With its inspirational setting on the rugged California coastline, Monterey County comes ready-made for relaxing moments with stunning views. Visit and discover world-class resorts, restaurants, spas, vineyards, and attractions—many with a forward-thinking focus on sustainability that makes the experience that much more special. Here’s where to go.
Stay: Carmel Valley Ranch & Spa
The 181 suites at Carmel Valley Ranch,
with their fireplaces and expansive private decks (some with a two-person soaking tub), are perfect for hiding out. But you may not want to—there’s lots to do here, including a Pete Dye golf course, a 250,000-honey bee apiary, horseback riding, and three saltwater swimming pools. When it’s time to wind down, head to the Spa Aiyana
, which features 11 treatment rooms—most with private outdoor terraces—as well as a signature massage that draws from the resort’s 7,000 lavender plants.
Play: Fast Raft Ocean Safari
If you’ve ever gone whale-watching, chances are you haven’t gone whale-watching like this. With Fast Raft Ocean Safari
, you’ll be out in a 33-foot, rigid-hulled inflatable that’s nimble enough to move quickly once a whale is spotted. Depending on the time of year, you may be out looking for humpbacks, blue whales, killer whales, dolphins, or porpoises. The intimate boats take just 6 guests out at a time, along with a marine biologist or naturalist, so you’ll get a lot of background on the animals as well as the unique ecosystem of the Monterey Bay area.
Taste: Hahn Winery
You’ll find more than 1,100 acres of pinot, chardonnay, grenache, malbec, and syrah grapes spread out over the gorgeous Hahn Winery
, about 40 miles southeast of Monterey. Even the drive here is dramatic, with great views of Salinas Valley along the River Road Wine Trail. Bring a picnic lunch for the tasting room deck or go for a unique vineyard tour in a fat-tire all-terrain vehicle. Taste grapes from the vine, get a behind-the-scenes look at the barrel room (including a sampling, of course) and take in the mountain-top views.
Stay and Dine: L’Auberge Carmel and Aubergine
French windows, four-poster open-canopy beds, and antique furnishings fill the luxurious L’Auberge Carmel
, a Relais & Châteaux property in the center of Carmel-by-the-Sea, just a short walk from the beach. While the European-style building dates to the 1920s, you’ll find modern touches like Bose sound systems and heated travertine floors. You can also enjoy one of the Monterey Peninsula’s most revered restaurants, the nine-table Aubergine, where an eight-course hyper-local tasting menu features ingredients often foraged by chef Justin Cogley.
Stay: The Lodge at Pebble Beach
Pebble Beach is synonymous with legendary golf, and The Lodge at Pebble Beach—the original resort in this century-old enclave—faces the 18th fairway and green of its famous course, Pebble Beach Golf Links. The lodge features 199 recently renovated rooms and suites with gas fireplaces; most have a patio or balcony or panoramic views of the 18th fairway. You’ll find the newest accommodations at Fairway One at The Lodge, set along the first fairway with 30 guest rooms and two four-bedroom cottages. Grab some link time of your own (book as far ahead as possible), then enjoy the spa, the various clubs, and all of the resort restaurants.
See & Do: Monterey Bay Aquarium
The pioneering Monterey Bay Aquarium
is regarded as one of the most important aquariums in the world, attracting around 2 million visitors a year. It’s also a global pioneer in sustainability, thanks to efforts like Seafood Watch
, which helps you choose seafood that’s fished or farmed in eco-friendly ways. When you visit, you’ll find more than 550 species of sea life in nearly three dozen galleries—from sharks, skates, octopuses, and giant ocean sunfish to puffins, sea turtles, and jellyfish. You can even watch sea otters and penguins being fed multiple times per day. For a custom experience, arrange a tour with a private guide who will take you behind the scenes and show you how the animals are cared for.
This iconic Big Sur restaurant sits high on a coastal ridge above the Pacific, offering epic coastline views from its sprawling rooftop patio. Nepenthe
has been a fixture since opening in 1949, attracting locals and travelers along with celebrated artists and writers, and it’s been owned and operated by the same family ever since. Choose from dishes like the Ambrosiaburger, a chopped-steak sandwich topped with Ambrosia sauce, and a roast chicken dinner with sage stuffing and homemade cranberry sauce—as well as from among 400 wines.
Stay: Post Ranch Inn
Perched on a ridge 1,200 feet above the Pacific, the serenely elegant Post Ranch Inn
offers stunning views from across the property. Choose from luxury “treehouses,” spacious two-story ocean-view suites, the standalone Cliff House, and the 2,200-square-foot Post House. Try unique activities like the shaman-guided fire ceremony or drum journey, or just relax in cliffside infinity “basking pools” and take in the amazing views. Wind down with nature walks, yoga, and stargazing; and don’t miss the six-course tasting menu and four-course prix fixe menu.
Fresh and sustainable ingredients are the guiding principle behind Passionfish
restaurant in Pacific Grove. Chef Ted Walter and his wife, Cindy, not only source from local farmers’ markets, but also research exactly where their fish comes from, how it’s caught, and how it’s shipped. Bold flavors are injected into all dishes, which might include halibut, trout, duck, oysters, mussels, and creative vegetarian options. You’ll also find an extensive, innovative wine list that highlights small production and under-the-radar wineries.
Stay: Ventana Big Sur
Ventana Big Sur
has been seamlessly blending nature and comfort from its perch above the Pacific since first opening in 1975. But now it’s better than ever, thanks to a renovation of its rooms, suites, and villas. Cedar exteriors meld into the forest, while decks and patios look out to mountain, meadow, or ocean views. Some rooms feature wood-burning fireplaces; suites offer amenities like two-person soaking tubs and private patio hot tubs; and 15 new “glamping” tents boast fire pits, heated blankets, and luxury linens. Enjoy the resort’s outdoor pools, go for a foraging hike, take a class in falconry, get a heated-stone massage, and dine at the Sur House restaurant.
For more amazing places to stay, eat, and play, visit See Monterey.