Hotel at a Glance: Asilomar
The name Asilomar is derived from the Spanish asilo al mar, meaning "refuge by the sea." The historic property, today owned by California State Parks, hugs the Monterey Peninsula coastline for easy access to the area's sand dunes and beaches.
- Historic credential: Some of the Asilomar's buildings were designed by Julia Morgan, the architect of Hearst Castle.
- Biking, bird watching, and boardwalk: Asilomar's outdoor activities include everything from hiking the dunes to surfing.
- Dinner with a view: Take in the scenery while you dine on fresh, seasonal cuisine at Crocker Dining Hall. The hall serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
- Rustic accommodations: Woodsy guest rooms don't have phones or TVs, but they do have WiFi, and some include patios, balconies, or fireplaces.
- Coffee, tea, or local English ale: They're all on tap at Phoebe’s Café, which features a fireplace and an outdoor deck for day or night relaxation.
Pacific Grove, California: Sleepy Coastal Town near Lively Cannery Row
The oceanfront town of Pacific Grove shares its central California peninsula with the city of Monterey, but is far more serene than its cosmopolitan neighbor. Rows of Victorian houses line the streets, deer wander through residential areas, and thousands of butterflies congregate here during their southerly migration. Travel + Leisure named Pacific Grove one of America's Best Little Beach Towns, noting that the beach is better suited for surfing and kayaking than swimming. Stroll the pathway that winds along the rocky shore, taking in the many native plants and bird colonies that make their homes on the 3-mile stretch.
Head to nearby Monterey if you want to pick up the pace. The city's Cannery Row, once the laid-back dock famously portrayed by John Steinbeck, has since been enlivened by theme restaurants, souvenir stalls, and a wax museum. The popular Monterey Bay Aquarium is located on one end of the strip, and has been featured by Fodors, Frommer's, and the Discovery Channel for its immersive displays of local sea life. Here, you can watch sardines swim around you in a circular tank and see an open-ocean tank filled with sharks and sea turtles. Kids will love the interactive exhibits at the Splash Zone, which has a living, breathing kelp forest they can walk through while touching pools filled with starfish and sea urchins.