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How to spend three days in Monterey

Many of the shops, restaurants, hotels, and amusements of Cannery Row are housed in the old sardine factories.
Many of the shops, restaurants, hotels, and amusements of Cannery Row are housed in the old sardine factories.
Photos by Suzi Rosenberg

One thing you will quickly notice about Monterey is that you cannot escape its history. I say, that which you cannot escape, you might as well embrace. The best way to absorb all this history is, of course on foot, so select a centralized hotel like the Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa on Cannery Row for your stay.

Day One

Explore Cannery Row, meander in and out of alleys and walkways to discover the markers of days gone by. Days when rough men led hard lives on the fishing boats and in the canneries. Meet the Chinese, Italian, Portuguese, and Japanese immigrants - all of whom contributed to the shaping of the area and culture that John Steinbeck immortalized in his books. Visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium to see the lessons we've learned about sustainability since the over-fished sardines left Monterey Bay and caused the collapse of the canneries.

Of course, the area has since been revitalized, brought back to vibrancy by restaurant managers and entrepreneurs. Today it's an inviting waterfront destination, but one that pays homage to its hard-earned roots.

While you're there, have lunch or dinner at The Fish Hopper in Steinbeck Plaza. Once an original sardine cannery building, it sits on a pier, jutting out into the Bay so that every table has a beautiful view.

Day Two

Head out along the Monterey Bay Coastal Trail to find Old Fisherman's Wharf. Dating back to 1870 and once a busy and hard-working passenger and cargo wharf, it's now full of restaurants, gift and candy shops, a theater, fish markets, snack bars, and whale watching boats.

From Fisherman's Wharf, it's an easy few steps to Monterey State Historic Park and Custom House Plaza. Learn about Custom House, which has the distinction of being the oldest government building in California, and State Historic Landmark #1.

Explore the Pacific House Museum with its interactive exhibits and displays, then take a break in the Memory Garden out back. Not part of the park, but just across the Plaza you'll find the Monterey Maritime & History Museum, also worth a visit.

For a unique Monterey experience, have lunch at Abalonetti Seafood, one Fisherman's Wharf's original restaurants. It specializes in Monterey squid, preparing it in more than a dozen ways, some of which can only be found at Abalonetti's.

After lunch, explore Old Monterey with the self-guided Path of History Walking Tour. Follow the yellow Path of History markers embedded in the sidewalk to wind your way through the downtown area and tour some of the city's oldest homes and buildings. Be sure to stop in at the Colton Hall Museum (site of California's first Constitutional Convention). Many of the structures along the way have hidden gardens that you're free to explore as well.

Day Three

A short walk from the Monterey Plaza Hotel to Presidio of Monterey Historic Park and you'll discover the Presidio of Monterey Museum where you can explore the history of Monterey from the indigenous period, through the Spanish and Mexican periods, up to the present day. The majority of the museum is dedicated to Monterey's military history and the history of the Presidio.

For one more little bit of history before heading home, enjoy a late lunch or an early dinner with a panoramic Bay view at the Chart House in Cannery Row. It's been a Monterey favorite since 1961.

Monterey, California is an international travel destination for people from all over the world because of its beauty, its weather, and its history.

Getting There

Monterey, California is located at the southern tip of Monterey Bay along Highway 1 between Santa Cruz and Big Sur.

To learn more about Monterey, visit Discover Monterey California.

To learn more about Northern California, visit Discover Northern California.