With wide-open spaces on California’s rugged central coast, Monterey County’s inspirational setting comes ready-made for relaxation with stunning views—and many more of those simple-yet-essential moments that refresh your perspective. Grab your moment in Monterey County and discover world-class resorts, restaurants, vineyards, and outdoor activities—many with a forward-thinking focus on sustainability that makes the experience that much more meaningful. With safety protocols and cleaning commitments a top priority in the area, you can trust you’ll have peace of mind and a tranquil escape in more ways than one. 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, all with added safety measures in place.
Play: Fast Raft Ocean Safari Even if you’ve been whale-watching, chances are you’ve never experienced it like this. With Fast Raft Ocean Safari, you’ll be out in the open air on 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 six guests out at a time, along with a marine biologist or naturalist (the crew manages social distancing), 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 stunning views of Salinas Valley along the River Road Wine Trail. Sample estate and reserve wines in the appointment-only tasting room overlooking the Santa Lucia Highlands while enjoying panoramic views.
Stay and Dine: L’Auberge Carmel and Aubergine You may not be able to travel overseas right now, but you can get a taste of France through the French windows, four-poster open-canopy beds, and antique furnishings at 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 dining alfresco in a flower-filled courtyard at the revered Michelin-starred restaurant, 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. Golf is the perfect socially distanced activity to recharge and reinvigorate, with rolling green hills and the rocky coastline as your backdrop. Courses have been enhanced with added safety and cleaning measures throughout the property, so grab some link time of your own (book as far ahead as possible), then enjoy some heated outdoor dining on the patio at one of the resort’s award-winning restaurants.
See & Do: Monterey Bay Aquarium The pioneering Monterey Bay Aquarium, regarded as one of the most important aquariums in the world, attracts around two 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.
While it’s anticipated to reopen as early as this spring, those eager for a look can tune into the live sea otter cam or participate in virtual learning activities, both available through the aquarium’s website. Visit soon to experience the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s highly anticipated reopening, and plan your return trip in 2023,when the aquarium will unveil the world’s first large-scale exhibition of deep-sea life.
Dine: Nepenthe 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 Ambrosia Burger, a ground 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. Then savor your meal on the edge of the world while outdoor heaters help keep you toasty.
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. It’s also pioneering safety measures—it was the first hotel in the U.S. to employ ACT.Global’s Premium Purity Danish cleaning solution (which offers top-tier, environmentally safe sanitation) and has partnered with Hayward Score, an organization that developed a tool to measure the indoor health of buildings.
Choose from luxury “treehouses,” spacious two-story ocean-view suites, the standalone Cliff House, and the 2,200-square-foot Post House. Try unique outdoor experiences including the shaman-guided fire ceremony or drum journey, or just relax cliffside in one of their 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 served in an unmatched outdoor setting.
Dine: Passionfish 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, plus a great alfresco seating area.
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. The property is also featuring new inclusive offerings, complete with guest-only meals, signature activities, and more to help guests feel safe while traveling for true peace-of-mind.
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, and dine outdoors at The Sur House restaurant with breathtaking cliffside views.
For more amazing places to stay, eat, and play, visit See Monterey.