By Car, Monterey
Parking in downtown Monterey can be a pain for newcomers, but once you get used to it, their system makes a lots if sense and is pretty easy. Some spots are 3 minutes, some are 24 minutes, some are an hour, some 90 minutes, and none I have seen are more than two hours. These time limits usually apply from 9am to 6pm everyday but Sunday, so you can get drunk Saturday night, take the taxi home, and come back to pick up your car Sunday afternoon. When the time limit expires, you are required to move your car at least 150 feet to a new spot...They actually have a high-tech way to enforce this called AutoVu Mobile Parking Enforcement System which tracks license plate numbers.
Spots downtown and around Cannery Row are metered and strictly enforced, but within walking distance of these areas I've had good luck finding no-fee spots on the street. The same time limits typically apply for metered and non-metered slots.
The on-street meters cost a quarter dollar for a quarter hour and accept change as small as a nickel (3 minutes), while the metered spaces in parking lots and garages usually cost just $0.50 per hour. A hidden secret for locals who park downtown often are the city's "Parkcards" for use in the electronic slots on the meters. These come in various denominations from $5 to $100 and give you a 10% discount on parking. It also saves you from carrying a ton of change. They are available at one location only: the city Parking Division Office in the West Custom House parking garage, 340 Tyler Street (831.646.3953) near Fisherman's Wharf.
There are two lots that are very close to the Warf and offer reasonable priced all day or short term parking. Waterfront Lot #1 is located between Washington Street and Fisherman’s Warf. This is the closest parking for the Warf. Waterfront Lot #2 is located between Washington Street and Figueroa Street, and is also excellent.
California State Highway 1 is known in southern California as the Pacific Coast Highway, in the central part of the state as the Cabrillo Highway, and in the north as Shoreline Highway. It traverses some of the most beautiful parts of California's Pacific Coast including Monterey Bay. From the north, Highway 1 hugs the coast around Monterey Bay hitting Santa Cruz, Marina, and the edge of Monterey, before cutting off the Monterey Peninsula for a few miles (skipping Pacific Grove, Pebble Beach, and much of Carmel) to , then it's back along the ocean. In Monterey and Carmel, there are plenty of exits to allow you to get in and out of town. Your Primary Monterey exits are Del Monte Ave and Fremont Ave for downtown, Hwy 68 towards Salinas for the airport, Munras for the mall, and Hwy 68 west for Pacific Grove.
Driving north you can take Hwy 1 to San Francisco and beyond, along the way passing through beautiful towns like Santa Cruz, Half Moon Bay, and Pacifica and great parks such as Natural Bridges State Beach, Año Nuevo State Park, and Pigeon Point Lighthouse State Historic Park.
South of Monterey is Carmel, Carmel River State Beach, Point Lobos State Park, and Big Sur country with its plethora of beaches, parks, and the famous & historic Bixby Bridge.
If you're heading to Cannery Row or Fisherman's Wharf, you'll find more than enough expensive parking. But here is a tip to saving some cash in Monterey - there is always free parking! Here are some good spots to look...
Downtown Monterey/Fisherman's Wharf: the streets around Jack's Park have 2 hour street parking. The streets behind the Monterey Institute for International Studies have 2 hour parking and a block behind that is free no-limit residential parking (no permit needed there).
Cannery Row: Go up the hill in New Monterey a block or two up from Lighthouse Ave., the first block has 2 hour parking and the blocks beyond that are no-limit.
Some warnings: Be careful in the neighborhood between NPS and El Estero park, you need a resident permit to park for more than a couple hours. For all street parking, make sure you are on the correct side of the street and the appropriate distance from intersections, police patrol parking violations like these more during the summer tourist months.
The City of Monterey website has maps of paid as well as open free/timed parking areas.
There are parking meters all around town. (And a few free spots along the streets.) The standard price is $1/hour. However, there are signs that tell you the max time you can park there (some as little as 12 minutes, for instance) and these are strictly enforced. It's also GOOD TO HAVE LOTS OF QUARTERS, but some lots, like Fisherman's wharf have a machine where you can use a credit card.
There are also a few PARKING GARAGES if you plan to explore the town for more than an hour or so. They're all priced a little bit differently; the website has maps and costs.
Drive a car or motorcycle! The various routes to this area can be beautiful and enjoyable, especially Highway 1 from north or south. If you're coming from the San Jose area, you might consider Hwy 17 to Hwy 1; or for something different, take Hwy 101 to Gilroy, then take Road 152 over Hecker Pass to Hwy 1. These aren't the fastest routes, but enjoying the scenery can be part of the fun.
Drive a car or motorcycle! Riding a bicycle is nice along the shoreline -- rent or bring one.
If you want to save on gas when you want to go to Monterey and you are living at the San Francisco Bay Area which is a 2 1/2 hour and 119 mile drive (including rest room breaks at gas stations), then get on a tourist bus in downtown but if you want to go around the Monterey Area at your own pace and pick the destinations and thing to do you want, then drive a car and park at monterey. it is hard to find vacant parking meters so you can park at the several pay parking areas around monterey area and cannery row. Be sure to have your Satellite Navigation Portable Consoles (GPS Maps like Garmin, Magellan or Tomtom) ready so as you don't get lost but a caution on the gps devices, they sometimes take long to calculate the directions especially tomtom hehehe.
I will do separate parking tips for the parking rates.
There are many Metered Parking Slots along Cannery Row and the absolute limit is just 2 hours and you have to be early as to find the cheap metered parking since it will fill up rapidly before 10:00 am. There are several Pay Parking options in monterey and parking near the Main Stores and Shopping Malls in Cannery Row like the Cannery Row Garage and the American Tin Cannery Garage are expensive at $ 2 per 1/2 hour increments. The best pay parking is located near the northern end of cannery row near Cannery Row Inn, at the junction of Cannery Row, Reeside Avenue and Foam Street where you can park for just $ 5 for an all day parking up to 6 pm and is just a short walk to the main stores in cannery row.
It opens at 8:00 am to 6:00 pm everyday
I thought I had seen it all in Monterey... failure to yield to pedestrians, driving the wrong way on one way streets, skateboarders going 30 mile per hour through stop signs around blind curves, DUIs, pedestrians forcing their way across busy street where no crosswalk existed. Yep that about covers it....
Until 22 March 2008 when a tour bus plowed through (literally!) a stop sign, glanced off a building, then demolished two iron bollards before ending up almost through the front door of the world famous Monterey Bay Aquarium. Amazingly no one was hurt on the bus, on the street, or in the aquarium, and the building had no structural damage. Damage to the aquarium looked pretty bad from the outside, made even more dramatic by the fact that the bus collided with the aquarium sign itself.
I guess I'd have to ask what is the point of the steel bollards if they can't stop a coasting bus? What if someone had done this intentionally?
If you fly in and are planning on renting a car from Monterey airport, consider an off airport location. You can save $30-50 per day compared to the airport location rates!
I got a compact rate of $23.99 at Hertz on Del Monte in Seaside (4 miles away) and they came and picked us up "off airport" at the corner of the airport entrance where there is a Comfort Inn (Olmsted Dr). (They pick up but cannot advertise they do as it's Nationals catchphrase) A two minute walk from the MRY airport terminal. A compact rate was $25.99/day.
Short walk, big savings!
Yellow Cab is the only good option for taxis in Monterey, but their service has been consistently good, with clean cars, and often friendly drivers.
Being that they run a virtual monopoly on the local cab business, and this is a rich and touristy town, expect to pay some higher fares. Our one mile trip from the bars downtown to my apartment is usually $7 or $8, while a three mile trip to the airport usually costs us $15.
A few years back he city of Monterey did a survey on Monterey taxis that showed some 54 percent of local residents used taxis, most to get to and from the airport. Some 89 percent of the respondents in the survey said taxi timeliness was acceptable, 82 percent rated taxi cleanliness as acceptable, and around 85 to 90 percent said the driver and dispatcher were courteous. That sounds like pretty good numbers to me!
Driving in Monterey can be an interesting experience. If the slightly confusing streets don't get you, the floods of tourists and senile old people certainly will. The streets of Monterey can be difficult to navigate as many of the streets were laid out back in the days when horses were the main form of transportation. Monterey's Old Town, though small, has a bunch of one-way streets, crazy five-way intersections, and curvy streets that violate the usual grid pattern.
Furthermore, Monterey is a tourist town, so certain weekends of the year the place is packed with out of towners who don't know their way around. This means thousands of people driving slow, making dangerous last-minute lane changes, and sometimes going the wrong way down one-way streets. This also means tons of pedestrians in areas like Cannery Row almost shutting down all traffic.
Finally, the Monterey Peninsula is a retirement community, meaning many old drivers. They often drive worse than tourists... I've even been rear-ended by a few since I arrived in town.
We got there by car. And that is the best way to do the 17 miles drive. Drive around and park at all the nice spots to walk around a bit.