Top Things to Do in the Town of Monterey, California

  • 01 of 11

    Monterey Bay Aquarium

    Visitors at the Monterey Bay Aquarium
    ••• Visitors at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Galen Rowell / Getty Images

    Focusing on the marine life of the Monterey Bay that's just outside its windows, the aquarium is a favorite of kids of all ages, with live sea otters, touch pools - and special exhibits that make it seem new every time you visit.

    It can be busy - and it isn't for everyone. Before you rush off to see it and then regret your decision, check the Monterey Bay Aquarium Visitor Guide. And if you're short on time, find out how to see the aquarium in a hurry.

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  • 02 of 11

    Cannery Row: Past and Present

    Cannery Row, Monterey
    ••• Cannery Row, Monterey. ©2007 Betsy Malloy Photography. Used by Permission.

    Cannery Row is a mix of old cannery buildings, with sardine processing equipment rusting in empty lots next to fancy hotels. While that might sound less than appealing, it comes out - as Goldilocks might say - just right, with a rumpled kind of charm.

    It's hard to avoid Cannery Row, but if you want to know more about it - and what you can do there, see the Cannery Row guide.

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  • 03 of 11

    Seeing the California Sea Lions

    Sea Lions in Monterey
    ••• Sea Lions in Monterey. Images by John "K"/Flickr/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

    Nearly a quarter of a million California sea lions live along the coast and on a busy day, it sometimes seems like every single one of them is visiting Monterey. You'll see them lounging on the rocks, swimming in the marina and bobbing in the kelp beds. You'll probably hear them, too — their barking calls are loud and distinctive.

    These sea lions are very social, and you'll often find large groups of them sunning themselves together. They look small and cute from a distance, but an adult male can weigh 850 pounds and grow to 7 feet long. Females are smaller, about 220 pounds and 6 feet long. Thier pups are born in the summer and stay with their mothers for about 5 to 6 months.

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  • 04 of 11

    Watching the Sea Otters

    California Sea Otter Eating a Crab
    ••• California Sea Otter Eating a Crab. Chase Dekker Wild-Life Images / Getty Images

    There's no more charming animal on the California coast than a sea otter, and Monterey is one of the most reliable places to see them. They're also a remarkable comeback story, up from the brink of extinction to a population of 100,000 worldwide and 3,000 in California.

    You'll probably see them resting in the kelp forests offshore, where they sometimes wrap themselves in the kelp's leaves to keep from floating away. They can dive more than 300 feet deep looking for food and often come up with a shellfish that they crack with a rock.

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  • 05 of 11

    Walk from Fisherman's Wharf to Cannery Row

    Fisherman's Wharf Scene, Monterey
    ••• Fisherman's Wharf Scene, Monterey. ©2007 Betsy Malloy Photography. Used by Permission.

    It's a half-hour stroll between the two sights and walking is a great way to enjoy them both. You won't have to hunt for a parking place twice; the scenery is entrancing, and it has no shortage of places to sit and take it all in if you get tired.

    Along the way, you may see California sea lions (often hanging out on the rocky jetty by the Coast Guard Station), harbor seals and sea otters.

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  • 06 of 11

    Go Whale Watching

    Lunge Feeding Humpback Whales
    ••• Lunge Feeding Humpback Whales. Chase Dekker Wild-Life Images / Getty Images

     Monterey Bay is one of the best places on the West Coast for whale watching, with the longest season in California. In fact, it more or less lasts all year. The only thing that changes is what you might see when you go out. It might be humpback whales feeding — or orcas pursuing a gray whale and her calf. Or even a rare beaked whale.

    Find our more about Monterey Bay Whale Watching in this guide.

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  • 07 of 11

    Take a Harbor Tour in a Glass-Bottomed Boat

    Taking a Harbor Cruise in Monterey
    ••• Taking a Harbor Cruise in Monterey. ©2007 Betsy Malloy Photography. Used by Permission.

    A harbor cruise on the glass-bottomed boat Mermaid is the best way to get a sea lion's eye view of the Monterey Bay. It might sound a little lame, but it's a simple pleasure, slowly going around the harbor area in a glass-bottomed boat. You'll get close to some of the Bay's animals and see the town from a different point of view.

    You don't need reservations, and the cruises go out about every half hour. Get more info at the Monterey Whale Watching website. That may sound like the wrong company, but they also do the harbor cruises.

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  • 08 of 11

    Fisherman's Wharf and the Marina

    Fisherman's Wharf, Monterey
    ••• Fisherman's Wharf, Monterey. ©2007 Betsy Malloy Photography. Used by Permission.

    Monterey's popular tourist attraction is home to almost a dozen restaurants and souvenir shops, as well as a generous number of walk-up fish stands.

    Go all the way to the end to enjoy the bay view from the observation deck. Glass-bottom boat tours, whale watching tours, and fishing expeditions leave from the wharf.

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  • 09 of 11

    Dali17 Museum

    At the Dali 17 Museum in Monterey
    ••• At the Dali 17 Museum in Monterey. ©Betsy Malloy Photography

    Of all things you expect to find near Monterey's Fisherman's Wharf, it probably isn't a museum dedicated to one of the twentieth century's most renowned artists. It's called Dali 17 (the 17 is for the 17-Mile Drive nearby), and it's full of works by Spanish surrealist painter Salvador Dali, who lived in the Monterey area for a few years in the 1940s.

    The collection is the largest private Dali collection on exhibition in the United States, and it includes some rarely seen works that include book illustrations and it's also the only collection that showcases photographs from Dali’s fundraiser party A Surrealistic Night in an Enchanted Forest, which was held at the old Del Monte Hotel in Monterey.

    Get hours and more information at the Dali 17 website.

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  • 10 of 11

    Historic Monterey

    Monterey State Historic Park
    ••• Monterey State Historic Park. ©2007 Betsy Malloy Photography. Used by Permission.

    Monterey is one of California's oldest towns. Spanish explorer Sebastián Vizcaíno first came here in 1602 and the Spanish returned in 1770, creating their first military settlement (presidio). Within a few years, a mission was built nearby in what is now the town of Carmel. The building shown is the headquarters of the Monterey State Historic Park, and the nearby customs house is the state's oldest government building.

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  • 11 of 11

    Monterey Area Beaches and Water Sports

    Walking on Asilomar Beach at Sunset
    ••• Walking on Asilomar Beach at Sunset. Myles Tan/Flickr/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

    You won't find any shortage of things to do in Monterey Bay, whether in or on the water. 

    You can go kayaking in the bay. Adventures By the Sea rents kayaks, outerwear, life jackets, and gear.

    The Monterey Bay is also a popular place for scuba diving.

    You can also find some nice beaches around Monterey.