biking the 17 mile drive in California
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We recently spent 4 days in Monterey and I was so anxious to share our trip with you that I started writing about it on our return flight home. Each spring, Chris and I take a vacation sans children. It’s always hard to leave them, but we have so much fun relaxing, reconnecting and yes, sleeping in! The last few years we have traveled to Napa and Sonoma, but this year I decided it was time to step outside of our comfort zone and experience somewhere new – even if only a few hours south! We spent 4 incredible days in Monterey exploring Big Sur, Carmel and Pacific Grove. It was perfection. It was one of those trips where everything seemingly fell into place. Of course I obsessively researched prior to committing. If you make the trip, I’ll save you a little time with my guide to 4 days in Monterey.

What do do in Carmel California | 17 mile drive map & details

San Jose, San Francisco and Oakland airports are all easily accessible, but if possible, book your flights to and from San Jose. It will save you 15+ minutes {not taking into account additional traffic you may incur} each way and a lot of stress. The airport is clean, with free internet access and electrical outlets everywhere. It was also extremely quiet during both of our encounters.

4 days in Monterey - what to do in Monterey California

I desperately wanted to stay in a quaint, beautiful hotel in Carmel, but they’re incredibly expensive. Instead, we opted to stay at the Monterey Plaza Hotel. The rooms were nice for a fraction of the price, but the amenities, views and service were wonderful! It was a nice surprise and an even better location. Our room boasted beautiful bay views. There’s plenty to do within walking distance, but so much to see just outside your door. We kicked off our vacation with lunch at Schooners, within the hotel, on the deck overlooking the bay. The above photo is the view, through my iPhone lens, from the restaurant.

Prior to visiting, I was a little confused about the proximity of Carmel, Monterey, Pacific Grove and Big Sur. They’re all a short drive from one another and each has plenty to offer. We spent a little time in each and loved them all.

If you’re looking to relax when you get in, do a little wine tasting. At first I was disappointed that the area was covered merely in tasting rooms without a vineyard in site, but the passion more than compensated for it. You can spend an hour or 5 tasting wine as you stroll down the streets of Carmel-by-the-Sea. There’s one tasting room after another, almost all dog friendly. You may even meet the winemaker or owner! Most tastings are just $10.

Charming place to visit - Carmel by the Sea

For dinner in Carmel, we thoroughly enjoyed La Bicyclette, but save room for dessert at nearby Cantinetta Luca! The budino di pan is not to be missed! I personally didn’t care for the shopping in Carmel, but maybe I was just distracted by all Mother Nature had to offer? Still, I enjoyed perusing through the area and seeing the darling architectural details. Most places had dutch doors. DUTCH DOORS! Yes! I cannot wait to have ours installed.

What do do in Carmel by the Sea

Day 2

I knew we wanted to do the 17 mile drive, but I wasn’t sure we actually wanted to drive it. I really wanted to experience it. Instead, we broke it up into 2 days, walking and biking it. Bay Bikes actually provides the best map of the drive. We rented from their Carmel location, rode up Rio road and veered off to enjoy lunch at on the beach at Carmel River State Beach. It was absolutely stunning and quite peaceful. Prior to renting our bikes we picked up sandwiches and cheese from Salumeria Luca. They were seriously amazing!

4 days in Monterey | map of 17 mile drive
Carmel River State Park beach
Carmel River State Park beach

{Views from our beach picnic}

We rode through the charming homes along Scenic Road and unfortunately, made a wrong turn shortly after the Carmel 17 Mile Drive gate. Oops! Go left! Apparently it’s common, but remember to always stay oceanside and never veer up large hills ;). Upon returning to the “drive” we explored Pebble Beach, The Lone Cypress and Seal Rock. If you have a little extra energy on the return, ride just to the left of point 15 – the views and homes are outstanding!

What do do in Carmel California | 17 mile drive map & details
biking the 17 mile drive in California
biking the 17 mile drive in California

Soon I’ll be sharing days 3 & 4 of our adventure. And yes, they were an adventure!

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  1. Hi, can you share the link of days 3 & 4 please? I’m planning our trip to Monterey in december this year.

    Many thanks!

  2. I’m lucky enough to have grown up in Monterey. Believe it or not it use to be prettier. Times change

  3. Hi! I found your post googling and LOVE your agenda for the first two days. I am having troubles finding the follow up post with days 3 & 4. Can you share the link? Thank you!

  4. Thank you! We leave on Tuesday – can’t wait! I’m afraid we’ll bd “Singing In The Rain” the whole trip – se la vi! I’m excited. I appreciate your suggestions.