This last month, I took a weekend trip to Monterey, a city located a 2 hour drive south of San Francisco, where I spent New Year’s Eve with my best friend.
Monterey features a lot of cute streets and great restaurants, but it’s also surrounded by beautiful landscapes that often combine ocean views with the densest woods. We rented a car and spent a whole 5 days in the area, which also gave us the opportunity to visit its less-accessible surroundings. Here are some things I would recommend seeing or doing in the area if you decide to visit:
Visit Carmel-By-The-Sea and take the 17 mile drive, a beautiful drive that goes through the woods along the coastline and features impressive luxury private properties.
The Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary, a little park that is home to thousands of stunning Monarch Butterflies in hibernation during specific times of the year.
The Monterey Aquarium, one of the biggest aquariums in the United States. It is a little pricey (50 dollars per person), but this was my favorite activity of this trip. I was absolutely mind-blown by some of the extremely-rare animals this aquarium hosts – creatures like beautiful bioluminescent jellyfish and huge sharks. They even have an area where you can touch several oceanic plants and animals!
Big Sur, a beautiful little town with breath-taking views of the ocean.
We also enjoyed eating at some great restaurants. If you are big into artichokes (like this area seems to be), you can’t miss The Giant Artichoke, a road-side restaurant that has tens of dishes with artichokes. If you’re looking for some European-like restaurant, the Swiss Bistro has an excellent 3-course fondue menu. If you are looking for drinks, the area is packed with places that host wine tastings, as well as many cocktail bars with very convenient happy hour schedules and prices.
On the way back to San Francisco, we took a detour to the redwoods around Santa Cruz, where we took a 2-hour zip-lining course on some of the tallest trees in the country. I would also recommend this activity to anybody who likes being in touch with nature!
Overall, Monterey is an amazing destination if you’re under a J1 visa in San Francisco and you want to visit the surroundings. Happy 2020!