Weekend Trip: A Holiday-Themed Retreat to Monterey

Weekend Trip: A Holiday-Themed Retreat to Monterey

After spending a week in Mexico last month, I was fortunate enough to spend another weekend at the beach along the central California coast. A close friend and I drove south from the Bay Area for a less than 48 hour jaunt to Monterey and its surrounding coastal towns. I had never visited the region during such a traditionally cold month, but the sandy destination ended up being a wonderful spot to retreat to in December. We were greeted with clear blue skies and even dipped our toes into the fresh Pacific water. From holiday festivities along the Monterey wharf to a monarch butterflies viewing in Pacific Grove, the Monterey region is a great destination during the cold season. If you’re looking for things to do along the central coast in fall/winter, keep reading to see what we managed to pack into our retreat to Monterey and beyond.


December Retreat to Monterey Basics

  • When: First weekend in December
  • Duration: Saturday morning to Sunday night
  • Weather: Clear skies and roughly 18C during the day
  • Accommodation: We stayed at Monterey Tides, which is home to the most gorgeous view of the ocean. We literally went to bed and woke up to a view of the Pacific and the calming sounds of its crashing waves. Normally I wouldn’t be able to afford such a fantastically located hotel, but my friend got a us a discounted rate since she works for a hotel owned by the same company. Generally, rates for hotels here are much more affordable during the cold season. I highly recommend Monterey Tides.
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View from our balcony at Monterey Tides


December Retreat to Monterey Itinerary


Day 1: Saturday

Capitola Village: We made a spontaneous stop to the tiny town of Capitola on our way to Monterey. I actually stopped here this past summer, but specifically wanted to check out its famous colorful beachfront cottages this time around. Known as the Capitola Venetians, a glance at the Capitola Venetian Hotel transports you to Italy and is a popular destination for bloggers and photographers. Let’s just say we weren’t the only two snapping photos here on this sunny day. I can only imagine how busy it must be throughout the summer. Fun fact: Capitola Village offers free street parking through most of December!

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Fun with colorful walls in Capitola Village

Dinner at Jacks Monterey: We enjoyed a lovely meal at the Portola Hotel’s bar and bistro. The eatery offers individual and shared portions for each of its plates and we shared individual portions of the gnocchi and cioppino. Both were delicious and definitely enough for the two of us.

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Our delicious cioppino at Jacks Monterey

Strolling Downtown Monterey: Before heading back to the car, we walked along downtown Monterey’s bustling Alvarado Street and stopped at the award-winning Revival Ice Cream and beat the nighttime rush. Service was incredibly friendly and we had a really hard time deciding between all the delectable flavors. The Bee’s Knees is a must-try!

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Tasting the love at Revival Ice Cream in Monterey

Christmas on the Wharf: We capped our Saturday off by catching the last few dozen minutes of holiday lights along Monterey’s historic Fisherman’s Wharf. Fun for all ages, the holiday event features lights, decorations, free treats, Santa meet-and-greets, and runs Friday-Sunday from December 1-17.

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Christmas on the wharf in Monterey


Day 2: Sunday

Beachfront Breakfast: We started our day off by picking up refreshing açaí bowls at Aloha Coffee & Cafe and bringing them back to our hotel to devour outside while staring at the waves. We really wanted to make the most out of the hotel’s view before checking out!

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Spending time at the beach at Monterey Tides before checking out

Lunch at Wave Street Cafe: Another spot I would definitely recommend. We enjoyed their outdoor seating and my corned beef hash kept me full for hours.

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Delicious brunch at Wave Street Cafe in Monterey

Afternoon Pick-Me-Up at Bright Coffee: Not too far from Cannery Row, this very hip coffee spot shares a space with stylish boutique, Lilify.

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I’m a fan of the branding at Bright Coffee in Monterey

Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary: Pacific Grove, also known as Butterfly Town, USA, is home to this unique and worthwhile attraction where thousands of monarch butterflies migrate from around November to March. Another reason for why the Monterey area is a great getaway destination at this time of year! The butterflies were not easy to see with the naked eye on this day, but two docents at the sanctuary directed our gazes the right way and there are telescopes that allowed us to see them up close. Through the lens, it was quite the sight! We stopped by the town’s Natural History Museum afterwards, which provided further information on the phenomenon. Founded in 1883, it is one of the country’s oldest natural history museums!

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A blurry glimpse into one of the telescopes at the Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary in Pacific Grove

A Brief Stop at Asilomar State Beach: This is one of my favorite California beaches for its beautiful jagged coastline.

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It was sure windy at Asilomar State Beach that day

Shopping in Downtown Carmel: We headed south of Monterey to do a bit of shopping along Carmel’s main street. Filled with boutique and high-end shops, coffee joints, and diverse eateries, it would be easy to spend a whole day here.

Sunset at Carmel River State Beach: We caught the sunset at the beach just minutes from Carmel’s main strip. Relaxation at its finest.

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Catching the sunset at Carmel River State Beach

Dinner at Siamese Bay Restaurant: Before heading home, we grabbed Thai food back in Monterey and stopped by Revival Ice Cream for dessert (again!). There’s no doubt I’ll be back at this creamery on my next visit to Monterey.




More Photos of our December Retreat to Monterey…

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Laughs at the Capitola Venetians

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The colorful Capitola Venetians

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The Capitola wharf

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Capitola Village

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View from the Monterey Tides lobby

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Our peek at our blue room at Monterey Tides

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Relaxing outdoor seating at Wave Street Cafe in Monterey

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Looking up at the Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary in Pacific Grove

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Monarch butterflies at the Pacific Grove Natural History Museum


Thanks so much for checking out our December weekend in Monterey! Let me know what you thought in the comments!

If you’re looking for more Monterey – check out my weekend summer trip there.


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Comments ( 12 )

  1. ReplyAnna
    This looks like such a cute and fun place to visit!! That Cioppino looked amazing! Thanks for sharing the tips! Xo ~Anna www.pepperedinstyle.com
  2. ReplyBrittany Bright
    this looks like such a beautiful place! It reminds me of where I live now!
  3. ReplyHanna - Platforms and Pacifiers
    This looks like an amazing weekend get away! I especially love that you were able to see the monarch migration. As a child I lived in an area that was a long their migration path and it was always a very celebrated time of year when they would come through! Definitely something you'll remember forever.
    • ReplyAuthorEmma @ theweekendabroad.com
      Thanks so much! It was wonderful! That's so cool you lived along their migration path. Where was that??
  4. ReplyCarissa Link
    Oh wow! This place looks amazing!! I've only been to California once (Santa Barbara), and this definitely looks like another area I'd enjoy visiting. The Wharf looks so fun, and the view from your hotel room is top notch!
  5. ReplySteph
    Capitola buildings are amazing!
  6. ReplyKeisha Baynard
    Looks like you had a wonderful time.

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