Situated beside the Pacific Ocean, Monterey Bay is an idyllic vacation spot for peace and rest. Right before Thanksgiving weekend, my friends and I made an overnight trip. We started the morning early, and after rejuvenating ourselves with a round of holiday drinks from Starbucks, we were on our way. Thankfully, there wasn’t much traffic, and we arrived early in the afternoon. Here are a few highlights in and around Monterey that I definitely recommend visiting.
Monterey Bay Aquarium
Arguably the most well-known tourist attraction, the Monterey Bay Aquarium is huge. The wall-to-wall glass exhibits display all types of animals ranging from sharks, octopuses, eels, starfishes and sardines all coexisting with one another. The jellyfish exhibit was my favorite by far. Who knew there were egg yolk jellyfishes? Watching the adorable penguins and playful sea otters was another treat that brought me back to reminiscing about my childhood. Be sure to bring your student ID — tickets for students cost $34.95.
Monterey State Beach
For our overnight hotel, my friends and I stayed at Monterey Tides. The hotel is situated right on Monterey State Beach, and the beach is open to the public. We checked into the hotel around sunset, and I can still see how the sky faded into shades of coral, and the soft waves glistened and reflected the colors of the sky. Waking up beside the beach was probably the most relaxing experience I’ve had in a while.
The food here is exquisite and the decor was very fancy. They poured us water in glass goblets! Although this restaurant leans toward the pricier side, with entrees ranging from $20 to $50, everything I had was well executed and tasted great. For appetizers, we ordered the artichoke dip. The dip just melts in your mouth, and the homemade potato chips created a perfect balance. We ordered dishes ranging from ravioli to burgers, and I had the salmon. The salmon was surrounded by a saffron fumet and was garnished with mussels, clams and baby artichokes. It was amazing. Sadly, we didn’t order any dessert because our wallets were crying. But the cookie jar on the table next to us looked like heaven.
Drive the Pacific Coast Highway to hit the next two stops. Bixby Bridge was built almost 100 years ago and is still a popular tourist destination for those traveling along the coast of California. Upon nearing the bridge, there are pull-offs on both northbound sites. Be sure to take a picture, as the beauty of the bridge blends with the background of the hills and the sea.
McWay Falls is about an hour and a half drive from Monterey, but if I had to choose one place from the trip to visit again, it would be this one. McWay Falls is the main feature in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. It has a tiny 80-foot waterfall that flows into the sand and the ocean. I’ve never seen water so clear and so blue. Technically, you’re not supposed to climb down to the beach area because the cliffs are crumbly, but we saw some footprints on the beach.
Contact Omil Xia at [email protected].