Carmel, Monterey & Big Sur-Sunny Days-Part 2

This is part 2 and the final part of this trip, read part 1 here.

On our way back to Carmel from Big Sur we stopped at Point Lobos State Park. We only had an hour but I wanted to get the layout for sites, parking and hiking trails for when we came back the next morning at opening time. Point Lobos is very popular, parking is limited and if parking is full you cannot drive into the park. It is possible to park outside and walk in but not as convenient. We purchased a map and headed to Whaler’s Cove where I had always wanted to dive but never did as we always tried to get in on weekends. (Now you can reserve a weekend time slot for diving.) It was spectacular! We climbed up the steep stairway to the cove cliff and walked around then headed back to drive the park roads and determine our planned starting point for the next morning. We also parked near Sea Lion Point Trail and walked the beautiful Sand Hill Trail to see many sea lions.  The Point Lobos Foundation is a wonderful resource for learning about Point Lobos.

Whalers Cove
Looking to the cove south of Whalers Cove
Looking out at the ocean on top of Whalers Cove Cliff Trail
View from Sea Lion Point Trail

As a side note, I have the California State Parks Poppy Pass which for a yearly fee allows free daily use at most California State Parks including the parks around Lake Tahoe and Donner Lake. This pass excludes some of the Southern California Parks. They also offer the California State Explorer Pass which covers all California State Parks. This allowed us to not worry about paying for just going into the park for an hour. These passes help support the parks and solve the problem of not having exact cash. I love having the pass because it encourages to get out all year. If you are over 62, you can get a reduced rate  senior pass but it excludes park entries from Memorial Day to Labor Day so for us this excludes all our summer fun.

We stopped at Monastery Beach along Highway 1. This large, expansive beach is beautiful but can be treacherous due to the strong undertow and deceivingly steep water entry and exit. On a calm day it is fine but once the waves start, keep your distance from the water. This is also a popular SCUBA diving location for experienced divers because just off the northern end is the area known as the ‘trench‘. This deep canyon brings many fish and marine fauna closer to shore than possible for almost any shore dive. Bob, my husband, and I dove this area many times, many years ago. It was not any safer then than it is now but on a good, clear water day it was exquisite. At that time, diving was my husbands life and we both got the chance to see many beautiful places on dive trips. Now, just walking along the beach is a lovely experience.

Looking south, Point Lobos is the next hill with the trees
Looking north, the wash rocks at the end of the curve is near the trench

As you can see by these pictures, the surf was calm at this beautiful beach when Rachel and I visited.

Dinner was at The Forge in the Forest in Carmel By The Sea.  The menu is extensive.  We had had a outstanding lunch in Big Sur, so we choose to split an order of Steamers (clams and mussels) and a pizza.  I think it was the best pizza I’ve ever had!

Back to Point Lobos

We arrived early the next morning at Point Lobos State Reserve and drove to the Hidden Beach parking and picnic area. We had breakfast and then followed the Bird Island Trail to China Cove and Pelican Point. Beautiful views and coves.

China Cove with beach just peaking out. This beautiful jade color was only seen as the sun was shining over the cove in the morning. A good reason to get up early!
Looking out China Cove to the Pacific Ocean

The Pelican Point Trail goes uphill around China Cove and because it had rained just a few days before the Ceanothus or California Lilac bush was in full bloom.

We lucked out as Harbor Seals were just coming into China Cove beach for birthing in March

Gibson Beach can be reached by steps down from the top of Pelican Point Trail. It may be closed if animals are on the beach.

We took binoculars and saw lots of birds, sea lions, harbor seals and otters on our walk.

Arched rock and beautiful wash rocks as we continued to walk the Pelican Point Trail
View from Pelican Point

We then doubled back and walked the South Plateau Trail across the peninsula towards Whalers Cove. This densely brushed area is filled with trees and native plants.

South Plateau Trail scenery

Back at the cove we visited the Whalers Cove Cabin and Whaling Station Museum. A small place but filled with historical treasures covering many years and different uses of Whalers Cove prior to the park being created. Incredibly, this whole area was saved from being a housing development after its many different uses. Plan to spend some time here and talk to the docents. The ones we spoke with were so interested in sharing the history and answering questions that it really was an amazing part of the day.

Another view of beautiful Whalers Cove, the clear & calm water made me want to dive again!

Inside the Whalers Cabin is information about different eras and businesses that took place at Whalers Cove. The top picture is a bench and pounding table for preparing abalone. The bottom picture is jewelry and personal items made from polished abalone shells.

We took the Mound Meadow Trail back towards the coast and walked along Weston Beach and Hidden Beach before ending our visit to Point Lobos. 

The South Plateau Trail and Mound Meadow Trail cross the Point Lobos peninsula offering beautiful forest views and a chance to see some wildlife.

Walking along Weston Beach trail towards Hidden Beach

Hidden Beach

Point Lobos, another beach to explore.

We had a beautiful morning at Point Lobos and perfect weather.

Back in Carmel, The Tuck Box is a restaurant and tea chop inside one of the storybook cottages. It was started as a tea room in the early 1940’s. My husband had visited here as a child with his Mom and I had also visited as a child, so it was a real treat to have a late lunch here. Rachel and I enjoyed tea and a wonderful lunch.

Beautiful tables and an outdoor courtyard at the Tuck Box

We went back to the hotel to regroup and then headed back to Pacific Grove, near Lovers Point, to take the 17 Mile Drive from north to south so that we were on the ocean side of the road for all the stops. The wind was up but it was still beautiful to stop and see all the points of interest. Here are just a few pictures.

Our first stop was a large beach with waves and surfers trying to catch the waves
Then we saw this tree, ‘is that The Lone Cypress’? No, but it is all alone
Bird Rock
Another beautiful beach with houses along the cliffs
The real Lone Cypress at stop number 12

Lone Cypress

The sun was casting a beautiful light on the cliff holding the cypress.

Ghost Trees

As the sun was setting, the silhouettes of these sun-bleached cypress trees were just beautiful.

Recommend doing this with a little more time and making plans to have a snack or cocktails at Spanish Bay where you can see a person playing the bagpipes at sunset. Also, you can visit the Pebble Beach Visitors Center and learn the history of Pebble Beach.

Dinner was at Village Corner Bistro, another great Carmel restaurant.  We were pleasantly surprised at the wonderful selection of restaurants and the great quality of each establishment.  When we asked around, we were told that restaurants have a lot of competition and ones that just look at tourists as one-time customers just don’t make it. They restaurants pride themselves on great food, service and ambiance.  We would have loved to try Bistro Giovanni too!

We also visited the Carmel Mission Basilica which is still a working church, school and historical mission. This historical site has the St. Junipero Serra and the Mission Basilica Shrine and The Caravaca Cross.

Beautiful gardens
Junipero Serra statue in the garden

Basilica from garden entrance and side entrance near the school quad.

Beautiful cactus and succulent garden along the school quad.

Too soon, it was time to go. Our four perfect days of sunshine was done, we woke up to a chilly fog which is not unusual for the Monterey and Carmel area. The town was very quiet during our visit, not sure if this is normal winter crowds or others were already avoiding travel. We were granted a late check out so we took another walk around Carmel admiring all the flowers and looked at a few shops. Then we were on our way back via Moss Beach to see Elkhorn Slough which is a wonderful kayaking estuary near Moss Beach. We love to kayak as does Rachel and her husband. When kayaking, Elkhorn Slough it is a birders paradise and you often see seals and otters. Unfortunately, from a car you don’t see much!

We stopped in at Phil’s Fish House for lunch and then drove back to Hayward. We spent the night, visited with my granddaughters and visited some dear friends of Rachel. We headed back to Truckee the next morning. All in all, a relaxing and beautiful trip with a great friend.

Rachel and Vicki

This is part 2 and the final part of this trip, read part 1 here.

Until the next time – be adventurous and enjoy this short life! Vicki
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Carmel, Monterey & Big Sur-Sunny Days-Part 1

Before our world was turned upside down by the COVID-19 Pandemic a friend, Rachel, and I took off for a few days road trip to Monterey, Carmel, Big Sur and Moss Landing, California. Our husband’s decided to go skiing at Mammoth Mountain so we decided on a road trip. We didn’t have any idea that this would be our last trip for a while and that upon our return home we would be ‘self-isolating’ (the new term, along with ‘social distancing’) Always looking for the good, I have lots of time to update this blog which has suffered from neglect for quite a while. Not that we haven’t been traveling! I just have not sat still long enough to put my thoughts and pictures together. Now this unthinkable pandemic has us all wondering what the future will bring so maybe some ‘arm chair’ vacations will give you an escape during this strange time we find ourselves in. We wish you health and safety. Rachel and I drove from Truckee at the end of a snow storm, it took us two hours to get over Donner Summit. Normally, this would be about a half hour. This was the first good storm since January. My clean car was a mess and as we drove into the cute Carmel hotel to check in, they must have wondered where we were from on this beautiful sunny afternoon! We stayed at the Candlelight Inn which was perfectly located to walk everywhere in Carmel. As soon as we checked in we called for dinner reservations at Cafe Napoli for dinner. Just a short walk away. Wonderful food, staff and Sinatra music played in the background so that you could still talk. A perfect way to end the day!
Cafe Napoli decor
Cafe Napoli music was ‘Rat Pack’ era
It had been years since I had been to Carmel. Rachel and I decided to take a guided walking tour the next morning. Gael Gallaghers, Carmel Walking Tours. We highly recommend taking a tour with Gael. She does many different types of tours in the Monterey/Carmel/Big Sur area. She is knowledgeable, fun and kept everyone’s interest. She encouraged us to follow paths and get lost in the many small alleys and gardens off Ocean Street. We started our tour in one of the many almost hidden courtyards of Carmel and we walked through many more beautiful shops, galleries and gardens.

A sampling of courtyards just steps off the main streets.

Just up from Ocean Avenue, The Forever Couple by George Ludeen. Gael telling the story.

Above, exquisite sculptures by Richard MacDonald.

Gael with the visor and sun glasses, one of our stops was in Cafe Napoli
Carmel Courthouse, where you can get a permit for wearing high heels among other city tasks. Beautiful railing.
Church of the Wayfarer A bear sits outside of the church. The story is that many years ago a little boy forgot his bear. A bear is outside waiting for the boys return.
Beautiful stained glass windows inside the church
Small church but has wonderful wooden accents and pews
Church garden and patio
Across the street from the church is the Cypress Hotel commonly referred to as the ‘Doris Day Hotel’. A lovely, pet friendly hotel.
The Cypress Inn Hotel, previously co-owned by Dorris Day
Dorris Day photo
Large Dorris Day movie poster as you enter the hotel
We had planned to get back here for cocktail hour but just ran out of time. Another highlight of the walking tour was visiting the Restaurant Casanova. One of the original adobe houses converted into a restaurant. It is one of the longest running restaurants in Carmel and highly rated.
Casonova from the front
Part of the patio dining area
A special treat was being able to see the private Van Gogh table and dining room which can be reserved. The table is said to have belonged to the painter Van Gogh. We walked in and out of alleys and gardens and saw many more beautiful sights.
Vibrant window displays

Hogs Breath in Patio Seating with a large mural painted on the wall

Carmel by the Sea park, just off Ocean Avenue

Gallery and store for Thomas Kinkade paintings was found by following another alley. Disney painting of Minnie & Mickey was on display. As well as others. A very peaceful setting to see the art.

The last stop on the walking tour was getting glimpses of some of the storybook cottages that are famous in Carmel By the Sea. Now, most are private homes so they are fairly hidden behind fences and plants.
A beautiful cottage that is easily seen
One of the original cottages, very well hidden
Storybook Cottage Stacked stone walls and entry area on a cottage. These cottages are protected and can be repaired but not significantly changed or enlarged.
h We arrived so late on Sunday that we didn’t get to spend the afternoon in Monterey as planned. We spent Monday afternoon in Monterey exploring the Wharf, Cannery Row and the beautiful walking area near Lovers Point in Pacific Grove. This was old home area for me. Over 40 years ago, my husband and I had spent every weekend for 2 years, except Easter and Christmas holidays, taking SCUBA diving classes out at all the local dive spots here. I told Rachel about what was the same and how so much had changed along Cannery Row and about the wonderful dive spots.
A section of the Monterey Wharf for taking a whale watching boat
Private boats along the wharf
Pleasure craft with access from the Wharf
This beautiful, warm weather brought out the paddle boarders and kayakers
Sea Wolf, one of the Whale Watching boats
Cute houseboat, wouldn’t that be a nice place to hide away?
We walked to Cannery Row by way of the Monterey State Historic Park. Another place we need to go back and explore when it is open. The buildings and gardens were beautiful!
Monterey State Historic Park
Beautiful spring flowers at the garden
Garden near some of the park buildings
Fish Hopper is built on a pier over Monterey Bay
Cannery Row Monument Author John Steinbeck anchors the monument at the top of the rock with friend and marine biologist Ed Ricketts towards the bottom. Several other characters represent those who once worked in the bustling canning industry on the row including Chinese fishermen
We did not go to the Monterey Bay Aquarium this time but if you are going to Monterey, I highly recommend visiting this wonderful Aquarium. You can even have a virtual tour by visiting their website. The next morning we headed out early to drive the Big Sur Coast and stop wherever we wanted! This area is similar to views from Jenner, CA to Mendocino except the mountains are higher, the population density is much less and it seems so wild. It really would be the perfect romantic get-a-way for couples staying at any of inns or high end resorts or for hikers that want to tackle the highs and lows to reach the peaks and the beaches.
The iconic Bixby Bridge
Rachel, my travel buddy, look far below the Bixby Bridge to see a beautiful beach!
Lots of state and national park land for hiking. The Big Sur Visitor Guide may help you plan your stay. I think we stopped at every sign of civilization, each pull out along the highway and went into both Pfeiffer State Park and Andrew Molera State Park. February and March are the slow season, so visitor centers and museums were not open on a Tuesday. We loved the views, river walks and just being in such extraordinary scenery!
Big Sur River Inn The Big Sur River Inn and General Store was a great spot! The guests have a pool and a beautiful spot to relax by the river.
River beach area at Big Sur Little River Inn
A big highlight of the day was lunch at Nepenthe Restaurant! We scored a ridge overlook table and it was a beautiful sunny day. During lunch we watched many groups of whales out at sea. Nepenthe Restaurant was recommended to both of us.
Garden path with steps from the parking lot to the Nepenthe Restaurant
Nepenthe Restaurant has been in business for over 70 years. The staff was very friendly and the food did not disappoint. What a treat! The building is beautiful and its history is told on the website. They have a very unique gift shop called Phoenix and another restaurant, Cafe Kevah which is an outdoor terrace.
Redwood Phoenix At the top of the steps you are greeted at the terrace by a large, beautifully carved redwood Phoenix.
The view from our lunch. During lunch we saw many birds and whale spouts!
Cafe Kevah below Nepenthe Directly below the rail where we had lunch, we could peek at the Cafe Kevah Terrace restaurant
Inside Nepenthe From their website, “Working with Rowan Maiden, a student of Frank Lloyd Wright, they sketched out their vision. Legendary Big Sur builders, Frank and Walter Trotter built the structure using native materials; redwood, hewn from the canyons and adobe bricks…”
The timber frame building is a just beautiful and so unique
The Phoenix Gift Shop has a delightful collection of gifts, books and artistic pieces
Wherever you stop, the views are breathtaking!
On our way back, we even drove up to Ventana Big Sur, a resort, just to see the place we had heard about for years. We had planned to go the Henry Miller Library but it was closed. So we have a few places to check out when we talk our husbands into going to to Big Sur. This will be a two part post. Next post will cover our time at Monastery Beach, Point Lobos, the 17 Mile Drive and the Tuck Box in Carmel.
Until the next time – be adventurous and enjoy this short life! Vicki Start Hyw 89 series | Start Peru series | Start Galapagos series | Start Remodel series | Please add your email to ‘Follow this Blog‘ for updates. We never share your email. Interested in a vacation in Hawaii? Check out the units at