In the Fisherman's Wharf area there are two piers. Adjacent to Wharf 2 is a municipal beach. While we walked wharf 2 we had great views in the water of many Nettle Jellyfish. They do sting so if you are swimming in Monterey Bay, especially at the Wharf Municipal Beach, be aware of their presence!
Maybe this shouldn't go in the "warnings and dangers" section, as they don't seem to cause problems...but Monterey has a significant homeless population. They seem to mainly congregate at El Estero Park and along the coastal running trail from the Commercial Wharf east to Seaside.
Mostly they just hang out, and they seem to be relatively happy and social. Never panhandling, in fact they occasionally talk to passersby (and even cheer me on while I run on the trail!). I have also occasionally stumbled upon their sleeping areas at night or accidentally threw my recycling on them in the recycling bin as they were searching for bottles and cans to return for deposit. Sometimes on the trail through Cannery Row they will be enjoying a beer (who doesn't like beer?) and other times smoking a little pot.
Interfaith Homeless Emergency Lodging Program (I-HELP) is the most visible homeless assistance program in the area, as their little shuttle bus picks up groups of homeless near the Naval Postgraduate School each evening to provide dinner and lodging at one of the local churches. The program is sponsored by 60 religious organizations in the area.
Monterey's weather is generally mild, with calm winds, and a mix of sun and fog. Occasionally this all changes and the area is hit with some fierce storms comparable to those that hit other parts of the country.
January 2008 was a period of two major storms in Monterey. Each of these events dropped several inches of rain over a few days, brought 50 mile per hour winds, created huge 30-foot waves, and resulted in much beach erosion, downed trees, toppled fences, and widespread power outages.
While snow is rarely if ever seen in Monterey, occasionally you can see snow from Monterey. In January 2008 a cold snap dropped enough snow on nearby Mount Toro for its white blanket to be easily seen from downtown Monterey. Surprisingly, the snow lasted 3 or 4 days. This storm also dropped several inches of snow in the higher reaches of Carmel Valley less than 10 miles from Monterey. Higher elevations of the Santa Lucia Mountains and Gabilan Mountains nearby also get snow.
There are more wild animals than you would expect in the Monterey area. The obvious ones are the sea lions and otters in the Bay, which have their dangers if you decide to jump in and wrestle with them. Other animals you might see include the raccoons all over downtown and the deer in Pacific Grove. Raccoons could carry diseases such as rabies and the deer might put a little dent in the hood of your car.
My last visit to Fishermans Wharf I stopped to watch a couple of coons eating something someone had dumped on the ground and left. It looked like it was either spaghetti or brains, probably spaghetti. Soon three more sneaked up from behind and I was surrounded. I soon left and about 10 minutes later I had three of them charge at me up a dark street. I think two were chasing the third, and they didn't see me as I was stopped. They were snarling and growling like a pack of wild dogs.
At Point Pinos, we also saw a sign announcing that mountain lions had been spotted in the area. Their advice: don't run, don't stand still, don't yell, don't be quiet, don't approach, don't retreat, don't hike alone, don't hike with children...basically the only thing they can offer is fight a mountain lion if you see it. Woo hoo! Just like Davie Crockett.
Monterey has wonderful walking paths and is the kind of city where you can just park your car for days and never need it.
That being said, the weather is weird. Cloud-covered areas make the air chilly and you'll probably want a sweater. But walk a few blocks and you'll find sunny spots that make you feel like you could be in a tank and shorts.
Be prepared for the unpredictability of the temperature in Monterey. Layer with light and heavier clothes and I like to carry a purse or bag big enough to shove a small sweatshirt into.
If you visit Monterey with a car, be wary of other drivers. No offense intended for California drivers...but what are they thinking?! We saw plenty of people run red lights and nearly run over pedestrians. We even saw one car going reverse, the wrong way, down a one-way street.
Stop signs were a surprise for east-coast drivers as well. Stop signs are not marked with "2-way" or "4-way" and very few are 4-way stops. So keep your eyes open when you stop as the traffic to your right and left may not.
Monterey is not large. Walk! The wharfs, the beaches around them, downtown and many historical sights are easy to walk to and the city even provides a wonderful running/walking track through a good deal of the area. Take advantage of the nice weather and enjoy a little stroll.
You will see many signs along the beaches in the Monterey and highway 1 area warning you not to walk too close to the water's edge. This coast is known to have huge, and completely unexpected waves that will rush in, larger than any of the waves around it. As you look out across the ocean, the waves you see may not be large, and will be all of the same size, but suddenly one huge wave rolls in. These unexpected waves have dragged people off the beach and to their death.
If you are planning to drive from Monterey to the Hearst Castle in San Simeon, I wouldn't recommend using California Highway 1. Although there's a lot of beautiful coastline and ocean scenery, driving for 100 miles on this road can become frustrating and boring. Furthermore, this road is windy and narrow, so you cannot drive very fast. If you are impatient, use U.S. Highway 101. We used Highway 101, and it was a pretty fast and easy drive.
Don't go out and stand on the rocks where the waves are breaking. It seems every year there's a few foolish people who die because they did not respect the power of the sea. Heed any warning signs at the beaches - they're put there for good reason.
I guess when you're driving for such a long time on the road, it's best if there are at least 2 drivers in your party.
As only Alex could drive, and I couldn't, he had to drive the entire way from San Francisco to San Simeon where we finally landed up in late at night. It was almost 10 when we arrived, so just imagine the stress he felt!
Also, as the coastal highway from north to south is on the outer lane of the highway, that is, the car is next to the ocean, you have to drive very carefully to ensure that you don't drive off the bend. Some parts of the highway does not have any form of barricade to prevent a car from veering off the side!
Also, make sure that you plan your time wisely -- to get used to the car, for making wrong turns and getting lost, for sightseeing and photo opportunities, for eating and resting breaks too.
It's best to set off early in the morning, and drive leisurely. ;p
The ocean is cold about 51 degrees Fahrenheit and there are beaches such as Monestary Beach which have taken quite a few lives because people did not read the warning signs.
The waters of the bay are the extension of the Pacific Ocean, which is very deep just of the coast of Monterey.
This was a family trip for us to celebrate my mom's birthday. We were really looking forward to our...more
We love to stay with InterContinental properties. The Clement is another upscale new hotel from the...more
This is a large, modern hotel and conference centre in the heart of downtown Monterey right next to...more