Advice on Monterey/Carmel jaunt

Old Oct 28th, 2003, 12:48 PM
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Advice on Monterey/Carmel jaunt

Hi,

My husband and I will be traveling to SF for a short trip in a few months and want to take a side excursion down to Monterey/Carmel and possible Big Sur. The only thing is I'm not sure what are must sees - only that I've been told the area is beautiful and we would like to see for ourselves. We have at most nearly 2 full days, but probably will end up with only a day and a half.

I have a couple questions I hope someone can answer:

Is it better to drive the coastal route on the way down, or the way back to SF?

What are some good hotels/inns to stay overnight? Basically we'd like a clean room in a nice area for $150 or less... Is any particular town better than the other? Right now I think we are leaning toward staying in Monterey but aren't opposed to changing that. Prefer something "scenic" as we don't get to Cali very often.

What are some Must-sees?

Last question - I've heard Nepenthe Inn mentioned as a good spot for a reasonable lunch with great views...worthwhile to keep going to Big Sur or should we find somewhere else to eat in the Monterey/Carmel area?

Thanks!


ski_queen is offline  
Old Oct 28th, 2003, 01:16 PM
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At the top of MY list of must sees is Point Lobos State Park just south of Carmel. Point Lobos has great, easy and scenic hiking trails. Plan at least a half a day there. The scenery looks like this:

http://www.pbase.com/image/13103719/large

Feel free to browse around the rest of the gallery you find attached to the image. Sorry, I haven't labeled all the shots yet.

The Monterey Aquarium is also an amazing place...the best aquarium I've ever visited but you'll need to book reservations in advance...it is busy.

For upscale lodging & dining you should look into Carmel. For the price range you're looking at perhaps Pacific Grove would be good. It is a town that grew from a Chatauquan (sp?) camp into a lovely little town. I love it there and there are many nice motels and inns down by the Point Pinos Lighthouse. In my opinion, Monterey is the least interesting of the three towns (Monterey, Pacific Grov and Carmel ar attached at the hip).

A drive down to Big Sur is also a must but the last time I went it was foggy the whole day. That's why my gallery has so many shots of sand and rocks.

Nepenthe might make a good end point for the trip south along the coast. Never ate there but stopped for a drink at the unique bar.

Have a great time!

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Old Oct 28th, 2003, 01:50 PM
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Hi ski queen!
We recently did some anniversary celebrating in the Monterey area and I agree with much of what peterboy has to say. I would advise staying in Pacific grove out by the lighthouse-try the BW Monarch Resort-we stayed in Monterey and were dissapointed we did not stay out by the lighthouse in PG. If your stay is prior to Feb-be sure to see the monarch butterflies at the town protected butterfly grove. DO plan a dinner,or at least a lunch, at Fandango in PG-WONDERFUL food and atmosphere.
We spent 4 hours at the aquarium-though you need not spend that long-it is quite amazing! Advance reservations were not necesary for us and we purchased our tickets at the hotel front desk. We went to the dining area bar for a latte around 3:30 and the bartender told us the numbers had really been down even during the summer!
(We were the only ones there and the view is spectacular!)We did manage to wander around Carmel for a few hours one afternoon-charming place-bring or hide your wallet!Hubby wanted to visit the Hog's Breath because he had been there when Clint owned it.(We heard mixed reviews about the present operation)Well, we had a great time! There is a lovely courtyard with fireplaces adjacent to the restaurant where you can order a drink -we had a fine time talking with locals and the place was packed by 7PM. I think I would take the coast (PCH 1)on the way down-when you don't feel pushed for time- and 101 back up.
Enjoy your trip!
R5
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Old Oct 28th, 2003, 01:57 PM
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There are a few different routes you can take from SF to Monterey.

Hwy 1 is the coast route and you would stay on that all the way down. It's a 2 lane road most of the way with a couple stretches of freeway. You pass some nice beach combing beaches north of Santa Cruz, go straight through the west side of Santa Cruz on surface streets and then past the towns of Capitola, Aptos, and Watsonville, and on to Monterey. This is a nice drive, but it may be a little slow if you get stuck behind a motorhome. There are turn outs and passing lanes though. This is my favorite route, but if there are storms, I would recommend against it. Hwy 1 is actually prone to road closures just south of SF during storms due to slides.

Another route would be Hwy 280 south from SF to Hwy 17 over the mountains to Santa Cruz and then south on Hwy 1 to Monterey.

Both of these routes have the advantage of proximity to the redwood trees - a short detour to Felton and you can visit Henry Cowell SP.

The quickest route would be 280 south to San Jose, 101 south past Gilroy, 156 west and 1 into Monterey. This route is freeway almost the whole way, but is the least scenic.

If you have a choice between hwy 280 and hwy 101 between SF and SJ, choose hwy 280 - it's a nicer freeway than hwy 101 which is kind of bumpy and goes through more industrial sections.

I don't think it makes a lot of difference which way you drive the coast route - either way it's beautiful.

If you don't have time to stop and see the redwoods near Felton, when you are going through Big Sur, Pfeiffer-Big Sur SP is a nice place to stop - there is a picnic area right on the creek with some redwoods around.
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Old Oct 28th, 2003, 02:29 PM
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Hi, ski_queen!

You've gotten very good advice here from the previous posters!

Here's a few suggestions: on the way down, you have more leisure time, so take Highway 1 down from San Francisco. You did not mention which month you will be here, but if it in during the latter part of December through March period, stop at the Ano Nuevo State Reserve and watch the elephant seals come on shore to mate. These are HUGE seals and you are warned to stay 20 or more feet away from them, but it's a wonderful sight! Ano Nuevo is half way between San Francisco and Santa Cruz.

Then continue on down to Monterey/Pacific Grove/Carmel. You've gotten plenty of suggestions for those places. Lots of great places to stay and eat. You might also consider driving the Seventeen-Mile Drive in Carmel.

Definitely stop at Point Lobos.

Continuing down along the coast, Nepenthe is a wonderful stop. Depending on the weather, the view is spectacular.

I would suggest stopping at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park to see the waterfall and the redwoods. Very easy hikes.

You could continue down as far as Lucia or Gorda, as the most spectacular parts of the Big Sur drive is between Julia Pfeiffer Burns Park and San Simeon, IMHO. This depends on how much time you have. Or you could retrace back from Nepenthe and make that your southmost point.

Just remember that you have to retrace your route the farther south you go from Monterey. Also 30 mph along parts of Highway 1 in Big Sur is a good speed.

You can cut across on either 66 to Salinas or 152 to catch Highway 101. Once on Highway 101, you should budget about 1 and 1/2 to 2 hours of solid freeway driving back to San Francisco Airport.

Have a great trip!
Jason
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Old Oct 28th, 2003, 02:36 PM
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You've gotten lots of great advice! I would second Point Lobos--it's truly gorgeous, with lots of easy walks (or you can drive from point to point). The beach in Carmel is nice for a sunset walk, because it's just about the only sandy (as opposed to rocky) beach around. Take cups of coffee to the shoreline in PG and watch for otters. You could also drive to Asilomar State Beach and go tidepooling. The Aquarium is world-class,but since you have so little time, I'd skip it if the weather's good in favor of the outdoors.

As for restaurants, we like Monterey's Fish House; Rio Grill in the Carmel Highlands shopping center; Gianni's Pizza in new Monterey; Montrio in Monterey. All are reasonable, especially for lunch.
Have a great jaunt!
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Old Oct 28th, 2003, 04:45 PM
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I enjoyed my trip through the mountains to get to Hwy. 1 via Santa Cruz.

As for which direction is better - north or south, I thought that driving south on Hwy. 1 was best. It would be easier to pull off at all of the scenic points along the drive. People driving north had a more difficult time pulling into the scenic turnoffs. {Does anyone agree with me here? - curious- }

Also, I have not driven Hwy. 1 north of Santa Cruz - but is it perhaps more dangerous in that area? It seems I have read about Deadman's Curve near San Francisco.

Happy Trails! I loved my time in Carmel and would recommend you stay right downtown and enjoy it all. BTW - I found MOST restaurants in Carmel to be quite reasonably priced.
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Old Oct 28th, 2003, 05:22 PM
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I disagree that Monterey is the least interesting of the three areas. Carmel is lovely but unless you like to shop there is nothing to do. Big Sur is breathtaking and staying at Big Sur is an option if you stay at the Big Sur Lodge where you are surrounded by big trees and open space. It isn't luxury but it is comfortable and reasonable. Monterey on the other hand is full of history and great old buildings. I highly recommend Monterey. The Old Wharf has some good restaurants (Sandbar and Grill if good). The other wharf is okay but very touristy. There are many reasonably priced hotels there as well. Pacific Grove has some great B & B but not in the $150.00 price range. The water views are fabulous and great to just walk along the shore line and there is a great light house to visit as well. Love the area and we often go for short visits.
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Old Oct 28th, 2003, 05:49 PM
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Another vote for Point Lobos. I prefer Pacific Grove as well as a place to stay although I always recommend the Fish House in Monterey for dinner. It's informal, frequented by locals and you can get fresh fish any which way. We stayed at the Gosby House in Pacific Grove but I think razzledazzle's idea of the BW Monarch Inn out by the lighthouse is something worth checking out.
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Old Oct 28th, 2003, 08:51 PM
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Aloha ski queen,

I very much agree w/ j correa & jason, regarding routes and must see spots.

My husband & I just returned from a 20th anniversary trip to this area... we had 6 nights, but you should be able to visit the "must see" spots in your time there.

I posted a trip report titled
"20th anniversary carmel tip report", if you click on my screen name, you'll find it. It was a lovely time.

In 2 days I wouldn't miss Point Lobos & Big Sur including lunch at Nepenthe & Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park.

Lovely lovely views everywhere. My best to you.
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Old Oct 28th, 2003, 09:31 PM
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The Two Sisters is a very nice small hotel company. They have a beautiful hotel in Monterey and two great hotels - Petite Auberge and White Swan in S.F. I highly recommend all three. If you make it to Napa they have two there too. The one I prefer is Maison Fleurie. They might try to stick you in the Lavender since it is less popular. Not nearly as lush and beautiful.
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Old Oct 29th, 2003, 07:41 AM
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Thanks everyone for the fabulous advice! I think we're going to leave early morning from SF and take Hwy 1 down to Big Sur, cruise around there and make it to Carmel or Pacific Grove for the night. The next day we'll see the rest of Carmel and Monterey and return to SF.

Razzledazzle - what kind of food is at Fandango? I've heard good things about it, we'll have to have a meal there.

If anyone else has ideas, keep them coming!
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Old Oct 29th, 2003, 10:58 AM
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Fish Wife in Pacific Grove is an excellent restaurant right at the entrance to the 17 mile drive. Drive the drive and then have dinner. Also a vote not to miss the Julia Peiffer Burns State Park. I would have drinks only at Nepenthe and you can have lunch at the little restaurant just below it. We also loved Santa Cruz.
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Old Oct 29th, 2003, 11:35 AM
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Ditto on the Fishwife! I eat there whenever I'm in the area which isn't often enough.

ski queen, I think if you try to drive all the way from SF to Big Sur on the PCH (HWY 1) you might find you've bitten off more than you can chew. I'd suggest that you consider following Treck's advice and pick up HWY 1 in Santa Cruz or you might find that that you're to tired to make it down to Big Sur. There's lots of nice scenery between SF and Santa Cruz but, the best coastal scenery IMHO starts south of Carmel and you only have two days. Save something for your next trip when you can linger longer. This thread is making me want to plan a trip too!
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Old Oct 29th, 2003, 11:38 AM
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I agree with Razzledazzle, Monterey wouldn't be my first choice for lodging-- I'd go for Carmel. We were there a few weeks ago and stayed at the Crystal Terrace Inn in Carmel Woods, just outside of the village. Surrounded by colorful flower gardens, our immaculate, new and pretty room with fireplace and kitchenette was $150, even though the website shows higher rates.

Just about everybody loves Fandango. Mediterranean/European food -- check out fandangorestaurant to view the place and their menu. Also in PG, we had a wonderful dinner at the new Robert's Whitehouse Restaurant on Lighthouse Ave. In a beautful Victorian mansion, chef Robert, somewhat of a local legend, puts out sublime food-- don't miss his amazing desserts. In Carmel, Bouchee on Mission is the new hot place I've been hearing nice things about. It looked and smelled wonderful, but we had no time to stop.

Read Makai's trip report, esp. re:the Highlands and Big Sur info--she had the perfect experience there. Hope you will too.
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Old Oct 29th, 2003, 02:47 PM
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Since a couple of you have mentioned doing a hike in Pfeiffer-Big Sur SP to see the redwoods/waterfall, let me ask this...
If we are planning on going to Muir Woods for a half day when back in San Fran, do you think we ought to see Pfeiffer as well? Or skip one for the other? I definitely would like to see Point Lobos and do the Sea Lion Trail, but since we have such limited time I want to make sure we hit the best places with enough time to enjoy instead of rushing to see a lot of things quickly. Advice?
Our main interests otherwise would be the Carmel Mission, perhaps the Monterey aquarium assuming the weather isn't gorgeous outside (we're coming mid January) and try to see the Monarch Sanctuary in PG so I think that would be fairly doable in the 2 days.
~Ski Queen
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Old Oct 29th, 2003, 07:21 PM
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Hi, ski-queen!

Going along Highway 1 does NOT add 3 hours to your trip. This is a totally misleading statement. Last week I drove from Santa Cruz to San Francisco along Highway 1 and it only took an hour. Except for a few curves north of Montara, the road is fairly straight on this portion of Highway 1.

Since you have such limited time, I would suggest skipping Big Basin. Tt's inland and it'll take you all day to get in and get out along winding roads. The redwoods at Big Basin are no different than the redwoods that you will see in other places. You will also be missing all the sea life: elephant seals, sea lions, and harbor seals among others that you will see along the coast.

As for the choice you mentioned: I would suggest not going to Muir Woods which would take you NORTH of San Francisco. Since you are going SOUTH, you will see redwoods while hiking along the easy trails in JULIA PFEIFFER BURNS State Park. This is not Pfeiffer Big Sur...different park, different falls! Julia is several miles further south of Pfeiffer Big Sur. The falls at Julia is the McWay Falls and is one of the most photographed falls in California.

The places (besides Monterey/PG/Carmel) that are great stops along Highway 1 are:

Ano Nuevo State Reserve
Point Lobos State Reserve
Nepenthe
Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park.

J. Pfeiffer B Park is about six or eight miles south of Nepenthe and is considered by some to be one of the most beautiful parts of an already beautiful Big Sur.

Go along the coast on your way down and speed back on 101 on your way back. There is no point in driving inland both ways.

Have a nice trip!
Jason

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Old Oct 29th, 2003, 10:00 PM
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Please be aware that Guarto is the same person as Lake, peterboy, and Treck and that he keeps agreeing with himself. The next thing you'll know he'll accuse me of having multiple names, just to confuse the issue.

Sorry he is hijacking this thread. He wants you to avoid driving Highway 1 in favor of passing through dull San Jose. Therefore, he tries to scare you away from Highway 1 with nutty suggestions to go to Big Basin or to avoid "Devil's Slide" or by claiming, erroneously, that it takes TOO long to drive along Highway 1.

Fodors periodically deletes his misrepresentations. Just click on any of the names to see other posts by the same person.

Guarto, as long as you keep posting malicious misinformation to guide innocent tourists down the wrong path, there will also be many of us who will set the record straight. Too bad, because you are doing San Jose more harm than good.

Jason
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Old Oct 30th, 2003, 03:14 AM
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I'm not sure what Jason's problem is but, please do click on and see all my messages. I'm just me Jason.
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