Worldgolf Travel

Monterey Peninsula on a Budget

by Donald Johns

You don’t have to be rich to enjoy the Monterey Peninsula. All right, maybe it helps, but I’ve been enjoying it for years in on a teacher’s salary. Several times a year my family and I make the short trip from the San Francisco Bay Area, stay a few days, and manage to get out of town relatively unscathed. If you want to know how to visit without breaking the bank, here’s one veteran devotee’s story.

For starters, I avoid Carmel. Yes, it’s pretty and quaint, but it’s also precious and costly. If I’m going south of Pacific Grove, I go all the way to Pt. Lobos or Big Sur. Around town, I stick with Pacific Grove or Monterey. Now, let’s explore some options.

Good Eats
First, food. If you can afford the gourmet stops, fine. Otherwise, you can eat well for moderate prices. I can dine for days without leaving Pacific Grove, really the most comfortable and charming locale on the Peninsula. Most of my spots lie in a three-block stretch on Lighthouse Avenue in downtown PG. For breakfast, I go to Toasties. For lunch, I keep coming back to the marvelous sandwiches at Goodies Deli. For coffee, it’s Caravali. If I want fresh pastry, I cross the street to the Scotch Bakery. At least once each trip, I’ll drop into the Book Works, browse awhile in that most delightful shop, and then visit the café in back. For dinner, I may drift back to Toasties, or I may walk up the street to Petra, an excellent Greek and Mediterranean eatery. Maybe I’ll try Pasta Mia next door. If it’s a view of Monterey Bay I want, I’ll drive down 17th St. to the Tinnery on Ocean View Blvd. It’s a clean, hospitable place with decent food at moderate prices, a fine family atmosphere, and an incomparable vista.

If I’ve rented a place with a kitchen, I stock up at Trader Joe’s, at 1170 Forest, not far from the 17-mile gates. I might also stop in there for picnic supplies or a sandwich.

If I’m in Monterey, I stick mostly to Alvarado St., a short, narrow business lane lying between the adobes and the pier. Here, I’ll find plenty of decent choices for dinner. For fine burritos and other Mexican fare, I like Papa Chano’s taqueria. The block also boasts two fine English pubs, the Mucky Duck and the Britannia Arms. There’s a Bagel Bakery here, too. For breakfast, the popular spot is the Old Monterey Café. For coffee, you can’t beat Plumes, where the brew couldn’t be fresher.

A few blocks off Alvarado St., I get my quota of French pastry from the Paris Bakery at 444 Washington, and I usually drop in at Morgan’s coffee house just up the street. At Tyler and Boniface near here, I like the Turtle Bay Taqueria for hearty, moderately priced fare. If I’m headed toward Pacific Grove, I’ll catch lunch or dinner at Tillie Gort’s, on Lighthouse Avenue. Here, the atmosphere is casual, the food creative and fresh. Also on this stretch of Lighthouse, I sometimes visit the Bagel Bakery or the Lyons coffee shop, the latter if I want to fuel up big-time for breakfast. Another worthwhile stop on Lighthouse is the Bull Dog Pub.

Decent, cheap fare can be found at the shopping centers, of course, but you can find those on your own. Whatever you do, by the way, don’t expect to find a decent meal on Cannery Row. It’s a nice place to visit, but. . . .

What to Do Besides Golf
Maybe you have a day to spend without playing or watching golf. It can happen. Here are a few prospects.

If you like the outdoors, drive down to Point Lobos, just south of Carmel. Pay the nominal drive-in fee or park off the highway and walk in. At Whaler’s Cove, you’ll find divers, otters, seals, and sea lions. The park features several short, stimulating hikes through forests and along cliffs. This is truly one of the most gorgeous spots on Earth. You’ll find any number of great picnic spots, along with great views of Monterey Bay and Pebble Beach.

Another low-cost (free) outdoor activity is tide-pooling in Pacific Grove, near the golf links. Just be careful of the “sleeper” waves (people are caught unawares by these up and down the coast every year), and don’t pollute the tide pools with sunblock and the like. Also, leave the marine life where it is.

The beach of choice lies directly below Asilomar Conference Center, near the southern point of Pacific Grove. It’s free. Just walk down the steps. Again, beware of the sleeper waves, and never turn your back on the surf.

If it’s not too crowded, the Monterey Bay Aquarium is well worth the visit. A much lower-key naturalist’s delight is the Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History, a fine place to spend an hour or so. Kids love the life-size gray whale sculpture that sits out front. Nearby is the comfortable Pacific Grove Public Library.

In Monterey, I never tire of the historical attractions. I’d start at the old Customs House and the Maritime Museum in the Monterey State Historical Park near Fisherman’s Wharf. Then I’d visit as many of the adobes as I had time for, starting with the Robert Louis Stevenson House. Ask about tours at the Customs House. The places are wonderfully preserved, and the tour guides well informed and hospitable.

Finally, kids love Dennis the Menace playground at Lake El Estero in Monterey. Many families make this a regular stop on their itinerary. Check it out and you’ll know why.

Where to Stay
Good luck if you have nothing yet for the 2000 Open. I called a few of my favorites in November, only to be told that they’d been booked since June. But if you come back, there are plenty of fine hostelries that won’t kill your bank account. They may not be the Lodge at Pebble or Spanish Bay, but then that’s fine with me. I like the places, and I like the people I meet there.

My first choice would be one of the spots along Asilomar Blvd. between the Conference Center and the Pacific Grove Municipal Golf Links. Most of these are forties or fifties-style motor courts that have been spiffed up, some into state of the art condition. They include Andril Motor Lodge, the Bide-a-Wee, and the Sunset. You couldn’t ask for more pleasant or peaceful surroundings, and they’re convenient to everything.

In Monterey, if I’ve got a bundle or a coupon, I’ll stay at the old Monterey Hotel on Alvarado, with its antique elevator, its afternoon tea, and its tastefully furnished rooms. Otherwise, I’ll use my AAA or other discount at the Casa Munras or the Sand Dollar, both clean and adequate in every way, or one of the many motels along Munras like the Padre Oaks. In a pinch, I’ll check out the Motel Six near the Country Fairgrounds or theLone Oak in Seaside. On a really tight budget, I’ll try to secure a spot at the popular County Memorial Campground on the hill in Monterey.

I’d like to add that I have received no gratuity or consideration of any kind from any of the establishments mentioned above, from any chamber of commerce, etc. I’ve simply shared some of what I’ve learned over many years of experiencing this delightful place on a moderate budget. I’ve done so in hopes that others in my position may do the same.

I’d add also that I have no grudge against folks who can afford the big ticket accommodations and attractions. But I’ve found plenty of comfort and enjoyment well below the usual prices found in the travel literature for Monterey.

Sunriver Golf Package
Dates: April 6, 2018 - October 28, 2018
Sunriver Resort's $79 Unlimited Crosswater Golf Package includes unlimited play on Meadows, Woodlands or Caldera Links, along with one round at the famed Crosswater Club per day during your stay.
Price range: $79