Since I am lucky enough to live less than 2 hours from Monterey Bay, I am normally here a couple of times a year just for the day - https://aroundthebayandaway.blogspot.com/2016/06/day-at-monterey-bay.html. However, we all know by now that there is nothing normal about this year. So, when I had to officially cancel my annual trip to Mau`i for our birthdays and anniversary, I had already been looking at alternate options that were driving distance since vacation days were already approved. Being by the ocean was a must so we would not feel so sad about missing Hawai`i, narrowing our choices to anything along the Coast. Secondly, was access to good food which shortened our list even further. Not knocking Fort Bragg but it’s not really a food destination putting Monterey Bay on top of that short list.
First up would be for my husband’s 50th birthday which was on a Thursday so a 2-night stay was what I was looking for, to avoid the exorbitant Saturday night prices and the crowds since there is no off-peak season anymore with millions of Californians hitting the roads for last minute getaways every weekend even in September.
Monterey Bay Inn
After sifting through 20 accommodation choices in Monterey, Pacific Grove, and Carmel, I decided on the Monterey Bay Inn for its value for what you get.
All rooms have good-sized balconies (not just a Juliet style one),
with all categories except for 1 (Cannery Row View) offering a water view. Based on the location, the Cannery Row view does not offer much of a view unless you just need a room to sleep in. I recommend spending a little extra and get the harbor/ocean view room where I brought a little of Mau`i with me
especially if you plan on getting takeout during most of your stay due to the current Covid situation. Since we were celebrating a milestone birthday and I booked a month and a half in advance, my request for a top floor room was granted and we definitely did not mind eating takeout like this lunch from Sea Harvest
and our complimentary daily breakfast we chose via a hang tag, delivered to our room, on our balcony.
We even took advantage of their second-floor patio with permission of course after checking out to enjoy our takeout from Il Vecchio since no one was there due to the hot tub closure.
We did dine out (outdoor dining) on his big birthday, the day we arrived. Since our room was not ready yet, we had brunch at From Scratch. Arriving before 11 on a Thursday, I was able to secure a table without waiting but that was no longer the case after I was seated. If you do need to wait, like before, they will text you when your table is ready so you can go hang out at the courtyard vs. crowding the diners. Menu was on a chalkboard,
that they request guests take a picture on their phone to review and order from,
although my go-to is now the Extreme Biscuit and Gravy that was featured on DDD,
tables and chairs, which have been reconfigured for at least 6 feet apart spacing, were both sanitized between guests, and silverware and napkins were in pouches to minimize outside exposure.
Passionfish is one of our favorite restaurants and our go-to when we are in the area. To see in the reviews that they took safety protocol seriously made us very comfortable in choosing their outdoor dining for our dinner spot. Menus were single use as ours said Happy Birthday on the top,
tables and chairs nicely spaced apart (more than 6 feet)
were both double sanitized, first with a towel, followed up with a Lysol type wipe, masks are required anytime the server approaches your table, to take your order, serve and pickup your dishes, and water refills are provided in a new cup.
The food is impeccable as usual especially those scallops with the rice custard
that we returned the next day for takeout to enjoy on our balcony in the room.
Carmel River State Beach
Because California is so large, different counties and even cities may have different restrictions. Some beaches like Carmel Beach are still restricted to active exercising on the beach like walking, running, etc. while others like San Pedro Beach closest to our hotel was restricted to only traveling to and from water activities like kayaking, diving, etc..
Carmel River State Beach however was open without restrictions
so we took advantage of it both on Thursday while waiting to check-in
and again mid-afternoon on Friday before it got crowded with locals.
With limited parking spaces in the lot, it never did get too crowded, with more pelicans than people. The weekends, which we avoided, might be a different story.
Point Lobos Reserve
Since we are normally here for the day on a weekend, Point Lobos is always busy. Having the luxury of being here on a weekday, even if it is Friday, allowed us to finally explore this treasure in the morning at a leisurely pace, without the crowds. Beware of poison oak though, which seem to line the trail throughout, but without too much effort, you are treated to some amazing ocean views with landscape reminiscent of what I have experienced in Mendocino.
Cannery Row/Oceanview Ave/Lover’s Point
Staying over in Monterey, allowed me to stroll through the touristy areas like Cannery Row before the city wakes up
and even caught the sunrise our last morning.
Hotel workers were changing shifts and restaurant owners were sweeping and cleaning up the sidewalk fronting their establishing in preparation of putting out their tables for outdoor dining. It reminded me of our honeymoon in Venice almost 20 years ago where we were up so early one morning due to jet lag, we actually saw the gondolieres removing the water collected overnight in their gondolas and shop owners putting out their displays of Venetian and Masquerade masks in the quiet morning along the canals. Unfortunately, the only masks here were cloth ones including on pictures of the sea otter banners along Cannery Row as a reminder that Monterey will fine you $100 for not wearing a mask.
Just like our county, since we were actively exercising, masks were not required if you can maintain a safe distance which on Cannery Row was no problem. However, once you hit the trail along Oceanview Avenue in Pacific Grove,
there will be times where you should have your mask on or at least in your hand to cover up when someone jogs or rides by. The trail goes along the water
and over to Lover’s Point Park and Asilomar if you have time. We turned around at Lover’s Point Park
since we had our breakfast delivery to our room scheduled that we needed to return in time for. Still a good 3 ½ mile walk to burn off some calories from overindulging these couple of days.
Since we were already in the area vs. having to drive 2 hours to get to Monterey Bay, we decided to drive over to Big Sur after lunch before heading out. Although we had absolutely beautiful clear and warm weather during our stay, the fog rolled in when we were ready to roll out. So halfway to Big Sur due to the split pea soup conditions and the summer like crowds at every overlook, we decided to turn back after the Bixby Bridge.
Having the extra days and the overnight stay in an area that is normally for day trips allowed us to explore what we have been missing all these years in scenery and food, the silver lining to an abnormal year.
Monterey Bay Inn
242 Cannery Row
Monterey, CA 93940
831-373-6242 - https://www.montereybayinn.com/
3626 The Barnyard
Carmel, CA 93923
831-625-2448 - https://fromscratchrestaurant.com/
701 Lighthouse Avenue
Pacific Grove, CA
831-655-3311 - https://www.passionfish.net/
598 Foam Street
Monterey, CA 93940
831-646-0547 - https://seaharvestmonterey.com/
110 Central Avenue
Pacific Grove, CA 93950
831-324-4282 - https://www.ilvecchiorestaurant.com/