Monterey County Travel Guide

Monterey County is located on the Pacific Coast in the US and offers scenic landscapes along the coastline. Besides that, it is home to one of the major valleys and most productive agricultural regions in California, the Salinas Valley! If are looking for cute European-inspired towns with rich history, you can visit Carmel-by-the-Sea or Monterey for instance. Both incredibly beautiful and wonderful to explore. This blogpost covers my three-day trip to Monterey County and is a full travel guide for this area of California. From where to stay, to where to dine and what things to see, this blog post is covering everything you need to know to plan your trip!

Find enchanting sand dunes at Marina Dunes Preserve

Did you know that you can find beautiful dunes in Monterey County? The Marina Dunes Preserve offers 170 acres of sand dunes. The dunes are the highest found on the Central Coast, and provide a habitat for birds and animals rarely seen elsewhere. Watching the sunset there was truly an experience. You can walk along the marked trail and enjoy the views over the dunes and the ocean. There are multiple lovely photo spots along the way.

Go hiking at Fort Ord National Monument

Another lovely place in Monterey County and part of my travel guide for you is the Fort Ord National Monument in Salinas, California. Especially if you like hiking you will enjoy this beautiful place because it offers a variety of hiking trails. One fun trail to do is the Engineer Road Loop Trail that is 2 miles and very easy but rewards with stunning views. The Fort Ord National Monument is also very popular amongst mountain bikers, so if hiking is not your thing, but you love biking, you can simply explore the expansive landscape by bike. We saw a bunch of mountain bikers on our hike!

Enjoy a Salinas Valley winery tour

Did you know that you can do a winery tour through Salinas Valley? We booked our tour with Behind The Scenes Wine Tours and had such an incredible time. They pick you up at your hotel, and drive you to a bunch of different wineries where you get free wine samples of your choice! During our tour we had the pleasure to visit the Puma Road Winery, Rustique Winery and Odonata Winery. I highly recommend checking out some wineries when visiting Monterey County!

Explore Sand City’s installations

Sand City is perfect for art lovers and since I am in love with art and enjoy checking out murals, I included Sand City into my Monterey County Travel Guide. Grab yourself a coffee and explore this gorgeous little place by foot and check out the murals there! I am sure you are going to enjoy them!

Stroll around the lovely village of Carmel-by-the-Sea

Who said fairytales do not exist? Carmel-by-the-Sea is the definition of a fairytale. It surely looks like the town is straight out of a fairytale with its cute cottage-style houses and charming streets. It offers endless photo opportunities and I can’t wait to go back during summer time. If you are making your way to see this charming little village, make sure to also include a drive along the coastline. The houses and views are unreal!

Where to stay

During our little 3-day getaway to Monterey County we stayed at two hotels: the Merritt House Hotel and the Carmel Mission Inn. Both properties were unique in their own way!

Merritt House Hotel

The Merritt House is such a cute boutique hotel with a lot of charm and character. Each room is uniquely decorated and includes fireplaces, balconies and access to its secluded gardens. Our room had a lovely fireplace and access to the balcony. The Merritt House was originally built in 1830 and is a real hidden gem in Monterey. The gardens must be so lovely during summertime.

Carmel Mission Inn

The Carmel Mission Inn is a newly renovated hotel with a great central location only a couple minutes drive from Carmel’s shops and restaurants. We loved its modern style and the art collection throughout the hotel. Since it was raining, we were not able to check out the pool but it looked like a lovely place to hang out! 

Where to eat

We had the chance to eat at a variety of amazing places in Monterey County and I have included all of them in this travel guide.

Salt Wood Kitchen & Oysterette

Salt Wood is a locally-driven restaurant located at the Sanctuary Beach Resort. Their menu offers a selection of the freshest, seasonal, local ingredients. Our absolute highlight were Chilled Oyster that were most likely the best oysters we have ever tried. The Ora King Salmon and the Fish and Chips were also very tasty and I highly recommend trying these items if you are a seafood lover.

Parker-Lusseau Pastries & Cafe

Parker-Lusseau Pastries & Cafe has been around for over 25 years, and is a very well-known French bakery famous for its pastries. We tried the almond and chocolate croissants as well as one of their quiches and loved it! This cute bakery in the heart of Monterey should definitely be on your list!

Cafe Fina

Cafe Fina is a cute restaurant in the heart of Fisherman’s Wharf and offers spectacular harbor views. The Italian-inspired seafood restaurant is known for its homemade pasta dishes. A unique thing that Cafe Fina is offering to its guests is that they can catch their own fish and bring it to the restaurant to have the chef prepare it! How fun is that?

The Power Plant Coffee and Shop

This little coffee shop is truly offering a one-of-a-kind experience to its guests. From delicious freshly brewed coffee and fresh pies to a cute little local apothecary in the same building. I almost bought something from the store! They have great books about plant care and a huge selection of succulents.

Gusto Handcrafted Pasta and Pizza

If you are looking for pasta dishes and wood oven pizzas Gusto is the place to go. They offer delicious cocktails as well as mouthwatering desserts. Their Tiramisu was extraordinary!

Toro Sushi

One of my favorite things to eat is sushi. Thus, I could not resist trying out a sushi restaurant during my trip. Toro Sushi is located within the village of Carmel-by-the-Sea. With a limited amount of indoor seating options available, I recommend making a reservation. The restaurant has a cute little fireplace which makes the place feel more homey. The menu offers a variety of sushi options and we made sure to try a variety of sushi. Everything was very tasty!

Shearwater Tavern

Shearwater Tavern is part of the Carmel Mission Inn and makes such a great brunch place. The menu offers a little bit of everything for everyone, and I love that the ingredients are locally sourced. My favorite was the yummy avocado toast and the crispy fingerling potatoes.

Other blog posts that might interest you Best brunch places in San Diego, 13 Restaurants in San Diego you have to try, Best day trips from Portland.