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Unique Tours to Take in Monterey County: 5 Great Ideas from Our Concierge

14 Mar 2023

Monterey is a charming town with rich history and breathtaking natural beauty, making it the perfect destination for travelers seeking an unforgettable getaway. One of the best ways to explore the area is by taking a tour, and at the Portola Hotel & Spa, our concierge service is a wonderful resource to help make those plans. In this week's blog, we asked our concierge, Chris Boyle, to give five unique tour ideas for your next visit. Check out her great suggestions below!


"Skip a trip to the gym with Handcar Tours."

Just when you assumed the Sonoma and Napa Valley Wine Train was the coolest way to ride the rails in Northern California, along came handcars, a new excursion from Handcar Tours in Marina. Unlike the Wine Train, you're actively moving your vehicle, and you don't have to be over 21 to enjoy it! 

Only 20 minutes north of famous Cannery Row, Handcar Tours is a unique excursion for families who want to do something healthy and active on their vacation. Riding the rails under your own steam on the historic Monterey rail line is an experience to remember. All you have to do is provide the power!

To learn more, visit or call or text at: (831) 204-5000.

Photo courtesy of Handcar Tours


"The house build by a poet's love."

Nestled among multi-million dollar homes in Carmel, is a house that is both striking and strikingly out of place. A "stone cottage," with a two-story tower, stands alone in the center of a garden. In 1920, America's great poet Robinson Jeffers built Tor House and Hawk Tower, stone-by-stone, for his beloved wife Una, and their two sons. 

Tor House also captures Robin's love of nature while embodying the bohemian legacy of old Carmel. Embedded in the walls are mementos of their travels and gifts from friends. When you visit the stone cottage, you join the ranks of those who have visited before you: Sinclair Lewis, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Langston Hughes, George Gershwin, and Charlie Chaplin. 

The only way to visit the property is to reserve a Docent-led tour conducted hourly every Saturday, so be sure to visit their website to buy your tickets.

Photo courtesy of Tor House Foundation

"Trade the fast lane for a cool breeze and some salt air."

Bella means "beautiful" in Italian. And Bella on the Bay's 2-hour sail is a perfect way for couples, families, and friends, to get away from it all and enjoy a private and unique way to savor the beauty of the Monterey Bay Sanctuary. 

On their 2-hour sail, you can experience nature at its best, while you enjoy some amazing coastline on the way out or into the harbor. Just sit back, relax, and observe the wildlife that the Sanctuary has to offer. You can also bring your own Champagne, wine, and snacks to enjoy on your trip. 

The ideal time for sailing is in the early afternoon when the weather is at its BEST! Book your private tour by calling Christian at 818-822-2390 or at [email protected]


"An unforgettable Scottish tradition."

When you tour 17-Mile Drive you enter a world full of dramatic coastal cliffs, snow-white beaches, mystical forests, and iconic golf courses. You'll meet the inspiring Lone Cypress, be struck by the giant trees at Crocker Grove, and enjoy the old-world elegance of The Lodge at Pebble Beach.

Stop at the Inn at Spanish Bay for a one-of-a-kind serenade at sunset. Gather around the fire pits and take in the incredible view, enjoy your favorite cocktail, and just as the sun is about to set you can hear the bagpiper putting the golf course to sleep through this unforgettable Scottish tradition.  

The entrance fee onto 17-Mile Drive is $11.25 per vehicle.

Take in the view at the many Points of Interest on 17 Mile Drive


"Carmel Valley Village, the hidden gem of California wine country."

Monterey County is a coastal treasure trove where you'll find the greatest gem of them all: bucolic Carmel Valley Village and its tightly-knit wineries and tasting rooms in a region renowned for its Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. 

Through a guided tour, you'll find no shortage of stops along Carmel Valley Road to delight your senses. And most of Carmel Valley's wine-tasting rooms, such as Bernardus Winery, Joullian Vineyards, and Georis Winery, are located just a short stroll from each other. 

Wine tasting in Carmel Village decently priced, and there are several good dining options nearby. I recommend dining at Cafe Rustica, or Corkscrew Café.

To book a private tour, contact the Portola Hotel & Spa's concierge at 831-649-7811.


Time to Tour

After experiencing these tours, you'll undoubtedly come to appreciate the beauty and wonder of Monterey even more. Whether you're here for a romantic getaway or a family vacation, these tours are sure to make your stay even more memorable. Book your stay at Portola Hotel & Spa today and let us help you make the most of your time here. For reservations, call us at (888) 222-5851 or visit our website.


Featured image courtesy of Tor House Foundation

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