On Pacific coastal cruises, you’ll be swept up in the charm and ease of fishing town Monterey, which you might know best as the dramatic backdrop of HBO’s recent show Big Little Lies. Monterey is also known for its wine country, so be sure to sample a tasting of Southern Californian wines while you’re stopped here on a Monterey cruise. Ride along Highway One, taking in the seaside air and snapping photos of the craggy overlooks meeting the sea.
Don’t miss the city’s most talked about attraction, the Monterey Bay Aquarium, which is known for its impressive collection of otters, tuna, and other marine life swimming happily in their massive tanks. The Monterey Bay Aquarium also provides helpful tidbits about the history and culture of the bay as you explore. Swimming, snorkeling, or spending an entire day on the beach is always in fashion in this quaint seaside town.
Marine and wildlife lovers will be captivated by one of the largest aquariums in California, the Monterey Bay Aquarium, which is also responsible for many conservation and habitat preservation efforts in the area. Don’t miss the Jellies Gallery, where thousands of jellyfish float overhead, or the refreshing Splash Zone, where you and kids of all ages can cool off. There are also daily penguin feedings and an entire sea turtle habitat.
Open from 11am to 5pm Thursday through Monday, the Monterey Museum of Art is known for its dedication to contemporary artists, specifically landscape artists. The museum is home to works from Hockney, Ansel Adams, and more. Rotating exhibits and collections bring new perspectives to American contemporary art.
In the early 20th century, the sardine farming industry was booming in Monterey, and most of the labor was done along what is now called Cannery Row. Since then, it’s become a historic and cultural sight to commemorate Monterey’s past. Today, restaurants, shops, and hotels line the streets here as one of the essential drags for visitors passing through.
For a glimpse at the once-bustling fishing industry of the area, head to Fisherman’s Wharf to catch sight and smell of the sea and the area’s fresh catches. Though commercial fishing is less popular now than in its heyday, the Wharf still offers plenty of dining and entertainment options on the harbor, including a prime spot for whale watching.
The Monterey region of California is known for its expansive wine country and is home to some of the area’s most fertile grapes. Wine tastings are a popular weekend activity with the locals, too. Carmel Ridge Winery Tasting Room or Folktale Winery & Vineyards are just two of many you can check out while you’re there.
Cruises to Monterey, CA aren’t quite complete without a jaunt by car along Highway One, which is where you can see some of California’s most stunning landscapes. Stop to walk along the beach or take photos from the overlook points on your way to spots like Garrapata State Park or Bixby Bridge.
Address: 414 Calle Principal
This restaurant and bar housed in an old firehouse offers a prime example of fresh Californian fusion, where you’ll find classics like burgers or expertly done salmon and lamb entrees. The cocktail menu is always changing, and seasonal dishes rotate based on what’s available around town.
Old Monterey Marketplace
Address: Alvarado St between Del Monte Ave & Pearl St
On Tuesdays each week, the Old Monterey Marketplace is a prime spot for grabbing fresh produce, cheeses, and street eats. Don’t miss the baker’s alley where you can smell freshly baked bread from the streets. It’s a popular activity for the locals and will give you a sense of the slow-paced life in Monterey.
Crêpes of Brittany
Address: 211 Alvarado St
Whether sweet or savory, the French-inspired Crêpes of Brittany is a must-try while you’re in Monterey. The owners aim to bring a taste of Brittany to you. Savory galettes can be built however you like. The salmon-and-brie and the egg-and-cheese galettes are two menu favorites. They also have freshly baked croissants and delightful pain au chocolat.
The town of Monterey was founded in 1770, but the first people to ever live in this area were a group called the Rumsien, who came to the area for its abundant fishing and wildlife. The Spanish explorer Juan Rodríquez Cabrillo saw the shores of Monterey in the 16th century, and Spanish influence greatly impacted the town as the years marched on. Today, Monterey’s architecture mimics the Spanish and Mexican pueblos and adobe houses that were prevalent during those times. By 1850, California was named the 31st state in the United States. Today, Monterey is home to a wide variety of trades and industries, from sprawling wine country to fishing, and it’s famous for the Monterey Bay Aquarium, which attracts millions of visitors every year.
On your Monterey cruise, you’ll be tendered to shore at the Coast Guard Pier, where you can then walk to attractions like the Monterey Bay Aquarium, Cannery Row, and Presidio Park.
Once you’re off the cruise ship, it’s easy to see Cannery Row on foot and walk from there to Fisherman’s Wharf. One of the best ways to see Monterey and the surrounding areas is via car, where you can take a ride along the coastal highways and enjoy everything the Californian coast has to offer. In Monterey, there’s also a free trolley service.
There’s not much in the way of shopping immediately as you’re tendered ashore, but the Monterey area itself has hundreds of wineries and tasting shops that you can visit during your sightseeing here. Other than that, the area is home to plenty of small boutiques and handcrafted items from local vendors.
No surprise here: you’ll find the U.S. dollar reigns supreme in California. Credit cards are widely accepted as well, and ATMs are easily found in the city. Tipping follows the typical protocol as the rest of the U.S., so it’s polite to leave at least 15% for servers and 10-15% for taxi drivers.