From about into the s, Monterey bustled with sardine canneries. Today schools of tourists replace the sardines, and the industry's misfortune is the traveler's gain. Restaurants and hotels sit where there were once crumbling factories, creating a waterfront custom-made for visitors. Even today, Monterey's waterfront has a rough-and-tumble feel, with the nicest waterfront views of all the towns on the peninsula.
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It's also the most-touristed, with lots of t-shirt and souvenir shops. If you look just a little closer, you'll also find remainders from the Cannery Row era : bits of old equipment quietly rusting in an empty lot and a few workers' houses restored and set up to show how they lived. Monterey weather is best in spring and fall when the skies are clearer and as a bonus crowds thinner. In summer especially June , you're more likely to encounter fog and cloudy days when the foggy marine layer never clears.
Any time of year, Monterey is cooler than nearby inland locations, so bring an extra layer of clothing. Hotels tend to fill up for the Monterey Jazz Festival , which is held the third weekend in September. One of the most fun things to do in Monterey is watching sea otters, harbor seals and sea lions playing in the kelp forest. The best place in town to see them is from the outdoor decks near the Monterey Plaza Hotel.
Walk past the dolphin sculpture and find a place to stand along the railing. A pair of binoculars will make this an even more fun experience. Finding a restroom when you need one in a tourist area is often a challenge, but you can find plenty of places to "go" if you know where to look. Some of them include. You can also find a few campgrounds near Carmel if you use the Monterey and Carmel camping guide.
Crazy Horse Restaurant
Get up at 6am in Sequoia, check out and drive to Monterey 5 hours? Arrive in Monterey around noon. Then grab lunch and get back in car to go to Big Sur and back and boat from 5 to 7pm, or do boat trip early afternoon, then go to big sur. After all this, we need to drive to an airport hotel in SF 2 hrs?
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It's a lot, but I figure we can only get the chance to see the coast this one time?? I am not sure this is physically possible, let alone reasonable. If you're planning to stay that night at San Francisco airport, go to the coast at Half Moon Bay , which is about 45 minutes' drive southwest of the airport. Monterey will have to wait for the next trip.
Monterey Hotels and Places to Stay
Unless you have a ton of energy, I think it's pretty crazy. It's possible, but it doesn't sound enjoyable to me--but that's just me, and all the running around and driving may not bother you. The other thing that concerns me once a mother, always a mother is that the fatigue will hit you as you're driving back to SFO. Others may disagree with me, so see what they say. I would be inclined to do either Big Sur or the boat trip and then spend some time visiting Carmel Beach, browsing in Carmel, etc.
One option if you don't want to skip the boat is to visit Point Lobos State Reserve instead of going all the way to Big Sur.
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It's just 10 minutes south of Carmel. You won't get the same expansive views, but you'll see gorgeous views from gorgeous trails. Just a thought. It's definitely crazy. It's the type of schedule that will have you so preoccupied with the clock and where you need to be next, that you won't be able to appreciate where you are. If something takes even a little longer than expected your whole itinerary will be thrown out of whack.
It is a recipe for burnout. Yeah, when its over you'll be able to say you were there, but it would be like skimming a couple of Psalms and saying you read the Bible. Skipping Big Sur will help a lot, and at least make the day less hectic.
But once you see Monterey you'll realize that half a day is quite inadequate. Better than nothing, perhaps, but you'll leave wishing for more. My very, very best advice is to skip Monterey and Big Sur on this trip and plan a separate one when you can make that area your focus. And yes, I do think you have a crazy proposal.
Monterey, California Weekend Getaway Guide
If you do decide to do this, do not drive the coast to Half Moon Bay. Instead, take Hwy 1 from Monterey to Hwy at Castroville. From Hwy take Hwy to north of Gilroy and pick up Hwy This bypasses San Jose traffic. From this pick up Hwy to San Francisco at Cupertino. Then stay on it and watch for the Hwy exit, which will drop you down right at the airport area. Hwys 85 ad are fast, and seldom have traffic. Since, if you decide to try this, you will be tired, you do not want to drive all the way up the coast, and its scenery doesn't rival that at Big Sur.
Michele, you should get a map of CA that shows mileage and time allotments. Then I think all of the good advice above will make more sense. If you drive the nearly 5 hours to Monterey and stop for lunch, you would then drive to Big Sur about 40 minutes away. You'd stay in Big Sur doing whatever sight seeing and then drive the 40 minutes or so back to Monterey.
Then after you finish in Monterey you'd head to SFO area which will be a 2 hour drive. It would be best to time this well past commute hours. Since you are doing this trip in July the daylight hours will be long and sunset will be pretty late followed by a long twilight period. Personally I don't think what you've planned will be that bad because you've got breaks in the driving planned. I would ask the Bella people what time of day has the better sail.
Maybe the 5 - 7 would be a nice break at the end of the day before you head to SF, That gives you plenty of time to get to Monterey, drive to Big Sur enjoy what you can and then get back to Monterey. I've driven 8 hours in CA with no breaks and that was no big deal. I've also done a 10 hour trip from Portland to CA.