Monterey,Carmel & Big Sur: 3 days

Jul 17th, 2015, 06:11 AM
  #1  
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Monterey,Carmel & Big Sur: 3 days

Hello, After a lot of shuffling plans around, we are now committed to the following plan. Please comment/advice on feasibility. We are 3 adults + 1 child (3 year old) and we are booked at Hyatt Carmel.

Goals of trip:
1) Child friendly
2) See/experience new things
3) Relaxed pace
4) Good food

Day 1: Pick up rental car from SFO (we will overnight at an airport hotel after flying in from NY) and drive down to Monterey Bay Aquarium.
Lunch?
Look around Carmel-by-Sea


Day 2: Drive down to Mcvay Falls, Julia Pfeiffer State
Lunch - Ventana or Big Sur bakery
Beach - Pfieffer beach (bit concerned with directions/missing turnout since we will be driving north). Any other easily accessible beaches?
Dinner - hotel? Concerned about driving in the dark.


Day 3: Point Lobos State Reserve
Small easy hike?
Lunch?
Beach?
Dinner? Concerned about driving in the dark.


Day 4: Drive to Napa
Any stops along the way or should we just take highway?

I have limited our days to the above but if there is something else I should replace it with please advice. First time to Big Sur

Thanks,
S
suetibu is offline  
Jul 17th, 2015, 07:29 AM
  #2  
 
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I would certainly go for lunch at Nepenthe in Big Sur instead of your other choices.

The drive from Carmel to Napa (St Helena?) could take 4 1/2 hrs if you do it on a work day and your timing is poor/unlucky. Also, unless you take the 280 route - the scenery is mostly ugly until you get near/north of Napa. Mapquest has you going through the East Bay - where there are really no convenient/interesting stops, IMO. If you go 280 and through San Francisco, there are many (Golden Gate Park, Fort Point, Crissy Field, Golden Gate Bridge lookouts, Sausalito)

Stu Dudley
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Jul 17th, 2015, 08:02 AM
  #3  
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Hi, The plan is to drive to Napa (town) on a Sunday after breakfast. We are spending 3 nights in Napa and then returning to SF for 3 nights so might just take the quickest route to Napa.

Noting Nepenthe.

Thanks,
S
suetibu is offline  
Jul 17th, 2015, 08:04 AM
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We had Nepenthe on our agenda on our trip a couple of years ago, but the weather was cloudy, and we checked their web cam before driving down there. The view was completely foggy, so we skipped it and went inland to Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park instead. So you might want to bookmark the webcam and be flexible with those plans. I've heard it's amazing on a clear day, though!

http://www.nepenthebigsur.com/weather-cam.html

We certainly didn't cover the entire area (we had less time), but Point Lobos was my favorite thing that we did.
jent103 is offline  
Jul 17th, 2015, 08:22 AM
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Trust me. Go 280. Beautiful scenery once you pass the San Jose area. Take 19th Ave through the City to Golden Gate Park. Take the first left (west) when you get into the Park & drive around a bit (most east roads are closed on Sundays). Your 3 YO might like seeing the buffaloes and model boats on the Spreckels Lake. Visit Stow Lake & watch the turtles sunning on the rocks, ducks, birds, etc. Then Continue north on 19th/Crossover to Park Presidio Ave north. Near the GG Bridge, find your way to Fort Point and enjoy the views of the Bay. Explore this Civil War fort. The 3 YO might enjoy the Civil War re-enactment with the cannons firing, & "group participation". Then head over the GG Bridge and stop at the lookout at the north end. breathtaking views. Then (or on your return to SF), go up to the fabulous GGNRA on Conzelman Ave. This is best in the afternoon or early evening. Best views in the Bay Area, IMO.


More info here:
http://www.fodors.com/community/unit...mendations.cfm

The "fastest" route is horrible. I drove much of the East Bay section every day to work for about 7 years. Really bad!!


Stu Dudley
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Jul 17th, 2015, 08:30 AM
  #6  
 
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Regarding Day Two, I also recommend Nepenthe very highly. We've been there even when it's foggy and the views are minimal to non-existent, and I still love the atmosphere. And I think the food is good, too.

Also on Day Two, you don't say where you're staying, but I wouldn't worry about driving in the dark, as the roads around Point Lobos and Carmel don't feature dramatic dropoffs. And you won't be inside the park after dark because it closes.
NewbE is offline  
Jul 17th, 2015, 08:31 AM
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Oh, sorry, you're at the Hyatt Carmel--no worries, then!
NewbE is offline  
Jul 17th, 2015, 08:50 AM
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I assume you're staying at Hyatt Carmel Highlands which is only 5 miles south of Carmel by the Sea. I wouldn't be concerned about night time driving. The Hyatt only has one high end dinner restaurant which isn't very good considering the price IMO. You can also order food at the lounge which has a more casual atmosphere. There are many dining choices in Carmel by the Sea or you can drive 7 miles south to Rocky Point restaurant which has a great views and the food has improved recently. If you want to stay near the aquarium on Day 1, the C Restaurant at the Intercontinental Clement is good. I was just there last night. Much of the rest of Cannery Row is very touristy. Or you can wait until you get to Carmel for lunch. What kind of food do you like?

There's a beach at Andrew Molera state park that requires a mile walk on an easy level path. Farther north is Garrapata state park which has a really nice beach that only requires going down a set of stairs to get to. The beach at Garrapata is signed (unlike the rest of the park).

All of the trails in Point Lobos are short and easy. You could pack a picnic for lunch or if you haven't done so already, head down to Rocky Point for lunch and stop at Garrapata beach on your way back. An alternative would be to have lunch in Carmel and go to Carmel city beach or Carmel state river beach.
Patty is offline  
Jul 17th, 2015, 09:11 AM
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Several years ago, we took a day trip as far as Nepenthe (we live in the Bay Area). I wrote a trip report, but in particular, I included very detailed instructions for finding the road to Pfeiffer Beach. Here they are. Hope this helps.

So, heading south, the turn-off is .6 miles south of the Ranger Station (which is on your left, the turn-off, of course, is on your right). It's a downhill road and the only sign say something like "Steep Slopin Road". Heading north, it's just north of the Loma Vista "rest stop" (restaurants and shops) and immediately past a yellow sign that indicates there's an intersection coming up. The road down to the beach is 2 miles long, all downhill but fairly gradual, but not in great condition, and very narrow (about 1-1/2 lanes wide, so you do have to be aware of oncoming vehicles). It's $5.00 to enter, and American the Beautiful passes are not accepted. It was so worth the $5.00. OMG, this place is magnificent. The beach (which does shimmer purple -- it's not like the beach is all purple sand, but there's a definitely "tint") , the rock formations are stunning, the water is dramatic and the waves awesome. This is NOT (at least yesterday it wasn't) a place to swim. It's a place to sit on the beach, admire, but not swim (anyway, we were walking along the beach and got hit with the water, and it was beyond freezing!).
sf7307 is offline  
Jul 17th, 2015, 10:27 AM
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Last month there was a sign that said "no RVs or trailers" at the road to Pfeiffer Beach. However due to the angle of the road, I'm not sure if the sign is visible when driving northbound on Hwy 1. After you go down the road a bit, you'll come to a rock wall that does have a Pfeiffer Beach sign but this is only visible after you make the turn, not from the highway. It's now $10 to enter this federal beach and in summer the parking lots do fill so you may get turned away or have to wait. This is possible at any of the parks and beaches in Big Sur. The state parks also have a $10 fee but is good same day (not 24 hours) at Julia Pfeiffer Burns, Pfeiffer Big Sur, Andrew Molera and Point Lobos. Garrapata has no fee. If you're only stopping at Julia Pfeiffer Burns to see McWay Falls, you can park along the highway.
Patty is offline  
Jul 17th, 2015, 10:51 AM
  #11  
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Thank you Stu. I do trust you I used your drives in Tuscany 8 years ago..
suetibu is offline  
Jul 17th, 2015, 11:00 AM
  #12  
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Thank you all.

For food - seafood, vegetables..california-focused..

Good to hear about drives. Please give suggestions for lunches/dinner near Hyatt Carmel/ Point Lobos/Carmel-by-sea. Nothing terribly fancy as we have a 3 year old.

Any suggestion to best enjoy Point Lobos in 1 day? focusing on maybe 2 things? like a small hike and then a beach?

is the drive (off-highway) to Pfeiffer Beach (scary or worrisome in any way)?

Thanks again,
S
suetibu is offline  
Jul 17th, 2015, 11:19 AM
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is the drive (off-highway) to Pfeiffer Beach (scary or worrisome in any way)?

No. And you're not coming from a "highway" per se, just from the main road. The road down to the beach does narrow in places, and you might have to scoot over if a car is coming in the other direction, but everyone will be going very slowly, so it isn't a problem.
sf7307 is offline  
Jul 17th, 2015, 11:58 AM
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That is a lovely hotel, stayed there before it was a Hyatt, beautiful views and we enjoyed the food (lunch) at their restaurant.
jamie99 is offline  
Jul 17th, 2015, 02:22 PM
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The Hyatt has two restaurants, California Market for breakfast and lunch and Pacific's Edge for dinner. The lounge also serves bar type food in the evening. I've had breakfast at California Market which was fine. I've had food quality/service issues at Pacific's Edge. The C Restaurant that I mentioned above is seafood focused. In downtown Carmel, Basil and Casanova are both good if you like California/Mediterranean type fare.

On the north end of Point Lobos, there are small beaches at Moss Cove and just south of Granite Point. There have been otter mom and pups hanging out recently in the kelp beds offshore in Moss Cove as well as harbor seals here and in Whalers Cove. If you're driving into the reserve, the first right will take you to the parking lot at Whalers Cove. To get to Moss Cove, take the mostly level Granite Point trail which starts across the road from the Whalers cabin museum. My favorite trail is the North Shore trail which starts from the Whalers Cove parking lot. This one has some ups and downs but is still easy. You can take North Shore trail to Sea Lion Point and do a short loop around the point. There are usually sea lions hauled out at the cove here. At the south end of the reserve is Bird Island trail and from here you can access Gibson beach down a long set of stairs. I believe China Cove is still closed due to trail erosion so you can't get down to that beach. Right now the reserve is open from 8am to 7pm and in summer months, parking can fill quickly particularly on weekends but you can always park on the highway too and walk in.
Patty is offline  
Jul 17th, 2015, 02:45 PM
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Just FYI most central coast beaches aren't good for swimming. If you want a calm protected cove that's safe for swimming, your best bet is at Lover's Point in Pacific Grove but the water is still cold.
Patty is offline  
Jul 17th, 2015, 03:00 PM
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Although you didn't mention it, I recommend a short visit to the Carmel Mission.

We like to eat on the patio at the Mission Ranch Hotel.

http://www.missionranchcarmel.com/restaurant.htm
Jean is online now  
Jul 17th, 2015, 06:16 PM
  #18  
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Hi thank you again. Our interest in beaches are for our son to dig in the sand adding mission carmel to list.
suetibu is offline  
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