About this Itinerary
Majestic views of the ocean, sea otters swimming about, a rugged shore line and water-sport enthusiasts are just a few of the things you’ll see as you ride or stroll along the Monterey Peninsula Recreational Trail (MPRT). This is one trail where you need to take your time and enjoy the beauty and history around the trail.
The MPRT is 18 miles long with an asphalt surface that follows the Pacific Coast from Pacific Grove to Castroville. The trail is relatively flat with a few hills. You can ride this trail in one day or you may want to divide it into two days and take advantage of the many sights to see and adventures to do along the way.
This trail follows the former Southern Pacific Railroad that was used to move sardines and other goods from Cannery Row to the northern part of the state. Like so many other railroads, its use declined and then stopped with the increase of roads. However, Cannery Row, made famous by John Steinbeck, has been preserved for all to enjoy.
You can reach Monterey by flying into one of three major airports: San Francisco, Oakland, or San Jose. The drive from San Francisco and Oakland is just under two hours and the drive from San Jose is about an hour and fifteen minutes. If you are coming from San Francisco, San Diego, Los Angeles, Phoenix, or Las Vegas, you may want to fly into Monterey Regional Airport, which is 10 minutes from Monterey.
Pamper yourself and stay at the 4-star Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa. It is the only full-service waterfront resort on Cannery Row. The hotel was built over the bay and has breathtaking views matched by its first-rate service and luxurious rooms. Conveniently located, it’s a 10-minute walk to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. We recommend staying in a room with a view and a balcony. If you prefer direct access to the beach, stay at the Unscripted Monterey Bay. Located two miles north of Cannery Row, the hotel is situated right on MPRT and the beach, where you can watch the sunset or take a stroll on the sand. They have bike rentals on site and a restaurant, Café Beach. Ask about their overnight packages as some include bike rentals, a s’more kit, or wood for a bonfire. You also have the option of selecting perks for a nominal fee, such as $10 to include breakfast or $30 to stay on the beach longer on check out day.
If you start in Pacific Grove at Lovers Point Park, which is the southern end of MPRT, there is a paid lot at the trailhead and street parking close by. The trailhead is near the corner of Ocean View Boulevard and Jewell Avenue. Alternatively, if you’re staying in a hotel that is located on or close to MPRT, just hop on the trail and start walking, skating, or riding in one direction and hit the other end of the trail the next day.
The beginning part of the trail has some street crossings but the views are breathtaking. You will pass Lovers Point Beach, Point Cabrillo, and a number of parks on the way, which are great for picnics. You will soon come to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, which is a treasure and a must see. Watch divers hand-feed sharks, fish and other animals in the aquarium’s kelp forest exhibit or learn about the life of sea otters. For an additional $15, you can take a behind-the-scenes tour. These tours are given multiple times a day and are one hour long; children must be 6 years of age or older. There is free bicycle parking across the street from the aquarium’s main entrance and bike racks along the trail.
The aquarium is at the southern tip of Cannery Row, which runs parallel to the trail. Here you will find restaurants, galleries, specialty gift shops, gourmet foods, and jewelry. Be sure to stop by the American Tin Cannery, which houses the Monterey Bay Artisans and is filled with art and hand-crafted items made by local artists.
Back on the trail, you will soon come to Fisherman’s Shoreline Park and San Carlos Beach, a popular place to scuba dive. Next up is Fisherman’s Wharf. This is a great spot to see marine life, eat, and enjoy the smell of salt water while surrounded by incredible views, historical displays, and a variety of boats. Be sure to check out the local events as there is always something going on at the Wharf Theatre. You may also want to take a whale-watching tour with Chris’s Whale Watching, located at Fisherman’s Wharf. In addition to whales, you’ll see dolphins and porpoises. Allow approximately 3 hours for the tour; departure times are at 10 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. daily. One of the best ways to see harbor seals, sea otters, and sea lions is to take a guided kayak tour of Monterey Bay and Fisherman’s Wharf. Monterey Bay Kayaks offers 1- and 2.5-hour guided tours in a protected area. Adventures by the Sea is another great outfitter. They offer a variety of tours and have five locations throughout Monterey. Services include kayak, bike, and stand-up paddleboard rentals, as well as a variety of guided tours and lessons.
The next stretch of the trail takes you past Del Monte Beach and parallels Del Monte Avenue, which can be a fairly busy street. The ride close to the street will be worth it as once you reach Monterey State Beach as you’ll see sand dunes that are quite remarkable. A bit farther down the trail is a eucalyptus forest that separates the trail from the road.
The MPTR continues to follow the coastline, but the areas are a bit more residential and commercial as you ride through Seaside and Marina. Once you reach Marina, the trail continues another 8 miles until its end in Castroville. You can turn around and head back or take a shuttle back (arrange one ahead of time with your bike rental outfitter).
The area offers plenty to hold your interest for another day. In addition to everything noted above, there is sailing, scuba diving, and fishing. You can also visit one of the wine-tasting rooms on Cannery Row. Another fun and different way to see Monterey is by Sea Car. A Sea Car is a talking car that provides a GPS-driven narrated tour of Monterey, including pointing out breathtaking vistas and historical buildings. You can rent one for a 1-, 2-, or 3-hour tour. To rent a car, you must be at least 21 years old and have a valid driver’s license. Sea Cars are built for two and passengers must be at least 4 years of age.