30 Fun Things to Do in Monterey | 2024 (with Photos)

Ana Dimic

Ana Dimic - Travel Writer

Published: July 31, 2023

Hi there! I'm Ana, and I am thrilled to share with you a list of exciting activities to do in Monterey. As someone who loves exploring this stunning city, I've compiled a collection of fun-filled experiences that will make your trip truly unforgettable.

Fun Things to Do in Monterey for a Perfect Getaway

Monterey, California is a gem of a city on the West Coast, with endless possibilities for adventure and relaxation. With the charming Monterey downtown area, scenic Pacific Coast Highway, and diverse marine life, Monterey offers something for everyone.

So let's explore the top 30 activities for a perfect getaway in Monterey, highlighting everything from whale watching and historic buildings to hiking and wine tasting.

Most Recommended Thing to Do

Visit Yosemite National Park

Top Choice Hotel

Four Seasons Hotel Los Angeles at Beverly Hills

Our Top Choice Restaurant

French Laundry

Our Top Choice Bar for Nightlife

Bar None

Best Time to Visit

Mild climate with little rainfall, perfect for exploring.

Average Temperature

Mild, ranging from hot to cool throughout year.

Transportation Options

Cars, buses, trains, bikes, taxis, ferries, scooters, walking.

Average Cost ($, $$, $$$)


My Top Recommendation

In the beautiful city of San Francisco, be sure to visit the iconic Golden Gate Bridge for stunning views of the city and the bay, a perfect spot for a memorable photo opportunity.

For a taste of the glamorous lifestyle, head to the bustling city of Los Angeles and explore the famous Hollywood Walk of Fame, where you can walk in the footsteps of your favorite celebrities and maybe even catch a glimpse of a star-studded event.

What You'll Need to Bring

  1. Comfortable shoes
  2. Sunscreen
  3. Hat
  4. Snacks and water
  5. Camera
  6. Map or GPS
  7. Travel guidebook
  8. Jacket or layers for cooler evenings
  9. Swimsuit
  10. Money or credit cards for expenses

What Not to Miss

  1. Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz Island, Fisherman's Wharf, Muir Woods National Monument
  2. Disneyland, Universal Studios Hollywood, Hollywood Walk of Fame, Griffith Observatory

What to Avoid

  1. Crime-prone areas
  2. Overly touristy spots
  3. Rush hour traffic
  4. Ignoring local laws and regulations
  5. Late-night walks in unfamiliar neighborhoods
  6. Leaving belongings unattended in public places
  7. Engaging in risky activities without proper safety precautions
  8. Overindulging in alcohol or drugs
  9. Ignoring health and safety warnings
  10. Disrespecting local customs and cultural sensitivities

1. Head to Cannery Row in Downtown Monterey

Cannery Row

Cannery Row in Downtown Monterey is a historic district that was once home to a bustling sardine canning industry. The area was made famous by American author John Steinbeck, who wrote a novel titled "Cannery Row" in 1945.

Today, visitors can walk in Steinbeck's footsteps and explore the vibrant, eclectic community that he depicted in his writing. Cannery Row is lined with boutique shops and many seafood restaurants where you can enjoy the catch of the day.

2. Go on a Whale-Watching Tour in Monterey Bay

Whale-Watching Tour in Monterey Bay

Monterey Bay is home to a diverse range of marine life, including humpback whales, gray whales, blue whales, dolphins, sea lions, and more. The best time to go whale watching in Monterey Bay is from mid-April to mid-December.

A whale-watching tour boat takes you out into the bay, where you can see whales in their natural habitat. The beauty of the coastline and the thrill of seeing these magnificent creatures up close make whale watching in Monterey Bay an unforgettable experience.

3. Have Lunch at Old Fisherman's Wharf

Lunch at Old Fisherman's Wharf

Old Fisherman's Wharf in Downtown Monterey is a historic wharf and home to many restaurants, where you can enjoy fresh seafood while taking in the stunning views of Monterey Bay.

You can also go on a deep-sea fishing expedition from the wharf or rent a kayak to explore the bay on your own. Old Fisherman's Wharf is also a great place to learn about Monterey's fishing industry, with several museums and exhibits dedicated to this theme.

4. Do the Scenic 17-Mile Drive Through Pebble Beach

Scenic 17-Mile Drive Through Pebble Beach

The Scenic 17-Mile Drive begins at the Pacific Grove Gate and winds its way through stunning attractions, past Spanish Bay, Seal Rock, the Lone Cypress, and the iconic Pebble Beach Golf Course.

Along the way, you will encounter famous landmarks such as the Lone Cypress Tree, which is a symbol of the rugged and dramatic beauty of the California coast. You can also spot harbor seals, sea lions, and various bird species.

5. Spot Sea Lions from Monterey Coast Guard Pier

Sea Lions from Monterey Coast Guard Pier

The Monterey Coast Guard Pier offers stunning views of the ocean and the surrounding coastline. One of the highlights of the pier is San Carlos Beach, a beautiful and secluded spot for swimming, sunbathing, and snorkeling.

The Coast Guard Pier is also where many locals and visitors cast their lines into the water to catch halibut, rockfish, and salmon. You can stroll along the pier to take in the beautiful views, watch the boats go by, and spot sea lions and harbor seals.

Pebble Beach Golf Links

The Monterey Peninsula is home to some of the world's most renowned golf courses. The Monterey Peninsula Golf Course is a historic course that has hosted several PGA Tour events over the years. Then there is the golf course at Pebble Beach.

Pebble Beach Golf Links is considered one of the most beautiful and challenging courses in the world and has hosted numerous major championships over the years, including the US Open. It offers panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean and the rugged Monterey Peninsula shoreline.

7. Walk Along the Monterey Bay Coastal Recreation Trail

Monterey Bay Coastal Recreation Trail

The Monterey Bay Coastal Recreation Trail is a picturesque 18-mile trail that runs along the stunning Monterey Bay coastline through Pacific Grove, taking the route of the Southern Pacific Railway.

The trail is perfect for walking, jogging, or biking. Along the way, you will encounter a variety of attractions, including Cannery Row, Fisherman's Wharf, and Lover's Point Park. You can relax at several beautiful beaches along the trail, including Asilomar State Beach and Spanish Bay Beach.

8. Sea the Sea Otters at the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary

Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary

The Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary is a protected area stretching from Cambria to San Francisco with over 4,600 square miles of ocean habitat. It is home to an incredible variety of marine life, including sea otters and sea lions.

You can explore the many tide pools that dot the rocky shoreline and see a myriad of creatures, from tiny crabs and anemones to colorful starfish and sea urchins. There is also an impressive array of underwater canyons, which provide a habitat for many deep-sea species.

9. Enjoy Wine Tasting on the River Road Wine Trail

River Road Wine Trail

The River Road Wine Trail is a popular destination for wine lovers visiting Monterey, California. Located in the Santa Lucia Highlands, the wine trail is known for its stunning scenery and world-class vineyards.

The trail offers a wide range of wine-tasting experiences, from intimate tastings at small family-owned wineries to larger, more established vineyards. Along the trail, visitors can also enjoy picturesque views and explore the charming small towns that dot the landscape.

10. Admire Some Salvador Dalí art at MHAA

Salvador Dalí art at MHAA

The Monterey History & Art Association operates several museums and historic sites on the Monterey Peninsula, including the Pacific House Museum, the Cooper-Molera Adobe, and the Stanton Center.

MHAA offers visitors a chance to learn about the diverse history of the region through interactive exhibits and artifacts. The association also has an extensive collection of artwork by Salvador Dalí, one of the world's most famous and influential artists.

11. Sunbathe at Del Monte Beach

Del Monte Beach

Del Monte Beach is known for its wide expanse of white sand and crystal-clear waters, making it a popular spot for swimming, sunbathing, and water sports.

Del Monte Beach is home to a variety of wildlife, including sea otters, harbor seals, and a variety of seabirds, making it a great destination for nature lovers. You can take a stroll along the beach, collect seashells, or simply enjoy the breathtaking views of the ocean and the surrounding coastline.

12. Find Old Treasures at Cannery Row Antique Mall

Cannery Row Antique Mall

The Cannery Row Antique Mall is the largest antique and collectibles mall on the Central Coast. It offers a unique shopping experience, with over 100 antique dealers showcasing a wide range of vintage items.

You can find everything from furniture and home décor to clothing and jewelry. The mall is housed in a historic building that was once part of the bustling sardine canning industry, depicted in the novel "Cannery Row" by John Steinbeck.

13. Visit San Carlos Cathedral

San Carlos Cathedral

San Carlos Cathedral was built in 1794 and is the oldest continuously functioning church in California. The cathedral is a testament to the area's rich cultural heritage and a must-see when you visit Monterey.

The church's beautiful architecture, including its adobe walls and Spanish Colonial design, make it a unique and picturesque attraction that draws visitors from all over the world. Visitors can explore the church's interior, which features ornate altars, beautiful stained-glass windows, and historic artifacts.

14. Stop by Steinbeck Plaza

Steinbeck Plaza

Steinbeck Plaza is a public park in downtown Salinas, named after the famous author John Steinbeck who was born and raised in the area.

The centerpiece of the park is a statue of John Steinbeck himself, surrounded by lush gardens and shaded seating areas. The plaza also features a stage that hosts a variety of events throughout the year, such as concerts, festivals, and art shows.

15. Relax at Lovers Point Park and Beach

Lovers Point Park and Beach

Lovers Point Park is a stunning oceanfront park in Monterey, which offers breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean and is a popular spot for watching the sunset and picnicking.

The beach, which is accessible from the park, is a popular spot for swimming, surfing, and paddleboarding. The park's location also makes it a great starting point for exploring the nearby attractions, including the Monterey Bay Aquarium and Cannery Row.

16. Hike Point Lobos State Natural Reserve and Garrapata State Park

Point Lobos State Natural Reserve

Point Lobos State Natural Reserve and Garrapata State Park are two Central Coast wilderness areas nature lovers are sure to enjoy.

Located just south of Carmel, Point Lobos State Natural Reserve has many trails, which wind through towering Monterey cypress trees. Just a few miles south of Point Lobos, Garrapata State Park offers rocky coastlines and trails that take you through lush forests and open grasslands.

17. Visit Pierce Ranch Vineyards

Pierce Ranch Vineyards

Pierce Ranch Vineyards in southern Monterey County boast a rich history of winemaking that dates back to the early 1900s. The scenic beauty and warm hospitality in the region make Pierce Ranch Vineyards an unforgettable experience.

Today, Pierce Ranch Vineyards is recognized as one of the finest boutique wineries in the region, producing a range of award-winning wines celebrated for their distinctive flavors, including the highly-regarded Zinfandel, Grenache, and Tempranillo.

18. Visit the Colton Hall Museum

Colton Hall Museum

The Colton Hall Museum is a historic building located in downtown Monterey, California, that is a must-visit for history enthusiasts. It was constructed in 1849 and served as the site of California's first constitutional convention in 1849.

The Colton Hall Museum stands out with its distinctive brick walls, arched windows, and beautiful garden. You can also see the Monterey Jail, which is adjacent to the hall, and operated as the city's jail until 1956.

19. Visit the Monterey Museum of Art

Monterey Museum of Art

The Monterey Museum of Art is dedicated to exhibiting contemporary California art, with a particular focus on the Central Coast region. It has two different locations – one on Pacific Street and one also known as La Mirada.

The Monterey Museum of Art houses over 15,000 works of art, including paintings, sculptures, photographs, and installations. Towering over Pacific Street next to the Monterey Museum of Art, you can find Moon Tree, a tree grown from a seed taken to the moon and back on Apollo 14.

20. Visit the Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History

Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History

If you are in Monterey with children or have a love for natural history, why not visit this excellent institution? The Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History in Monterey is dedicated to the diverse ecosystems of the Central California Coast, including the Monterey Bay, the Santa Lucia Mountains, and the Big Sur Coast.

The exhibits cover topics such as geology, wildlife, and human history, and are interactive and engaging for visitors of all ages. The museum also offers guided nature walks and is a great destination for families, school groups, and anyone interested in natural history.

21. Explore the Wine Country of Monterey County

Monterey Wine Country

Wine-tasting tours take you through the beautiful Monterey wine country, including the Salinas Valley, Carmel Valley, and the Santa Cruz Mountains

You can enjoy wine tasting, vineyard tours, and gourmet dining experiences. Carmel Valley is known for its full-bodied reds, while the Santa Cruz Mountains produce Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays. The Salinas Valley boasts over 20,000 acres of vineyards, making it one of the most productive wine regions in the world.

22. Check Out the Cooper-Molera Adobe

Cooper-Molera Adobe

A National Historic Landmark in the heart of Monterey, California, The Cooper-Molera Adobe is an excellent spot to visit. Built in the early 1800s, it served as a residence for John B.R. Cooper, a merchant and civic leader, and José Eusebio Boronda, a rancher and politician.

Today, the adobe is open to the public and offers you a glimpse into the daily life of Monterey's early settlers. The adobe also features a beautiful garden, which showcases the types of plants and herbs that were grown during the early days of California.

23. Have Fun at the Monterey County Youth Museum

Monterey County Youth Museum

The Monterey County Youth Museum is an exciting destination designed for children of all ages, with interactive exhibits and hands-on activities that encourage learning and creativity.

Monterey County Youth Museum features a variety of exhibits, including a pirate ship, a pretend grocery store, and a construction site, where children can learn about the world around them through imaginative play.

24. Relax at Monterey State Historic Park

Monterey State Historic Park

Monterey State Historic Park, known as “Monterey Walking Path of History,'' is a beautiful collection of historic buildings and museums. While visiting the area, you can walk the same streets taken by Robert Louis Stevenson in 1879 and explore the area's rich heritage.

Monterey State Historic Park features well-preserved buildings dating back to the Spanish and Mexican periods, such as the Custom House, which is the oldest government building in California, and the Custom House Plaza near it.

25. Enjoy the Monterey Jazz Festival

Monterey Jazz Festival

The Monterey Jazz Festival is a world-renowned annual celebration of jazz music. This three-day event attracts some of the biggest names in jazz, as well as emerging artists from the West Coast. It is one of the exciting activities in California.

Monterey Jazz Festival is the longest-running jazz festival in the world, dating back to 1958, and boasts a wide range of jazz music styles, from traditional to avant-garde, as well as other genres such as blues and Latin jazz.

26. Visit Monterey Bay Aquarium

Monterey Bay Aquarium

If you're in the Monterey Bay area with children, the Monterey Bay Aquarium should be on your travel itinerary. The Monterey Bay Aquarium is renowned for its stunning exhibits, including the magnificent Open Sea exhibit, which houses a variety of pelagic species in a massive tank.

Visitors to Monterey Bay Aquarium can watch as schools of tuna, hammerhead sharks, and sea turtles swim majestically past the floor-to-ceiling windows. The Monterey Bay Aquarium has exhibits that also serve as a reminder of the fragility of our oceans and the need to protect them.

A visit to the Monterey Bay Aquarium reminds you to respect the ocean, both due to its fragility and the prowess of the creatures within it. The Monterey Bay Aquarium is a memorable day out for adults and kids alike.

27. Grab Some Clam Chowder at the Old Fisherman's Grotto

Clam Chowder at the Old Fisherman's Grotto

Old Fisherman's Grotto is a seafood restaurant located on Monterey's Fisherman's Wharf, which has been serving up delicious seafood dishes for over 50 years, and its clam chowder has become a local legend.

Made with fresh clams, potatoes, and cream, it is thick, creamy, and bursting with flavor. But the clam chowder is just the beginning at Old Fisherman's Grotto. The menu also features an array of seafood dishes, including fresh-caught salmon, crab cakes, and shrimp scampi.

No trip to Fisherman's Wharf would be complete without a stop at Fisherman's Grotto. So, make sure to give yourself plenty of time at Fisherman's Wharf.

28. Spend Some Fun Family Time at El Estero Park

Dennis the Menace Park

El Estero Park features a large lake where visitors can rent kayaks and canoes. The park also offers walking and biking trails, picnic areas, and a playground.

The highlight of the park is Dennis the Menace Park with its whimsical play structure inspired by the classic comic strip. Dennis the Menace Park has a suspension bridge, slides, and climbing structures, making it a favorite among families with young children.

29. Take a Day Trip to Carmel By the Sea

Carmel By the Sea

Carmel-by-the-Sea is a charming seaside village renowned for its picturesque streets, quaint shops, and beautiful beaches. Just a short drive from Monterey Bay, this is a stunning day trip.

You can stroll along Ocean Avenue and admire the fairytale-like architecture of the homes and buildings. You can also try local wine at one of the many wine-tasting rooms in downtown Carmel, or unwind at the lovely Carmel and Pebble Beach.

30. Look for Street Art in the Monterey Peninsula

Street Art in the Monterey Peninsula

Monterey has some cool street art to explore, and visitors will be delighted to discover the murals and installations that adorn the city's buildings and walls.

Some of the must-see pieces of street art in the area are the Pacific Grove California History Mural, which depicts scenes from the state's rich and diverse past, and the Carmel Shell Mural, which features a lovely shell motif.

Let's also explore some frequently asked questions related to things to do in Monterey.

How do you spend a day in Monterey?

There are plenty of things to do in Monterey to fill up a whole day. You can start by exploring the historic Cannery Row and the Monterey Bay Aquarium, which is one of the biggest attractions in the city.

After that, take a stroll along the Monterey Bay Coastal Recreation Trail and enjoy the breathtaking views of the ocean. You can also visit the Old Fisherman's Wharf to enjoy some seafood and do some shopping.

The Monterey State Historic Park, the Custom House Plaza, and the Monterey Museum of Art are also great places to visit. Finish the day by watching the sunset at Lovers Point Park or Asilomar State Beach.

Does Monterey have nightlife?

Monterey has a decent nightlife scene, but it's not as lively as some other cities in California. You can find plenty of bars, pubs, and clubs in the downtown area, particularly on Alvarado Street.

There are also a few theaters and performance venues that host live music and shows. If you're looking for a more laid-back experience, many restaurants and cafes offer late-night dining options.

What is Monterey famous for?

Monterey is famous for its stunning coastline, rich history, and abundant marine life. It was once the capital of California and played a significant role in the state's history.

Today, it's known for its world-class aquarium, great whale-watching tours, wine-tasting opportunities, and activities like scuba diving by San Carlos Beach.

The city is also home to the Monterey Museum of Art, where you can see contemporary California art, Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, which is one of the largest marine protected areas in the world, the Custom House Plaza, and the Monterey Customs House, where the American flag was first raised over California in 1846.

The scenic 17-Mile Drive from Pacific Grove to Pebble Beach is another popular attraction that offers breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean and the famous Lone Cypress tree.

Is Monterey CA worth visiting?

Monterey is definitely worth visiting, especially if you're interested in marine life, history, and outdoor activities. Some fun things to do include the Monterey Bay Coastal Trail, the Fisherman's Wharf, the Cannery Row, The Monterey Bay Aquarium, and the 17-Mile Drive.

Summing Up: Fun Things to Do in Monterey

With its picturesque Old Fisherman's Wharf, stunning California Coast, numerous wine-tasting rooms, and breathtaking whale-watching opportunities, Monterey, California, is a true gem of the Pacific Coast.

So, if you're planning your next vacation, don't miss the chance to visit Monterey and explore its many attractions. When it comes to fun things to do on vacation, Monterey will not disappoint. 

Book your trip today and experience all that Monterrey has to offer.