Big Sur, Monterey & Carmel-by-the-Sea
The drive through Big Sur on the way to Monterey and Carmel-by-the-Sea is nothing short of spectacular, and should be on everybody’s ‘must do’ travel list - they all boast stunning natural beauty, but these Central Coast gems also have their own distinct appeal.
Carmel’s charm is undeniable. From the storybook-like storefronts to the ocean views along the coastal walk, the hamlet enthralls all who fill its shops, galleries and restaurants. Inland, Carmel Valley Village is the “in” place for exploration of Central Coast wines: 20 tasting rooms are framed by the Santa Lucia Mountains.
In neighboring Monterey, a stroll or bike ride along the recreation trail reveals an abundance of wildlife. Otters frolic while harbor seals sunbathe on jutting rocks. And if the critters happen to be hiding, visit the famed Monterey Bay Aquarium for an up-close-and personal look.
About 30 miles south, you’ll discover a whole different landscape. In Big Sur, blue-green water slams against craggy coastlines, making for dramatic scenery. Stray from the shore and colossal redwoods and gushing waterfalls will leave you in awe.
THINGS TO DO:
Monterey Bay Aquarium
One of California’s most popular destinations and one of the foremost institutions, the Monterey Bay Aquarium provides a front-row seat to ocean life with more than 35,000 animals and plants in its exhibits. Watch penguins and otters eat a midday meal, touch a jellyfish and learn about important issues affecting the ocean’s health.
Rent a bike and follow the rocky shores of Pacific Grove’s coastline all the way to famed 17-Mile Drive. Or grab a paddle, hit Monterey Bay and kayak alongside sea lions. Adventures by the Sea offers varied means for exploring land and water.
Carmel Wine Walk by-the-Sea
Savor the Central Coast’s many varietals with a Carmel Wine Walk by-the-Sea wine tasting passport. Enjoy one flight at 10 of the village’s 13 participating tasting rooms — all within walking distance of each other on Ocean Avenue.
Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park
The Big Sur River runs through the redwoods, conifers, oaks, sycamores, cottonwoods, maples, alders and willows on Pfeiffer’s pristine 1,000 acres. Tackle one of the scenic hikes — you’ll be rewarded with sweeping vistas and a 60-foot waterfall (check the park website to ensure trails are open).
Head one mile south from the park’s entrance and at the second right turn is hard-to-find Pfeiffer Beach. From the purple sand (the color comes from manganese garnet rock particles that wash down the hills when it rains), you’ll get fantastic views of the rugged coast and its famous keyhole arch.
When you come upon the iconic Bixby, follow the masses and pull over to snap some photos of one of the highest bridges of its kind in the world. No other scene better captures the natural splendor of Big Sur.
Take the well-known 17-Mile Drive from Pacific Grove for one of the most scenic stretches in the country. It ends with a grand finale: Pebble Beach.