Free Things To Do in Monterey
- #1View all Photos#1 in MontereyFree, Neighborhood/AreaTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPENDFree, Neighborhood/AreaTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPEND
Located south of Monterey and Pebble Beach, Carmel-by-the-Sea is a humble seaside village with a few small shops and cafes -- at least that's the cover story. In truth, this pricey town has plenty of designer stores, gourmet eateries and upscale art galleries that cater to its wealthy residents (like Clint Eastwood). You'll find most shoppers and diners around picturesque Ocean Avenue, which leads to Carmel Beach.
Many forego the town's activities in favor of catching some rays on the expansive dog-friendly beach. Recent visitors recommend taking a long walk along the shore at sunset or sunrise. For more information about Carmel-by-the-Sea, check out the town's website.
- #2View all Photos#2 in MontereyNatural Wonders, Free, Parks and Gardens, HikingTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDNatural Wonders, Free, Parks and Gardens, HikingTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
South of Carmel-by-the-Sea, the Point Lobos State Natural Reserve receives praise from almost everyone who visits. The dramatic rock formations rising from the ocean have most visitors gawking, while the cute creatures like pocket gopher and the southern sea otter keep the nature-lovers smiling. The reserve's 13 trails offer hikers both easy and challenging opportunities. The Cypress Grove Trail is especially popular due to its views of the rugged coast and the gnarled Monterey cypress trees that perch precariously on the seaside cliffs.
If you like to dive, you're in luck. Point Lobos has 10 diving spots where you can swim through 70-foot-high kelp forests and various coral reefs. If you're lucky, you may catch site of passing seals and whales.
- #6View all Photos
Near Cannery Row and the Monterey Bay Aquarium, Old Fisherman's Wharf is not the smelly, salt water-stained place it once was. Costly restaurants and souvenir shops now characterize this touristy harborside neighborhood. However, this is the place to go if you're interested in a whale-watching tours or a kayaking excursion on the bay.
A quick stroll on Old Fisherman's Wharf affords panoramic views of the bay, not to mention the seals that sunbathe on the nearby rocks and buoys. While here, be sure to taste the clam chowder. Many of the restaurants serving it offer samples to passersby, so you can have the equivalent of a small cup by simply making sample rounds. For more information, check out the Monterey County's website.
- #7View all Photos
Anchored by the Monterey Bay Aquarium, Cannery Row is the epicenter of Monterey's tourism industry. Boutique hotels, shops and restaurants line this seaside avenue and attract thousands of travelers each year. But many recent visitors find the area overpriced and too touristy, noting that you can no longer detect the charms that John Steinbeck details in his 1945 novel Cannery Row.
The best way to get back to Cannery Row's roots is to take a trip to the Cannery Row Antique Mall. Housed in an old canning company building, the mall is filled to the brim with Steinbeck-era trinkets. There is also the small McAbee beach, which affords panoramic views of Monterey Bay.
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