Things to do in Monterey

About Monterey

The iconic Monterey Bay Aquarium, scenic 17-Mile Drive, and the historic Cannery Row top the must-see attractions list for any Monterey visit. They capture the essence of the area's unique blend of natural beauty and cultural depth.
Interacting with mesmerizing marine life at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, exploring the hands-on MY Museum - Monterey County Youth Museum, and enjoying outdoor adventures at Dennis the Menace Playground are some of the best things to do in Monterey with kids.
Hiking at Point Lobos State Natural Reserve, wildlife watching along the Coastal Trail, and beach activities at Del Monte Beach offer memorable outdoor experiences for all ages in Monterey.
Indoor enthusiasts will appreciate the rich collections at the Monterey Museum of Art, the nautical history at the Maritime Museum, and unique oceanic experiences at the Monterey Bay Aquarium.
Monterey's best tours include whale-watching cruises, guided historical walks through the old town, and self-guid scoring picturesque drives along the coastline and marine sanctuaries.
The Monterey Bay Aquarium for marine exploration, the Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History for a dive into local ecosystems, and the Maritime Museum for seafaring history stand as Monterey's most popular museums.
Rainy days are perfect for exploring the Monterey Wine Country with its tasting rooms, or embracing the arts with a tour of the Monterey Museum of Art and its varied exhibitions.
For those short on time, Monterey hosts several concise tours such as the historic Pacific Grove walking tour, a visit to the Monterey State Historic Park, or a quick stroll through the Cannery Row.

Best Things to Do In Monterey

Discover the enchanting coastal city of Monterey with its array of vibrant and educational attractions. Prepare to be captivated.

Monterey: Pinnacles National Park

What is it?
Spectacular landscapes marked by rock formations and home to diverse wildlife.
Why you should go?
A hidden gem among California’s national parks, Pinnacles National Park offers an adventurous retreat for those seeking to revel in the great outdoors. From intriguing caves to towering rock spires, the park provides ample hiking opportunities, rock climbing spots, and spring wildflower displays. The presence of the California condor, a species once on the brink of extinction, adds to the park's list of natural attractions and makes it a worthwhile addition to the plethora of things to do in Monterey.

Monterey: The Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History

What is it?
An informative museum dedicated to the natural history of the California Central Coast.
Why you should go?
For a dive into the region's flora, fauna, and geological wonders, the Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History is the place to be. The museum enlightens visitors about the natural and cultural history of Monterey's peninsula through interactive exhibits, making it one of the most educational Monterey activities. Engaging for both adults and children, a visit to this museum is among the top things to see in Monterey.

Monterey: Carmel-by-the-Sea

What is it?
A picturesque village with a fairytale ambiance, known for its artistic heritage.
Why you should go?
Charming and quaint, Carmel-by-the-Sea is a storybook enclave nestled along the Monterey Peninsula. Renowned for its white sandy beaches, art galleries, and unique architecture, this village invites leisurely exploration and is considered one of the best things to do in Monterey. Visitors can browse the eclectic boutiques, savor local cuisine, or attend world-class performances, making it a highlight of any Monterey excursion.

Monterey: Bixby Creek Bridge

What is it?
An iconic arched bridge that is one of the most photographed features on the Pacific Coast.
Why you should go?
Spanning the rugged coastline, the Bixby Creek Bridge stands as a monument to human ingenuity and offers unparalleled views of the Pacific Ocean. A drive across this famous bridge is often cited as one of the essential Monterey activities, especially for first-time visitors. The journey along the historic Highway 1 provides a scenic experience that captures the essence of California's majestic shoreline.

Monterey: El Estero Park Complex

What is it?
An urban park featuring a lake, recreational facilities, and abundant green space.
Why you should go?
Set in the heart of Monterey, the El Estero Park Complex is a peaceful oasis for relaxation and family fun. With facilities for paddle boating, skateboarding, and picnicking, the park is a hub for fun things to do in Monterey. This location is especially popular among locals and visitors for its serene setting and the Dennis the Menace Playground, a delight for children seeking playtime adventure.

Monterey: Cannery Row

What is it?
A historic waterfront district lined with shops, restaurants, and cultural attractions.
Why you should go?
The bustling Cannery Row is a testament to Monterey's rich heritage, once the sardine-packing capital of the world, now a lively promenade boasting quaint boutiques, gourmet eateries, and captivating marine life views. Visitors can engage with local culture through numerous Monterey activities, making it one of the best things to do in Monterey for those keen on experiencing the blend of history with modern indulgences.

Monterey: Monterey Bay Aquarium

What is it?
An acclaimed aquarium showcasing an extensive range of marine ecosystems and creatures.
Why you should go?
Situated on the edge of the Pacific Ocean, the Monterey Bay Aquarium is an immersive portal to oceanic life. Highlights include interactive exhibits, kelp forest displays, and the enchanting Open Sea galleries. This destination ranks high on the list of fun things to do in Monterey, offering educational and engaging experiences that resonate with visitors of all ages seeking things to see in Monterey.

Monetary: 17-Mile Drive

What is it?
A scenic road through Pebble Beach and Pacific Grove, renowned for its stunning coastal views.
Why you should go?
The 17-Mile Drive captivates with its spectacular seascapes, majestic forests, and ritzy mansions. As one of the best Monterey tours, it's an essential Monterey excursion for first-timers looking to immerse themselves in the natural beauty and opulence of the area. Photographers and nature enthusiasts alike will find this drive a must-do among places to visit in Monterey.

Monterey: Old Fisherman's Wharf

What is it?
A vibrant, historic pier known for its seafood, shopping, and whale-watching opportunities.
Why you should go?
Old Fisherman's Wharf is a hub of activity and entertainment. Visitors can indulge in freshly caught seafood, shop for unique souvenirs, or partake in whale watching tours in Monterey. An essential part of what to do in Monterey, this charming wharf offers a glimpse into Monterey's seafaring traditions while providing endless family-friendly amusement.

Monterey: Point Lobos State Natural Reserve

What is it?
A natural reserve featuring hiking trails, marine habitats, and a rich variety of wildlife.
Why you should go?
Often described as the "crown jewel" of California's state parks, Point Lobos State Natural Reserve is a sanctuary for terrestrial and marine life. Its trails wind through stunning landscapes, with dramatic ocean vistas, thriving kelp forests, and the opportunity to observe creatures like sea lions, otters, and migratory birds. For those wondering what to see in Monterey, this reserve is an unmissable outdoor escape.

TOP-5 tours in Monterey for first time visitors

  • Explore the iconic Cannery Row, delving into the history that inspired John Steinbeck's novels. Uncover the essence of Monterey's past.
  • Stroll through the resplendent Monterey Bay Aquarium on a guided tour that reveals the marine wonders of the Pacific.
  • Immerse in the tranquil beauty of the 17-Mile Drive tour, with its breathtaking coastline and luxury estates.
  • Experience the historic landmarks of Old Fisherman's Wharf, where culinary delights and seaside charm await on every tour.
  • Take a journey through the verdant paths of Point Lobos State Reserve, an unparalleled opportunity to appreciate Monterey's natural splendor.

Fun things to do in Monterey with kids

Monterey is a wonderland for family excursions, offering an array of child-friendly adventures that blend education with fun. First on the list is the Monterey Bay Aquarium, a world-class facility that brings kids face-to-fin with exotic marine life, from shimmering jellyfish to playful sea otters. Animated exhibits and hands-on activities provide an interactive marine biology lesson they won't forget. Next, the MY Museum - Monterey County Youth Museum, offers an ingenious indoor play-space that sparks creativity and learning through its imaginative exhibits. Children can dabble in the arts, explore scientific concepts, or play in the miniature town, all tailored to young minds. Lastly, venture outdoors to Dennis the Menace Playground at El Estero Park, inspired by the iconic comic strip. Thrilling slides, suspension bridges, and elaborate climbing structures ensure endless energetic fun in a safe and picturesque environment, rounding out the best things to do in Monterey for families looking to entertain their little ones.

Things to do in Monterey with family

Monterey beckons families with its blend of awe-inspiring nature and enriching cultural experiences. The pinnacle of Monterey excursions for families is often a visit to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Here, children marvel at the rich biodiversity of the deep blue, from majestic sea turtles to hypnotic jellyfish, learning about conservation along the way. For those in pursuit of outdoor adventure, the scenic 17-Mile Drive presents an opportunity for families to bond over stunning ocean views, iconic landmarks, and glimpses of local wildlife. It's a perfect way to introduce youngsters to the natural beauty that makes Monterey a gem of the California coast. On the more leisurely side, the historic Cannery Row offers a picturesque stroll with plenty of places to visit in Monterey, from quaint boutiques to family-friendly restaurants. It's a vibrant atmosphere where every family member can find something to enjoy, adding to the collection of fun things to do in Monterey.

Free things to do in Monterey

Embarking on a journey through Monterey doesn't have to come with hefty price tags. Nature enthusiasts can revel in the grandeur of Point Lobos State Natural Reserve. Wander through trails ripe with wildlife sightings and breathtaking vistas, making for an unforgettable day trip without spending a dime on entry fees. Strolling along the Monterey Bay Coastal Trail is another splendid option for complimentary activities. This famed path provides panoramic views of the Pacific, ideal for a leisurely walk, jog, or bike ride, connecting notable attractions and beaches along the way. No visit to Monterey would be complete without exploring historic Cannery Row. Even outside of the attractions with admission fees, the Row itself offers a vibrant atmosphere chock-full of historical intrigue, scenic spots, and photo opportunities. Immerse in the essence of this famed waterfront street, all at no cost. These locations stand out as the top things to do in Monterey that won't strain your wallet.

Cheap things to do in Monterey

Experiencing the charm of Monterey doesn't need to come with a high price tag. Among the most affordable Monterey activities is visiting Fisherman's Wharf, where you can soak up the local marine culture, sample clam chowder from the various stands, and watch the fishermen at work, often at little to no cost. For those looking to delve deeper into the region's history, the Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History offers an inexpensive yet rich experience. With minimal entry fees, families can discover the area's indigenous plants and animals, and admire the native art on display. Outdoor afficionados will appreciate the economical adventure of hiking in the nearby Garland Ranch Regional Park. With diverse trails accommodating all experience levels and captivating views of the Carmel Valley, it's the perfect budget-friendly option for those seeking to explore the natural beauty surrounding Monterey. These attractions offer some of the best values among things to do in Monterey.

Things to do in Monterey for couples

Monterey offers a romantic backdrop for couples seeking shared experiences amidst breathtaking scenery. A must-do is the Lover's Point Park and Beach, where partners can enjoy a serene picnic, paddle out in a kayak, or simply bask in striking ocean views during a sunrise or sunset. For an enchanting escape, couples can explore the Carmel-by-the-Sea's fairy-tale cottages, high-end boutiques, and art galleries. The village's charming ambiance and stunning beach are ideal for leisurely strolls hand-in-hand, followed by a wine tasting experience at one of the local vineyards. Moreover, a memorable adventure awaits on a whale watching tour, where duos can witness the grandeur of marine life while sharing an exhilarating sea excursion. Encountering these majestic creatures in their natural habitat is a bonding experience that tops the chart of things to do in Monterey for couples.

Things to do in Monterey at night

When the sun sets, Monterey transforms into a vibrant hub of nocturnal activity, offering a variety of experiences for night owls. A popular destination is Cannery Row, where the historical streets come alive with the glow of neon signs and the buzz of seafood restaurants and bars. Couples and groups alike can revel in the waterfront nightlife, sampling local wines and craft beers along the way. The Sunset Center in nearby Carmel-by-the-Sea provides an elegant evening out, featuring live performances ranging from music concerts to theatrical productions. The world-class entertainment provided in this sophisticated venue makes for a culturally enriching night in the Monterey area. For those seeking a more laid-back night, a beach bonfire at one of the public beaches offers a chance to cozy up under the stars. With the sound of the waves as a backdrop, it's an idyllic end to the day and a peaceful yet invigorating addition to the things to do in Monterey at night.