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Monterey Bay Aquarium

Monterey Bay Aquarium: Our most recommended tours and activities

Pacific Coastal Highway Tour to Monterey & Carmel

1. Pacific Coastal Highway Tour to Monterey & Carmel

Travel along the scenic Pacific Coast Highway from San Francisco to Monterey and Carmel-by-the-Sea. This full-day tour takes you along California’s stunning coast to experience the beauty of Highway 1. When you arrive at the Monterey peninsula, follow the 17-Mile Drive through Pebble Beach to visit the Lone Cypress, where your guide will stop for you to take photos of the rugged, beautiful coast. As your tour continues, visit Monterey city where you can walk down Cannery Row, or visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium (for an additional cost). From Monterey, your tour continues to the coastal town Pacific Grove, which features charming Victorian-era buildings; and the artsy Carmel-by-the-Sea, where you will visit the historic mission established in 1770. On the way back to San Francisco, drive through Silicon Valley, the tech capital of the United States; and, as you circle round the north end of San Francisco, catch a glimpse of the Seal Rocks in the distance.

San Fran: Carmel, Monterey & Big Sur Full-Day Private Tour

2. San Fran: Carmel, Monterey & Big Sur Full-Day Private Tour

Explore the Big Sur and Monterey areas of California at your own pace, and avoid the hassle of organized bus tours. Traveling by private car, enjoy the comfort of seeing the places you want to see without worrying about your departure or arrival time. Learn more about the famous landmarks with a reliable service, offering maximum security and, most of all, the best level of hospitality in the industry. Following a pick-up from your accommodation in San Francisco (pick-ups in other cities in the Bay Area are available on arrangement), get recommendations on the best places to stop to take pictures or explore further; you decide where you want to go. Take a scenic drive from San Francisco to Carmel and Big Sur via State Route 1, the north-south highway that runs along most of the Pacific coastline of California. Travel the forested road of 17-Mile Drive. Discover the Mission District and Monterey Bay Aquarium. See all the sights of Fisherman's Wharf. Drive down to the Big Sur Bixby Creek Bridge, and marvel at the flora and fauna of Poit Lobos State Reserve south of Carmel before your return to San Francisco.

Monterey: 17-Mile Drive Self-Guided Audio Tour

3. Monterey: 17-Mile Drive Self-Guided Audio Tour

Experience the ultimate scenic drive between Pacific Grove and Pebble Beach on a self-guided tour in your vehicle. Take advantage of the flexibility to set your own pace, stopping to take in the many sights and views along the 17-Mile Drive. Start by downloading the app that will function as your personal guide, audio tour, and map all in one (download instructions received via email after booking), then begin your self-guided adventure. You'll embark on this scenic drive in downtown Monterey near the historic Fisherman's Wharf. Discover Cannery Row, the delightful waterfront street bordering Pacific Grove. Optionally, stop at the Monterey Bay Aquarium to get an up-close look at a large variety of sea creatures (entry not included). Take in the views from Point Joe, the rocky southwestern end of Spanish Bay, also known as the Restless Sea. Journey to Bird Rock and Seal Rock, and try to spot seals, sea lions, and local birds. Next, you'll continue through Crocker Grove to the Lone Cypress, which stands dramatically at the edge of a cliff against crashing waves. End your tour at the world-famous Pebble Beach, a paradise of pristine white sand and sensational coastal cliffs. The audio tour is curated by local guides and creative writers and is narrated by professional voice artists. Along with written descriptions, most tour stops have animated videos allowing you to visualize what you cannot see, such as snapshots from different centuries or building interiors.

Monterey: 17-Mile Drive Self-Guided Audio Tour

4. Monterey: 17-Mile Drive Self-Guided Audio Tour

Experience one of the most famous scenic drives in the world with a live GPS route and auto-playing narration for a complete hands-free and fully guided driving experience along the 17-Mile Drive. Simply download the app and drive hands-free like Google maps. On approaching an attraction, it’s photo pops up and you will hear its audio story, just like having a local guide sitting with you. The tour is developed by local tour guides, curated by creative writers, narrated by professional voice artists and put together using an award-winning platform. At Point Joe, stop and listen to the audio guide to learn about the European explorers that first came to this part of the coast. Later, drive past Bird Rock, where you can see Brandt's cormorants, pelicans, and California sea lions sharing the rock. At your next stop, get to see the harbor seals at Fanshell Overlook and learn about their pupping season from your guide. As you continue your drive, learn about the history of the 5000-acre Del Monte Forest of Monterey Cypress trees and listen to the intriguing story of a 250-year-old Lone Cypress that isn't entirely alone. Finally, stop at the Lodge at Pebble Beach and rest at one of the public areas or putter around in one of the many charming shops in the area. 

San Francisco: Monterey and Carmel Tour

5. San Francisco: Monterey and Carmel Tour

Begin your tour by traveling south on the famous Pacific Coast Highway, California Highway 1. Head to Monterey and Carmel-by-the-Sea. At your first rest stop in Davenport, you will have a chance to take a selfie with the whole Pacific as your backdrop.  At Monterey, you will have 2 hours on your own to explore. You can visit the world-famous Monterey Bay Aquarium, rent a kayak or paddleboard, hike along the coast, or take a bike to roam. You can also stroll among the quaint boutiques and art shops along the historic Cannery Row. Grab a seafood lunch at Old Fisherman’s Wharf.  Enjoy another eyeful of Pacific beauty along the scenic 17-Mile Drive through Del Monte Forest and take photographs of the hardy Lone Cyprus Tree. This famous road winds its way by magnificent homes and the spectacular coastline, between the greens and tees of world famous golf courses, and among the last remaining forest of a rare species of the Monterey Cypress.  Your scenic drive finishes at Pebble Beach Village. Upon arrival in the enchanted town of Carmel-by-the-Sea, you can explore the boutique shops on Ocean Avenue and be dazzled by the white sandy beach. If there is time, you can visit the historic Carmel Mission. Then, it will be time to head back to San Francisco. 

San Francisco: 2-Day Guided Tour of Monterey and Big Sur

6. San Francisco: 2-Day Guided Tour of Monterey and Big Sur

Revel in the laid-back beach towns just a few hours south of San Francisco on a 2-day tour along the Pacific Coast Highway. Take a day in Monterey Bay, the crown jewel of the Californian Coast. Then, a day to walk through the biggest trees in the world in Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park. Meet at a central San Francisco hotel and begin the journey south along the beautiful and rugged Pacific Coast Highway. On the way, you’ll pass through the ‘salad bowl of the nation’ so make sure to keep an eye out for produce stands filled with everything from fresh artichokes to juicy strawberries. Depending on the time of year, you may even catch the famous super blooms, an explosion of wildflowers that yields a vibrant scene of poppies, primroses, and lilies. Reach Monterey County, and stop for your first chance at spotting marine wildlife at Elkhorn Slough, an estuary known for being critical habitat for sea otters, harbor seals, cormorants and brown pelicans. Here, you have the option to take a guided kayak tour of the slough to learn even more about the water dwelling residents up close. Around lunchtime, take in expansive ocean views as you arrive to the beautiful, Monterey Bay. A crown jewel of the Central Californian coast, Monterey has a range of activities to pick from. Choose to explore the coastline and 17-mile drive on an e-bike tour or, if you’d rather, get a closer look at what's beneath the water (like the world’s largest octopus), by heading over to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Check out historic Cannery Row and Fisherman’s Wharf where adventure, history, and clam chowder await. Once you’ve enjoyed the best of what this picturesque city has to offer, stay overnight in Monterey County at a nearby hotel. The next morning, get ready to explore. Lace up your walking shoes and pack your camera, as you trade in the small-town charm for the brilliant beauty of the rural Big Sur coastline. As you ride south on the Pacific Coast Highway, stop for photos of the dramatic scenery and famous landmarks such as the iconic Bixby Bridge. Don’t forget to watch for whales too, depending on the time of year you can sometimes spot Gray and Humpback whales breaching from the highway. Venture through the lush greenery in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, where you’ll see one of the most photographed waterfalls on the Pacific Coast, McWay Falls, nestled in a beach enclave of emerald water. Enter next, the tallest trees in the world, the Coastal Redwoods of Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, and enjoy an afternoon of hitting the trails. After a full day exploring this memorable stretch of coastline, make your way back to San Francisco. Depending on the time of year, you’ll make a stop at the Santa Cruz Boardwalk for classic Americana culture or in the quaint town of Half Moon Bay to grab a bite to eat. With hints of saltwater still on your skin, arrive back to the twinkling lights of San Francisco at night.

Other Sightseeing Options in Monterey Bay Aquarium

Want to discover all there is to do in Monterey Bay Aquarium? Click here for a full list.

What people are saying about Monterey Bay Aquarium

Overall rating

4.6 / 5

based on 228 reviews

Excellent tour, covered all the major spots along California coast from Santa Cruz to Monterey to Carmel by the sea with important stops along the coast with appropriate time to take photos. Our your guide Doug and river Jason were pretty amazing and Doug has a thorough knowledge and passion and he was did an excellent job explaining all the important history on the tour. 17 Mile drive and pebble Beach were pretty amazing and beautiful. In Carmel, if you do not plan to shop, consider walking to the beach, it's a 0.5 mile walk slightly tedious walk (considering all the elevations) from the bus stop but it's worth it. In Monterey, aquarium will always be sold out when you arrive unless you dont book it prior, so 2 he is a little long, but considering it in life's lunch stop too, it totally makes sense. Apart from cannery row, consider taking a walk across lovers point trail in Pacific Grove which is just next to cannery row, it's pretty scenic.

this guide I would highly recommend any visitor/traveler to do, to enjoy some of the sights you might miss otherwise. And definitely pay to enter Pebble Beach.... it is well worth the $11.25. Absolutely beautiful and informative!

Loved this tour! We learned so much about the area from Alex. He’s a charismatic guide with a sense of humor. We had beautiful views along the coast. Highly recommend!

George was a terrific tour guide. He provided useful and interesting information everywhere we went.

George our tour guide was funny and knew a lot about San Fransisco!