Monterey, California, Big Sur Pacific Ocean Coast
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Monterey, California, sea lions
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Monterey, California, Pigeon Point Lighthouse
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Monterery, California, vineyard
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Monterey, California, Monterey Bay Aquarium
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Monterey, California, Monterey Harbor
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Monterey, California

Carmel, California, San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo Mission San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo Mission iStock.com / Pgiam

Rocky coastline, fragrant pine trees, sand dunes, and sea lions: Monterey's natural wonders are plentiful. Ships anchor in the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, and you're tendered ashore and dropped off in the heart of a wharf decked out as a classic fishing village and featuring all sorts of shops, bars, and restaurants. You could spend the day just sitting by the water, spying sea lions, and sampling brews and chowders.

What We Love

Cannery Row: The area immortalized in the John Steinbeck novel of the same name used to be a sardine warehouse district. Now, the refurbished buildings retain their Depression-era look and feel but house an eclectic mix of art galleries, shops, and restaurants.

Coastal Trail: The Monterey Bay Coastal Recreation Trail winds for nearly 30 miles along the scenic coastline. The path in Monterey is paved, beautifully landscaped, and used extensively by runners, walkers, and bikers.

Best Known For

Monterey Bay Aquarium: This institution in Cannery Row ranks as one of the top ocean conservation organizations. Make a visit to explore the 34 major galleries showing off about 200 exhibits on 550 sea life species, from otters to octopuses.

Parks, Parks, and More Parks: The region is chock-full of outdoor areas, from national forests, sanctuaries, and preserves to city, county, and regional green spaces. Depending on where you go, you can enjoy hiking, bird-watching, mountain biking, horseback riding, trail running, swimming, and even diving.

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Who It's Best For

Outdoor Enthusiasts: Monterey is a wonderland for outdoor adventure-seekers. It helps that the weather beckons you outside: The average high in July is about 70 degrees, and the city gets 270 days of sunshine annually.

Don't Say We Didn't Warn You

Don't Expect a Bargain: This isn't a cheaper cruise destination like Mexico or Central America. You pay U.S. prices for meals, souvenirs, and tours — and California prices to boot.

John Roberts

John Roberts is a New Jersey-based writer for ShermansCruise who worked at The Virginian-Pilot.

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