Archive for the ‘Explore Monterey’ Category

Win a Second Honeymoon in Beautiful Monterey

Friday, January 17th, 2014
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#MontereyWeddings

I don’t know about you, but I have always wanted to plan that second honeymoon, but just haven’t got around to it between, work, kids and life in general! Well, you are in luck, because your chance to have that long overdue romantic getaway is right at your fingertips.  With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, the Portola Hotel & Spa is holding a Second Honeymoon Contest, from which one lucky couple will receive a complimentary one-night stay at the Portola Hotel, along with breakfast for two at their award-winning Jacks Restaurant & Lounge.

What could be better than quality time with your sweetheart at one of the most romantic destinations in California to remind you why you fell in love in the first place?  Nothing beats spending time away, especially when it involves visiting the iconic Monterey Bay coastline and relaxing in luxurious quarters AND most importantly taking in a few peaceful moments for just you and your significant other.

To enter Portola’s Second Honeymoon contest, post your favorite picture from your wedding day on the Portola Hotel & Spa Facebook page accompanied by 50 words or less, telling your favorite memory from your wedding day and don’t forget to include the hashtag #MontereyWeddings in your post. The winning couple will be announced via the Portola’s Facebook page on Valentine’s Day (deadline to enter is February 12th).

This could be the opportunity you’ve been waiting for so don’t waste a moment!  Grab your wedding album because a trip down memory lane might be just the thing to inspire some brand new memories.  Who knows, your second honeymoon might even be better than your first!

Best Bets for 2014

Friday, January 3rd, 2014
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The NEW YEAR is finally upon us and 2014 promises to be jam-packed with excitement.  With all of the fun you’ll be having, the year is sure to fly by, so don’t waste a moment. Here are some of your best bets for spending the New Year on the Monterey Peninsula and beyond.  From wine tastings to outdoor adventures, the Monterey Bay has something for everyone and is the perfect getaway for the whole family.

Family friendly and fun, the breathtaking 17-Mile Drive is regarded as one of the most scenic drives in the world.  Running from Pacific Grove to Pebble Beach, this drive features awe-inspiring landscapes and legendary sites, including the Lone Cypress, Spanish Bay, and Stillwater Cove.  17-Mile Drive is perfect for a day of exploration, afternoon drive or a brisk morning jog.  Just don’t forget to bring your camera.

Beloved by Peninsula locals is the Old Monterey Farmers’ Market taking over three and a half blocks of Historic Downtown Monterey every Tuesday afternoon/evening.  Established in 1991 and attracting both locals and tourists, the Old Monterey’s Farmers Market lets you take a spin around the globe in just three blocks, sampling arts and crafts, handmade jewelry, furniture, clothing, food, organic produce, flowers and pastries from local artisans and growers. Rain or shine, you can be certain to find some good food and entertainment.

A prime location for wine enthusiasts from near and far and recently named as a Top 10 Destination by Wine Enthusiast, the Monterey County is home to many vineyards, wine-tasting rooms and festivals.  Year round, you can be sure to find a place to sip delectable samples of some of Monterey’s award-winning varietals. Explore the region’s numerous tasting rooms, experience a guided tour of a vineyard or simply visit one of the many specialty stores, you can experience the rich diversity of tastes available from our local wineries. Check Portola’s very own Wine Trolley Package!

The local region offers plenty of fun for the younger crowd too.  Home to the Monterey Zoo, nothing could be better than a day exploring the animal kingdom on a 51-acre ranch located just off of the Monterey-Salinas Highway.  Home to over 100 wild, exotic, and domestic birds and animals, “Wild Things” promises an afternoon of excitement for the whole family including special rooms available for overnight guests and special events.

For folks who fancy the outdoors, Monterey’s Adventures by the Sea is the perfect way to take advantage of all that the natural beauty the Peninsula has to offer.  Providing options to explore by land or by sea; discover beautiful Monterey Peninsula by bicycle, kayak, or guided tour.  Nothing completes a stay on the Monterey Bay like taking in the majestic sights and historic landmarks of the Peninsula with Adventures by the Sea.

One of the most famous events on the Monterey Peninsula is the internationally renowned Big Sur International Marathon. Whether you’re keen to participate or just enjoy cheering on the runners, this celebrated marathon, taking place on April 27, 2014 is one of the running world’s iconic events. The course traces 26 miles of breathtaking views from Big Sur to Carmel.  Visit the website www.bsim.org for further details and to register online and learn about other races and events throughout the year!

Each year the month of January brings the promise of new adventure and experiences and there is no place better to enjoy them all than right here on the Monterey Bay.

Cheers to a wonderful New Year!

 

 

 

 

Gearing Up for Winter

Monday, November 11th, 2013
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It’s that time of year again, the most wonderful time of the year!  And while some of us have been humming Christmas carols since last December, we think it’s about time to start getting in the spirit!

This year, you need look no further than the beautiful Monterey Peninsula to gear up and get ready to haul out some holly and deck the halls! Sure it’s no winter wonderland, but who needs the messy snow anyway?  There’s no better way to escape the hustle and bustle of busy cities, or forget the stress of home than planning your winter getaway in lovely Monterey.

Neighbored by sweet Pacific Grove, one of America’s last hometowns, and cozy Carmel-by-the-sea, a romantic and charming destination like no other, the Peninsula is guaranteed to be a little slice of holiday heaven.  Be dazzled by the twinkling lights and breathtaking sights of Steinbeck’s Cannery Row, decked out for the holidays; marvel at the several-story-high, elegantly dressed, Christmas tree towering over Carmel Plaza, or let the charm of decorated historic downtown Monterey fill you up with holiday cheer.

The holidays on the Monterey Peninsula offer fun and excitement for the whole family.  On December 6 and 7, from 5-9pm, the California State Parks holds its Annual Christmas in the Adobes, an event celebrating the history and holiday traditions that make Monterey so special.  Participants tour over 20 historic adobes by night and enjoy entertainment and refreshment along the way.  As for the young ones, the local area is nothing short of magical, at Pacific Grove’s Caledonia Park on December 7th during the 20th Annual Stillwell’s Fun in the Park.  Transforming the park into a winter wonderland, this annual event features a day of fun and entertainment for the whole family amid the beautifully decorated park, complete with twinkling lights and a visit from Santa himself aboard a shiny fire truck. And don’t miss Santa make another grand entrance via helicopter during the Carmel Valley Chamber of Commerce’s 55th Annual Santa-Fly in on December 14th.

Don’t let the season pass you by without experiencing the magic of the Monterey Peninsula throughout the winter season.

8 Attractions Not to be Missed on the Monterey Peninsula

Friday, September 27th, 2013
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 Head Concierge, Anne Roberts

Guest Post!

8 Attractions Not to be Missed on the Monterey Peninsula

By Anne Roberts, Portola Hotel & Spa, Head Concierge & Member of Les Clefs d’Or USA

Nearly four million people visit the Monterey Peninsula every year and whether they are traveling for business or pleasure, visitors are all are faced with the same problem – how to fit everything into one trip.

As Head Concierge at the Portola Hotel & Spa, I have the pleasure of playing tourist, visiting all the amazing destinations throughout the local region.  I love receiving recommendations and feedback from both locals and tourists alike, and along with my personal experiences, am excited to share my list of the top eight activities not to be missed when exploring the Monterey Peninsula.

1.  Monterey Bay Aquarium

The Monterey Bay Aquarium should be at the top of everyone’s “to do” list when visiting the Monterey Peninsula, it truly is the best aquarium in the world! Located on historical Cannery Row (right off the Coastal Recreation Trail) at the site of an actual former sardine cannery, the Aquarium is not only home to thousands of plants and animals (more than 600 species are on display), but it also serves as a non-profit to inspire conservation of the world’s oceans. Visitors to the aquarium will be wowed by its giant live kelp forest and the popular sea life found in its many exhibits including stingrays, jellyfish, sea otters, hammerhead sharks, penguins, seahorses, blue fin tuna, yellow fin tuna and, if you are lucky, great white sharks that are temporarily housed at the aquarium from time to time. There are interactive exhibits for children and the adults can take part in special evening events that include wine and live music during the summer.

If you go…there are less  people there in the afternoon. Buy your tickets at our Front Desk and you won’t have to wait in line.

 

2.  Whale Watching

Attracting permanent marine residence and passerbies, the Monterey Bay is home to an underwater canyon that is actually much deeper than the Grand Canyon and creates a super highway for both creatures or the sea and sky. Some of the most famous visitors include a number of whale species that migrate through the area throughout the year including killer whales, humpbacks, blue whales and grey whales. There are many whale watching tours offered around the Monterey Bay, including one that is a five-minute walk from the Portola, located on Fisherman’s Wharf. Tourists and locals flock to these tours to see not only whales, but also catch a glimpse of dolphins, rare birds, seals, sea otters, pelicans, sharks and other creatures that are cruising through or have made their home in the Monterey Bay.

If you go… dress warmly with lots of layers including a waterproof option. Also, book a morning trip, as it is the best time to spot sea life.

 

3. Carmel-By-The-Sea

Located about 10 minutes south of Portola is the beautiful town of Carmel-by-the-Sea. This charming town provides visitors with shops, art galleries, restaurants and wine tasting all within one-square mile. Home to Clint Eastwood, who was once the Mayor, Carmel’s unique European-style village attracts fans from all over the world. The food choices range from superior French cuisine to American hamburgers and fries. Shopaholics will be welcomed by familiar brand names and one-of-a kind boutiques and art lovers can spend hours roaming the galleries that contain both modern and contemporary art along with everything in between. The Monterey Peninsula is lush with wineries and many of the most famous have tasting rooms located right in downtown Carmel. Wine fans should not miss the new Wine Walk By-the-Sea Passport, which guides visitors through seven Carmel tasting rooms.

If you go…don’t miss out on talking a stroll or packing a picnic to enjoy at the famous Carmel Beach, with its teal waters, white sand and views of the world famous Pebble Beach Golf Course, it is quintessential California!

 

4.  Big Sur for Lunch

The world famous beauty of Big Sur is located about 45 minutes from Portola and offers spectacular scenery that can be easily viewed through the car window.  Highway 1 provides its visitors with views of jagged cliffs, lush green pastures, waterfalls and gorgeous redwoods. Take a drive down Highway 1 and fuel up at one of Big Sur’s five-star restaurants or local watering hole. Many of the restaurants themselves offer unique views, friendly staff and spectacular, farm to table offerings.

If you go… due to its rugged terrain, the weather in Big Sur can be unpredictable so be sure to dress in layers.

 

5.  Hike Point Lobos

Known for its breathtaking views, easy to manage hiking trails and abundant sea life, Point Lobos is a great place to spend a few hours or an entire day. There are a number of hiking trails that start from the parking lot with the majority of them being perfect for beginners. The wildlife is spectacular – humpback whales migrate through the area from April until December and gray whales can be seen during their migration mid-December until mid-April. During low tide, explore the tide pools to view starfish and sand dollars and often times there is a sea otter to spot amongst seals and sea birds.

If you go… pick up a trail map at the entrance kiosk to navigate the park and beware of waves crashing on the rocks – if you get to close you will get wet!

 

6.  Carmel Valley Wine Tasting

Head down Highway 1 toward Carmel and go inland about 20 miles and you will be right in the middle of Carmel Valley, home to approximately 20 tasting rooms, restaurants, shops and galleries. Located far enough inland to avoid coastal fog and nestled next to the Santa Lucia Range, Carmel Valley provides a warm environment that is favorable to Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and other red varietals. The Valley is also known to produce exceptionally good Sauvignon Blanc and Zinfandels. From elegant French-style tasting rooms at the Chateau Julien Winery to the laid-back walk-able environment of Carmel Valley Village, wine and food enthusiasts alike will delight in a day the taste buds are sure to enjoy.

If you go… be sure to bring clothes appropriate for warm weather especially during the summer and fall months, as it can be 20-30 degrees warmer than along the coast.

 

7.  Carmel Mission

A great stop during a day visit to Carmel is the Carmel Mission, one of the most famous missions in California. Known formally as the San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo Mission, this Roman Catholic mission church dates back to 1770 when Father Junipero Serra served until his death in 1784. Today, it is one of the most authentically restored mission churches in all of California and is still an active parish church of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Monterey. Visitors can tour the property and its museum’s that take visitors on a journey through the Mission’s history and restoration efforts. The grounds are completely breathtaking with ancient structures and sculptures, lush gardens and beautiful stained glass windows.

If you go… remember it is still an active parish so there may be weddings, funerals and other activities that prevent you from seeing everything on the grounds.

 

8.  Walking Tour of Monterey State Historical Park

Did you know that Monterey was the first state Capital of California? The Monterey State Historical Park, located just outside the doors of Portola, is rich in history providing a collection of significant historical houses and buildings with colorful gardens and overall beautiful scenery. The historical park stands to preserve places and objects that are of historical significance including 12 buildings and several residences. Among the attractions stands the spot where the Spanish explorers first landed in Monterey in 1602, the oldest building in California known as the Custom House and one of the nation’s last remaining whalebone sidewalks.

If you go…be sure and stop by the Pacific House Museum for more information on the buildings and their viewing options, as many of the historic adobes can only be viewed with a State Park Guide. Stop by my desk for a self guided walking map.

 

Visit one or all on your next trip to Monterey and stop by my desk at the Portola to say “hi”! I look forward to your impressions and receiving YOUR insider tips and tricks for getting the most out of your Monterey Bay vacation. Every day I look forward to learning something new!

Happy Travels!

 

 

 

State Parks in Our Own Backyard

Monday, August 12th, 2013
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The Monterey Peninsula is known worldwide for its magical scenery, both by land and sea, and in order to ensure this beauty remains for our children and our children’s children, many of these most gorgeous sights are protected by the California State Parks system. The Monterey Peninsula offers California State Parks and Reserves that will delight both land lovers and beach goers alike. Keeping friends and family of all ages entertained in these parks is easy, as there are endless activities to choose from including hiking, kayaking, walking paths, surfing, horseback riding, fishing, mountain biking, diving, birding, tide pooling and more!

Take a look at some of my favorites in the local area easily accessible from the Portola Hotel & Spa!

Monterey State Historic Park

Located just steps away from the Portola is the Monterey State Historic Park, which boasts a collection of significant historical houses and buildings that can be found throughout Old Monterey. Visitors can discover Monterey’s unique history by taking a stroll on the “Monterey Walking Path of History,” a two-mile path that is marked by yellow-tiled markers – Robert Louis Stevenson walked the same trail in 1879. The historical park stands to preserve places and objects that are of historical significance including 12 buildings and several residences. Visitors should be sure to check out the spot where the Spanish explorers first landed in Monterey in 1602; Custom House, which is the oldest building in California and one of the nation’s last remaining whalebone sidewalks. Many of the historic adobes can only be viewed with a State Park Guide so be sure and stop by the Pacific House Museum to get tickets.

Asilomar State Beach

Located about 10-15 minutes from the Portola in Pacific Grove, is Asilomar State Beach offering gorgeous white sand beaches and tide pools galore! Friends, families and their dogs are always welcome to come explore this one-mile strip of white sandy beach and its rocky coves. Visitors can pack a picnic, go surfing, explore the tide pools and take a stroll on the short boardwalk loop that winds through the natural dune preserve. The State Beach is free of charge and vehicle parking and a bicycle lane are adjacent to the state beach on Sunset Drive.

Point Lobos State Reserve

About 25 minutes from the Portola heading south on Highway 1 toward Big Sur, is the Point Lobos State Reserve, which represents some of the greatest coastal beauty that Monterey County has to offer. With teal waters, white sand beaches, cypress trees and an abundance of wildlife including sea lions, harbor seals, sea otters, birds and even whales, Point Lobos should not be missed. There are a number of hiking trails that are easily accessible from the parking lot with the majority of them being perfect for beginners. Visitors should be sure to check out Whalers Cove, which offers spectacular views that often include whales. Humpback whales migrate through the area from April until December and Gray whales can be seen during their migration mid-December until mid-April. Another great spot within the park to view wildlife or simply take in the calm atmosphere is China Beach, a secluded beach that harbor seals and sea otters also use as a quiet refuge. Trail maps are available at the entrance kiosk and there is also signage located throughout the park.

Andrew Molera State Park

For spectacular views and an overall great outdoor experience, head south on infamous Highway 1 to Andrew Molera State Park in Big Sur. The journey will begin long before entering the park as Highway 1 is packed full of breathtaking scenery that includes dramatic coastal cliffs, giant redwood trees and the famous Bixby Creek Bridge. Andrew Molera State Park is located right off Highway 1 and is a great place to go on a long walk and experience the dramatic scenery of Big Sur. There are great swimming beaches at this park and for those who want to stay off their feet; horseback riding is available from commercial stables nearby. Be sure to pack layers as it can be windy at Andrew Molera State Park and also pay attention to signs that point out dangers such as jagged cliffs and poison oak.

Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park

Just 20 minutes south of Andrew Molera State Park is the home of Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. This is another State Park that is not to be missed as it offers extensive views of the powerful Big Sur coastline, ginormous redwood trees and an abundance of wildlife. The famous McWay Falls is not to be missed and is probably the most spectacular feature at the park. An easy five to 10 minute walk from Highway 1, McWay Falls is an 80-foot waterfall that drops right onto a white sand beach and then straight into the Pacific Ocean. There is scuba diving available at the Underwater Area of the park, but special permitting is required. In December and January, Gray Whales can be seen from Overlook trail migrating southward to their breeding and calving grounds off the Baja California coast. Springtime is also a great time to visit, as it is lush with wildflowers and the smell of sage. Be sure to bring layers no matter the time of year.

From divers to hikers, whale watchers to bikers and history buffs to kayakers, there is a State Park for everyone’s taste right here in our own backyard. The Concierge at Portola is always happy to help plan the perfect day trip so grab family, friends and a camera and get out there and enjoy the Central Coast at its finest!