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Where to Stay in Monterey in 2023 | Best Areas & Hotels

Where to Stay in Monterey in 2023 | Best Areas & Hotels

There aren’t many places in America (or the world) where you can relax on an otherworldly beach in the morning and have your fill of culture in the afternoon.

Monterey is one of those unique places that offer a complete vacation, with plenty of interesting activities, tasty restaurants, and luxurious hotels.

As you’re definitely going here (how can you not?!), we’ve been hard at work rounding up all you’d possible need to know to help you decide where to stay when you visit. Let us be your guide!

The 3 Best Parts of Monterey

Where to Stay in Monterey map in vector format featuring the best areas of town

Monterey Bay is slightly wider than the city of Monterey, but it’s still relatively small and compact. There’s no reason why you should only stick to the downtown of the city and the legendary Cannery Row and not cross just one more mile to visit the stunning Pacific Grove.

The only thing you should know is that most of the museums and cultural institutions are located either Downtown or on Cannery Row, but if you’re looking for sublime nature, viewpoints, and hiking trails, Pacific Grove is for you.

Our favorite areas include:

  1. Downtown: Definitely the most attractive part of Monterey, it boasts beautiful 19th-century buildings, sandy beaches, plenty of seafood restaurants, and the unique Old Fisherman’s Wharf.
  2. Cannery Row: A fascinating waterfront area and a former working-class neighborhood, today, it’s one of the fanciest parts of Monterey, with plenty of history and style, as well as the unforgettable Monterey Bay Aquarium.
  3. Pacific Grove: Located around a mile to the north of Monterey and packed with beaches, golf clubs, viewpoints, and hiking trails, Pacific Grove also boasts the short but sweet 17-Mile Scenic Drive.

Where to Stay in Monterey: Best Areas & Hotels

Monterey is definitely one of the biggest tourist magnets in both California and the West Coast, and it doesn’t come as a surprise that it’s practically packed with accommodations of all kinds and sizes.

Plainly speaking, whatever area you choose in or near Monterey, there are plenty of accommodations to choose from. If you’re looking for an all-around offer, stick to the downtown of the city or the nearby Pacific Grove.

Both of them offer plenty of hotels of all kinds and sizes — a lot of three-star budget options and some great and luxurious five- and four-star hotels.

The charming and coastal Cannery Row may be a bit problematic, especially for visitors who are looking for something cheaper. The problem is both in amount and in variety.

Cannery Row has a comparatively smaller number of accommodation options, and they are usually either expensive mid-range options or luxurious five-star hotels.

1. Downtown

People walking into a restaurant in the Old Fisherman's Wharf in the downtown area of the city, one of the best places to stay on a trip to Monterey

Monterey, California – 30 July 2008: Old Fisherman’s Wharf is a popular tourist destination in the harbor area/Lowe Llaguno/Shutterstock

The first thing that comes into mind when you mention Monterey is the fantastic coastal downtown.

The absolute heart of the city, always buzzing and moving, it’s mostly famous for 19th-century buildings, beautiful and old historic wharfs, plenty of restaurants, shops, accommodation, and a bunch of great interesting museums.

Simply put, Monterey’s Downtown is the obvious choice for the first-time visitor to the city. We think that the best thing you should do as soon as you step into the center of the city is to take a walk to the historic Old Fisherman’s Wharf.

There’s no end to the things you can see and do here.

First of all, the wharf is beautiful in itself, with plenty of spots to take memorable pictures. Second, it has the highest concentration of the best seafood restaurants, not only in Monterey but in the wider area as well.

Finally, there are plenty of unique shops to do some shopping, a lot of tours to join, and — most important of all — it’s the prime place for whale watching.

History lovers are also going to have a blast. You should definitely see the San Carlos Cathedral, which is a Catholic church from the 18th century built by the Spaniards.

Then, there’s the Monterey State Historic Park, where you’ll truly experience Monterey’s history in one fell swoop. For more of that, there are a number of museums as well.

In terms of restaurants and accommodations, plainly speaking, you’ve come to the right place. The concentration of restaurants in Monterey’s downtown — especially seafood restaurants on the coast or the wharf — is simply unbelievable.

There are many hotels as well, mostly in the form of cheaper or pricier three-star hotels and motels, but also fantastic and upscale four-star hotels.

Things to Do

  • Monterey is not only a fancy and fun ocean resort city but an important historical hub, mainly in relation to its Spanish historical roots. We mentioned that there are plenty of museums; here’s a list of the most famous ones connected to art or nature:
  • If you’re after a more classic museum experience, here are some additional ones, mostly connected to the history of the city:
  • Let’s not forget that Monterey is one of the most beautiful coastal cities in California with plenty of lovely beaches.
    • The first and the closest one to downtown is Del Monte Beach — the water is clear, the sunset magical, but the parking space is limited.
    • The second one, right next to Del Monte Beach, is Monterey State Beach, which — aside from the fine sand and the inviting water — offers plenty of surfing, fishing, and other water-based activities.
  • Finally, if you’re having a vacation with your family and kids, and you want to give them a special treat, make sure you bring them Dennis The Menace Playground — named and customized according to the famous movie troublemaker. The playground is huge, with many slides, mazes, a full-fledged baseball field, rock climbing facilities, a steam engine, and much, much more. There’s even a lake with plenty of different water-related activities.  

Where to Eat

  • Old Monterey Cafe is a classical American cafe that mainly serves dishes prepared according to local recipes, with a lot of vegan and vegetarian options. A 2022 Travelers’ Choice selection, it offers great eggs, calamari, and breakfast burritos.
  • Domenico’s On the Wharf is an American seafood restaurant with one of the best locations in Monterey — right on the Old Fisherman’s Wharf. It offers all kinds of fresh seafood — fish, shrimp, octopus, etc. — prepared traditionally.
  • Old Fisherman’s Grotto is yet another 2022 Travelers’ Choice, and it also has a top location — you guessed it — the Old Fisherman’s Wharf. But this time, the restaurant is not only about seafood but steaks and other meat delicacies. Don’t worry, though — there are plenty of vegan and vegetarian options as well.

Downtown Budget Hotels

  • The Stevenson Monterey is a three-star motel located in the absolute center, boasting an outdoor swimming pool. Offering a lot at a quite low price, the accommodation has free parking and free Wi-Fi, non-smoking family rooms with tea and coffee makers, and facilities for disabled guests.  
  • Stage Coach Lodge is a relatively cheap but decent three-star hotel, also located in the utmost center of Monterey. It offers an outdoor swimming pool, family and guest rooms with 40-inch TVs, microwaves, refrigerators, and spacious bathrooms. The hotel also has a nice garden, free Wi-Fi, and free parking.

Downtown Mid-Range Hotels

  • The Monterey Hotel is a slightly more expensive (but still relatively affordable) three-star hotel that deserves its higher status not by being located in the center of Monterey but by its early 20th-century enclosure. Aside from the historic, old-school charm, it has all the amenities, free Wi-Fi, and facilities for disabled guests.
  • Best Western Plus Monterey Inn is a great and affordable three-star hotel, part of the famous and reliable Best Western chain of hotels. Located just two blocks from the center of the city (but still part of downtown), it also has free Wi-Fi and free parking, family rooms with private bathrooms, and all the amenities, as well as facilities for disabled guests.  

Downtown Luxury Hotels

  • Portola Hotel & Spa is a gorgeous four-star hotel located just five minutes from the Fisherman’s Wharf — practically, right on the coast of the ocean. It offers everything you can think of for a hotel of this stature, including an outdoor swimming pool, a fitness center, a spa and wellness center, a restaurant, a bar, free Wi-Fi in all areas, and — last but not least — private parking.
  • Hotel Pacific is another expensive and luxurious four-star hotel located in Monterey’s downtown, just a few steps away from the Monterey Conference Center. It doesn’t have a swimming pool on its premises, but the interior and the facade of the hotel are very beautiful. More importantly, the rooms feature every possible amenity that you’ll need. Affluent aesthetes, rejoice!

See All Hotels in Monterey

2. Cannery Row

Cannery Row, one of the best areas to stay in Monterey California, pictured with people walking all around the town

Editorial March 24, 2019 – Cannery Row in Monterey, California is a popular tourist destination located near Pacific Highway 1. There are a lot of shops and restaurants as well as the aquarium/Manuela Durson/Shutterstock

In 1945, Cannery Row was so working class that John Steinbeck (Mice and Men, Grapes of Wrath), the Nobel Prize writer and supporter of the oppressed, wrote a novel about it with the same name.

Namely, in the middle of the 20th century, the waterfront strip was lined with fish factories, and Cannery Row was called the “sardine capital of the world.”

Today, that same strip is lined with fancy restaurants, interesting shops, and great pubs — and Cannery Row is a famous, sought-after, major tourist hub.

You can start your adventure in this dynamic and interesting neighborhood by strolling around its streets and the waterfront strip. As we mentioned Steinbeck’s novel, there are plenty of things connected to the famous writer, as the district has a deep respect for him.

Constructed in his honor, you’ll find the John Steinbeck Statue, a beautiful monument to his likeness, and the Steinbeck Wax Museum, an old-fashioned animatronic museum, especially great for kids.

The most important attraction in the area, however, is also located on the waterfront — whatever you do, don’t miss the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

Located on the rocky coastline, it offers plenty of activities and exhibits, like otter habitats and touch pools. Cannery Row is a major hub for foodies and a great place for a fun night out.

As we mentioned, while the whole coast was formerly full of factories, today, it’s packed with either seafood restaurants or fancy cafes.

Bubba Gump Shrimp Co., for example, is a perfect family-friendly place, and The Salty Seal Brewpub and Sports Bar is a very nice pub. Cannery Row is not the cheapest in terms of accommodation.

There are plenty of three-star, four-star, and five-star hotels, but almost no budget options. Since the district is located just one mile to the north of downtown, you had better stick to the center if you’re looking for something cheaper.

Things to Do

  • Again, Cannery Row is mainly famous — as the whole of Monterey — for the crystal clear ocean water and warm sandy beaches.
  • McAbee Beach is by far the most popular in the area, located very close to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, but it’s not the only one.
  • You should also spend a day at Cabrillo Beach, located a little to the north.
  • Other alternatives are the Aeneas Beach or the San Carlos Beach Park, located near the beautiful Plaza de Monterey.
  • It’s no small deal if a Nobel prize writer dedicates a book to your town, and that town isn’t New York, Paris, or London. Cannery Row was immortalized in the eponymous 1945’s novel by John Steinbeck, and the whole city is practically a monument to what he wrote. The Steinbeck Plaza — overlooking the McAbee beach — is also dedicated to him and the famous figures of the city’s history.
  • Located on the end of the unforgettable Cannery Row is Monterey Bay Aquarium, usually considered the best aquarium in the United States, which is no small thing. It basically offers a window (both figuratively and literally) to the rich flora and fauna of the Monterey Bay and the Pacific Ocean. Unusually rich, here you can see more than 200 exhibits and 80,000 plants and animals. The place is completely family-friendly and equipped with facilities for disabled people.  
  • Unusually enough, Cannery Row is packed with pubs and bars, and it’s a great place to have an interesting fun night. Here are the best pubs in the area:

Where to Eat

  • Schooners Monterey is a beautiful American seafood restaurant and a decent bar located right on the coast of the ocean, offering a fantastic view and atmosphere. A 2022 Travelers’ Choice selection, it offers all the usual things, like clam chowder, different types of fish, and shrimp.
  • Sea Harvest Restaurant & Fish Market is another famous and popular American seafood restaurant on Cannery Row, located just a few blocks away from the ocean. This one has something unique to offer: namely, it’s probably the best place in town if you’re in the mood for soup. But it also offers plenty of fresh fish and other types of seafood, like oysters, diver scallops, and deep sea cod.
  • The Sardine Factory is an extra luxurious and expensive Michelin-star restaurant, classified as an American seafood place and wine bar. Located just a few blocks from the sea and existing since 1968, it’s considered one of the best wine and seafood facilities in the wider region.

Cannery Row Budget Hotels

  • Cannery Row Inn is literally the only two-star accommodation in this part of Monterey. It boasts a really good location, almost precisely in the middle between the downtown and Cannery Row. It offers free parking (one vehicle per room), free Wi-Fi throughout the premises, rooms with flat-screen TVs, and facilities for disabled guests.
  • Victorian Inn is a great three-star hotel that comes at a decent price and, because of the general prices of accommodations in this neighborhood, can be considered as a budget option. Everything is within walking distance of the hotel, and it offers furnished rooms with fireplaces and flat-screen TVs.

Cannery Row Mid-Range Hotels

  • The Jabberwock Bed & Breakfast is a beautiful bed and breakfast consisting of no more than seven rooms. It’s a perfect choice for visitors who don’t like crowds and who prefer a more personal service. The rooms are beautifully furnished, have huge Victorian beds, and some of the rooms even boast fireplaces and two-person hot tubs.
  • Holiday Inn Express Monterey – Cannery Row is a great and not very expensive three-star hotel, part of the famous Holiday Inn chain of hotels. Close to Monterey’s downtown but located in Cannery Row, it offers free Wi-Fi, free parking, and rooms with cable TV and small refrigerators.

Cannery Row Luxury Hotels

  • Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa is a super luxurious four-star hotel and probably one of the best accommodation options in the whole of Monterey. The hotel has practically everything: a great location and view, a private beach, an outdoor swimming pool, a spa and wellness center, a fitness center, a bar, and a restaurant on the premises.
  • Wave Street Inn is a four-star hotel located in the heart of the historic Cannery Row within walking distance of numerous restaurants, shops, fancy buildings, and the ocean. It offers an outdoor swimming pool, a fitness center, and a spa and wellness center, as well as an on-site bar and a restaurant.

See All Hotels in Monterey

3. Pacific Grove

View of the Point Pinos lighthouse in Pacific Grove, one of the best places to stay in Monterey California

Stephen B. Goodwin/Shutterstock

Just one mile to the north of Monterey lies the beautiful and charming city called Pacific Grove, part of the wider Monterey County.

Boasting a population of only 15,000 people, it has attracted many famous artists through the ages — like Robert Louis Stevenson and John Steinbeck — and thousands of tourists from all over America and the world.

It’s mostly famous for its natural beauty that emphasizes all the key strengths of the Californian coast and has plenty of golf courses.

It’s no surprise, then, that most of the attractions and landmarks in Pacific Grove are connected to the outdoors. The 17-Mile Drive is probably the prettiest scenic drive in this part of America.

Stretching along the coast of the Pacific Ocean, it goes by numerous natural landscapes, golf courses, mansions, and a lot of animals like pelicans and seals. Pacific Grove is generally considered as one of the best places in California for panoramic views and taking pictures.

There are plenty of places to do that, but the best and most visited ones are the following (listed from north to south):

  • Kissing Rock View Point
  • Beach Point
  • Pacific Grove Rocky View
  • Sunset Beach
  • Spanish Bay
  • Point Joe Vista Point
  • China Rock Vista Point
  • Lone Cypress
  • Pescadero Point

But not everything that’s worth seeing in the area is located in the open — there are some interesting museums and institutions you have to check out.

Point Pinos Lighthouse, for example, is both a striking viewpoint and the oldest working lighthouse in America. The Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History has a rich collection of birds, animals, and insects.

Lastly, the Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary is self-explanatory, and, put simply, it’s an unbelievable place. In terms of accommodation options, Pacific Grove is fairly decent, with a lot of different types of hotels available.

Most of them have three stars, but some are considerably cheaper and can pass as budget options. On the other hand, you do have your fair share of luxury.

Things to Do

  • We mentioned golf courses in the beginning, but we didn’t do that without a reason. Most of them are located near the ocean and the beaches, offering fantastic scenic views of the natural beauty of Pacific Grove. Here are the best, listed from north to south:
  • If you want to find out something more about the history of this charming area, make sure to visit its most famous museums and historical landmarks.
    • Pacific Grove is neither Monterey’s downtown nor Cannery Row, but it has some history to offer too.
    • Point Pinos Lighthouse, for example, is the oldest fully-functioning lighthouse in America, and it’s definitely worth seeing.
    • Asilomar Conference Grounds, on the other hand, is a beautiful building from the beginning of this century.
    • Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History is all about the natural history of the area.
  • If you enjoy strolling and hiking, there’s no better place in Monterey to do that than the beautiful Pacific Grove. We already talked about the numerous viewpoints: they’re very “useful” for hikers because they’re natural end-goals to your potential hike.
  • But there are other specialized hiking trails that are also great. We recommend the Asilomar Trail and the Asilomar State Beach, both of which offer a lot of sand and rock, as well as beautiful panoramas of the Pacific ocean.
  • Finally, let’s talk some more about the most important and most visited attraction in Pacific Grove: the 17-Mile Drive, definitely one of the most popular scenic drives in this part of America. We recommend that you engage its 17 miles in a relatively low speed, enjoying the surrounding rocks, beaches and water, and make a stop at a few locations.
    • You can stop at Fanshell Beach and take a refreshing swim;
    • Look at the seals and sealions at Pescadero Point lookout point;
    • Visit the lone cypress tree and take some pictures.

Where to Eat

  • Red House Cafe is a contemporary American cafe that’s suitable for every meal of the day, but mostly for lunch or dinner. A 2022 Travelers’ Choice selection, the restaurant has such a wide range of dishes that it’s hard to pick our recommendations, but — the crab cakes, the cheeseburger, and the French toast are just great.
  • Passionfish is a great American seafood restaurant located very close to the Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History. Yet another 2022 Travelers’ Choices selection (as you can see, there are plenty of them in Monterey), the place is also considered as one of the 100 best wine restaurants in America.
  • Fandango Restaurant is a general European and Mediterranean restaurant and yet another 2022 Travelers’ Choice selection in Monterey. It boasts healthy food made from local and fresh ingredients and a wide variety of vegan and vegetarian options for those who don’t prefer meat on their menu.

Pacific Grove Budget Hotels

  • Clarion Collection Wilkie’s Inn Pacific Grove is a very cheap two-star hotel located right next to the Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary and around fifteen minutes from the beautiful Pebble Beach. The hotel offers free Wi-Fi in all its rooms, free parking, and tea and coffee machines.
  • Butterfly Grove Inn is another two-star hotel that comes at a low price, located very near the Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary. It also offers an outdoor swimming pool, free Wi-Fi and parking, a refrigerator and a microwave in every room, and facilities for disabled people.

Pacific Grove Mid-Range Hotels

  • The Monarch Resort is a three-star hotel that comes at a decent price, and in this case, it can be considered as a relevant budget option. It offers an outdoor swimming pool, free parking, and high-speed fiber optic internet. There are tea and coffee makers in every room, as well as facilities for disabled guests.
  • Sunset Inn Pacific Grove is a great and not very expensive three-star hotel, located in close proximity to the Point Pino Lighthouse and around seven minutes from the nearby beach. Aside from the free Wi-Fi and free parking, the rooms are nicely decorated with flat screen TVs, and offer in-room coffee, refrigerators, and some even have fireplaces.  

Pacific Grove Luxury Hotels

  • Bernardus Lodge & Spa is a gorgeous and very luxurious five-star hotel that offers a spa and wellness center, premium dining, and an outdoor heated pool. The restaurant on the premises called Lucia Restaurant & Bar offers an extensive wine list and dishes made from local, healthy ingredients. There’s also a bar and room service on the premises.
  • Seven Gables Inn on Monterey Bay is another very beautiful and expensive four-star hotel located right on the coast of the ocean boasting an unforgettable view. The hotel offers rooms furnished in a luxurious way, equipped with all the amenities, and it also offers free Wi-Fi and free parking.

See All Hotels in Monterey

So, Where Should You Stay in Monterey?

🍽️ Best Area for RestaurantsDowntown
🥂Best Luxury AreaCannery Row
⛱️ Best Area for ActivitiesPacific Grove

Plenty of sandy beaches, the powerful Pacific ocean on the horizon, charming 19th-century architecture, plenty of museums, numerous tasty seafood restaurants — Monterey has all of that, and much much more.

This small California town is definitely a major tourist hub and a place you simply can’t miss. Now, before we put the final dot in this guide, let’s do a quick recap of the three best areas in the city.

The downtown area is probably the best way to start your adventure in this charming city. The absolute center of the city, it offers an unexpectedly high number of museums — like a city ten times its size.

It also boasts an amazing historic wharf, a charming historic district, plenty of beaches, and some family-friendly parks. It’s definitely the best choice for first-time commuters to Monterey, but also a perfect location for foodies because of the numerous seafood restaurants.

Cannery Row, located to the north of Downtown, is a former working-class district, immortalized by John Steinbeck in a novel from 1945.

Formerly a rough and poor neighborhood, today it offers class and even luxury, plenty of historical places and museums, the largest aquarium in America (Monterey Bay Aquarium), beautiful parks, and plenty of vibrant nightlife thanks to the many clubs and pubs.

Finally, a little further up north (around a mile) lies the stunning area called Pacific Grove. It looks as sublime as it sounds, and it’s the most suitable choice for nature lovers and lovers of the outdoors.

Home to one of the best scenic drives in this part of America, 17-Mile Scenic Drive, it also boasts plenty of hiking trails, great beaches, and plenty of golf courses. There is some history as well, but not as much as the first two areas.

So, with so much to see and do, and no bad area in which to stay, what are you waiting for — book a trip today and experience for yourself all that the lovely city of Monterey has to offer. Happy travels!