A Local’s Guide to Monterey

If you’ve strolled around the Pocketful of Plans blog for a minute, then you may have read about some of the many beautiful wedding venues Monterey has to offer. Beach resorts, Victorian homes, modern cafes – you name it, Monterey has it. 

And a lot more! Which is why I’ve put together this post today. Monterey is a treasure trove of incredible places to stay, eat, shop, and wander.

Wedding Ceremony in Monterey Bay
Shannon Cronin Photography

If you’re thinking of hosting a full wedding weekend here or just want the details on what to do and see on your honeymoon or next getaway, I’ve got you.

Read on for some of my recommendations on where to eat, sleep, shop, and more in Monterey, California.

Where to Stay in Monterey

InterContinental Monterey 

If you want to be in the heart of Cannery Row, the InterContinental Monterey is your place. This modern-style 4.5-star hotel is right on the water, so you’re never at a loss for breathtaking views.  

Monterey Plaza Hotel and Spa 

Coastal-themed luxury comes to mind when I think of this hotel. But it also has an old-world charm that makes it quite welcoming. The Monterey Plaza offers the perfect getting-ready suites and a rooftop spa. And it’s a larger hotel, so it’s great for bigger groups. Like the InterContinental, this hotel is located on Cannery Row, but it’s on the less busy end of the area, so it’s a little quieter. 

Portola Hotel and Spa

Portola Hotel is within walking distance of Cannery Row, but it’s more in the downtown Monterey area, so it’s not as touristy or kitschy. This large hotel is connected to the Monterey Conference Center, making it busy during some seasons. But I love the accessibility it provides to the many restaurants, attractions, and venues in the area.

Hyatt Regency

Located on a golf course, the Hyatt Regency offers complimentary blocks, a popular sports bar for after-parties, and a really great president’s house that some people use for welcome parties. 

One thing that’s worth noting is that Monterey is NOT an excellent option for short-term rentals. The city makes it hard for anyone to operate, and rental homes have to be rented for a minimum of 7 days. This can make it hard to find accommodations in Monterey that aren’t hotels.  

Couple in Barn in Downtown Monterey
Barkis & Co

What to Pack

Layers, layers, and more layers. I can’t stress enough how important it is to bring layers of clothing!

Monterey can be absolutely gorgeous one minute, and then, just 10 minutes down the road (Pacific Grove or Carmel-by-the-Sea), it can be foggy, cold, and windy!

The temperatures often go from cold in the mornings to nice and warm midday, and then cold again in the evening. We get cold breezes from the Pacific Ocean/bay, so it’s important always to leave your hotel prepared for whatever weather may come your way.

Where to Eat in Monterey

Alta Bakery for Breakfast

Here is where you’ll want to be for breakfast. The avo toast is pretty awesome, but all of their pastries are also worth indulging in. And don’t be scared off by the line you may encounter. It is worth the wait, and the line moves quickly. 

Parker-Lusseau Bakery

Their almond croissants are decadent. Again, this is another place where you’ll likely encounter a line, but it moves fast, so give it a try. The croissants are WORTH IT! 

LouLou’s Griddle in the Middle

This tiny place on the pier serves the largest pancakes you have ever seen! But they serve just about every delicious breakfast food you could want. Pro tip: LouLou’s gets busy on the weekend, so get there early! 

Red House Cafe in Pacific Grove 

Okay, this isn’t Monterey, but I would be doing you a disservice if I didn’t include it. It’s one of my favorite places for breakfast/brunch/lunch. I LOVE their calamari salad. Try it, and you can thank me later for the recommendation! 

Montrio Bistro

The Montrio Bistro is fine dining right in the heart of Monterey. My husband and I used to go there for date nights when we first moved to the area, and it still holds a bit of our hearts.  


This local hotspot is kind of a Monterey institution. They have fantastic tiki happy hours and delicious, fun food on certain nights. It’s a lively restaurant and generally pretty packed. They also have a great outdoor space.

Pro tip: they don’t take reservations, so prepare to wait if you go for dinner. I recommend going for lunch if you’re looking for a quieter time.

The C at The InterContinental/Schooners at the Plaza

These are legitimately good hotel restaurants with ocean views you can’t beat. Plus, fresh ocean-to-table seafood you can’t beat either. 

Stokes Adobe

Brand new and the talk of the town, the Stokes Adobe is set inside a lovely historical – you’ve got it – adobe home. They have a dinner and after-dinner menu (desserts, cocktails, coffee, etc.) and serve creative dishes like fried yam and portobello mushroom pithivier.

Cella Restaurant + Bar

Alta Bakery’s sister business, Cella Restaurant + Bar, encapsulates casual elegance with an approachable neighborhood vibe. The dining room features local art with strong wood features alongside the original adobe accents. Open for evening dining and cocktails and bringing local flavor to Monterey with their seasonal ever-changing menu and signature drinks.

Bride with Flowy Veil Under a Tree
Inés Zrinski

Where to Shop

You’ll find the best stores around three of the most popular spots in Monterey: Alvarado Street, Lighthouse Avenue, and Cannery Row. A few stand-out options are:

  • Bliss Boutique – Sells clothing that has more of an eclectic, boho feel
  • Grace Lifestyle – Contemporary clothing and unique accessories
  • Hudson James – Designer and vintage boutique selling NY style and California cool
  • Lilify – Home goods, bath and body, food, tea, jewelry

What to Do

Monterey Bay Aquarium – With so many crazy, cool creatures to explore, the aquarium is great for all ages and not to be missed. They do not sell tickets in person, so buy them online and in advance. 

Monterey Historic Walk Downtown – There are a lot of little spots around downtown, and you can do a self-guided tour.  

Monterey Museum of Art – A small but excellent museum celebrating California art. 

MY Museum – Have kids under 10 you need to entertain? Take them to My Museum and let them play while also learning.

Dennis the Menace Park – A great place to tire out the kids. The park is big and busy, so more parental supervision is needed! 

17 Mile Drive – This is technically Pebble Beach, but head here if you’re looking for scenic views. Also, consider renting a cool car from Monterey Touring Vehicles and go cruising while listening to Smokey Robinson! 

And if you don’t feel like cruising, or want something to do afterward (or before), walk the ocean trail from Monterey to Pebble Beach. I could walk the coastline all day, and there is a great rec trail that runs for miles! 

Farmers Market – You can find a market almost everywhere the closer it gets to summer. It can be a great place to get some of the best fruits and veggies. In fact, Monterey and the Salinas Valley are known as the world’s salad bowl! 

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about all of the fun things to do in Monterey. And if you’d like help planning your wedding in Monterey or the Northern California area, please reach out! We can even include some of these things in your wedding weekend itinerary.

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