Traveling to California’s Central Coast is even easier for Denverites all thanks to new direct flights from Denver to Monterey, CA. United Airlines recently added direct 2.5-hour flights from Denver International Airport to Monterey Regional Airport, making travel from the mountains to the beach a breeze. But this isn’t your typical beach vacation filled with mai-tais and hours of sunbathing. Get out your hiking boots, grab your paddles and complement your tastebuds with your next adventure in Monterey, CA.
Farm-to-table food with flair
Due to its moderate climate that brings in the cool ocean air and mild temperatures throughout the year, Monterey County is not only known for its incredible shoreline and color-bursting sunsets, but it is also one of the top producers in agriculture. In fact, its largest city, Salinas, is known as the Salad Bowl of the world. Along with being a top producer of lettuce, the county is also a top producer of artichokes and strawberries. Not to mention their direct access to fresh seafood 24/7, Monterey County’s bountiful fresh-food menus abound.
Kick off your farm-to-table experience right when you land at Monterey Regional Airport with breakfast, lunch, or dinner at Woody’s. “This is not your typical airport food,” says local legend and chef, Tim Wood. They blend fine dining with a casual take-off atmosphere by mixing fresh local ingredients and dishes that bring you into Monterey Bay. Welcoming a blend of locals and travelers with either a hangover or a layover, it’s a great way to kick off your trip.
Save room for a stop at the 4-star, 4-diamond resort and treat yourself to lunch or dinner at Lucia Restaurant at Bernardus Lodge & Spa in nearby Carmel Valley. What was once an old hunting lodge is now a 73-room boutique property complete with a world-class spa, pool and their very own organic garden that houses herbs, vegetables, artichoke and lemon trees, herbs and 100,000 pollinating bees. Chef Christian Ojeda and his team pick from the garden’s fresh ingredients to inspire his daily and seasonal creations for a true farm-to-table experience.
Or pick out your own food with flair at one of Monterey County’s 15 different local farmers’ markets. Stroll the streets of Carmel by the Sea, home to the most restaurants per capita than any other small town in the United States. The options are endless for any farm-to-table fanatic.
Is a trip to California even complete without a visit to a local winery or vineyard? With 349 vineyards, 82 bonded wineries and 65 tasting rooms, Monterey County makes it easy. The area’s wide range of climates allows the area to grow over 30 different wine grape varietals, with its most popular being Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
Sample some of the finest wine in the county with a visit to Albatross Ridge. Perched atop the rolling mountains of Carmel Valley, just seven miles from the Pacific Ocean, Albatross Ridge prides itself on growing its grapes in an optimally cool environment that produces some of the finest Chardonnay and Pinot Noirs in the world.
You can visit them with your own private tasting experience at the vineyard or visit them at their Carmel-by-the-Sea tasting room, the Carmel Valley Tasting Cottage, or the Monterey Winery + Kitchen.
Hiking in Big Sur
Just like hiking in Colorado, hiking along California’s Central Coast brings you close to diverse landscapes and never-ending views, albeit different views. Walk through 2,000-year-old redwood forests, where ladybugs congregate and redwood clovers, ferns and fennel fill in the ground floor. Follow where the mountains lead to the sea, as the rugged coastline dramatically carves the waters and the sounds of crashing waves and barking sea lions fill the salty air.
If you’re not sure where to begin, book a guided hike with Big Sur Guides & Hiking. They offer private hiking adventures, plus half-day and full-day hiking excursions. A popular trail in Big Sur that offers the full experience is the Robinson Jeffer’s Hike – where the “marriage of the mountains to the ocean” occurs. Along this hike, you will see some of the most diverse environments from the redwoods to the rugged coastline.
In addition to its stunning views, Big Sur is also home to a variety of wildlife. Nearly 88 different bird species make their way through Big Sur every year including some of the more popular birds, Stellar Jays, and Acorn Woodpeckers. Joining them in the sky, the annual Monarch Butterfly migration begins in late October through November and is one of the few places to see the reintroduced California Condor. Plus, always keep your eyes peeled for gray whales out at sea (December – April) and the elusive gray fox on land.
While hiking in California’s Central Coast is possible year-round, there are distinct wet and dry seasons. Fall and winter are dryer, with spring and summer bringing in more of the rain and fog.
Horseback riding in Pebble Beach
Hitch your saddle to a horse for a horseback ride in Pebble Beach. Ride through a forest of cypress trees and Spanish moss, saunter amongst sand dunes and take in views of Pebble Beach and the elite Cypress Point Golf Club.
Dating back to 1920, the Pebble Beach Equestrian Center that once began as a boarding stable is now a rehabilitation and tour center for horses and those that love to ride. They offer several guided rides, in both a group and private setting. Led by professional guides, explore over 27 miles of trails through the Del Monte Forest and the rugged coastline of Pebble Beach for an unforgettable experience.
Kayaking in Monterey Bay
If kayaking over a kelp forest, watching as sea otters twist and turn through the water and listening to barking seals is your thing, then kayaking in Monterey Bay needs to be at the top of your list. The best part is the ease of spotting wildlife.
Home to the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, which covers 5,312 square miles (one and a half times the size of the largest national park in the continental U.S), Monterey Bay offers one of the best wildlife viewing areas in the world.
Adventures by the Sea, located on Cannery Row in Monterey, offers guided kayak tours and kayak rentals to tour the cold waters and estuary sanctuaries of Monterey.
Getting to Monterey from Denver
United Airlines now offers direct flights from DIA to the Monterey Regional Airport. The roughly 2.5-hour flight takes you directly to the heart of Monterey, landing just minutes from local hotels, the beach and the nearest winery.
For more about what to do and see in Monterey County, visit them at seemonterey.com