Enjoy the spots on this list but feel free to explore the Monterey Bay region even more. There is no shortage of hidden gems here, and you just might impress yourself with your own finds. Happy treasure hunting!
Hole in the Wall Beach
The north coast of Santa Cruz County is home to a secluded beach accessed by a sea cave. In fact, the seaside town of Davenport hides some of the county’s most striking beaches and “Hole in the Wall” is no exception. Park at Panther Beach, scramble down a rocky path, and arrive at a magnificent sea arch that leads to a gorgeous expanse of sand backed by sculpted walls of coastal bluffs.
Photo: Garrick Ramirez
Courtyards in Carmel
If one thing defines Carmel-by-the-Sea, it is the charming courtyards and secret passageways. The courtyards began in the 1920s, when Hugh Comstock’s fairy-tale houses and shops were built. Downtown Carmel is peppered with 42 passageways and courtyards, each one different, and many are lined with unique shops, galleries, and restaurants waiting to be discovered (either on your own or on a guided walking tour).
Outdoor Forest Theater
Built in 1910, the historic Outdoor Forest Theater is a 540-seat open-air amphitheater in Carmel-by-the-Sea. The stage is framed by towering pines and huge open fireplaces, providing a majestic backdrop for the plays, musicals and summertime “Films in the Forest.” When performances and films are not being shown at the theater, visitors can kick back, relax, and enjoy the beautiful scenery of the century old theater itself while exploring the nearby forest or hosting a picnic on the lawn.
China Cove at Point Lobos State Natural Reserve
This must see destination for nature lovers boasts breathtaking views of the Pacific and fabulous wildlife along with winding, forested hiking trails that anyone can enjoy getting lost in. If you are looking to experience the serenity of nature at its best, don’t skip this stop.
John Steinbeck lived and wrote in Monterey Bay and many of his old haunts and book locations have been preserved in the state that they were all those years ago. Dive into the rich history of this Nobel Prize winner’s life and embrace the freedom of a self guided tour to locations such as The Great Tide Pool that was described in Steinbeck’s “Cannery Row,” or even stop by Cannery Row itself and enjoy the local restaurants, hotels, and nightlife while still immersing yourself in the world of the novel.
Pinnacles National Park
Pinnacles National Park was once a spring and fall home to the Chalone and Mutsun tribes. The national park is now an ideal spot for outdoor activities ranging from hiking to birdwatching to stargazing to rock climbing. It is also a perfect outdoor classroom for lessons in geology, botany and biology.
California's Central Coast consists of:VENTURA REGION: Ventura County, Camarillo, Conejo Valley, Heritage Valley, Oxnard, Simi Valley
SANTA BARBARA REGION: Santa Barbara County, Buellton, Carpinteria Valley, Lompoc Valley, Los Olivos, Santa Maria Valley, Solvang, Santa Ynez Valley
SAN LUIS OBISPO REGION: San Luis Obispo County, Arroyo Grande, Atascadero, Cambria, Cayucos, Grover Beach, Harmony, Morro Bay, Nipomo, Paso Robles, Pismo Beach, San Simeon
MONTEREY BAY REGION: Monterey County, Santa Cruz County, Carmel, Carmel Valley, Gilroy, Hollister, San Benito, San Juan Bautista
About Central Coast Tourism Council
The Central Coast Tourism Council (CCTC) is a non-profit organization comprised of Destination Management Organizations (DMOs; Convention & Visitor Bureaus, Chambers of Commerce, etc.) throughout the California Central Coast. Comprised of tourism and hospitality professionals, the mission of CCTC is to jointly promote the entire California Central Coast as a destination. The four regions that comprise California’s Central Coast include Monterey Bay, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, and Ventura. The CCTC also serves as the Central Coast’s voice in Sacramento, and as a partner with Visit California’s global marketing and advertising campaigns.