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15 Amazing Things to Do in Monterey CA

Visiting Monterey California? Don’t miss these amazing things to do.

If you’ve been following along, you already know that Monterey is one of our favorite areas in California. The city of Monterey gives you the comfort of a city with easy access to the best ocean views and outdoor exploration. There’s plenty to do within the city, but you can also use it as a home base to explore the entire Monterey Peninsula, which you must do too!

Heading to the Monterey Peninsula. Here's what to do in Monterey CA. It's also a great home base for exploring Big Sur //

Special thanks to See Monterey for sponoring this post. All opinions are always our own. This post may contain affiliate links, where we receive a small commission on sales of the products that are linked at no additional cost to you. Read our full disclosure for more info. Thank you for supporting the brands that make Local Adventurer possible.

Last Updated: February 27, 2024

15 Amazing Things to Do in Monterey CA

1. Monterey Bay Aquarium →

886 Cannery Row, Monterey, CA 93940, map

We’ve visited a fair share of aquariums, and we loved how unique this one is! You know we love a good jellyfish exhibit since they’re so photogenic, but we especially love the open sea area. The weekends can get really busy so try visiting during the week.

See More: 13 Remarkable Species of Jellyfish at the Monterey Aquarium

African Black Footed Penguins at the Monterey Bay Aquarium California.

2. 17-Mile Drive →

Guano Point is another spot located in Grand Canyon West. It’s a fun and short hike with 360-degree views of the canyon. You can also shoot photos at the right angle where it looks like you’re at the cliff’s edge when you’re actually much further back. There’s also a cafe where you can get food and drinks.

See More: A Quick Guide to the 17 Mile Drive in Monterey

3. Golfing at Pebble Beach

1700 17 Mile Dr, Pebble Beach, CA 93953, map

This is known as one of the most beautiful golf courses in the world! If you’re able to obtain one of the coveted tee times, you’ll be playing where the pros do and get a chance to take in all the views. If you can’t get a tee time, you can still view the course on the 17-Mile Drive.

Local Tip: You can enjoy the same beautiful views golfing at Pacific Grove for much cheaper.

The Beautiful 17 Mile Drive Pebble Beach California //

4. Cannery Row

36.613851,-121.9010181, map

Cannery Row is the center of Monterey’s tourism industry. There are beautiful boutique hotels, tons of shops, and restaurants where you can fill your belly. Be sure to check out the Antique Mall to get a glimpse of its roots.

5. Kayak Monterey Bay →

36.0306029,-113.8290033, map

Guano Point is another spot located in Grand Canyon West. It’s a fun and short hike with 360-degree views of the canyon. You can also shoot photos at the right angle where it looks like you’re at the cliff’s edge when you’re actually much further back. There’s also a cafe where you can get food and drinks.

See More: Kayaking in Monterey Bay with Adventures by the Sea

Kayaking in Monterey Bay with Adventures by the Sea + 15 Amazing Things to Do in Monterey California //

6. Whale Watching at Fisherman’s Wharf

36.6043144,-121.8953787, map

If you’re looking for a place to go whale-watching, this is your spot! There are panoramic views of the bay, seals sunbathing on the rocks, and restaurants to stop at for a quick bite.

Local Tip: Visit in April to see blue whales and humpback whales.

See More: 15 Best Places to Whale Watch in the US + When to Go

Monterey Bay Whale Watch + Best Places for Whale Watching Near MePin

7. Monterey Museum of Art (MMA)

559 Pacific St, Monterey, CA 93940, map

Founded in 1959, the MMA has two facilities to explore. There are over 14,000 objects in their permanent collection covering American and Asian art, contemporary art, photography, and early California painting, and include pieces from artists like Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Armin Hansen, and Ansel Adams.

8. Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary

36.6834553,-123.443561, map

This is one of the nation’s best marine protected areas with spectacular wildlife viewings. The sanctuary stretches from San Francisco to Cambria full of beaches, tide pools, kelp forests, steep canyons, and marine life. Check out the interpretive center in Santa Cruz.

See More: The Ultimate California Coast Road Trip – All the Best Stops Along the PCH

9. Path of History

55 historic sites fill the two-mile Path of History. You can take a self-guided tour by following the yellow tiles on the sidewalk to see California’s rich heritage. You can see adobes and buildings such as Colton Hall, Custom House Plaza, Pacific House, and the Golden State Theatre.

10. Golden State Theatre →

417 Alvarado St, Monterey, CA 93940, map

This beautifully restored theater seats roughly a thousand people and hosts world-class concerts, film festivals, and live performances. The rescued sky canopy makes you feel like you’re outdoors.

11. Monterey Jazz festival

If you’re in Monterey in September, check out the world’s longest running jazz festival. There are seven stages of live jazz, exhibitions, an international shopping bazaar, and more.

See More: 15 Best Festivals in the US to Add to Your Bucket List

12. The Farmer’s Market at Old Monterey Marketplace

98 Del Monte Ave #201, Monterey, CA 93940, map

This year-round Farmers Market spans three city blocks and is full of vendors selling arts and crafts, furniture, clothing, jewelry, and food. You can also find certified organic produce and fresh flowers.

On the Monterey Peninsula

13. Big Sur →

47555 CA-1, Big Sur, CA 93920, map

Big Sur is one of our favorite places in the world and Monterey is a great place to base yourself if you want to explore the area. Here is our guide for 11 amazing things to do in Big Sur.

See More:

14. Carmel-by-the-Sea

36.552861,-121.9226152, map

This seaside village is the perfect spot to spend the afternoon! There are small shops and cafes to check out. We really enjoyed the wine walk and tasting wine up and down the streets of Carmel-by-the-sea. You can also picnic down at the beach. Last time, we stayed at Hofsas House.

Local Tip: The Carmel Valley (just inland and shown in the photo below) is also beautiful and has wineries you can visit.

Carmel + 17 Most Romantic Places in the USPin

15. Point Lobos State Natural Reserve

36.5159128,-121.9408201, map

Just south of Carmel-by-the-Sea is this beautiful Natural Reserve. The dramatic landscapes will keep you mesmerized for hours. If you are dive certified, there are 10 diving spots where you can swim through 70-foot-high kelp forests and coral reefs.

When to Visit Monterey

Summer is peak season but can still be cool and overcast. January and February make up the rainy season. If you want to get clear weather and temperatures in the 70s go during the fall and spring. You can see Monarch butterflies in October. If you’re there to see baby seals go in the spring and if you want to see whales, go in April.

Map of the Best Things to Do in Monterey CA

Where to Stay in Monterey CA

Planning Checklist

Have you been to Monterey? What else do we need to check out?

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Esther and JacobPin

Esther + Jacob

Esther and Jacob are the founders of Local Adventurer, one of the top 5 travel blogs in the US. They believe that adventure can be found near and far and hope to inspire others to explore locally. They explore a new city in depth every year and currently base themselves in Las Vegas.

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This Post Has 6 Comments

  1. justinallison

    i love it

    1. Esther JuLee

      It is definitely a unique way to experience it, which I’m all for! Thanks, Juliette!

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