Colorful literary characters, protected sea creatures, and more historic buildings than any other city west of Santa Fe. California’s first city has it all.

Just a short drive from the metropolis of San Francisco lies Monterey. Set right on the water, the city boasts gorgeous views of that iconic California coast. You could say the city is downright inspiring…and it has been, especially for a certain icon in the literary world. John Steinbeck set several of his novels here: Tortilla Flat and Cannery Row both paint portraits of colorful characters in an area that at the time was just coming into its own. Wander through all those Spanish adobe and old whaling buildings and watch as Big Joe Portagee and Dora Flood stroll down the road…or at least in your imagination.

If you’re wondering what to do in Monterey today, just follow in the footpaths of Steinbeck’s characters—as well as the man himself. Cannery Row now boasts a whole host of boutique specialty shops and restaurants.; perhaps you’ll meet a few local characters as you sup on local specialties of grilled artichokes and fresh caught seafood on Fisherman’s Warf in Monterey?

Speaking of the locals, you’ll have the chance to meet plenty of the city’s neighbors to the west. The ocean itself is full of characters, many of whom are protected by the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. Check out the Monterey Bay Aquarium to meet them all up close.

Looking for things to do in Monterey with kids? Bring your little ones to lovingly-named Dennis the Menace Park and tire them out riding the full-size train, feeding the ducks, and paddling a boat around. Who knows? Maybe you’ll feel a little like a kid again yourself.

Make trip planning easy again (like when your parents did it for you) with our Monterey vacation packages. Book now and travel on.

Frequently Asked Questions about Monterey

What is Cannery Row in Monterey?

Monterey's waterfront street, Cannery Row, gained its nickname after John Steinbeck's book "Cannery Row" was published in 1945. In the early 1900s, there were lots of sardine canning factories in the area, which inspired the famous novel. The last canning factory closed in 1973, and the street is now dominated by shops, restaurants, and hotels.

When is whale watching season in Monterey, CA?

You can spot whales year-round in Monterey, though you will see different species depending on when you visit. From April to early December, there's humpback whales, dolphins, and blue whales. You can also expect to see gray whales and dolphins from mid-December through March.

How long does it take to see Monterey Bay Aquarium?

The Monterey Bay Aquarium is one of the city's main attractions, and it will take you about two to three hours to tour the site. However, those interested in the exhibits could spend all day exploring the aquarium. Nearly two million people visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium annually, so if you want to avoid crowds, come during the fall or winter, or head to the aquarium after 2:00 p.m.