Big Sur, Carmel-by-the-Sea, Pebble Beach, Salinas, Pacific Grove, Carmel Valley, Monterey, and more: These iconic destinations are widely known and revered, but what’s less well known is that they’re all found within a short driving distance from one another in Monterey County. With endless possibilities nestled so closely together, visitors can enjoy everything from exhilarating adventures to relaxing moments, majestic beaches to sun-drenched valleys, and cozy settings to rugged landscapes in a single day.
On the south end of the county, Big Sur’s rugged seaside cliffs and secluded beaches greet visitors as they drive along the world-famous Pacific Coast Highway, regarded by many as the most beautiful scenic drive in the United States and the world. Featuring beautiful, untouched coastlines, Big Sur rewards travelers with breathtaking vistas and countless opportunities to explore. There is plenty to see and do among the numerous state parks, federally protected lands, campgrounds, hiking trails, and beaches that call the area home. McWay Falls, an 80-foot-high waterfall located in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, is one of only two waterfalls on the Pacific Coast to drop directly into the Pacific Ocean. Panoramic views of the falls and ocean await at the end of an easy, half-mile hike.
North of Big Sur, Carmel-by-the-Sea’s charms provide an entirely different appeal. Where Big Sur’s rocky beaches rise abruptly from the shore, Carmel-by-the-Sea’s sandy beaches provide an ideal setting for picnicking and watching beautiful sunsets. Since its founding in 1902, artists have called the seaside village home and dedicated their lives to preserving its rich history. Guests enjoy strolling through the many art galleries and cobblestone roads lined with meticulously preserved fairytale cottages. Also known for exceptional cuisine, Carmel-by-the-Sea offers visitors a choice of decadent pastry shops, breweries featuring artisan beers, and fine dining at restaurants like Aubergine, winner of a coveted Michelin star. Carmel-by-the-Sea is also home to Point Lobos State Reserve, which offers some of the country's most gorgeous hiking trails, picnic spots and scenic vistas.
Just east of Carmel-by-the-Sea lies the rustic wine country of Carmel Valley. Featuring a more relaxed take on luxury, ranches, spas, and resorts submerge guests into the area’s unique culture. Many have established their own organic gardens to supply their superlative on-site restaurants, bringing the harvest right to the table. Guests can fill their days learning culinary arts, improving their tennis game, or relaxing with guided meditation, massages, or brisk outdoor hikes along spectacular ridge lines. While in Carmel Valley, visitors can sip their way along Carmel Valley Road, sampling fine vintages from more than 12 wineries. Local guides are ready to help tasters pick the perfect bottles, while more adventurous souls will enjoy choosing their own. With an abundance of acclaimed restaurants featuring farm-to-table cuisine and fresh seafood, there are plenty of opportunities for guests to experience exquisite pairings.