My girlfriend and I wanted to do something special for our upcoming anniversary. We talked about it for weeks and researched various locations, from all-inclusive beach resorts in Cabo to metropolitan skyscrapers in Chicago. While still undecided, my girlfriend found out that she would need surgery during the time we had set aside. Our only option was to postpone the trip until she recovered, but with me working three jobs and her dealing with four prior surgeries after an automobile accident last year, we desperately needed a relaxing getaway from the daily routine. On a whim, we decided to book a quick escape to Monterey for the following night. With dozens of gorgeous luxury hotels to choose from, The Monterey Plaza stood out thanks to its central location, endless amenities, and reasonable price. The rest of our ad-hoc itinerary allowed us to accomplish quite a bit in 24 hours without ever feeling rushed.
Ocean Front Room – Monterey Plaza Hotel
The Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa is located directly on the ocean, just half a block off Cannery Row and a few blocks from Old Fisherman’s Wharf. The convenient location allows guests to be within ten minutes walking distance to all of the best Monterey attractions without being overcome by the constant flow of pedestrian tourists. Guest rooms feature balconies that hang out over the bay, and come equipped with a complementary set of binoculars to enjoy close up viewing of seals, sea otters, and humpback whales in their natural habitat. The constant crashing of waves and sounds of marine life activity are sure to convince even the busiest of minds that relaxation is inevitable, inescapable even. Neither words, nor photos, not even videos can remotely describe the emotional impact that the romantic Plaza Hotel ocean-front rooms have on guests.
Hotel Room at Monterey Plaza
Visitors should arrive at Monterey Plaza Hotel early so as not to waste any time. Check in is at 4pm but guests may have a vehicle valeted and bags taken by a bellman to be placed in the room before returning. Take a few moments to digest the classically inspired lobby, step past the oversized windows to feel the ocean breeze and prepare yourself for the overwhelming panoramic surroundings.
70 Local Wines Under One Roof – A Taste of Monterey
After checking in and ditching the car, take a walk over to the Historic Cannery Row for an afternoon wine tasting. With a vast selection of wine bars and tasting rooms to choose from in the area, the best place to start is undeniably ‘A Taste of Monterey’. Featuring over 70 wineries from Monterey in one beautifully situated tasting room, the flights are affordable and offer guests the chance to select their favorites from the area without having to spend too much time and money skipping from one winery to the next. Each optional flight includes six wines from six different wineries, ensuring that guests taste the best wine from each featured winery at a reduced cost.
A Taste of Monterey is located on the edge of the Cannery Row pier, and with 180 degrees of windowed views, it really gives tasters a sense of cruise-ship-like easiness. Enjoy tastings with a cheese plate or other small nibbles specifically designed to accompany the wines offered. Bartenders also conveniently offer a list of local restaurants that wave corkage fees on bottles of wine purchased at A Taste of Monterey.
The Classic Attraction – Monterey Bay Aquarium
Monterey Bay Aquarium
If you are planning a trip to Monterey, you have probably already decided whether or not you are going to visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium. What was at one time a tranquil and unique look at marine life now resembles an oceanic Disneyland, complete with crowds, lines and overpriced snacks. The experience is exhausting and no longer very romantic. Most of the time will be spent dodging unsupervised children and laughing at lifeless parents who fall asleep at every available stopping point. If it is a must-see on your itinerary, I suggest you scratch it off the list immediately while you still have the energy. Either go in the morning when it first opens, before hung over parents roll out of bed and get the family breakfast, or go at the end of the day when most of the parents have forced the family back to the room for an evening nap. Any time in the middle is chaos, regardless of the day of the week. A full tour of the aquarium will take about 3-5 hours.
Avoid the Tourist Traps – Dinner at Bistro Moulin
Loaded with amusing trinket vendors, French style sweet shops, a wax museum and endlessly underwhelming tourist trap restaurants, visitors of Cannery Row and Fisherman’s Wharf must be vigilant about where they choose to invest their time, money and stomach space. Located on Wave Street, just a block inland from the main strip of tourist attractions, Bistro Moulin is an intimate gem hidden from the crap-shoot of bland, overpriced ocean-front dining options. I asked three separate local service industry employees where they would go for a classy dinner with nice ambiance and good food. All three unanimously suggested Bistro Moulin, and I am so thankful I listened. The reasonably priced yet surprisingly complex menu separates itself from all the two-for-one clam chowder and fish-n-chips that litter the ocean front promenade. The bistro is small and so is the menu. It is romantic and definitely not child friendly, which thankfully means no screaming babies and no ranch dressing. The chef/owner Didier Dutertre wanted to create a simple European style restaurant with a rich, ingredient-forward menu on par with Michelin Guide recommendations. He is also a certified sommelier so the wine list equals the great menu and atmosphere.
After walking off dinner and returning to the hotel, stop off in the lobby bar at Schooners. By this time, the mayhem of the dinner rush will have fizzled out and the romantic atmosphere can finally be savored. Sip your favorite cocktail on the patio terrace while fishing boats drop their nets and sound their horns in the midnight blue horizon. The lobby patio is a large wraparound promenade, which offers a variety of private nooks and crannies to hide out with your partner. Find one of the many hidden stone benches and enjoy a glass of wine, or, the more adventurous souls can take the stairwell down to the hotel’s intimate beach for a late night snuggle.
On your way back to the room, drop by the front desk and try to arrange for a late check-out. If the following day is not too busy, they will push back as late as 1pm so you have some extra time to enjoy the morning.
Complementary Robes and Coffee
Take advantage of everything the hotel has to offer. Slip on the comfy robes and brew a pot of coffee to enjoy on your balcony. The morning air will be cool and overcast and fleeting, like a dream you haven’t yet woken from. Wear your robes up to Vista Blue Spa where guests have access to the sauna and the ocean-view hot tub even without needing to purchase a spa treatment.
Coastal Walking Trail to Fisherman’s Wharf
View of Monterey Harbour
Take a walk along Monterey’s paved Coastal Trail through the marina to Old Fisherman’s Wharf. Enjoy a classic French style breakfast at Crepes of Brittany before meandering through all the kitschy souvenir shops. If time permits, hop on one of the boat tours that showcase the marine life in Monterey Bay. For a three-hour extensive whale watching tour, try the 100ft. Princess Monterey tour. For a brief, 30 minute casual cruise around the bay, check out Little Mermaid’s glass-bottom boat tour. Purchase a nice warm coat or sweater before hopping on either boat, maybe some mittens, scarf, and ear warmers as well. While it may be a little cold, either tour is more than worth it to get an up-close look at Monterey’s fascinating sea life.
Written by: Tyson Scheumann