Friday, August 14th, 2009...12:00 am

How to Spend 2 Days in the Monterey Area

Jelly Fish, Monterey Bay Aquarium by Buck Forester

Jelly Fish, Monterey Bay Aquarium by Buck Forester

Assuming you have around 2 days to spend in the Monterey area, I would suggest spending a half day at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. The aquarium has two fantastic exhibits, seahorses and jelly fish, that you should see. Plan to fight off crowds for views of the fish.

Monetery doesn’t have much else to offer. Kids and tourists seem to like the honky-tonk of Cannery Row, but I’m not a fan.

asilomar state beach by Sunnyvaledave

asilomar state beach by Sunnyvaledave

From the Aquarium, drive south from Moneterey along Ocean View Blvd/ Sunset Dr through Pacific Grove to the 17-Mile Drive. This route will take you along the Asilomar State Beach, where you can find all kinds of neat sea creatures living in the rocks (anemones, starfish, etc).

Once you’re on the 17-Mile Drive, there are many “points of interest” where you might want to stop. For example, at the Fanshell Overlook there are often harbor seals. If you’re golf enthusiasts and want to see one of the world’s most famous golf courses, you can visit Pebble Beach near the south end of the Drive.

The 17-Mile Drive ends in Carmel, an affluent and cutesy town with many restaurants and galleries. While Carmel has many options for lunch or dinner, I haven’t found any that I consider great. Most recently, someone recommended a small restaurant called Dametra Cafe; the atmosphere was fun, the prices were fair, and the owners were incredibly friendly but the food was mediocre. Folks posting on Trip Advisor feel differently about the food. If a good California meal is what you’re looking for, then you will have to pay a little more and travel a little further to eat at the Restaurant at Ventana. Assuming the place has maintained the standards it kept when it called itself ‘Cielo,’ then you can’t go wrong.

Pt. Lobos by angela7dreams

Pt. Lobos by angela7dreams

Enough with food… Traveling south from Carmel will bring you to Pt. Lobos, a must see. While the 17-Mile Drive, with its impressive mansions, manicured golf courses, and “lone cypress,” captures a lot of tourist attention, I prefer Pt. Lobos. I’m not suggesting you skip the 17-Mile Drive, but with limited time, if I had to pick one over the other… Pt. Lobos hands down. The beauty of this park warrants a couple hours of hiking up and down the coast. You’re also likely to spot wildlife such as sea otters, sea lions, seals, whales, and interesting birds.

Big Sur - Portal of the Sun by PatrickSmithPhotography

Big Sur - Portal of the Sun by PatrickSmithPhotography

Cap off your Monterey area trip with a sunset at Pfeiffer Beach. From Pt. Lobos, drive south about 20 miles through spectacular Big Sur. Pfeiffer Beach is NOT easy to find. For starters, despite having the same namesake, it’s NOT in nearby Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. Pfeiffer Beach is part of Los Padres National Forest. As far as I know, there aren’t any signs to direct you to the beach. From Highway 1, keep a lookout for Sycamore Canyon Road, which is poorly marked and requires a very sharp right turn off of Hwy 1. Once on Sycamore Canyon Road, plan to pull over for oncoming traffic; the road is incredibly narrow allowing for only one car to pass at a time.

By now you’ll surely be starving and exhausted… Luckily, once back on Hwy 1, you’re only 2 miles north of the Restaurant at Ventana and its adjoining Inn. Start saving now for a $500/ night room at Big Sur’s premier resort. Keep in mind that weekend reservations require a two-day stay…

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