Number 33 - February 2011
Welcome to "Rick's Tips," Blue Heron Custom Tours and Travel's quarterly newsletter of fun and interesting things to do in San Francisco, the Bay Area, and Northern California. Whether you are visiting San Francisco or hosting visitors, Blue Heron can provide an unforgettable experience. Visit our website,, to learn more about our private, custom tours.

Beautiful Monterey and Carmel

Drive 2.5 hours south from San Francisco along the scenic Pacific coast and you will arrive at the beautiful Monterey Peninsula.? Here you will find three unique towns; Monterey, Pacific Grove, and Carmel-by-the-Sea (Carmel); and world class resorts and golf courses at Pebble Beach.? Nearby are Carmel Valley and Carmel Highlands, both pretty communities.? Below I'll highlight some of my favorite activities on and near the Monterey Peninsula.


Monterey is the oldest and largest of the three towns on the Peninsula.? The Spanish established the Presidio (army post) and mission (Catholic church) at Monterey in 1770.? The mission moved to Carmel the following year, but there is much history in Monterey that can be explored at Monterey State Historic Park.? Pick up a self-guided walking tour map at the park's visitor's center and you can walk among the city's old adobe buildings.? Unfortunately, State budget cuts have severely limited the hours the adobes are open to visitors.? Nevertheless, you can see the adobes from the outside as you wander through downtown Monterey.? If you want to dig deeper into Monterey's history, visit the Presidio Museum and Colton Hall, where California's constitution was drafted in 1850.

Just west of downtown lies Cannery Row.? Made famous by the author John Steinbeck, Cannery Row consists of old sardine canneries that have been converted into shopping arcades.? While most of Cannery Row is too touristy for my taste, I highly recommend the Monterey Bay Aquarium.? Here you can see plants and animals from Monterey Bay.? The aquarium is one of the few in the world that exchanges water with the outside environment.? During the busy summer months, buy your tickets online in advance to avoid waiting in line.? If you want to stay on Cannery Row, you'll get nice views of Monterey Bay from the Monterey Plaza Hotel and Spa and Intercontinental - The Clement.

Pacific Grove

This is the least touristed of the three towns on the Peninsula and my favorite.? I like the quiet ambiance and the Victorian architecture.? From November to February, thousands of Monarch Butterflies spend the winter in the Monarch Grove Sanctuary.? When the temperature is over 55 degrees Fahrenheit (13 degrees Celsius), you can see hoards of insects flying around the trees.? It's a spectacular sight that's not to be missed.

If you enjoy lighthouses, Point Pi?os Lighthouse is the oldest continually operating lighthouse on the Pacific Coast.? The lighthouse welcomes visitors from 1:00 - 4:00 p.m. from Thursday to Sunday.

Pacific Grove is home to many bed and breakfasts.? Martine Inn, Seven Gables Inn, and Green Gables Inn all have beautiful views of Monterey Bay and the Pacific Ocean.

Pebble Beach

Pebble Beach is a privately owned resort and golf complex on the west end of the Monterey Peninsula.? A drive along the 17-Mile Drive provides spectacular views of the Pacific.? One of my favorite stops along the Drive is Bird Island, where you can see cormorants, pelicans, and sea lions.? At Cypress Point, you might see harbor or elephant seals warming themselves on the rocks.? Of course, you'll want to stop to see the Lone Cypress, the symbol of Pebble Beach.? The Lodge at Pebble Beach and the Inn at Spanish Bay are home to famous golf courses and luxury accommodation.? Even if you don't stay at the Lodge, the Stillwater Bar and Grill is a good lunch spot. The food is very good and you have beautiful views of the 18th green and Carmel Bay.? Of course, serious golfers would not consider their Monterey vacation complete without playing the Links at Pebble Beach.? With a round costing $495, playing Pebble is not for those who pick up clubs once a year. However, if your score is on the north side of 100, remember that your cost per stroke is much less.


Carmel-by-the-Sea is the official name of the community most folks just call Carmel and is best known for its many shops and galleries.? After the 1906 earthquake in San Francisco many of the city's artists flocked to Carmel. Soon Carmel became known as an artist's community.? However, like many places, after the artists discovered the town, the price of real estate in Carmel skyrocketed and the artists were eventually priced out.? Nevertheless, Carmel is home to many interesting galleries and shops.? One can easily spend a full day walking in and out of all of the stores.? Being a photography fan, my favorite galleries are Photography West and the Weston Gallery.

Carmel is home to San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo Mission.? Better known as Carmel Mission, this church is one of the prettiest of the 21 missions built by the Spanish in what is today the state of California.? The mission was founded in 1771 by Father Junipero Serra who is buried here.? Self-guided tours are available daily; although, admission to the Basilica may be restricted on Sundays during services.

If you want to lay out on the beach, Carmel has a big, white sandy beach that stretches from the mouth of the Carmel River to the end of Ocean Avenue, near the center of town.? However, be warned that even if the weather is warm, which isn't all that frequent, the water is always cold.? If you go in for a dip, be sure to count your toes when you return to the beach!

Carmel Valley

Inland from the town of Carmel is Carmel Valley.? The cool sea breezes often don't reach Carmel Valley so it is frequently much warmer here.? Many visitors come to stay at resorts, such as Bernardus Lodge and Carmel Valley Ranch, and play golf.? Monterey County is a large wine producer and Carmel Valley is home to many tasting rooms.? The experience here is very different than tasting in Napa and Sonoma Counties.? Most of the vineyards and wineries are not very accessible to tourists. Therefore, many wineries have opened tasting rooms in Carmel Valley's numerous malls. It's easy to drive and, in some cases, walk from tasting room to tasting room.

Carmel Highlands

About 10 minutes south of the town of Carmel is Carmel Highlands.? There's not much to see here but Carmel Highlands is home to two hotels that provide spectacular views of the Pacific:? the Hyatt Carmel Highlands (Highlands Inn) and the Tickle Pink Inn.? The Hyatt is the bigger of the two properties and has a restaurant, Water's Edge, where you can dine overlooking the ocean.? If you stay at the Tickle Pink Inn, you can easily walk to Water's Edge for dinner.

On the way to Carmel Highlands, be sure to stop at Point Lobos State Reserve.? Walk along the bluffs overlooking the ocean.? When the sea is rough, the crashing waves send spray high into the air, making for some beautiful photos.? If you are lucky, you might see some sea otters frolicking just off shore.

There is much more to see and do on the Monterey Peninsula.? For more complete information, visit the Monterey County Convention and Visitors Bureau's website.? If you would like to take a day tour from San Francisco to visit Monterey, Pebble Beach, and Carmel, please contact Blue Heron Custom Tours and Travel at (866) 326-4237 (toll free) or

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See you on the road,

Rick Spear
Blue Heron Custom Tours and Travel
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San Francisco, CA 94112
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