How to spend a perfect 48 hours in Monterey and Carmel
First stop: Point Lobos State Natural Reserve
We love hiking and spending time outside, so starting our day wandering the beautiful Point Lobos Reserve was a no-brainer. Although it was raining when we arrived, we threw on our rain jackets and hiking boots to brave the elements anyway. The original plan was to hike the 6.7 mile Point Lobos Loop Trail, but given the rain, we decided to drive to the different trailheads and hike multiple shorter loops.
Second stop: Big Sur
After we had gotten our steps in, we jumped back in the car to head further down Hwy 1 towards Big Sur. We stopped at Nepenthe, an average restaurant with above average views, for lunch and bloody mary’s. We arrived right before noon and our timing was just right because it became very busy soon after. Even so, there was about a 45 minute wait for a table, but you can grab a drink at the bar and head to the front of the restaurant where there are benches and a spectacular view. It makes the wait not so bad. The food is just alright, but the experience makes it worth it. After lunch, we headed back up north and stopped at Bixby Bridge for a pic with the iconic structure.
Third stop: Carmel Valley for Wine Tasting
Being able to go wine tasting and enjoy sitting outside in the middle of February makes me so grateful to be living in California. With limited capacity due to COVID-19, many of the wineries had availability by reservation only. We made a reservation for 3:00 p.m. at Folktale Winery and enjoyed a perfect afternoon sampling wines, munching on a delicious charcuterie board, and listening to an Americana duo serenade the crowd. There are many other wineries in the valley worth checking out, but this one definitely had a great vibe and we did not want to leave!
Alternate Third Stop: Monterey Bay Aquarium
Although pricey at about $50 for an adult ticket, the Monterey Bay Aquarium is a must-see attraction at least once. Located right on the main street downtown, Cannery Row, the aquarium is quite impressive with extensive explanation of the California aquatic ecosystem, marine conservation efforts, and of course, the opportunity to see beautiful sea life. My favorites are the otters and the jellyfish!
Fourth stop: 17-Mile Drive
Around 5:00 p.m. we started the 17-mile drive, an absolutely beautiful drive along the Carmel coastline that winds through the Pebble Beach Golf Course. This was the perfect activity to close out the daylight hours, beautiful views and a picturesque spot to watch the sunset. Take your time driving this scenic route and make sure you pull over to take in the views.
Fifth stop: Dinner in Monterey
Our last stop of the day was dinner at Schooner’s in Monterey for a nice meal right on Monterey Bay. It was a little chilly given we had the February sea breeze, but they had heat lamps and wind breaks that made it quite pleasant. There are a lot of other great restaurants in Monterey that you can check out, but this was a nice spot for us that had outdoor seating and took reservations.
Call it a day and get some rest!
First Stop: Captain + Stoker for Coffee
After checking out of the hotel, we headed over to the Fisherman’s Wharf area. We honestly could have walked from the hotel, but we decided to drive and park in the Fisherman’s Wharf parking area. From there, we walked a couple blocks to Captain + Stoker for our morning coffee. This place has an awesome vibe and fantastic coffee. As you can see from the line in the photo, it is a favorite among many. Just around the corner you can grab a croissant at Paris Bakery to go along with your coffee.
Second Stop: Old Fisherman’s Wharf and Coastal Trail
Once you have your coffee, lace up your walking shoes and head on over to Old Fisherman’s Wharf. Similar to Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco, the wharf is lined with gift shops, food stands, candy stores, and tour vendors. You will also hear sea lions in the distance because they often hang out under the wharfs. From the wharf, you can stroll along the Coastal Trail following around the bay for a nice morning walk.
Fourth Stop: Brunch at Stationæry
This is one of the most popular brunch spots in Carmel and I’d say it was worth the hype. I would recommend getting a reservation because they will definitely be busy on the weekends. Nestled in a cute little downtown area of Carmel-by-the-Sea, this restaurant offers fixed plates (no substitutions) and the food is fantastic! There are very limited options for gluten free, but I had the chilaquiles and was not disappointed!