Just over an hour from the South Bay, the cypress trees and cool ocean breezes of the Monterey Peninsula feel a world away. Here's how to make the most of a day trip to this scenic stretch of coast.

Highlights

  • Spot sea otters as you bike or e-bike along the scenic coastline
  • Picnic on beautiful Asilomar State Beach
  • Explore the artist's colony of Carmel-by-the-Sea
  • Relax at an outdoor spa


Beginning in San Jose, get an early start and head straight to Municipal Wharf II (not to be confused for the nearby, more touristy Fisherman's Wharf) in Monterey for a bite to eat at Loulou's Griddle in the Middle (72 miles, approximately 1 hour 10 minutes). After filling up with a hearty late breakfast, take a quick stroll along the wharf to see if you can spot any sea life, then head to nearby Adventures By The Sea to pick up rental bikes or e-bikes.

It's time for a relaxing ride along this scenic stretch of coast (click here for a map of the biking route). The Monterey Bay Coastal Recreation Trail passes through the historic Cannery Row area and then tracks along the coast with great views of numerous hidden coves along the way (keep an eye out for sea otters floating in the kelp). After approximately 2.5 miles, the trail ends at the scenic Lover's Point Beach in Pacific Grove. After a quick break here, we recommend making a pit stop at Pavel's Backerei in Pacific Grove's cute downtown to pick up supplies for a picnic later.

Looking for more day trip ideas? Check out kimkim's top 10 day trips in the Bay Area

Cannery Row
Cannery Row

From Pavel's, return to Lover's Point and follow Ocean View Boulevard. As you approach Point Pinos and its picturesque lighthouse atop the hill, the sheltered coves of Monterey Bay give way to rocky coastline and crashing surf. Although you can turn around and head back at any point, we recommend that you continue to follow Sunset Drive along the coast to Asilomar State Beach. After admiring the views of the white sands and surf (and tucking into your picnic from Pavel's), head back the way you came to Adventures by the Sea to drop off your bikes (11 miles round trip, approximately 1 hour excluding stops).

Pacific Grove coastline
Pacific Grove coastline

The next stop is the quaint village of Carmel-by-the-Sea, which became an artist's colony after the 1906 Great San Francisco Earthquake destroyed that city. Take a stroll along Ocean Ave and admire the charming shops and galleries. Make sure to grab a cup of coffee at Carmel Valley Coffee Roasting Company to warm up, and then head down the hill to Carmel Beach, one of the most picturesque along this stretch of coast.

Carmel-by-the-Sea
Carmel-by-the-Sea

After taking a stroll along the shore or admiring the view from the park above, it's time to head back to San Jose (75 miles, approximately 1 hour, 15 minutes).

Carmel Beach
Carmel Beach

Have more time?

Consider a visit to Refuge, a peaceful outdoor relaxation spa in a beautiful setting just outside Carmel.

Map