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Why Couples Love Monterey, California

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Looking for a place to get away from it all and connect with your honey? You won’t find a more romantic destination than Monterey and its sister city, Carmel. My husband and I celebrated our wedding anniversary here and fell in love with Monterey (and with each other, all over again!). When comparing these two beautiful Central California destinations, Monterey is more bustling, but only slightly. Check out these four places to visit in Monterey, California for couples.

The romantic bay-front city of Monterey, California

The romantic bay-front city of Monterey, California (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

1. Cannery Row

In New Monterey, you’ll find Cannery Row, which is also the name of the area’s main street. Restaurants abound here, as well touristy shops at which you can purchase kitschy souvenirs and t-shirts. Made famous by John Steinbeck’s book, Cannery Row, Monterey pays tribute to the sardine factory workers who toiled here from 1908 until the last cannery closed in 1973.

Be sure to walk through a wee park above the main strip with its replica immigrant houses from the sardine heyday of the early 1900s; it’s also a nice spot to relax in the shade of trees and spy on butterflies for a bit.

Cannery Row in Monterey, California

Cannery Row in Monterey (Photo credit:,

While wandering along Cannery Row, you may be offered free samples of clam chowder from every eatery in town. If it’s a bowl of the town’s best clam chowder you’re after, then I must recommend the Fish Hopper or its sister property, Old Fisherman’s Grotto. I never had been much of a clam chowder lover, but after a taste of their delicious soup, I became a convert!

Seagull near Monterey Bay Aquarium

A seagull chilling out near Monterey Bay Aquarium (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

2. Monterey Bay Aquarium

The most popular site in Monterey is its world-renowned aquarium. Set on 3.3 bay-front acres and home to over 35,000 animals, the Monterey Bay Aquarium is one of the most impressive aquariums in the world. Couples will enjoy exploring this attraction’s hands-on, educational displays together.

Jelly fish exhibit at Monterey Bay Aquarium

Jelly fish exhibit at Monterey Bay Aquarium (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

The aquarium is very busy, and rightfully so. I highly recommend purchasing Skip-the-Line Tickets before arrival to avoid standing in a ridiculously long line, especially during high travel season (like summer weekends).

In addition to a vast array of fish, the aquarium’s sea otters are a non-stop swirling, swimming, diving frenzy of entertainment. Take a look at what I mean in the video above!

A penguin at Monterey Bay Aquarium

A penguin at Monterey Bay Aquarium (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

The resident penguins are less active but intriguing as well. I watched one tuxedoed gal waddle about and ponder diving into her exhibit’s chilly waters for a full 15 minutes before I gave up capturing a penguin dive action shot.

Looking for sea creatures during our lunch at the Monterey Bay Aquarium

My husband looking for ocean life during our lunch at the Monterey Bay Aquarium (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

If you have kids at home, then plan to spend a little dough on educational and fun souvenirs at one of the attraction’s expansive gift shops. Meanwhile, the aquarium’s sit-down dining option, Aquarium Restaurant, boasts one of the best ocean views in town and came highly recommended to us. In an effort to lower the aquarium’s carbon footprint, you’ll only find sustainable seafood here as well as plant-based options, like the Impossible Burger. For a similar menu at cheaper prices, you can dine at the aquarium’s cafeteria-style café instead.

Monterey Bay view

Our lunchtime Monterey Bay view (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

3. Seventeen Mile Drive

You can easily drive 10 minutes or so to reach Carmel from Monterey on public roads. At some point, however, you must embark on the famous 17-mile Drive. This winding private oceanfront road charges a nominal fee, but it’s well worth it for the views. Plan to stop a lot along the way to snap shots of the rocky ocean cliffs and sandy beaches frosted with misty clouds.

Just a sliver of the sweeping view at Pebble Beach Golf Club

Just a sliver of the sweeping view at Pebble Beach Golf Club (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

4. Pebble Beach Golf Links

Top off your drive with a stop at Pebble Beach Golf Links. If you love golf and have deep pockets, then make a reservation to play a round or two during your trip. Or, do as my husband and I did, and live the rich life by sipping cocktails at their golf club while taking in a magnificent view of the course and ocean. You can browse high-end retail shops at Pebble Beach, too.

Pebble Beach luxury shopping

Pebble Beach luxury shopping (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Learn More

For more to do and see just four miles from Monterey including hiking, wine tasting, dining and beyond…check out my tips for a romantic getaway in Carmel, California.

Review Monterey and Carmel group and private tours.

Discover the most romantic hotels in Monterey.

Looking for additional vacation destinations for couples? Take a peek at our recommended grown-up getaways!

Couple at Point Lobos State Reserve near Monterey

My husband and me at Point Lobos State Reserve near Carmel (Photo credit: Travel Mamas)

Save this List of Things to Do in Monterey

For future travel planning, be sure to save this story about Monterey, California for couples. Simply pin the image below to Pinterest. I hope you’ll follow Travel Mamas on Pinterest while you’re at it!

Monterey California for Couples

Do you have other suggestions for places to visit in Monterey, California for couples? Let us know in the comments below!

A Note from The Travel Mama: My husband and I received complimentary passes to the aquarium for the purpose of this story about Monterey for couples. We paid for everything else mentioned in this blog post. All opinions are my own, as always.

About Colleen Lanin

Colleen Lanin is the founder/editor-in-chief of As the author of her book, "The Travel Mamas' Guide," she teaches parents not only how to survive a trip with children, but also how to love exploring the world with their offspring. Her stories have appeared online and in print for such outlets as the "Today" show,, Parenting Magazine, Orlando Sentinel, Chicago Tribune, Expedia, San Diego Family Magazine, and more. Colleen gives tips on television, radio, and as a public speaker. She has a master’s degree in business administration with a background in marketing. She lives in Arizona with her husband and two kids.

  1. Charles McCool says

    Hi Colleen. Happy Anniversary.

    I lived in Monterey for 2 1/2 years. Spectacular place. and great choice for surprise anniversary getaway.

    A correction to your Monterey info. Cannery Row is in an area called New Monterey. Downtown Monterey is distinct and about a mile and a half southeast. The Presidio separates New Monterey from (old) Monterey.

    The area certainly has fantastic clam chowder. Best I have ever had is from Vivolos, a block from the aquarium. In fact, one of my favorite things (in the whole world) is watching the sunset from Ocean View Drive with take out Vivolos clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl.

    Take care. Wonderful write up.

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says

      Charles – Thank you for the correction! I’ve made the change. Guess I should check my research a little better, eh? (Mmm…clam chowder in a bread bowl sounds fab!)

  2. Mums do travel says

    This does all look lovely. I drove along the 17-mile drive a few years ago with a friend and when we stopped to take photos our rental car wouldn’t start! There was nobody else around and we panicked a bit, didn’t know what to do at all and then it magically started, much to our relief.

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says

      Mums do travel – So glad it all worked out OK! There are less attractive places in the world to be stranded tough for sure!

  3. We stopped by Monterey on our road trip in Cali a couple of years ago around the same time. It was gorgeous. Great drive, very nice area. Did the 17 mile drive. Was a bit cloudy on that day, but we still got to enjoy the scenery

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says

      Dmitry – Thanks for your comment! It was cloudy most days when we were in the area too, but the clouds add to the scenery in a way.

  4. First of all i would like to wish you a very auspicious Anniversary …and thanks a lot for giving me an idea about my wedding anniversary coming on 11th. as usual I enjoyed your post very much thanks a lot for sharing.

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