The Monterey Peninsula is different than any other part of California. Here, time slows, the architecture is humble (with the exception of the homes in Pebble Beach), and the lifestyle is the perfect synthesis of SoCal laid back and NorCal sophisticated. On the northern side of the peninsula, the town of Monterey draws most of the tourists, while farther south, Carmel-by-the-Sea lures the easygoing wealthy set. Tremendous price tags on real estate helps maintain the small-community atmosphere along Monterey's jaw-dropping coastline.
This area makes for a tremendous road-trip stop or romantic weekend stay. And did we mention the golf courses? This stretch of the California coastline boasts some of the most coveted fairways in the world. Add to that an abundance of natural wonders, luxury resorts and seafood restaurants, and Monterey might just be the ideal destination for your next getaway.
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The best time to visit Monterey is between April and May. Spring offers warmer temperatures, fewer crowds and food festivals dishing out delectable eats, including Pebble Beach Food & Wine and the Artichoke Festival in Castroville. Summer is the most popular time to visit the Monterey Peninsula, but be forewarned: Although the sun's rays are at their strongest, Monterey can still be chilly. Located right on the ocean, the region experiences bitter winds, so bring a sweater regardless of the season. Fall is another good time to visit, but the likelihood of rain increases starting in October. Monterey's central California location subjects it to mild temperatures during the winter, with the average low reaching 48 degrees. Winter also brings lower hotel prices and the celebrity-heavy AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am event held in February, making Monterey an attractive destination year-round.
Data sourced from the National Climatic Data Center
Because of Monterey's location along the Pacific Ocean, fresh seafood is, of course, a staple on menus throughout the area. Old Fisherman's Wharf is often the first choice of those looking to sample Monterey's famous clam chowder. Yet despite the wharf's unbeatable views and abundant free samples, travelers have found the establishments to be overpriced and mediocre. To break from the crowds and sample better seafood, walk one pier over to LouLou's Griddle in the Middle for cheaper chowder and a delightfully kitschy atmosphere.
Serious seafood lovers should look no further than Phil's Fish Market in Moss Landing. Located just under 20 miles north of Monterey, Phil's is considered to be one of the best seafood spots in Monterey County, serving seafood in all shapes and sizes, hot and cold. It's so popular that Bobby Flay paid a visit for a Food Network throwdown (chef Phil DiGirolamo beat the celebrity chef and restaurateur with his signature Cioppino stew).
If you're hungry for something other than the catch of the day, travel inland to the hillside neighborhood of Seaside for some of the region's tastiest Mexican restaurants. Carne asada connoisseurs in particular enjoy Baldemiro's Taco Shop for its robust carne asada fries.
Head south to Carmel-by-the-Sea and Pebble Beach and you'll quickly see the finer things in life can be just as tasty. Carmel-by-the-Sea prides itself on having no chain restaurants, so Starbucks-lovers will have to trade in their fraps for a mom-and-pop-brewed cup of joe. Those looking for a fine dining experience should book a table at the award-winning Aubergine restaurant at L'Auberge Carmel. The restaurant features an eight-course chef's menu that changes daily, as well as a 2,500-wine cellar featuring wines from the region as well as France.
If you have an extra day to spare, take a drive out to Carmel Valley and explore the area's many wineries, situated among the picturesque Santa Lucia Highlands. Talbott Vineyards in particular makes a mean Pinot Noir.
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