D

East Monterey, also known as Old Monterey, is home to historic Fisherman’s Wharf. The wharf area has numerous seafood restaurants, gift shops, a maritime museum, and headquarters for chartered fishing trips and whale-watching tours. The renowned Monterey Museum of Art has two locations in East Monterey. The museum displays an extensive collection of Californian paintings and photography as well as works by famous artists from around the world. The kids will love stopping off at Dennis the Menace Playground and the adjoining Monterey Skate Park.

3. Pacific Grove

beautiful town near the sea
Source: Flickr/Diana Robinson

The lovely town of Pacific Grove lies adjacent to Monterey on the west. It’s famous as Butterfly Town USA due to the annual migration of swarms of black and orange monarch butterflies to breeding habitats in the northwest corner of the town. At the far western edge of town, you can tour Point Pino Lighthouse, the West Coast’s oldest operating lighthouse. The Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History offers a fascinating look at the flora and fauna of California’s central coast. Lover’s Point Park is a family-friendly site for swimming, picnicking, fishing, and water sports.

4. Pebble Beach

waves splashing on the rocks
Source: Flickr/Robert Taylor

Pebble Beach is a popular resort town that is just southwest of Pacific Grove. It’s renowned for its world-class golf courses, including Pebble Beach Golf Links, Monterey Peninsula Country Club, and Cypress Point Club. The town also has one of the world’s most famous stretches of road. Cycling or driving along 17-mile Drive offers you vistas of beautiful golf courses, lodges, and mansions as well as scenic wonders such as Cypress Point, Seal Point, Fanshell Beach, and Bird Rock.

5. Carmel-by-the-Sea

couple walking at the seashore
Source: Flickr/Rick Schwartz

The town of Carmel-by-the-Sea is in the lower southwest corner of the Monterey Peninsula. To retain its unique rustic ambiance, the town government insists on no street lights, parking meters, or street numbers and requires a certain amount of trees per building lot. In addition to its spectacular natural scenery, Carmel has a deep artistic and cultural heritage, with numerous art galleries and performing arts facilities. It’s a great place for shopping, wine-tasting, and relaxing at a spa. At Carmel Beach, you can swim, sunbathe, picnic, or surf.

6. Carmel Highlands

magnificent view of houses and the ocean
Source: Flickr/John Kim

The Carmel Highlands lie between Carmel-by-the-Sea and the rugged stretch of coastal highway leading south to Big Sur. The area provides breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean and the California coast. Nearby is Point Lobos State Natural Reserve, a spectacularly beautiful area of rocky cliffs, pounding surf, hidden coves, and fragrant meadows. Wildlife you can observe includes sea otters, sea lions, seals, and migrating gray whales. Certified scuba divers can explore the kelp forests offshore in the Point Lobos State Marine Reserve.

7. Sand City

paragliding above the sea
Source: Flickr/- Adam Reeder –

Sand City is a small coastal town between Monterey and Seaside. This laid-back community features an artist’s colony and a long sandy beach. It’s a great place to stroll, sunbathe, and try your hand at surfing and parasailing. Sand City hosts the annual West End Celebration, which includes continuous live music, performing arts, a street fair, and interactive displays.

8. Seaside

Source: Pixabay/markusspiske

The city of Seaside lies along Monterey Bay just east of Monterey and Sand City. Vacation rentals allow convenient access to Ford Ord Dunes State Park, in which a path through coastal dunes leads you to four miles of pristine sandy beach. If you take the boardwalk to the viewing platform atop a high bluff, you can enjoy a panoramic vista of deep blue ocean and beautiful coastline. The Seaside also hosts the world-class Bayonet and Black Horse golf courses.

9. Marina

beautiful sky covering the sea
Source: Flickr/Rauchbier

Marina is eight miles north of Monterey along California Coast Highway 1. Its downtown area offers a diversity of restaurants and several wine-tasting rooms. Of special interest is Marina State Beach. Its sand dunes are among the highest on the California coast, and you can follow a trail through them to observe some of the indigenous wildlife. The long stretch of breezy beach is a popular location for surfing, kite flying, paragliding, and hang gliding.

10. Corral de Tierra/San Benancio

large trees at the conservation land
Source: Flickr/Bureau of Land Management

The communities of Corral de Tierra and San Benancio lie inland between Monterey and the city of Salinas in a beautiful verdant valley that John Steinbeck immortalized in some of his stories. Nearby is Fort Ord National Monument, with over 83 miles of trails for hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding. The many species of wildlife you might glimpse includes red-tailed hawks, golden eagles, black-tailed deer, coyotes, and mountain lions.

11. Salinas

entrance of the museum
Source: Flickr/Stephen Gough

The city of Salinas is 18 miles northeast of Monterey. It’s famous as the hometown of Nobel Prize-winner John Steinbeck and hosts the National Steinbeck Center, a museum devoted to his works. The city also features a number of exciting annual events, such as the California Rodeo Salinas and the California International Air Show. For wine connoisseurs, Salinas is California’s largest wine grape producing area, and the River Road Wine Trail includes more than 20 wineries.