Big Sur + Monterey Bay

Things to do in Big Sur + Monterey Bay

Vacationers wondering what to do in Monterey Bay should start with a visit to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, where you can view great white shark, dolphin, kelp and penguin exhibits among many others. Afterward, head to the pier and select any one of the city’s excellent restaurants. Enjoying fresh seafood while taking in the view of the Pacific is hands down one of the best things to do in Monterey Bay. It’s easy to work off all those crab-cakes, too. Fitness buffs wondering what to do in Monterey Bay won’t be disappointed – the city boasts a number of outdoor activities, including snorkeling, diving, cycling and kayaking.

Music lovers looking for things to do in Monterey Bay should keep in mind that the city’s annual Jazz Festival takes place in September. It’s quite an event, attracting more than 40,000 attendees each year, and past performers have included legends such as Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday and Louis Armstrong.

Deep within Los Padres National Forest, Pfeiffer Beach is a surreal mix of purple sand, giant redwoods, sycamores, and oaks. Offshore, a smattering of sea stacks are scattered like biscuit crumbs across the ocean.

Stop here for the best carne asada around.

Take a kayak tour ($50) of the bay from Cannery Row.

Aromatic soaps and sachets are for sale here.

The oldest Zen monastery in the U.S.

Along with a sparkling strand and a gently honky-tonk wharf, Santa Cruz has a boardwalk graced with the Giant Dipper—one of the oldest wooden roller coasters in the country.

Tour Hearst Castle, perched high on La Cuestra Encantada (“the enchanted hill”) nine miles north of Cambria.

That they serve garlic ice cream is no surprise in the garlic capital of the world, where the annual Garlic Festival dazzles garlic lovers with food, cook-offs, and even the crowning of a Garlic Queen.

This winery is a best bet for educational tastings and tours. Travelers can visit the wine caves and a ISOSCELES Library 120 feet underground. Tastings cover wine basics such as how to evaluate bottles and how wine changes over time.

Deep within Los Padres National Forest, Pfeiffer Beach is a surreal mix of purple sand, giant redwoods, sycamores, and oaks. Offshore, a smattering of sea stacks are scattered like biscuit crumbs across the ocean.

Splurge on a romantic balloon ride over the vineyards.

Don’t miss this out-of-the-way (and out-of-the-ordinary) vineyard, which specializes in Rhône Valley varietals (think Grenache and Mourvèdre) and stocks wacky hats and wigs to wear while you taste.