First of all, I want to thank all of you who helped me plan out the trip over the past month. We had a great vacation, thanks to your advice and recommendations!
We arrived in SFO on 7/20 (Friday) and spent two days along the Pacific Coast south of San Francisco and two days in the city itself. In this Trip Report, I am only writing about the first two days in Monterey, Carmel and Big Sur.
Day 1 –
We arrived in SFO around 10:30am. We reserved a rental car with Budget via Costco.com. As soon as we got off the plane, we picked up an SUV from Budget’s airport location (had to ride the airport train to get there). Following your recommendation, we took 101/156/1 towards Monterey. Including a lunch stop and traffic delay on Hwy 101, it took us two and half hours to get there.
Our first stop in Monterey was the Fisherman’s Wharf. We paid for one hour of parking next to the boardwalk. There were plenty of parking spots there. My elderly parents enjoyed a walk on the boardwalk, while my 5-years-old just couldn’t wait to run around on the beach and get his feet wet. The water was chilly but he had fun.
Then we drove through Cannery Row to the Lovers Point, which was a wonderful place to spend the afternoon at - blue sky, white sand, huge rocks, lovely seagulls, and a beautiful wedding taking place on the beach. My DH had a chance to put his newly purchased Canon 7D through a workout. My little one, on the other hand, had a blast just chasing the chubby seagulls.
We then entered the 17-miles Drive. The $10 entrance fee was well worth it. Cypress Point Lookout and The Lone Cypress were our favorites. Short on time, we only drove through part of the 17-mile Drive and missed the golf course part. Since we are not golf fans, it was okay with us. We arrived in Carmel around 6pm.
We checked in to the Best Western Carmel Bay View Inn ($193 corporate rate for a room with a king size bed, plus taxes). I tried bidding for a better price (or better hotel) on priceline.com but failed. It was motel-style accommodations, but after realizing how wonderful the location was, I felt much better. I will post a separate review on the hotel later. Overall the stay was pleasant, not to mention it included a complimentary continental breakfast the next morning.
DH checked Yelp and found the Basil restaurant on Ocean Ave. However, they were all booked for that night until 9:30pm. Crazy! We finally had dinner at A W Shucks Cocktail & Oyster Bar nearby. The food was ok (liked the oysters and fried fish but not the crab cakes, though), portion was big, but the service was slow. Jetlagged, my little one almost fell asleep while waiting for our meal.
I wish we had energy to walk 10 more minutes down to the Carmel beach, since someone here recommended it for the great sunset. But the senior citizens and the child in our party were exhausted. The walk back to the motel was very pleasant, with all the boutique shops and charming townhouses along the way.
Day 2 –
After having breakfast at Best Western, following your suggestion, we went to a deli nearby and bought some sandwiches and drinks for a picnic lunch later. Then we headed directly to Point Lobos.
We got there before 10am. We chose to hike the Cypress Cove trail for it was the easiest one. The small parking lot by the trail head was already full. DH drove all the way to Piney Woods (the picnic area) to get a parking spot. We missed the free guided tour to the trail, so we started exploring on our own. It was our son’s very first time hiking and it turned out to be a great experience! He learned most of the poisonous shrubs and followed his dad all the way on this 8/10 mile trail. It was foggy and chilly. Cypress Cove was hiding in the fog, adding a mysterious feel. I loved it! And how many of you have seen over 40 pelicans flying across right in front of you when you climbed up to the top of the cliff? We did. It was a real treat!
We stopped by the Sand Hill Cove next. The rocks there had different kinds of shapes and patterns. DH loved the view and took a bunch of pictures. We had a picnic lunch at Piney Woods with a couple of seagulls. Knowing we had more to explore, we left the park right after.
Big Sur! My heart still yearns for the breathtaking scenery in along Highway 1. I had always thought Big Sur was one park. By the time we realized it was the whole area, we had already missed some lookout points. Despite that, I have to say that this area has the most beautiful, and magnificent natural sceneries I’ve even seen. Our Canon 7D captured some of the beauty, but the pictures don’t do it justice. The mountains, veiled by light fog, looked like a shy bride in her wedding gown. Together with the blue ocean, gentle waves and a clear sky, you can feel Mother Nature is telling her stories.
Pfeiffer State Park was our last stop, which I had previously thought was Big Sur. So there was some disappointment. However, I have to admit that it was a wonderful park to hike and see the redwoods.
On our way bank to Carmel, we stopped by more lookout points (including the big bridge) in Big Sur area. However, the fog was getting thicker. Oh well, that gives us an excuse to come back again someday, doesn’t it? :)
Following a long line of cars on Ocean Ave in Carmel, we drove to Carmel Beach. Luckily we found a parking spot by the beach, but it took DH some time to get the car into the tight spot. The little one again couldn’t wait to take off his shoes and socks and ran to the ocean. Lots of people there, surfing, playing beach volleyball, walking, chatting, some with their dogs. It was still foggy, but still beautiful.
Next stop, San Francisco…