Nine Items To Check Off Your Bucket List In Monterey County

Updated: Jun 3

More than just a bucket list destination, Monterey County is home to an abundance of incredible and unique experiences deserving of their own bucket list status

From exclusive dining and iconic sporting locations to secluded coastal getaways and incredible wildlife encounters, this corner of The Golden State is brimming with unforgettable things to do, see and taste. The most difficult part is knowing where to start, and that’s where can help. Here we run through our nine favourite Monterey County bucket list experiences.


1. Encounter whales in the wild

Whales can be spotted year-round all along the California coastline. What makes Monterey Country particularly special is the Monterey Submarine Canyon. As deep as the Grand Canyon, this underwater ravine is the largest of its kind on the North American coast. Home to a plethora of marine life, this environment creates the perfect feeding ground for the migrating and resident whales that pass through these waters.



Depending on the time of year, visitors can spot migrating humpbacks, blue whales and grey whales. Year-round sightings include orca and minke whales. And very occasionally beaked whales and sperm whales make an appearance.

2. Tee-off at Pebble Beach

One of the most distinguished golf courses in the world, Pebble Beach hosted its sixth US Open in 2019. Overlooking the Pacific’s rugged Carmel Bay, this legendary course has witnessed its fair share of iconic moments over the years, including Tiger Woods’ 2000 US Open 15 stroke win.


Credit: Pebble Beach Resorts


One of the only ways to guarantee some time on those manicured greens is to stay at one of the Pebble Beach Resorts properties. To play the iconic Pebble Beach Links course there is a minimum stay requirement of two or three nights (depending on the time of year), whilst some of the other courses require one night's stay per round.


Non-residents can play, but must only book up to 6months in advance, depending on the course. This includes the more relaxed and sociable ‘The Hay’ course, redesigned by Tiger Woods in 2021.


3. Experience Monterey Car Week


One of the most anticipated weeks on the car-enthusiast calendar, this event is surely on the bucket list of every petrolhead in the world. Once a year in late August hundreds of exotic and vintage vehicles descend upon Monterey County. For one-week high-ticket auctions, races, galas, exhibitions and other events keep autophiles engine’s revving. The week culminates in the final marquee competition, the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance.


Credit: Pebble Beach Concourse d'Elegance


Smaller non-motor themed shows take place throughout the week too including prancing pony shows, food and wine tastings, aircraft displays and a series of mouth-watering barbeques.

4. Enjoy a restorative stay at the Post Ranch Inn

An A-lister favourite, this secluded property, perched high on the 1200ft Pacific coastal ridge is an architectural marvel. The eco-minded lodgings are constructed from sustainable materials including reclaimed redwood and local stone.


The award-wining Serra Mar restaurant offers sweeping views of the mountains, cliffs and ocean. The acclaimed resident chef creates new gourmet masterpieces daily, combining Californian flare with French and Mediterranean influences.


Credit: Post Ranch Inn


This adult-only retreat is the perfect place for visitors to indulge in their favourite treatments and therapies or discover some new ones. From yoga and meditation, hiking and stargazing to shamanic healing sessions, the options are plentiful.


5. Discover equine therapy at Carmel Valley Ranch

If you prefer your treatments on the alternative side, equine therapy may be for you.


Horses are natural prey animals. For their own protection, they have evolved to be very sensitive to vocal and body cues, including those being emitted by humans. When we’re fearful, they’re on alert. When we’re calm, they find us more approachable. They mirror our emotions and allow us to understand more about ourselves.


Credit: Carmel Valley Ranch


Visitors can experience the benefits of equine therapy for themselves at Carmel Valley Ranch. The ranch offers a range of equine therapy options including work with individual horses, the entire herd or even with the addition of wine (this is California after all!).


6. Drive the Pacific Coast Highway in a classic car

Is there a finer way to experience the Pacific Coast Highway than behind the wheel of an iconic classic car? Monterey Touring Vehicles own a vast fleet of incredible vintage cars spanning the last nine decades. From the 1927 Bugatti and 1955 Ford Thunderbird right through to the 2008 Tesla Roadster.


Credit: Monterey Touring Vehicles


Visitors can rent their own piece of American history for a half or full day and explore Monterey County in style. Cruise through downtown Carmel-by-Sea, take in the mighty views along the Big Sur coastline or explore the historic sites of Old Monetary. With both automatic and manual transmission available and the option of hotel drop off, this unforgettable experience is a must whilst in the region.


7. Dine at the chef's table at Bernardus Lodge


Combine a unique and unforgettable experience with a gastronomic celebration at Bernardus Lodge. Tucked among the vineyards in the scenic Carmel Valley, Bernardus Lodge has long been considered one of the finest winemaking estates in California. The destination restaurant, Lucia, elegantly showcases the best of California country cuisine.


Credit: Bernard's Lodge & Spa


Hosting up to five diners, the exclusive chef's table experience allows visitors to enjoy a front-row seat inside a world-renowned kitchen. Visitors might also recognise some of the wall art. Julia Child, Clint Eastwood, Bradley Cooper and Leonardo DiCaprio are just a few of

the celebrity diners to have written messages of appreciation on the walls surrounding the table.

8. Go wine tasting in a helicopter


One of the best ways to view this incredible stretch of coastline, a scenic helicopter tour will whizz you over Monterey Bay and along the rugged shoreline down to Big Sur. Look out for whales in the nutrient-rich waters below and learn all about this incredible area along the way.

Credit: Specialized Aviation


Many experiences in Monterey County are enhanced by the presence of the region’s superb wine, and scenic helicopter rides are no different. Leave the Pacific Ocean behind and take the 20-minute flight inland to one of California’s oldest vineyards, Eden Rift. Located on the San Andreas Fault, the valley is known for its excellent Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

9. Drive a sports car round the Laguna Seca Raceway

Part of the former Ford Ord military base until 1957, this legendary racetrack has witnessed many iconic motor racing events over the years including the United States Road Racing Championship, the Can-Am, Formula 5000 and later IndyCards and MotoGP. The track is famous for housing one of the most unique corners in motorsport – The Corkscrew. A blind, plunging, left-right road that’s approached from a long, fast uphill run, The Corkscrew is more like something from a ski slope than a piece of a racetrack.


Credit: AMG Driving Academy


Visitors can tap into that racing adrenaline on a one, two, or three-day driving school experience. Or for some sideline action, book tickets for one of the many events, motor racing and otherwise, that take place on the track throughout the year.




Looking for more inspiration? Visit the official site of the Monterey County Convention & Visitors Bureau at https://www.seemonterey.com


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