The Enchantment of Monterey & Carmel-by-the-Sea from San Francisco and San Jose
You don't want to leave the Bay Area without experiencing the spectacular Monterey Peninsula. Carmel-by-the-Sea is "a storybook hamlet in a forest" that features a hundred art galleries, charming boutiques, wine tasting rooms, a white-sand beach. Monterey, capital of California when we were a province of Mexico, offers a world-class aquarium, its own 'fisherman's wharf' and (in season) monarch butterflies moving to and from their winter home in charming Pacific Grove next door. Between Carmel and Monterey there's the famed 17-Mile Drive, including Pebble Beach Golf & Resort, otters playing in the surf, trees shaped by the wind. The region inspired John Steinbeck, Thomas Kincaid, Clint Eastwood, Doris Day. We usually include an hour's drive down to the iconic Bixby Bridge, stopping several times for panoramic vistas, then returning to Carmel or the Aquarium, so that you have time to explore them on your own.
Spectacular Seventeen-Mile Drive, its dramatic views of the ocean, plus sometimes otters, pelicans...whales
The world-class Monterey Bay Aquarium, or historic Old Town…or not
The storybook village of Carmel-by-the-Sea, its nearly one hundred art galleries, unique architecture, tasting rooms, white-sand beach
The Lodge at Pebble Beach, its renowned golf course
Pacific Grove (home of the monarch butterfly), its beautiful oceanfront boulevard and Victorian cottages
250-year-old Carmel Mission (a museum and gravesite of newly sainted Junipero Serra)
Early Dinner*** at Clint Eastwood's Mission Ranch resort in Carmel or the renowned Pacific Edge restaurant: both have truly unforgettable vistas of the Ocean
Big Sur's fabled panoramas and the spectacular McWay Falls
Youdecide whether you want: to visit the Pebble Beach Visitors' Center (a must for golfers and their BFFs); and,or to end the afternoon with 90 minutes at the world-class Monterey Bay Aquarium; or to go inside the original Spanish mission church and its associated museum--a highlight for those who have a special interest in Old California. The critical factors in a successful day is remaining flexible and realizing that we cannot experience everything in a single day...and your driver/guide needs to rest before the 2-3 hour return drive. Usually fog along the coastline will clear by early afternoon, so we try to time driving through your focal points (17-Mile Drive other coastal views) when they're at their best; lunch at Nepenthe offers one of the best places to see the Ocean--but that restaurant's popular and doesn't take reservations...so that's 2 hours with Nepenthe versus 45 minutes for a picnic from a gourmet deli.
Some people book us for an overnight. That offers more options: time to explore Carmel's galleries, boutiques, fairytale-cottage neighborhoods and unique history on your own or with a local guide. Or the National (John) Steinbeck Center in Salinas. Or Vision Quest Ranch (a refuge for stage animals in collaboration with the Monterey Zoo). Or wine tasting in beautiful Carmel Valley. Overnight also more than doubles our fee, and you pay for your own lodging, meals and souvenirs.
Why Go with Us to Monterey & Carmel? Why not just rent a car or take the big bus tour? Because driving yourself, you need to focus on the road (just 2 winding lanes in some places), not the scenery. The big buses can't go some places and rush you everywhere else.
From decades of experience we know the best pull-overs for panoramic vistas. And how much time do you want to spend looking for clean restrooms and those elusive gas stations? We show you the off-the-beaten-path places most visitors miss, let you determine our pace and choose where we lunch...helping you remember that you're on vacation, minimizing your stress, maximizing your enjoyment.
What the Other Guys (big buses and limos) Do The large bus coaches do offer a much cheaper outing. But they do NOT offer a rich, personalized experience. They make fewer stops along the scenic 17-Mile Drive. You go to the public restrooms at their convenience. They let you out at the top of Carmel's main street and give you maybe an hour to visit the closest shops. You never see the fairytale cottages in the neighborhoods, or Eastwood's resort and restaurant, or the unique boutiques that are further away. No access. Not nearly enough time. With A Friend in Town you do pay more, AND you get much more.
A FREQUENT ITINERARY Following a scenic two-hour drive from San Francisco, we arrive in lively Monterey. There we cruise along family-friendly Cannery Row. Your choices there...visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium, among the world's best--the playful otters and luminescent jellyfish will enthrall you--or maybe you'd prefer to continue to ocean views. Enjoy the colorful Victorian cottages of Pacific Grove, winter home of magical monarch butterflies. Then rolling along the famous Seventeen-Mile-Drive, let's stop several times to appreciate the Lone Cypress (the most photographed tree in the world) and dramatic vistas. At Pebble Beach Lodge & Resort, you may want to buy a souvenir for your golf enthusiast friends or just enjoy the luxurious surroundings. For lunch choose from several charming restaurants and delis in the artists' retreat of Carmel.
Afternoon can feature the Mission San Carlos Borromeo (1770)--its gardens, baroque Nativity scene and museum recall that California was once ruled by imperial Spain. We pause next door to take in the spectacular views from Clint Eastwood's Mission Ranch, or continue down the Pacific Coast Highway a little to catch sunset over the Ocean from the Pacific Edge restaurant or its Sunset Lounge. Or devote all your time to exploring the more than 80 art galleries and one-of-a-kind shops in Carmel-by-the-Sea, a "storybook hamlet in a forest." With so many compelling attractions nearby, you may wish to stay overnight—or at least for dinner. Or just relax during our two-plus hour drive home. Duration = usually 10-11 Hours from downtown San Francisco
"This was our first time in San Francisco, and we had also booked other tours in addition to you. To be honest, you were far and above the best, and we ended up wishing that we had used you more than we did. …I need to compliment you on your professionalism, courteousness, extensive knowledge, and engaging manner.” – Tim L. (Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania)
“Thank you for bringing us such a wonderful trip. Honestly the day-tour to Monterey and Carmel turned out to be the best and the most remarkable part of my California trip. The tour was just perfect! I will never forget the breathtaking scenery. …And thank you for explaining everything to us.” – Forrest C., Vancouver & Hong Kong
A Private Custom Sightseeing Service for the San Francisco Bay Area