8 Best Things to Do in Pacific Grove, California

Pacific Grove, California

Craig Lovell / Getty Images

Tucked away on Central California's Monterey Peninsula between the towns of Monterey and Carmel, Pacific Grove is one of the state's often-overlooked treasures. From taking a scenic drive down Ocean View Boulevard to playing a round of golf at the Pacific Grove Links, there's no shortage of things to see and do in this coastal city any time of year.

01 of 08

Shop at the Pacific Grove Certified Farmers' Market

A gazebo and tents at the Pacific Grove Certified Farmers' Market

Pacific Grove Certified Farmers' Market

Central Ave &, Grand Ave, Pacific Grove, CA 93950, USA

Don't miss the Pacific Grove Certified Farmers' Market, which happens every Monday from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. (until 6 p.m. during the winter) at the corner of Central Avenue and Grand Avenue. For a memorable meal with a loved one, pick up some local produce, snacks, or lunch items—freshly baked bread, hummus, falafel, tacos, BBQ, Indian street food, or pastries, among other options from the various vendors—and some fresh-cut flowers, then head to nearby Lovers Point Park for a romantic picnic by the water.

02 of 08

Take a Scenic Drive

Pacific Grove coastline

Doug Steakley / Getty Images

Ocean View Blvd, Pacific Grove, CA 93950, USA

Pacific Grove's waterfront runs along the edge of Monterey Bay between the Aquarium and Pebble Beach. The town doesn't allow development along its waterfront, which leaves every one of its beaches and scenic points natural and unobstructed.

Take a scenic drive along Pacific Grove's coastal road to see sights as beautiful as on the famous 17-Mile-Drive without having to pay an entrance fee. Ocean View Boulevard passes along the Monterey Bay coastline past Lover's Point, near a scenic lighthouse, and to other beautiful vista points.

If you don't mind spending a little money for access to even more incredible scenery, the exclusive Pebble Beach community, located along the 17-Mile Drive, does charge a small entrance fee. Along this route, you'll discover famous sights like the Lone Cypress as well as Spanish Bay and Pebble Beach Golf Links, one of the country's highest-rated public golf courses.

03 of 08

Relax on Asilomar State Beach

Walking on Asilomar Beach at sunset

Myles Tan / Flickr / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Sunset Dr, Pacific Grove, CA 93950, USA
Phone +1 831-646-6440

The last stop in Pacific Grove before you reach Pebble Beach and 17-Mile Drive is Asilomar State Beach, which features a gently sloping hill, rolling waves, and plenty of sand to lay out a blanket and relax. It's a popular destination for locals and tourists alike, and even if you don't want to get sandy, there's a beautiful cliffside walk where you can look out over the ocean. The beach is close enough that you can walk to it from the Asilomar Conference Center, home to 13 buildings designed by Julia Morgan, the architect who built Hearst Castle in San Luis Obispo.

04 of 08

Marvel at the Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary

Migrating monarch butterflies in Monterey Bay, California

milehightraveler / Getty Images

250 Ridge Rd, Pacific Grove, CA 93950-2426, USA
Phone +1 831-648-5716

Gorgeous orange and black monarch butterflies spend one winter of their life cycle in the trees in Pacific Grove, where they sleep in big clusters to keep warm. In the morning, they wake up and take flight, looking like bunches of orange leaves fluttering into the sunshine.

To help protect these beautiful creatures during their migratory stop in Pacific Grove, the Pacific Grove Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary provides a safe place for the butterflies to nest. From October through February each year, you'll see thousands of them taking to the branches of the pine, cypress, and eucalyptus trees in this nature preserve that's part of the Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History.

The city takes its role as a home for the migrating monarchs so seriously that it enacted a law making it a misdemeanor to kill or threaten a butterfly. Violators could be fined as much as $1,000.

Continue to 5 of 8 below.
05 of 08

Stop by the Point Pinos Lighthouse

Point Pinos Lighthouse
Betsy Malloy Photography
80 Asilomar Ave, Pacific Grove, CA 93950, USA
Phone +1 831-648-5722

Located just a short distance from the coast and adjacent to the Pacific Grove Links golf course, Point Pinos Lighthouse is the oldest continually operating lighthouse on the West Coast. Originally established in 1855 to guide boats safely into Monterey Bay, it's still being used today by the United States Coast Guard as an aid to navigation. Tours are available from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday through Monday year-round. While you're there, get acquainted with three floors of history inside the museum or check out the still-working light at the top of the tower.

06 of 08

Explore the City's Victorian Architecture

Dr. Hart's Mansion in Pacific Grove, California

Chris Axe / Getty Images

165 Forest Ave, Pacific Grove, CA 93950, USA
Phone +1 831-648-5716

Some of Pacific Grove's Victorian-style "painted ladies" houses are as lovely as their famous sisters in San Francisco. The Pacific Grove Heritage Society has approved more than 500 of them to wear green plaques showing the year they were built and their original owner.

While several of these Victorian beauties are now bed and breakfasts, there are plenty of beautiful examples all over town and you can take a self-guided walking tour around Pacific Grove to see many of them. The tour starts with the Museum of Natural History at Forest and Central before continuing down the 100-block of Fountain Avenue, an early residential street in what's known as the Retreat. After winding through various streets, you'll wind up back at the 100-block of Forest Avenue, home to another handful of Victorian-style homes build between 1885 and 1892.

07 of 08

Play a Round of Golf at Pacific Grove Links

Pacific Grove Links

Courtesy of TripAdvisor

77 Asilomar Ave, Pacific Grove, CA 93950, USA
Phone +1 831-648-5775

The historic 18-hole golf course known as the Pacific Grove Golf Links is a public course featuring both parkland and links-style nines. Located on the tip of the Monterey Peninsula near Point Pinos Lighthouse, it's popular for its unique design as well as the expansive views you'll get of the Pacific Ocean, Lover's Point, and Asilomar Beach. To take in all the sights and sounds of this secluded spot of green, sign up to play a round of golf or simply tour the grounds and attached clubhouse.

08 of 08

Visit the Aquarium and Cannery Row Next Door in Monterey

Monterey Bay Aquarium

Courtesy of TripAdvisor

886 Cannery Row, Monterey, CA 93940, USA
Phone +1 831-648-4800

Located on the border of Monterey and Pacific Grove, Monterey Bay Aquarium is known for its focus on the local marine habitats of Monterey Bay as well as its extensive kelp forest exhibit, which was the first of its kind when it opened in 1984. Featuring festive events, daily feeding shows, and a variety of hands-on discovery tours throughout the year, the Monterey Bay Aquarium is a must-see in the area if you're a fan of aquatic life and all things ocean conservation.

Nearby, historic Cannery Row is so named for the number of now-defunct sardine canning factories that dot this stretch of oceanfront road. A famous haunt for Pulitzer Prize-winning author John Steinbeck, it's now a major lodging, dining, and shopping destination home to a number of unique and locally-owned stores, cafes, bed and breakfasts as well as a handful of popular nightlife venues.

Stop by the American Tin Cannery, a spacious indoor retail and entertainment center that once served as a sardine cannery, for a variety of local and brand-name shops, restaurants, and family attractions like black light miniature golf. Other notable stores at Cannery Row include Candy World, Blue Fox Cellars, Ethan Walsh Paintings, and the International Bazaar Monterey.

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8 Best Things to Do in Pacific Grove, California