Weekend Trip San Francisco to Monterey and Carmel-by-the-Sea


Did you know that Monterey Bay is home to one of the deepest underwater canyons on the West Coast? This stunning coastal region, just a short drive from San Francisco, offers a perfect blend of natural beauty, history, and charm for an unforgettable weekend getaway.

Key Points

  • Embrace the scenic beauty of Highway 1 while planning your route
  • Must-visit attractions include the Monterey Bay Aquarium and Point Lobos State Park
  • Find the perfect stay, from European-style cottages to beachfront hotels

Planning Your Weekend Trip Itinerary

Start your journey in San Francisco and navigate along the iconic Highway 1, taking in the breathtaking coastal views as you make your way to Monterey. A two-day adventure is ideal for exploring the region’s highlights, but you can easily extend your stay to discover hidden gems.

Consider renting a car for flexibility, although public transportation options are available for the coastal drive. Plan to spend at least a full day in Monterey and another in Carmel-by-the-Sea to fully immerse yourself in the local culture and natural wonders.

Exploring Monterey: A Blend of Nature and Culture

Dive into the wonders of the Monterey Bay Aquarium, where you can explore diverse marine life and learn about conservation efforts. The aquarium is a must-visit attraction, so allocate at least a couple of hours to appreciate its exhibits.

Monterey’s historical charm is evident in the legacy of Cannery Row, once the center of the sardine canning industry and now a vibrant waterfront district with shops, restaurants, and galleries. Don’t miss the opportunity to embark on a whale-watching tour or even a scuba diving adventure to witness the incredible underwater world of Monterey Bay.

Carmel-by-the-Sea: A Quaint Village Experience

Fall in love with the European-style cottages and art galleries that line the streets of Carmel-by-the-Sea. This picturesque village is a haven for wine enthusiasts, with numerous tasting rooms and exceptional dining options.

Carmel-by-the-Sea is also one of California’s most welcoming towns for pets, with many dog-friendly beaches, restaurants, and accommodations. Bring your furry friend along for a memorable coastal getaway.

The Allure of 17-Mile Drive and Pebble Beach

Embark on the iconic 17-Mile Drive, a scenic route that winds through the exclusive enclave of Pebble Beach. Marvel at the grandeur of the Lone Cypress, one of California’s most photographed trees, and take in the dramatic vistas of the rugged coastline.

Golf enthusiasts can tee off at world-renowned courses like Pebble Beach Golf Links, while nature lovers can explore the coastal majesty of Point Lobos State Park, often referred to as the “crown jewel” of California’s state park system.

Big Sur and Beyond: Extending the Adventure

If time allows, venture further south to Big Sur, where the dramatic cliffs and turquoise waters create an awe-inspiring landscape. Hike the trails, discover hidden gems like McWay Falls, and cross the iconic Bixby Bridge, a testament to the region’s engineering marvels.

Consider a detour to the charming beach towns of Pacific Grove and Santa Cruz, each offering unique attractions and a laid-back coastal vibe.

Outdoor Activities Along the Coast

  • Embark on coastal hikes with breathtaking ocean views, such as the Point Lobos Loop Trail or the Cypress Grove Trail in Point Lobos State Park.
  • Try your hand at water sports like surfing, kayaking, or stand-up paddleboarding in the pristine waters of Monterey Bay.
  • Tee off at one of the many world-renowned golf courses along the coast, such as Pebble Beach Golf Links or Spyglass Hill Golf Course.

Accommodations and Dining: Where to Stay and Eat

Select your stay from a range of options, including luxury resorts, cozy inns, and charming bed and breakfasts. Many accommodations offer stunning ocean views and easy access to the region’s attractions.

Indulge in the gastronomic delights of the area, from fresh seafood and locally sourced produce to oceanfront dining experiences. Carmel-by-the-Sea and Monterey offer a wide array of culinary options, from casual cafes to fine dining establishments.

After a day of exploration, unwind with the vibrant nightlife and entertainment options in Monterey and Carmel-by-the-Sea, including live music venues, theaters, and wine bars.


What is the best time of year to take a weekend trip from San Francisco to Monterey and Carmel-by-the-Sea?

The best time to visit is from April to October, when the weather is mild and there is less chance of fog. However, keep in mind that summer months can be busy, so book accommodations in advance.

How much time should I allocate for a visit to the Monterey Bay Aquarium?

Plan to spend at least 2-3 hours exploring the exhibits and learning about marine life at the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

Are there any recommended spots for wine tasting in Carmel-by-the-Sea?

Yes, Carmel-by-the-Sea has numerous wine tasting rooms, including Scheid Vineyards, Wrath Wines, and Silvestri Vineyards.

What are some of the top dog-friendly activities in Carmel-by-the-Sea?

Carmel Beach is a popular off-leash dog beach, and many restaurants and shops in the village welcome furry friends. The Cypress Inn is a notable dog-friendly hotel.

Can you suggest any scenic spots for coastal hikes between Monterey and Carmel-by-the-Sea?

Point Lobos State Park offers several scenic hiking trails, including the Cypress Grove Trail and the Sea Lion Point Trail. Garrapata State Park, just south of Carmel, also features stunning coastal hikes.

SF Citizen Team

About the author

SF Citizen is your local guide to San Francisco, leading you through the city's iconic landmarks, hidden gems, and vibrant experiences. From the historic echoes of the Gold Rush era to stunning hikes in Muir Woods and the rich culinary scene, we provide meticulously curated explorations of this dynamic city. Whether you're planning your next adventure, considering a move, or exploring from afar, SF Citizen navigates you through the diverse neighborhoods, cultural scenes, and outdoor activities, helping you discover and connect with the city's soul.