Posts Tagged ‘Big Sur’

Unforgettable Beach Picnics on the Monterey Peninsula

Thursday, May 22nd, 2014
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For many people summertime means lazy days in the sun, kicking back with good friends and good food!  In my opinion, there is no better way to celebrate this tradition then heading to the beach for an old fashioned picnic.  The Portola Hotel & Spa has some fun tips to create you perfect beach picnic!

 

Step One – choosing the right beach. The Monterey Peninsula is filled with amazing beaches and each one comes with unique scenery and features. Here are some favorites along with what makes each location so special.

Del Monte State Beach – Just a short walk from Portola is the Del Monte State Beach, which spans from the Monterey Fisherman’s Wharf to Seaside. The long stretch of beach allows picnic goers to find their own intimate spot in the sand or a grab a picnic table and watch the crowds go by on Monterey’s bike trail. Dogs are welcome on this beach and the water is perfect for boogie boarding and surfing. Great for activities for all ages, it is ideal for flying kites, playing catch or a game of volleyball with courts located right off the beach. For picnickers that are planning to stick around after sunset, be sure to bring ingredients for S’mores along with firewood, since beach fires are permitted.

Lovers Point – The teal waters, protected swimming coves and tide pools galore make Lovers Point the perfect spot for picnics! Make camp on the sandy beach or in the park just above the beach at the picnic tables. A protective cove makes this beach a little warmer than the others and once lunch is fully digested, wade into the Bay or take a dip in the Lovers Point Children’s Pool open daily from noon to 4:30pm.  Kayak and paddle board rentals are also available at the beach from Adventures by the Sea.

Asilomar State Beach – Just south from Monterey in Pacific Grove are the white sands of Asilomar State Beach. Asilomar is Spanish for “refuge by the sea,” and it lives up to this name. Picnickers and their dogs too, can spend all day walking the boardwalks surrounding the beach and the sand dunes, exploring tide pools and watching the surfers catch big waves, as a State designated beach, beach fires are also permitted.

Carmel Beach – Bright blue waves, white sand and dogs galore await you at Carmel Beach. The long stretch of beach with views of golfers on the Pebble Beach golf course, quaint Carmel homes and the luscious scenery of Point Lobos will keep picnickers entertained for hours. The world-renowned beach attracts people from all over the world to picnic by day, take in the beautiful sunset and set up bonfires by night.

 

Step Two – food and beverage. The Monterey Peninsula is jammed packed with great restaurants and cafés that serve food to go. We have picked a few that will delight the taste buds with a little local flavor!

Jacks Restaurant & Lounge – Located inside the Portola Hotel & Spa, Jacks is one of the Peninsula’s most popular spots for lunch and is available for take-out.  As a member of the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch® Program, Jacks is committed to using healthy, sustainable and locally sourced ingredients.  Jacks lunch menu features a Mediterranean Vegetable Sandwich, Whole Wheat Chicken Wrap and a Classic Club Sandwich, just right to pack in your picnic basket. For something a little lighter, try their Warm Chicken & Cashew Salad or a Crispy Dungeness Crab Cake Salad, pair these with the perfect wine and you’ll be all set!

Happy Girl Kitchen – Two blocks form the Monterey Bay Aquarium, Happy Girl Kitchen is a café and cannery that specializes in house-made baked goods. Delicious organic breakfast and lunch options include sandwiches, soups and delicious cheese and cracker plates. This spot also specializing in preserves so be sure to grab one of the jams, pickles or a jar of local honey.

Troia’s Market – Located just a few blocks up the hill from Portola, Troia’s Market is a great place to stop to pick up traditional quality deli sandwiches, a selection of sides such as potatoes salad and other homemade options such as mac and cheese, salads and lasagna. There is a vast assortment of snacks to grab and a nice beverage selection for those of age.

Whole Foods Market – Located right off the freeway at the Munras exit, Whole Foods is a great option for picnickers on their way to Asilomar or Carmel Beach. Offering a full service deli, sushi bar and big selection of ready food to go, Whole Foods is a great place to stop to ensure that everyone in the picnic party will be able to enjoy their favorite food on the beach.

Wine – What is a great beach day without a bottle of wine? Just steps from Portola are two great places to pick up world famous local Monterey County wines. Stop in Wine From the Heart or Terranova Fine Wines to taste a few before purchasing your new favorite bottle and heading to the beach.

It’s hard to go wrong on the Monterey Peninsula when selecting a location along with food and beverage for a picnic. Don’t forget sunscreen, towels, a blanket, chairs, sand toys and a football or volleyball!

When it comes down to it, finding the time to relax and be around loved ones is precious, so get out there and have day on the Peninsula that everyone will remember!

The 29th Presentation of the Big Sur Marathon – This Weekend!

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2014
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Running across Bixby Bridge

A marathon with a view!  Runners from around the globe are gearing up for the Monterey Peninsula’s annual Big Sur Marathon this weekend.  Going strong since 1986, the Big Sur Marathon attracts the likes of approximately 9,000 event finishers, and promises 26.2 miles of the most beautiful coastline in the world.  One of the most challenging competitions for runners set before one of the most breathtaking backdrops in the world, it’s no wonder that The Ultimate Guide to Marathons named it the “Best Marathon in North America.”

Comprised of several events, the Big Sur Marathon includes an International Marathon spanning 26.2 miles along the Pacific coastline and through majestic redwoods, as well as a 21-Miler, a 10.6-Miler, 9-Miler and 5K taking place on race day and a JUST RUN! 3K, the day before on Saturday, April 26th along the Coastal Recreation Trail in Pacific Grove.  For shorter distances there still may be spaces available, visit www.bsim.org for the most up-to-date info.

Providing a beyond inspiring landscape for runners to exert through the difficult patches and camaraderie to make the run an unforgettable experience, the Big Sur Marathon is a Monterey Bay fixture that promises a good time for all who participate.  With events for people of every age and ability, the Big Sur Marathon attracts competitive runners and bonding families alike and sells out earlier and earlier each year, so be sure to register today!

 

Running along Highway 1

Come be part of something bigger than you – start that training for 2015, trust me – having walked the race in 1998 – it’s an experience I will never forget!  Run, jog, or even walk alongside nature and your fellow man.  A great way to connect with friends and family, there’s nothing better than accomplishing something together to build bonds that last, or if you’re a lone wolf, there’s no better goal to set for yourself than an actual finish line.  By the end, I promise you’ll feel a sense of accomplishment unique to crossing a finish line you’ve worked hard to reach.

Who’s ready to lace up those running shoes and train for next year???

 

Venue Ideas for Your Perfect Monterey Bay Wedding

Wednesday, February 19th, 2014
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Memory Garden behind the Portola Hotel & Spa

World famous for its natural beauty, iconic history and incredible events, the Monterey Peninsula has amazed visitors for decades. More recently, however, wedding fever has caught on in this area and not just by the residents. As destination weddings have become as much of an option as more traditional ceremonies, couples are continually looking for something different. Places such as Hawaii and Las Vegas will always be popular, as will other tropical locations, but where else can two lovebirds and their families find such a wide variety of locations for their perfect day?

Whether big or small, simple or ornate, the Monterey Peninsula offers a venue for every type of wedding. If you are looking for a natural setting many of the local, regional and state parks offer locations that are beautiful and practical at the same time. Lovers Point Park in Pacific Grove is continually voted as best wedding venue by local publications. It offers a grassy park overlooking the Monterey Bay and who can beat a place with Lovers in the name. But, if a true beach wedding is your desire, the Carmel State Beach or Asilomar State Beach are great choices that are serviced my many of the local event companies.

Meadow and forested themes are also gaining in popularity. Facebook founder Sean Parker went all out in Big Sur and there are several great locations at Pfeiffer State Park, as well as the Santa Lucia Chapel owned by All Saints Church. The outdoor chapel which is nestled in a grove of redwoods overlooks the Big Sur River offers a truly rustic experience. Breathtaking views are the hallmark of the Wedding Rock in Carmel, which sits high upon a bluff overlooking Monastery Beach. Simple yet unique, this site is managed by the California State Parks system.

One of the most popular wedding themes over the past decade is the Rustic or Shabby Chic event. While these weddings can be held at a traditional hotel or event space, their reliance on the thematic location has allowed many local historical landmarks to become something more, housing many couple’s special day. Chautauqua Hall in Pacific Grove, built in the late 1800’s, was once a place for religious events and artistic gatherings. Now, it sports a modern kitchen and a flowered garden outside.

If, however, you seek the best of everything, look no further than the Memory Garden located next to the Historic Custom House Plaza in Monterey (just steps from the Portola Hotel & Spa). The adobe walled garden offers a fountain amid Southern Magnolia trees and a lush flower garden.  This California State Park venue, is attached to the garden is the Historic Custom House which offers 19th century Spanish Maritime architecture and authentic Monterey Bay charm. Continue the celebration converting the ceremony space into your reception or change it up a bit and head on over the Portola (just steps from the garden), dance the night away in one of their ballrooms or outdoor courtyard and let their amazing event staff take care of all the details.

From the beauty of the Monterey Bay and the history of Old California to the serenity of the coastal California Redwood forests, the Monterey Peninsula offers so much for regular visitors, but it offers the ultimate in destination wedding experiences.

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!

 

 

 

Memories Are Made of This

Thursday, May 23rd, 2013
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With its breathtaking shores and beautiful foothills, the Monterey Peninsula has long been known as one of the country’s foremost places for a destination wedding. Thousands of couples, their families and friends flock to Monterey and beyond to celebrate their nuptials and enjoy the wide-ranging choices in location, world class food and other activities. Everyone knows Pebble Beach of course,  and if you are Sean Parker, the founder of Napster and Facebook’s first president you can pretty much build your own venue in Big Sur. (Yes, he is actually doing that to the tune of $10 million!) A special perk, however, for those who make the Peninsula home is the “insider” knowledge about some of the most beautiful locations that fly way under the radar.

 

One of those hidden gems is the Memory Garden located at 20 Custom House Plaza in Monterey. The garden, located just outside the Portola Hotel & Spa, was designed by Fredrick Law Olmstead Jr. in 1927 and is enclosed by eight foot adobe walls which gives this venue a peaceful and private tranquility. The Garden is managed by the California State Parks and counts the Monterey State Historic Park office and the historic Pacific House Museum as part of the property. Featuring a 15-foot diameter fountain, a beautiful historic flower garden and a 5×16 foot barbeque, the garden has Southern Magnolia trees throughout the grounds that offer peaceful shade and lend to the park-like quality of the venue. The grounds also include a small dressing room and bathroom, but with its proximity to the Portola Hotel, wedding guests will often make their way directly from the hotel. The natural beauty of the garden juxtaposed with the historic adobe of California’s first state capital create a photographer’s dream and a location that can serve as wedding or reception location, or both!

The staff at the Portola Hotel can provide you with information on group rates for you and your guests and the folks at the State Parks can offer additional information on the Memory Garden itself. So if you are looking for something more intimate than Pebble Beach and don’t quite have the coin to build your own venue in Big Sur, consider the Memory Garden on Monterey’s Custom House Plaza. As the song goes, Memories are made of this!