The Monterey Bay Aquarium… 17 Mile Drive with its Lone Cypress… Cannery Row… Pebble Beach…there is no end to California dreamin’ in Monterey and Carmel. It only takes between two and three hours to get from San Francisco to Monterey—or from San Francisco to Carmel. Translation: These distinctive getaways are distinctively do-able for any Northern California vacation.

Both Monterey and its nearby neighbor, Carmel-by-the-Sea, display some of California’s most beautiful coastline. There are great places to visit, relax, explore, and dine. Here are some of our favorites:

  1. Monterey Bay Aquarium. Perhaps the most popular Monterey attraction, the Monterey Aquarium has something from everyone. See swimming jellyfish and playful sea otters. Check out the towering, swaying underwater kelp forest—with one of the largest windows of its kind in the world. If you’d like to score Monterey Bay Aquarium tickets, or simply learn more information about the Monterey aquarium, click here.
  1. Cannery Row. Once home to multiple sardine canning factories, and made famous by the gritty 1945 novel of the same name by John Steinbeck, Cannery Row is now home to restaurants, hotels, and other tourist attractions including the Monterey Bay Aquarium. You could spend an entire day along Cannery Row, just… eating. There are tons of great dining destinations here. You can check out the sea lions living just offshore. And you pedal along the coast, too: for bike rental, Monterey is a great place to get some exercise amid the brisk sea air.
  1. Point Lobos State Reserve. Whether you want to spend a day relaxing on the beach, exploring the reserve, or snapping some shareable photos, Point Lobos is one stop you don’t want to miss. There is a small entrance fee, but it’s worth it. You’ll be treated to some of the most pristine coastline in all of the Monterey Bay region.
  1. Pebble Beach. Pebble Beach is home to five gorgeous golf courses, including the most famous: Pebble Beach Golf Links. Whether you’re an avid golfer wanting to get your game on or simply want to stop by for a bite or a drink, these courses—which have hosted a variety of famous golf tournaments—are not to be missed.
  1. 17 Mile Drive, Monterey to Carmel’s incomparable scenic route. Every turn is breathtaking. You’ll see stunning coastal vistas, beautiful houses, Pebble Beach, the famed Lone Cypress, and much more. There’s a $10 fee to drive along 17 Mile Drive; however, some restaurants along the road—such as Roy’s or the Lodge at Pebble Beach—will reimburse the fee if you dine with them.
  1. Carmel Beach. This white-sandy-beach town is a sleeping beauty and the perfect place for a relaxing day. Why? There’s so much to do! It’s dog-friendly, with off-leash roaming for canine friends. Cozy beach fires are allowed in the evenings. The Scenic Bluff Path, with its eight entrances to the beach below, shows off impressive landscaped gardens. And a great place to grab photos of local surfers riding the waves.
  1. Mission Ranch. Enjoy a delicious dinner with a beautiful view at Mission Ranch in Carmel. This renowned restaurant has had many owners, including Clint Eastwood. Mission Ranch also has room available for guests who would like to stay overnight at this historic location.

If you are interested in a day trip to Monterey and Carmel from San Francisco book our Monterey & Carmel Explorer Tour to see all of the highlights without all of the driving.

Do you have a favorite place in either Monterey or Carmel we may have missed? Let us know by commenting below!

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