Pacific Grove, in the shadow of its neighbor Monterey and close to Carmel-on-Sea, is a must-see destination on California’s central coast. The beautiful coastline is just what we need for a quiet (and picturesque!) walk along the shore, and there are plenty of eateries in town for lunch after a morning in the great outdoors.
While you can spend your entire vacation enjoying what Pacific Grove has to offer, it is also a convenient base from which to explore the rest of Monterey Bay. Whether you’re planning a romantic getaway for two, a family vacation or a solo getaway, this is the place to be.
Are you planning a visit to Pacific Grove, CA? Read on to find out everything you need to know about Pacific Grove, as well as our suggestions for accommodations and dining options.
time to visit Pacific Grove, California
Business in Pacific Grove
Oceanview Boulevard Drive and Sunset Drive
Oceanview Boulevard and Sunset Drive stretch almost the entire length of Pacific Grove and offer many recreational opportunities. The easiest way to enjoy the long coastline is to simply drive from one end to the other.
From the Monterey Bay Aquarium, through Lovers Point Park on Oceanview Boulevard and on to Sunset Drive, you’ll have breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean and the rocky coast. Along the way, take photos of Kissing Rock and the heart-shaped Love Rock and view the elegant memorial plaque to John Denver.
You will have the best experience if you do it early in the morning. Later in the morning and at sunset, the area gets very crowded, especially on sunny days. The view of the water is spectacular and you can see (and hear!) the seagulls perching on the rocks.
The drive along the Pacific Grove coastline is free, but if you want, you can drive further on Sunset Drive to reach the famous 17-mile drive to Pebble Beach, but there is an additional cost for that, unless you eat at a Pebble Beach restaurant (spend more than $35.00).
A walk along the coastal path “Bluff” near Asilomar beach.
The Asilomar Coastal Trail is one of our favorite hikes along the central coast of California. It’s a good length, about a mile in each direction if you walk it from the end of Sunset Drive (at Asilomar Beach) to the end of Ocean View Boulevard (or vice versa). There are only two houses along the entire length. Other than that, it’s a natural shoreline.
Along Sunset Drive you’ll find many entry points, so you can walk only part of the way. And along the way, there are many opportunities to reach the rocky coast and small coves. The trail is flat and easy, more of a walk than a hike, and simply beautiful.
Observe the coastal flora along the route and admire the seasonal wildflowers: the yellow lupine is beautiful in bloom. Observe marine animals and birds and enjoy the sea breeze. The hike is beautiful at any time of day, but we find it especially beautiful in the early morning and at sunset.
To enjoy this 2-hour tour in a “Sea Car” with GPS! The two-car tour begins on Alvarado Street in Monterey and returns to the starting point via Cannery Row and the oceanfront in Pacific Grove. Helmets and fuel are included in the tour price. Book this tour now!
Take a stroll along the Asilomar Dune Promenade.
For the coastal path, you can also hike through the coastal dunes. The Asilomar Dunes Nature Reserve is part of the Asilomar Beach and Conference National Park.
The boardwalk is only 0.25 miles long, but runs through several acres of the restored sand dune ecosystem. This boardwalk is an ideal way to discover the many native plant species that have been planted here to preserve the beauty of the dunes and cliffs.
During the leisurely walk, you will often stop to enjoy the breathtaking views of the beach and sea. Bring your binoculars to look for birds in the vegetation. You’ll also have a chance to see deer!
The national park sometimes offers guided dune walks. If such a walk is offered during your visit, please join us! During the walk you will learn a lot and have the opportunity to visit the greenhouse where seeds of native plants are germinated for propagation.
Admire the lighthouse at Point Pinos.
In Pacific Grove, you can discover a piece of California’s maritime history: the charming Point Pinos Lighthouse is the oldest operating lighthouse on the West Coast of the United States. It is still active and still has its original lens!
The Pinos Lighthouse is listed on the National Register of Historic Sites. The lighthouse was not only a controllable craft, but in the early days of the community it was also a meeting place for the people of the area. At least one lighthouse keeper, Emily Fish, was known for the parties and dinners she hosted at the lighthouse.
You can explore the interior when it is open (usually Thursday through Monday from 1 to 4 p.m.) and admire the native plants, from yellow yarrow to white dune aster and beach daisies. The small lighthouse is an excellent photo opportunity, especially before sunrise and just after sunset when the sky is colorful.
Sunrise at Laver’s Point Park.
Lovers Point is one of the most picturesque spots on this part of the coastline, with spectacular water views and beautiful ancient cypress trees. It is known as the place where you can get a great view of the sunrise, since it faces east.
Lovers Point Park is a landscaped park with a large green lawn, beach volleyball court, children’s pool, restaurant and snack bar. It is a popular picnic spot for swimming, surfing, snorkeling, kayaking, climbing the many rocks or just enjoying the beach.
If you are looking for a more relaxed experience, visit Lovers Point now. When the weather is nice, it gets lively and a little crowded later in the morning and all day until sunset.
If you are planning a visit this weekend on July 4, don’t forget to visit Lovers Point Park for the annual lantern festival and fireworks display.
Walking on the sandy beach of Asilomar
Asilomar State Beach is a mile long sandy beach along Sunset Drive. The widest stretch of beach is on the south side and is ideal for walking, especially early in the morning when the weather is still good. Watch for cormorants and Brandt’s sandpipers swimming back and forth along the waterline.
Surfing, kayaking and hang gliding are popular activities at Asilomar State Beach. You can also observe marine life and birds, and hunt in the nearby cliffs at low tide.
The beach is barrier-free, with walkers, and dogs are allowed on a leash. No public restrooms.
Go clean the pool
In Pacific Grove, you will find tide pools all along the rocky coastline, but two particularly famous pools are located at Asilomar State Beach and the Great Tide Pool at Point Pinos, across from the Point Pinos Lighthouse.
The water treatment in Pacific Grove is one of the best in the world: the shoreline is teeming with microbes and is considered one of the most densely populated marine habitats in the world. At the Great Tidepool, some pools remain open even at high tide. Watch out for anemones, starfish, mussels, abalones, sea urchins and other pond dwellers.
If you decide to clean up, wear shoes with good traction, watch the tides and always keep an eye on the sea. And of course, don’t touch, just watch and be careful not to disturb the little creatures and their habitat.
Take pictures of the rocky coastline
Pacific Grove is a photographer’s dream. The rocky coastline offers breathtaking opportunities for landscape photography. The cliffs are most beautiful at golden hour or at sunset on a clear, cloudless day. They are also stunning at the blue hour, especially with a full moon!
The Pacific Grove coastline is also photogenic in spring, with flowers blooming along its entire length. Madeira’s purple pride is beautiful on the blue water in full bloom. Cypress trees and carpets of ice plants also make beautiful pictures here.
go bird watching
The Monterey Peninsula is one of the best destinations for childbirth in the United States, and the Asilomar region is an excellent destination for childbirth. Point Pinos, the tip of the peninsula, is known as a place to watch the ocean, but there are other places to watch the ocean along Sunset Drive. California gulls are common, but other birds such as Pacific larks and red-backed hawks can also be seen.
The rangers at Asilomar State Beach and Conference Park organize regular birding excursions in the park. You will discover the five dozen species found in Asilomar and their habitats. It’s fun and educational, especially if you’re a budding ornithologist.
Crespi’s pond and nearby cypress trees provide habitat for several species of stray birds. However, most of the area is a golf course and is not accessible to birds. You can also take a walk to the nearby El Carmelo cemetery, where you can see land birds as well as deer. It is a peaceful place to walk around.
Discover the conference rooms of Asilomar
The Asilomar Convention Center was originally designed by renowned San Francisco architect Julia Morgan, famous for her Hearst Castle, and some of the buildings she designed still stand. The retreat was created by women for women.
The Convention Center is a national historic landmark. The center and grounds are now part of the California State Park System.
You can tour the area yourself, or consider joining one of the tours offered by the national park on Asilomar Boulevard, Ranger Tours, to discover the history of the center as you explore.
Visit the Pacific Grove Natural History Museum
The Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History was founded in 1883 to “preserve collections of natural wonders and make them accessible for study.” The exhibits focus on the flora and fauna of California’s central coast and are fascinating for both children and adults.
The museum’s bird collection includes the California Condor, and the Monarch Gallery offers a wealth of information on western monarch butterflies. The museum has a garden of native plants that you can visit, and the annual wildflower exhibit, held in April, is great fun.
Don’t forget to stop and buy some unique souvenirs. The museum is located in downtown Pacific Grove, near the Monterey Bay Aquarium. There is plenty of parking nearby.
Walk in the forest of monarch butterflies (in season)
Pacific Grove, nicknamed “Butterfly City,” United States. The town is home to the Monarch Grove Sanctuary, one of the many places on the California coast where the monarch butterfly winters. The grove is the best place to see monarch butterflies overwintering in Monterey County.
The Monarch Sanctuary is a eucalyptus forest located in the center of Pacific Grove. Visit from November to February to see beautiful orange monarchs. Doctors are available to answer questions on clear days during viewing season. They set up telescopes and mark groups of butterflies that can be seen through the telescope.
Monarchs fly when it’s warm: not below 55 degrees. When it’s cold, they silently cling to the trees and are harder to see. On sunny days, come early in the morning to see the butterflies in flight. Stay on the marked paths and do not touch the butterflies, only watch. Admission to the grove is free.
Enjoy the purple carpet of flowers (in season).
One of Pacific Grove’s most famous attractions is its seasonal phenomenon. Each spring, purple-pink ice plants bloom for several weeks along the shoreline on Oceanview Boulevard, forming a spectacular purple-pink carpet as far as the eye can see.
Photographers and visitors flock to see the blooms. To take photos yourself, come early in the morning. Not only will there be fewer people on the trails, but the light is better for taking pictures. Sunlight also means you can’t take pictures of the bright pink flowers.
If you follow the path by the water, you will see a purple carpet stretching along the sides of the rock cliffs, in some places all the way down to the water. It is truly a dramatic sight.
Admire the city’s Victorian architecture
Downtown Pacific Grove is known for its many historic homes and beautiful architecture. The city has more than 1,000 historic buildings, most of which are private homes in various architectural styles, from Romanesque to Victorian to Gothic.
You can take a self-guided tour of some of Pacific Grove’s historic homes. As you walk through the town, note the small green signs on some of the houses: they were donated by the Pacific Grove Heritage Society for houses built before 1926.
Chautauqua Hall, located at the corner of 16th and Central Avenue, was built in 1881 for concerts and has been declared a historic state monument. You can go to Steinbeck Cottage on 11th Street and spend the night there, too! The Seven Gables Inn and the Pryor House, both located on Oceanview Boulevard, are also worth a visit.
Antique store and galleries
If you like antiques and strolling through pretty little stores, be sure to visit downtown Pacific Grove and Forest Avenue. You will find several small boutiques, several art galleries and a few antique, craft and gift stores to browse around.
Some of our favorite stores in Pacific Grove:
- Antique Pickings, on Forest Avenue, for an eclectic collection of antiques ranging from old postcards to furniture and collectibles.
- A treasure on Avenue du Phare, for a fine selection of decorations, gifts and collectibles.
- Craft gallery on Beacon Avenue for candles, glass, wind chimes, jewelry and gifts.
- Hauk Fine Arts, on Fountain Avenue, for California art, centered on the Monterey Peninsula.
- Happy Girl Kitchen on Central Avenue for delicious jams, marmalades, pickled vegetables and more.
The Monterey Peninsula is known for its many golf courses, including the famous Pebble Beach Golf Links, where the seventh hole is located on a cliff directly above the Pacific Ocean. Many of these golf courses are open to the public, but they are very expensive.
The Pacific Grove Golf Links is very well located, almost on the ocean, and is very affordable. At the time of writing, it costs just over $50 for 18 holes. Trolleys can be rented for an additional fee.
The nine front holes offer ocean views through the cypress trees and the nine back holes through the coastal sand dunes. You will likely see deer and birds between the holes and enjoy the ocean breeze on warm days.
Pacific Grove Golf Links is very popular, so make reservations in advance if you want to play during your visit.
Things to do near Pacific Grove
The cities of the Monterey Peninsula are close together, and you can easily explore the entire peninsula from your base in Pacific Grove. From national and regional parks to charming small towns and great restaurants, there is much to discover on the peninsula.
Visit the picturesque coastal town of Carmel by the Sea and stroll through its cobblestone streets. Carmel also has a beautiful sandy beach. From Monterey, you can take a whale-watching tour or visit the world-famous Monterey Bay Aquarium.
Enjoy wine tasting in the Carmel Valley or along the River Road in Salinas. The Steinbeck National Center in Salinas is also worth a visit if you are a fan of the author’s work. If you prefer to be outside, plan a day trip to Pinnacles National Park, about an hour and 20 minutes south.
You can also trek further along the coast, where you’ll have great views of Big Sur. Make the whole trip, or choose one or two parks to explore inland: Point Lobos and Garrapata State Parks are near Pacific Grove.
At Moss Landing, just 30 minutes north of the coast, you can take a boat ride to view the many birds on Elkhorn Slough or take a walk through the reserve. Moss Landing is also a great place to look for marine mammals or spot whales.
Travel to Pacific Grove, California
The Monterey Regional Airport is located near Pacific Grove and is served by flights from several major U.S. cities, but most visitors come to the city by car. Pacific Grove is a great stop on the California itinerary!
Pacific Grove, just under two hours from the freeway, is one of many weekend trips you can take to San Francisco (or the SF Bay Area). If you start early, you can even make a day trip from San Francisco or the Silicon Valley to Pacific Grove.
The trip from Los Angeles to Pacific Grove takes about 5 hours by highway. Pacific Grove is a weekend getaway from the big Los Angeles.
The trip takes about 6.5 hours longer, but it is still possible if you are looking for a weekend getaway from San Diego: Choose a long weekend so you have more time to enjoy the beauty of Pacific Grove. Or opt for a longer weekend and explore the rest of Monterey Bay!
Looking for a rental car for your vacation in Pacific Grove? Check out the cars! They will screen different vendors to find the best price for you.
Where can you stay overnight in Pacific Grove, CA?
Hotels in Pacific Grove, CA
Andril Chimney Cottages is located near the beach of Asilomar. The land is beautiful and the available living spaces are of different sizes. Outdoor seating and barbecues are available and firewood is delivered to your cottage daily. Each cottage has a kitchen and a fenced terrace. Book on booking.com | Book on hotels.com
The Seven Gables Inn is a historic waterfront hotel with ocean views from every room. The gardens surrounding the inn are beautiful. The spacious and romantic rooms are perfect if you are planning a vacation for two. Book on booking.com
The Green Gables Inn is a four sister bed & breakfast located on Oceanview Boulevard. Each room features a gas fireplace. Some rooms have a hot tub or partial ocean views. The rooms are spacious and beautifully decorated. Book with booking.com | Book with hotels.com
Also owned by the Four Sisters, Gosby House Inn is located just off the beach at Lovers Point. This historic Victorian property offers breakfast and afternoon wine and snacks. Rooms are spacious and comfortably furnished. Book at booking.com |Book at hotels.com
Airbnb’s to Pacific Grove, Calif.
This lovely house has two bedrooms and two bathrooms, as well as a fully equipped kitchen. The house is comfortable and colorfully decorated, with high ceilings, a private courtyard and a patio for outdoor dining. Each room has a queen size bed. The house is close to downtown and the beach. Book your stay here!
This beautiful historic apartment with ocean views has two bedrooms, two bathrooms and a fully equipped kitchen. Enjoy the beautiful terrace and fireplace outside, as well as the beautifully decorated interior of the house. Each bedroom has a queen-size bed and the sofa bed can accommodate two more people. The house is located right next to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, within walking distance of restaurants and stores. Book your stay here!
This mid-century house is located near the beach. It has two bedrooms and two bathrooms, as well as a fully equipped kitchen. There is a private courtyard and terrace for entertaining. The house is located 17 miles away. Book your stay here!
Where to eat in Pacific Grove
The Red House Café is our favorite place for lunch during the week or brunch on the weekend, but they also serve breakfast and dinner. They serve American food with a European twist and use seasonal and local ingredients. The grilled cheese sandwich is delicious, as is the Nutella panini. Guests can sit outside.
If you love seafood, you must dine at Passionfish. Everything we tasted here was incredible, but especially try the scallops: sweet, perfectly cooked and very tasty. The spicy fish stew in tomato-cilantro broth is delicious! And the buttermilk cookies are a must.
Il Vecchio is a lovely Italian restaurant with several options of vegetarian pasta and the eggplant and parmesan panini that we love. Their tiramisu is very authentic. They have outdoor seating.
The Peppers Mexicali Cafe offers tasty Mexican specialties and has a large outdoor kitchen. The grilled peppers and cheese are delicious, and we love the smoked gouda quesadilla.
First Awakenings is a very popular breakfast spot. If you don’t make a reservation, you will almost certainly have to wait in line. They serve eggs cooked in different ways and pancakes from the house itself. All the berry pancakes are incredible.
Best time to visit Pacific Grove, CA.
Pacific Grove and the Monterey Peninsula are worth visiting year-round, with moderate weather and many activities to enjoy any time of year. Winter brings some rain, so bring rain gear or choose a sunny spot for your visit.
Spring is simply beautiful in Pacific Grove, with wildflowers and other blossoms, beautiful weather and lots of bird watching. You may also see migrating whales in the spring.
Fall brings warm weather during late summer and monarch butterflies flock to the grove. Summer days can begin with fog, but it usually dissipates around noon. Winter sunsets are spectacular and clear days are great for outdoor walks. Winter is also a good time to look for migrating whales.
Always have several layers so you can wear a jacket when it is cold and windy, especially if you are training near water. Bring closed-toed shoes for hiking.
Want to learn more about Central California? Check out some of our articles on the fun coastal cities of Central California!
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Frequently asked questions
Is it safe in Pacific Grove, California?
Pacific Grove has an overall crime rate of 13 per 1,000 residents. This puts the crime rate here close to the average of all cities and towns of any size in America. According to our analysis of FBI crime data, your chance of becoming a victim of crime in Pacific Grove is 1 in 78.
Is Pacific Grove, California a good place to live?
Pacific Grove is located in Monterey County and is one of the best places to live in California. Living in Pacific Grove offers residents a very dense suburban lifestyle and most residents rent for their homes and businesses. Many retirees live in Pacific Grove and residents tend to be liberal. Pacific Grove’s public schools are rated very highly.
How far is Pacific Grove from Monterey, CA?
The distance between Pacific Grove, CA and Monterey, CA is 1.71 miles in southeast direction and 3 miles (4.83 kilometers) by car, along Lighthouse Avenue. Pacific Grove and Monterey are 5 minutes apart, if you drive non-stop.
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