The Unexpected Wonders of Monterey

Exploring Beyond the Monterey Bay Aquarium

One of the world’s best teachers? Mother Nature. And one of the best destinations to learn from her? The Monterey Bay Aquarium. Spend a few hours at the Aquarium, then take your pick of self-guided walks, bike rides, and a historic coastal state park. Cycle to a 19th-century lighthouse that’s the oldest continually operating on the West Coast. Enjoy a secluded picnic spot overlooking colorful Fisherman’s Wharf. And follow the yellow tiles of Monterey’s Path of History to discover secret gardens and other hidden gems.

Let There Be Light

Point Pinos Lighthouse

Pedal to Point Pinos—the oldest continually operating lighthouse on the West Coast, with quite a storied history! Named by a Spanish explorer, the first lightkeeper was killed chasing an infamous outlaw, and his wife took over duties until she married the assistant lightkeeper. There are plenty more tales about the evolution of this beautiful beacon created at the southern entrance to Monterey Bay.

Pacific Grove Pedal

Monterey Recreation Path

woman painting Monterey

Pacific Grove Natural museum

Pacific Grove Natural Museum

Roll on over to peaceful Pacific Grove and the Museum of Natural History. Here you’ll find an exhibit about the Point Alones Chinese fishing village that was a vital part of the community (and located next to the Monterey Bay Aquarium). Tip: You can also include a complimentary audio history walk from the Aquarium and past the former village). Opened the same year as the Brooklyn Bridge, the interactive Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History is among the oldest in the country, with exhibits refreshed for modern times.

Dune It Right

Fort Ord Dunes

Undiscovered Fort Ord Dunes State Park is beach and sand dune bliss. Enjoy the park’s walking and biking trails, some of which lead to exceptional views of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. Whether you want to go for a shoreline stroll along the park’s four miles of oceanside or head a bit farther inland to cycle among impressive dunes, this state park belongs on everyone’s to-do list.

Walk This Way

Path of History Monterey

Path of History Monterey

Stevenson House

Path of History

Secret gardens, historic architecture, and fun places to eat: Embark on Monterey’s Path of History. Follow the yellow sidewalk tiles for a self-guided walk (or use this map), then see and learn about the Mexican Era adobes and explore the oldest structure in Monterey—the Royal Presidio Chapel. Book buffs will appreciate seeing part of author Robert Louis Stevenson’s lodging house, where he began writing his classic novel Treasure Island. Be sure to visit Pacific House—an adobe near Fisherman’s Wharf showcasing the Holman Collection of Native American artifacts. Bonus: The Path of History also includes California State Historic Monument #1.

Vista for the Ages

Lower Presidio Monterey

For a short and interesting walk up to a sweeping vantage point overlooking sailboats and colorful Fisherman’s Wharf, Lower Presidio Historic Park is an undiscovered gem smack in the middle of Monterey. Some historians call it “the most historically significant site on the West Coast of America.” Events here span eras of Native Americans, the Spanish and Mexican periods, through to invading Americans and the stationing of Buffalo Soldiers. The park’s short and easy Harbor Trail documents Monterey’s First Peoples—the Esselen and the Rumsien Ohlone.

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  1. Bike the Monterey Coastal Recreation Trail

    To the Lighthouse

    The Monterey Recreation Trail is one of America's most beautiful coastal experiences, accessible to bikers, strollers, rollers, and walkers. This 8-mile (round-trip) bike ride follows premier parts of the trail before detouring to Pacific Grove's storied Point Pinos Lighthouse.

  2. Sponsored

    The Unexpected Wonders of Monterey

    One of the world’s best teachers? Mother Nature. And one of the best destinations to learn from her? The Monterey Bay Aquarium. Spend a few hours at the Aquarium, then take your pick of self-guided walks...

  3. Tombstones and Tarantulas

    Forget black cats; a randy tarantula crossing your path can really get your heart racing. So can spirits in a cemetery! Visit Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve and learn about these misunderstood spiders, plus pay a visit to the Rose Hill Cemetery, where ghosts are said to exist.  

  4. London Calling

    The writer Jack London was known for his adventure stories, and an autumn hike at his namesake state park in Sonoma Valley illuminates more than his career. Eucalyptus, oaks, sprawling vineyards, and brilliant redwoods are part of the autumn magic amid the rich history of the park.


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  1. woman hiking Elkhorn Slough Reserve in Monterey

    Hike Elkhorn Slough Reserve

    Elkhorn Slough Reserve is one of California’s few remaining coastal wetlands. Go on a hike and marvel at one of the state's largest coastal salt marshes, a valued habitat for birds, plant life, sea otters, and marine mammals.

  2. Red Rocks in California

    Colorful badlands, towering buttes, and scenic desert cliffs form a hikers paradise. Red Rock Canyon State Park is a lightly visited desert wonderland where the southernmost tip of the Sierra Nevada converges with the El Paso range.

  3. Woman hiking up to views from Desolation Canyon in Death Valley National Park

    Canyons Calling

    Canyon hikes come in all shapes and sizes in Death Valley, and we’ve got two gems. One requires more rigorous scrambling and navigation, and leads to a dryfall; the other takes you up to a brilliant vista.

  4. Hiking Cobb Estate Haunted Forest

    Welcome to Mr. Cobb's Haunted Forest

    The ruins can be explored on an easy 1.5-mile (round-trip) loop trail. Hike it close to dusk for maximum creepiness (just make sure you're out by dusk, when the park closes).