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Monterey was established in 1770 by Father Junipero Serra. During its long history it has been notable for numerous things, including having been the state capital of California for a brief period. Today it is most commonly known for having been the setting for many of John Steinbeck's novels including Cannery Row and Tortilla Flat. Monterey is one of the more beautiful coastal cities of California and can make for a great two day trip for those visiting San Francisco or a weekend getaway for California natives. An old Mission, historic literature, a beautiful coast line and lots of wildlife await you.
Rugged terrain and vicious Pacific currents made much of the California coast virtually unexplorable to European ships. After a disastrous attempt to explore this new territory by sea, Spanish missionaries in Mexico launched a series of overland expeditions from San Diego. Monterey soon became a Spanish military base with a small fort or "presidio" located near a calm harbor that could provide shelter to supply ships. The military presence eventually gave way to a thriving commercial trade that brought in many enterprising foreign merchants.
Once Mexico gained its independence from Spain, Monterey became the capital of Alta California under Mexican rule. From this era come many classic stories of flirtation, fashion, and politics in the Mexican colonial era. Lands once owned by the government began to come into private hands, and local families began to consolidate their property and power into business enterprises based on the ranches or "ranchos," where they raised cattle or invented the famous Monterey Jack cheese.
Monterey soon fell under American power in the Mexican-American War and remained the capital of the territory. A delegation of writers drafted the constitution which marked the entrance of the State of California into the United States of America. This era saw the mass northward migration of ambitious people in search of gold, which led to a near desertion of the town. Monterey soon recovered, however, and today is known for its magnificent natural beauty, world famous Aquarium, and temperate year-round climate.
The Monterey Peninsula has the largest population of sea otters on the California coast. The abundance of marine wildlife visible from the shoreline is one of the primary attractions of the region. Seals, sea lions, sea otters are visible year-round and migrating whales are commonly seen in the fall and spring months.
For a wonderful account of Monterey's history, check out "Monterey County: The Dramatic Story of Its Past," written by a local author.
To see specific hotel locations in Monterey do a Quick Search.
Monterey is located on State Highway 1, which meanders slowly along the coast. It's about 25 miles from US 101.
From the North, take US 101 south to Prunedale. At Prunedale go west 5 miles west on State Highway 156 until it merges onto southbound Highway 1.Then 15 miles along Highway 1 to Monterey. If you are heading to Cannery Row or the Aquarium, look for a brown sign which will advise you about which exit to take. If Highway 1 ceases to be a freeway, you've gone past Monterey.
From San Francisco, if you have a lot of time to spend, you could consider travelling south along the coast on State Route 1. It's a slow road until you get to Santa Cruz, but the views are fantastic.
From the South, take US 101 north to Salinas, then State Route 68 west to Monterey.
From the Bay Area internet map sites, mapping software and GPS systems will advise you to take State Route 17 to Santa Cruz and then take State Route 1 south. State Route 17 through the Santa Cruz Mountains is often highly congested, filled with sharp curves and corners drivers take at high speed, and is occasionally blocked by accidents. Even though highway 101 takes you out of the way, it is often faster than State Route 17.
Note... taken at the right time of day and in good weather, Hwy 17 can actually be enjoyable, but realize it is in fact very curvy and hilly and won't provide the option for much sightseeing as a result. Although it is oft traveled by road-warrior locals, even an everyday, confident driver could take it on. But as forewarned - don't expect it to be a timesaver at busy driving times (unless of course Santa Cruz is your final destination and you are heading south). Do otherwise opt for routes 101 and 156W if you're rushed or it's a busy time.
Amtrak's Coast Starlight passes through nearby Salinas. Amtrak runs a bus service from the station to the major hotels of Monterey.
The recently reorganized Monterey Peninsula Airport offers regular flights to San Francisco, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Denver, Salt Lake City, and Las Vegas. From the airport a short drive will take you west along Highway 68 and onto southbound Highway 1, where the two right lanes lead straight downtown.
Lighthouse Ave, Ocean View Blvd and Sunset Dr. - These roads will take you from Fisherman's Wharf to Cannery Row out past Lover's Point around the peninsula towards Pebble Beach and Carmel. You'll be able to see some of the nicest architecture, a view of the beaches and possibly some sea otters. Stay on the road that follows the coast and you won't get lost. A walking path runs the distance of these paths and can make for a pleasant afternoon walk.
Alvarado Street serves as downtown Monterey's "main drag." It is along this road that you will find superb restaurants, a selection of bars, and many unique shops. Monterey's compact downtown is very walkable so if you're planning to spend the day exploring leave your car at the hotel. WARNING: Monterey's shopping area (Cannery, Aquarium, Shops) has an aggressive, expensive parking ticket policy. A few minutes over at a meter and you will be welcomed to town with a $25 parking ticket.
A car is advisable if you plan on taking any side trips to surrounding towns. Garage parking is available, and street parking is often free for periods of two hours, on weekends, and after 6pm. Many local hotels offer parking for an additional charge.
Monterey-Salinas Transit provides relatively convenient public bus service to the nearby towns of Carmel and Pacific Grove, as well as to historical Salinas and breathtaking Big Sur. MST also provides a "wine route" which stops at several of the area's most notable wineries. MST also runs a trolley like bus through town.
Monterey offers a great selection of attractions that will be convenient to your hotel:
Jellyfish in the Monterey Bay Aquarium
Sea lions near Fisherman's Wharf
Monterey Bay Aquarium, 886 Cannery Row, ph: 831-648-4888 (24 hour information), 831 648-4800 (switchboard). This large aquarium specializes in exhibiting local sea life. The best exhibits include a large tank of silver anchovies that swim around and around your head and three sea otters raised in the aquarium and now too tame to live in the wild. Best of all, perhaps, are the tanks of large jellyfish lit up so that they fluoresce. Admission is $20 adults, $18 seniors, $16 students, $9 children and disabled. Open 9:30AM-6PM May 29-Sept 6 and all holidays, 10AM- 6PM at other times.
Monterey County Fairgrounds located at Fairgrounds Road, the fairgrounds hosts the annual Monterey Jazz Festival and hosted a one-time Monterey Pop Festival (in 1967). Other music festivals occur throughout the year, and the locally famous Monterey County Fair occurs every year in late August.
The Carmel Mission, 3080 Rio Road, Carmel. One of the 21 Missions located along the California coast. Father Serra, the leader behind the greater Spanish mission to California, is buried along with his most faithful lieutenant at the front of the church. Self-guided tours take you through the remaining original buildings which now hold exhibits, a small museum, and a gift shop. Catholic Masses occur regularly.
Dennis the Menace Park A giant kids park that includes a full sized train, numerous bridges, ducks and geese you can feed and paddle boat rentals. One of the better free municipal parks in Northern California. It is located within a 10 minute walk south of Fisherman's wharf. The park is closed on Tuesdays.
Watch the Sea Lions at the Wharfs. Contrary to popular opinion one of the best places to watch the sea lions is not at the famous Fisherman's Wharf (with all the tourists) but instead on the more industrial wharf that is a short walk to the east of Fisherman's Wharf. This wharf has a small fishing warehouse that is still in operation and as such there are numerous sea lions that have made this wharf their home. Walk out all the way to the end of the wharf past all of the fishermen, look down below the wharf and you will see them. Another great place to spot sea lions up close is at the end of the Coast Guard wharf. Harbor Seals can be seen through a fence, west of the Stanford research station (west of the aquarium), or in the calm waters next to Fisherman’s Wharf.
You won't need any encouragement to get out of your hotel and enjoy all that Monterey has to offer.
Play on the dunes and the shore at one of the city's five public beaches. Enjoy a romantic or family style Monterey bonfire on the beach.
Walk or bike along part of the 29 mile-long (47 kilometers-long) Monterey Bay Coastal Trail. Bikes are available for rent at several places along the path. Multi-passenger surrey bikes are particularly popular and available for rent.
Explore the unique estuary environment of Elkhorn Slough, either on foot or by kayak. (Very nice trip, but not in Monterey, 23 miles north on hwy 1 by car)
Monterey Bay Kayaks, 693 Del Monte Avenue, offers kayaking equipment rentals as well as guided kayaking tours, classes, and fishing trips.
Catch a performance at the historic Wharf Theater. Shows often include local interpretations of hit musicals.
The recently refurbished Golden State Theatre offers diverse, family-friendly shows centering on the themes of classic cinema and musical theater. It's worth a trip just to see the ornate interior of the theater.
View the latest independent films at the Osio 6 Cinema. The attached cafe makes a perfect stop before or after the show. The theater also offers occasional late-night screenings of classic films.
Several companies offer year-round whale watching boat tours, departing daily from Fisherman's Wharf. The area is particularly famous for sightings of gray whales as they travel to warmer waters during the winter and early spring.
Guide yourself through Monterey's historical heritage by following the Path of History. Follow the yellow plaques in the sidewalk to take in some of the town's most intriguing buildings. Informational signs are posted at each stop. Maps can be found at the California State Parks office near Customs House Plaza. Guided tours are also available.
Visit local museums. The Pacific House Museum offers detailed displays on local history and Native American life. The Maritime Museum showcases exhibits that revolve around Monterey's seaside location. The Monterey Museum of Art houses a permanent collection as well as rotating exhibits.
Scuba Diving, see some of the west coasts most spectacular kelp forests.
Get a panoramic view of the Monterey Bay (and Carmel to the south) from Jack's Peak County Park, the highest point on the Monterey Peninsula and amazingly free of crowds.
Watch the hang gliders and paragliders at Marina beach (in the town of Marina about 10 miles north of Monterey)
Laguna Seca Raceway,1021 Monterey-Salinas Highway, in Salinas. Famous Indy car and motorcycle race track.
Play a round of golf. This is Monterey, there are golf courses everywhere.
With the great deal you'll be getting on your hotel, it will be easy to indulge in a little retail therapy.
Monterey Imports (Galarie Monterey), 482 Alvarado Street, Downtown Monterey, (831) 674-1773.
The Del Monte Shopping Center, off Highway 1 at Munras Avenue, offers a selection of typical mall chain stores, as well as a large cinema complex.
Fisherman's Wharf provides plenty of opportunities to find that perfect Monterey postcard or souvenir. You can also buy the day's latest catch fresh off the boat.
Cannery Row sports many shops to enjoy. Also nearby is the American Tin Cannery with outlets for several well-known brands.
Bay Books (316 Alvarado Street) is the area's most notable independent bookstore, boasting an impressive collection of local interest books. A small cafe rounds out the atmosphere. Bay Books closed in December 2007.
Monterey is a town where you will never be stuck eating whatever the hotel has to offer. Many fine restaurants offering a wide variety of food are available.
From the doorstep of your hotel you'll be just a stone's throw from local wines and microbrews.
Monterey has many superb vineyards located within a short distance from the town
Alvarado Street has the densest collection of bars and pubs in the area. The Mucky Duck is famous for its weekly trivia nights, while Lalapalooza has the widest selection of martinis.
Just across the Customs House Plaza (behind the Portola Plaza Hotel) you can find Indian Summer, a hookah bar with an exotic atmosphere and local brews. Try to plan a visit during a live belly dancing show.
On Cannery Row Sly McFly's provides live musical entertainment most nights of the week.
Carbones Old School New Rules is located on the 200 Block of Lighthouse Ave. This is a fantastic bar featuring a large back patio area with fire pit. On Fridays and Saturdays Carbones OSNR features both live music and belly dancers and on Sunday features free pool.
Relatively limited offerings on the club front include Club Octane  downtown, Doc Rickett's Lab, and Planet Gemini  (which often hosts live comedy nights) on Cannery Row.
Your Monterey hotel can make a great base for day trips to the surrounding region.
The Best Western Monterey Inn is within walking distance to Fisherman's Wharf, downtown Monterey and the conference center. Nearby is historic Cannery Row and the world famous Monterey Bay Aquarium. Beautiful and spacious rooms feature separate dressing area, refrigerators and coffee makers and all are non-smoking. Some include a fireplace and ocean views.
Best Western Beach Resort Monterey offers oceanfront views and direct access to the beach. This luxurious hotel offers 196 rooms and is the only hotel located directly on Del Monte Beach! Select a room with expansive views of Monterey Bay or a quiet non-ocean side room overlooking colorful courtyards. We provide business/meeting services and banquet facilities for groups up to 700 guests. Explore miles of unspoiled beachfront and return for a healthy workout in our brand new exercise facility!
The Best Western Beach Dunes Inn offers a quiet and beautiful setting at the gateway to the Monterey Peninsula and all of its varied attractions. Located steps from the ocean through the famous Monterrey Dunes, our guests may walk along miles of unspoiled beaches and wildlife preserves.
In the heart of historic downtown Monterey, and surrounded by the attractions of the spectacular Monterey Peninsula, the Marriott Monterey provides an ideal location for your business, recreation and meeting needs, featuring smoke-free rooms, and the best views of the Monterey Bay coastline.
Even if you don't get to your hotel by car, consider renting one for a day because the world-famous 17-Mile-Drive begins just a short distance away. The road winds through miles of breathtaking coastal views, with turnouts along the way at the most historical and picturesque sites. Be sure to take a picture of the Lone Cypress tree! The $9.50 entrance fee includes a map, and the rights to gawk at the lavish homes within the Pebble Beach community's gates.
Drive along the coast to Santa Cruz on the Northern end of Monterey Bay, or continue South down to Big Sur and Carmel.
Source: Wikitravel 2008