Hotel at a Glance: Vision Quest Safari Bed & Breakfast
Monterey Bay is an unlikely setting for an African safari, but Vision Quest Ranch offers the closest to the real deal this side of the Atlantic. The ranch is home to the Monterey Zoological Society and provides a sanctuary for more than 100 exotic animals, many of whom have appeared in movies and TV shows, such as Mighty Joe Young and Dr. Doolittle. The regulars here include lions, tigers, bears, mountain lions, panthers, elephants, camels, lemurs, sloths, and more, making a stay here an especially original holiday gift for animal lovers.
- Dig into a continental breakfast each morning, delivered in a picnic basket by staff members and a hospitable elephant
- See the animals each afternoon around 1 p.m. on a guided tour of the compound, included with this deal. You'll see big cats, bears, alligators, and a host of smaller mammals
- Safari-style bungalows come with canvas walls and views of the surrounding mountains in Salinas Valley. You might even be able to hear the animals squawking and roaring in the compound
- Watch elephants play in the five-acre Elephant Play Yard from the convenience of your own bungalow, depending on the unit
- Extra perk: Some animals are also walked past the bungalows starting around 3:30 p.m., so you'll have another chance to see them out and about
Salinas, California: Charming Small Town Near Monterey Bay
Salinas' Oldtown is a slice of historic Americana, with a charming main drag lined with coffeehouses, bakeries, a wide range of restaurants, pubs, and shops. The National Steinbeck Center downtown pays homage to Salinas native and Nobel Prize-winning author John Steinbeck. Exhibits include Steinbeck's personal belongings as well as private letters and notes pertaining to some of his most popular novels, such as The Grapes of Wrath, Of Mice & Men, and East of Eden.
The Pacific coast is less than 20 miles away, where a string of beach towns hug the horseshoe of Monterey Bay. Spend the day shopping the upscale boutiques of Carmel-by-the-Sea or head to funky Santa Cruz to ride roller coasters along the Santa Cruz Boardwalk. You'd be remiss if you were in the area and didn't check out the Monterey Bay Aquarium, one of the world's premier aquariums. The center recreates several ecosystems, including a kelp forest, coral reef, sandy shores, and open sea. You'll see hundreds of animals, including a variety of sharks, dolphins, whale, otters, jellyfish, turtles, and more.