I love Northern CA, with the long, sandy beaches and abundance of trees. However, if you are anything like me it’s also freezing. (Even in May.) So, I brought snowpants and let me tell ya, that was a great decision. Of course with the beaches here, you have to bring sandals too. This is where the name of my blog came from, in case you were curious.
SJC AIRPORT: We chose to fly into San Jose airport, a much larger one than those closer to Monterey. It’s a well- kept, large airport with friendly staff, interesting architecture and gigantic stalls in the bathrooms. Yep, I had to throw that one in there. They even have a large ledge behind the toilet. Maybe for people who have those extra large purses because I can’t imagine lifting my luggage up there. TIP: If you get a chance, they also have a piano for anyone to play. Apparently, we weren’t too bad because the greeters offered to take off their hats and ask for tips from people. 😉
AIRPORT > MONTEREY: The drive from Monterrey is abt an hr and a half through a curvy mountainous forest road that is well worth the trip. It pays to have a navigational system here. (We called ours “Garmie” since it was the Garmin brand) Also, Monterrey Bay Aquarium hours are usually 9-6pm so plan accordingly, especially when having to pay $1.50 an hr at the meters.
MONTEREY: Across the street you’ll find souviner shops, little restaurants, wine tasting rooms and of course a candy shop. They sell saltwater taffy and other candies in large barrels that you just place in a bucket for $3.75 per 1/4 pound. Pretty expensive if you ask me, but the flavor was great. TIP: For a more reasonably priced taffy, try walking to the pier to “Carousel Candies.” The taffy is much softer and they add a bit more salt. We signed up for the Trolley Wine Tour, which wasn’t worth the money in my opinion. We got to meet some great people, but didn’t get to take a trolley- they main thing that I was looking forward too. It took us to 5 different wine tasting rooms- don’t expect to go to any actual wineries here, although they are by some and we did pass by vineyards on the way up. TIP: My advice- drive yourself and save the money.
CARMEL: A must stop on your trip and the parking is free after 6pm with free 2 hr parking before then. Walk all the way down the main side street to the beach. It has the softest sand and the most spectacular views. You can even see Pebble Beach Golf Course from here. We visited a nice little restaurant called “Little Napolini” after taking some advice from a nice couple we met earlier. It is a quaint little restaurant and I loved the ambiance, but the food was overpriced- as is everything in Carmel. I got the cheese cannelloni that had the design of the Italian flag in the three different sauces. Beware though- this one does have mushrooms in it, but they aren’t that hard to pick out. 😉 TIP: If I go back, I will give myself more than just an evening here.
HIKING: After researching many websites, the best I found for hiking was http://www.hikinginbigsur.com. The two I hiked were the McWay Waterfall Trail and Limekiln Trails. McWay Waterfall Trail is so simple that people were taking their small children on it, if that helps at all. A brief 5-10 minute on level ground leads you to breathtaking views of the coast as well as the waterfall. A great stop on the way to see other things, but don’t make this the only reason for traveling down the very long coastal road that reminded me of the Highway to Hana. I definitely recommend continuing a bit further to Limekiln Trails. Not only do you feel like a true outdoorsman by getting to cross 5 different streams using rocks, and twigs to make your way, but you are rewarded at the end by standing directly under some gorgeous falls. This hike is more strenuous and involves climbing like a monkey, hurdling over fallen trees and getting a bit dirty. TIP: Bring $10 exactly for parking at the McWay Falls or park on the main road for free. You do need to fill out the provided envelopes with your car information and enclose the exact parking fee, so please do bring a pen. (We didn’t have either, but were lucky enough to encounter some people that had change and a spare pencil.) Oops! Save the parking ticket as it is good for parking at other parks that day. Limekiln Trails parking only cost $8 if paying for only that park. The drive is a good hour on very curvy coastal roads that can be a bit tiring after a while so make sure you have enough food, water and gas in your car to make the trip!