Monterey & Surrounds, CA

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Monterey & Surrounds, CA Packages

Take a drive along the Pacific Coast as you explore California!
Nothing says relaxed vacation quite like Monterey!
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Monterey & Surrounds, CA

This sparsely populated region is in the Central Coast of California approximately 550 kilometers (342 miles) northwest of Los Angeles and 217 kilometers (135 miles) south of San Francisco. Big Sur refers to the breathtaking coastline along Highway One between San Simeon and Hearst Castle in the south to Carmel in the north. This particular stretch of Highway One has the rocky Pacific Coast on the one side and the magnificent Santa Lucia Mountain range on the other. Drive past the majestic Redwood trees that line the road and over the famous Bixby Bridge, one of the tallest single-span reinforced concrete arch bridges in the world.

Working-class Monterey is all about the sea. What draws many visitors is a world-class aquarium overlooking Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, which protects dense kelp forests and a sublime variety of marine life, including seals and sea lions, dolphins and whales. The city itself possesses the best-preserved historical evidence of California’s Spanish and Mexican periods, with many restored adobe buildings. An afternoon’s wander through downtown’s historic quarter promises to be more edifying than time spent in the tourist ghettos of Fisherman’s Wharf and Cannery Row.

With borderline fanatical devotion to its canine citizens, quaint Carmel has the well-manicured feel of a country club. Watch the parade of behatted ladies toting fancy-label shopping bags to lunch and dapper gents driving top-down convertibles along Ocean Ave, the village’s slow-mo main drag. Founded as a seaside resort in the 1880s – fairly odd, given that its beach is often blanketed in fog – Carmel quickly attracted famous artists and writers, such as Sinclair Lewis and Jack London, and their hangers-on. Artistic flavor survives in over 100 galleries that line downtown’s immaculate streets, but sky-high property values have long obliterated any salt-of-the-earth bohemia. Dating from the 1920s, Comstock cottages, with their characteristic stone chimneys and pitched gable roofs, still dot the town, making it look vaguely reminiscent of the English countryside. Even payphones, garbage cans and newspaper vending boxes are quaintly shingled.

Big Sur is more a state of mind than a place to pinpoint on a map, and when the sun goes down, the moon and the stars are the area's natural streetlights. (That's if summer’s fog hasn’t extinguished them.) Raw beauty and an intense maritime energy characterize this land shoehorned between the Santa Lucia Range and the Pacific Ocean, and a first glimpse of the craggy, unspoiled coastline is a special moment. In the 1950s and ’60s, Big Sur – named by Spanish settlers living on the Monterey Peninsula, who referred to the wilderness as el país grande del sur (‘the big country to the south’) – became a retreat for artists and writers, including Henry Miller and Beat Generation visionaries such as Lawrence Ferlinghetti. Today Big Sur attracts self-proclaimed artists, new-age mystics, latter-day hippies and city slickers seeking to unplug and reflect more deeply on this emerald-green edge of the continent.

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