Monterey, California: One year wasn’t enough

As I write this post, we have been living in Monterey, California for exactly one year to date. Soon we will say goodbye to this little paradise in Central California.  We truly do love it here, and despite being crazy busy with school, we were still able to enjoy the area.

If you are planning on moving here, already living here, or just visiting, here is a recap of the favorite places we went, things we did, and restaurants in the area. 


  • Point Lobos– this is a little piece of heaven just south of Carmel, only 15 minutes from Monterey. This is where we take family who come to visit, because it is truly spectacular! During certain times of the year you can whale-watch.  There are trails and beaches.  You can park on the highway outside the gate to save money on parking (and the long line that often comes with it). I wrote a post about running there few months ago (before I got my fancy camera):  Point Lobos State Natural Reserve.  Sadly though, no dogs allowed.

Point Lobos

  • Big Sur-go here.  Just driving down highway 1 is one of the most beautiful places I’ve seen in America. It’s also where the Big Sur International Marathon is held.
  • 17 mile drive-a scenic toll road ($10 dollars I think, or free for cyclists/walkers) through the areas of Pebble Beach and surrounding golf courses. Lots of extravagant houses, and the famous cypress tree lookout. My advice–if you are going to drive it, skip it and drive down highway 1 to Big Sur instead.  The views will be better and it is free. If you are going to cycle or run, then do it!  It really is beautiful, and since it is a toll road, there are fewer cars. Actually, if you ride it early in the morning, you will see more cyclists than motorists! It is a pretty challenging route because it is hilly.
  • Asilomar Beach- thanks to Clint Eastwood, dogs are allowed off leash on part of this beach! Remy has a blast playing with all the other dogs every time we go.

Asilomar Beach
We have to leave this guy behind when we move. That will be a sad sad day for us. But we know he will be in good hands until we get back!


  • Ventana Wilderness-very pretty and a good place for backpacking. We went for a one-night trip to try out backpacking for the first time.  We’d definitely go back if we had the time. Dogs are allowed.

Remy Ventana Wilderness Carolina Dog Ventana Wilderness

  • Toro Park-lots of hiking trails of varying distances with great views of the bay.  This is where we did the Spartan Beast. Dogs are allowed!
  • Jack’s Peak-small, a few short hikes.  Great for an evening hike with the dog.  Beautiful views at the top.
  • Garrapata State Park- this was the last place we went hiking during our time in Monterey, and I only wish we had gone sooner. Located a few miles south of Carmel this park is a wonderful mix of scenery between the ocean, hills, and dense forest.  The trail is a loop-going up to the top and circling back down.  No matter which way you go up it will be steep, but we went the scenic route first (toward the left) and were told that was more difficult.  It worked out great though, because we got to the redwood forest at the end, and that was the best part of the hike.

Where to hike in Monterey

Where to hike in Monterey

  • Pinnacles National Park-a little out of the way, but worth it for a day trip.  Various trails.  Dogs not allowed. I wrote a post about it which you can find here.
  • Garland Ranch– in Carmel Valley, about 30 minutes from Monterey.  Miles of trails of varying difficulty. Very pretty. Dogs are allowed!


  • Monterey Fish House-skip Fisherman’s Wharf and go where the locals go instead. You’ll get better seafood for the same price. This was the first restaurant the hubby and I went to in Monterey, and it became a favorite.
  • Loulou’s Griddle in the Middle– also one of the first restaurants we went to, and continued going to. Awesome clam chowder.  Everybody around here advertises their chowder as “the best”, but Loulou’s actually is.  Also, they participate in HER Helmet Thursdays!
  • Restaurant 1833-words can’t even describe how good the food at this restaurant is.  It is very pricey, so it is really only a special occasion type place for us.  We actually only went once, but we loved it so much.  The bone marrow appetizer was to die for! Locally sourced.
  • La Bicyclette-a little French place in Carmel.  The hubby took me here for my birthday, and we loved it!  They also source locally, which is a huge plus for me.  There are lots of restaurants around here that get their products from local farmers.
  • Dametra Cafe–This little mediterranean restaurant in Carmel was ranked 6 on Yelp’s Top-Rated 20 Restaurants in America! You pretty much can’t get in without a reservation. It’s even hard to get in if you call the same day, unless you want to be eating at 10:00pm. The only time we were able to get a table, I called two days ahead to make a reservation.  I think the good, inexpensive food and really fun vibe make this place so special. People were up, dancing between the tables in the middle of dinner…just saying–this restaurant is pretty darn cool.


These were the races we have done in the Monterey area.  All of them were well organized and we had a lot of fun.

  • Run in the Name of Love 5k (June 2013)- a beautiful run in Carmel By the Sea.  My 5k PR (even after not training), because well, it is mostly downhill!
  • Monterey Spartan Beast (August 2013) – a brutal obstacle race.  Check out my race report!
  • Big Sur River Run 10k (October 2013)- a run through the redwoods in Big Sur.  There were bagpipes and they were awesome.
  • Run for the Fallen Fort Ord 10k (November 2013)-a national event that is held in many different cities.  In Monterey, it followed the coastal trail by the beach.
  • Big Sur Half Marathon (November 2013)- a world famous beautiful run along the coasts of Monterey and Pacific Grove.  Check out my race report!
Photo courtesy of Big Sur International Marathon
Photo courtesy of Big Sur International Marathon

Cities and Towns

  • San Francisco– We went up to SF for a long weekend last fall and had a great time.  You can check out my post here about what we did, where we stayed, and where we ate: San Francisco Getaway.
  • Lake Tahoe-about a four hour drive.  We went up with a group of friends to go skiing for a long weekend.  There wasn’t much snow, so the hubby and I only skied for one day, saved our money (lift tickets are more expensive than in CO!), and went hiking the next two days.  The trails were icy in most parts, but we still had a lot of fun in such a beautiful place!

Lake Tahoe

Lake Tahoe rock

  • Paso Robles– we went here on a day trip and visited a couple wineries and Firestone Walker. The wineries are all very small, and very friendly.  We had a private tasting at each place we went (we were the only ones there!) and spoke with the owners, who were very eager to share their experience with us and tell us their story of starting their business. We also happened to go on the same day that they had a big car show downtown, so that was pretty cool.

ford paso robles

  • Carmel By The Sea– this little town is only 10 minutes from Monterey.  It is great for shopping (although prices can be very high), or my favorite…just walking around with the hubby and dog.  There are lots of little quad areas that you can go into and find little hole-in-the-wall restaurants. Carmel is very dog friendly, and almost all the little cafes with an outdoor patio will allow dogs too.

Where do I get my real food groceries?

  • Monterey Bay Farmers Markets– there are several of them.  The most popular is on Tuesday evenings downtown.  This one is basically like a festival, complete with root beer floats (delicious!), gyros, and Indian food (also delicious!)-along with tons of fresh produce, meat, flowers, pasta, and olive oil.  They have a bike valet, where you can drop off your bike while you shop.
  • The Wharf Marketplace-this place opened up shortly after we moved here, and it is actually where I get most of my groceries.  Their prices are often (but not always) cheaper than the farmers market downtown. Almost everything they sell is local, including produce, honey, wine, and seafood.  It is also one of the only places around here where you can sit outside a drink a glass of wine. They are very nice and offer a 10% military discount.  And they just started this thing for military where you can get a huge box of produce for $10 on Mondays between 4-6pm.  It is definitely a steal!  Get there early though because they sell out fast.
  • Whole Foods-this is where I go for meat.  Local humanely raised meat is much more expensive in Monterey than I was used to in Clarksville, TN. We were lucky enough to move here with quite a bit of meat left from our farmer, Jolly Barnyard, in Clarksville and the 1/4 cow and 1/2 pig we bought. As we started to run out, I started getting local meat from Whole Foods.  It’s expensive, but their sale prices are better than those at the farmers market.  I normally go and look for what is on sale (there is always something), and buy that.  It makes it a little harder for planning meals, because you never know what will be on sale, but it works for us.  Also since their meat is fresh, I sometimes buy it on sale and then freeze it myself.  Last week they had chicken from a farm I trust (Mary’s) for only $1.60 a pound! I generally don’t buy produce here though–the prices are way higher than The Wharf Marketplace.
  • Trader Joe’s-we love Trader Joe’s.  It is a mad house though and always a fight for parking.

We had such a great time in Monterey and I am sad to leave.  I am one lucky girl, because with the hubby’s awesome job, we get to travel the world.  Although we may only stay somewhere for a short time, we get to see some pretty cool places.  Next on the list: Slovenia!!!!!  We are so excited to be starting this new chapter of our life.

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  1. Arlene Martinez

    We are heading home (okay, almost home I’m from San Luis Obispo), in Dec. So that my Michael can start school in Jan. then in 18 months we will be off to Central America. I can’t wait to be home again! I’m a Cali girl all the way. I remember when the 17mile ride was free! How times have changed! Thanks for your blog and blessing to you both in the new adventure you are on. What language will your husband have to speak? And did he already speak it? Just curios? Blessings,

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      Hi Arlene, I’m so glad you stopped by my blog! Central America, wow! That will be fun. We fell in love with Monterey pretty quick, and only wish there was more time to explore it all. It must have been a dream to be from the area! My hubby and I took the Serbian/Croatian course (I was lucky enough to get a spot!), but they speak Slovenian in Slovenia. I hear it will be easier for us to pick it up since we already know a slavic language. Good luck to you on your adventure as well!

  2. Roe

    By dumb luck we went to Dametra Cafe for lunch during 2 hours in Carmel. When you have time check out Day 5 in my photos albums on FB. The cook came out and sang! We loved it!

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