Along the 17 mile drive there are numerous turn outs, the parking for many of which are quite busy, but I would reckon that the busiest is the Lone Cyprus. Until a few years ago, it was possible to walk out to the tree itself, but erosion and defacement of the tree resulted in a fencing off of the rocky area where the tree stands. Nevertheless, several spots along the fencing provide excellent portraits of tree and tourist, and so on a busy day tourists will elbow each other as they search for the uncluttered look of solitude along the coast in their camera viewfinder. Incidentally, what make the crooked cyprus trees so valuable in terms of scenic beauty can be summed in a combination of age, soil and weather conditions. Like the redwood, the cyprus tree has no life span and can live more or less indefinitely, so many of the trees seen here are quite old and distinctive in shape. The rocky soil and strong coastal winds contribute to a landscape of trees which must fight to survive.
Unique Suggestions: Be considerate of others and be efficient in your photography. Generally the manners of tourists are quite good, but those who linger at the famous spot will attract the anger of others. It's a famous tree that is no longer lonely, except maybe at night.
Fun Alternatives: Well, there's no substitute for this tree and your friend in a photo, anymore than the Eiffel tower or Golden Gate Bridge images can be avoided, but there are numerous other places to go along the 17 mile drive that are less crowded.
Pebble Beach is an exclusive private community, which means that you are required to pay an entrance fee of $9 USD (as of April 2007) to enter and take the 17 mile drive, or even to just visit Pebble Beach Golf Links. There are a couple of ways to avoid this however.
#1 - You could walk from Carmel Beach into the community, therefore avoiding the toll gate. This would of course leave you without transportation for the 17 mile drive.
#2 - You could spend $25 USD at any of the community's restaurants or golf courses and be refunded your fee. Pebble Beach alone is $500 USD a round, so you are safe to refund that $9 USD without thinking you will put them out of business.
Fun Alternatives: If you are looking for an alternative to the 17 mile drive, I would recommend the coast line in Monterey, the beach in Carmel (by the sea), and if you are looking for the wildlife aspect, I would recommend Point Lobos State Reserve, which will cost you the same amount of money, but you can get much more up close and personal with the animals.
Some people will advise you from coming here to play golf... Huh?
Pebble Beach has one of the best golf courses in the entire universe. Most likely if somebody ever advises you not to come golfing in Pebble Beach... it's because playing golf here can make you go broke. :-) But hey, we only live once. Go for it, man!
The famous 17 Mile Drive is one huge tourist trap. This is a private road so you need pay money in order to drive along the pacific coast and see the exact same things you can see for free only several miles away. The only difference being, you'll have to struggle with bus loads of tourists at any point.
The nine dollar 17-Mile Drive (really only 9 miles along the water) is a huge tourist destination. On busy days in the summer traffic is backed up almost as bad as rush hour on the George Washington Bridge, but luckily only one lane in each direction. Popular photo spots such as the Lone Cypress and Bird Rock are often packed full of cars with people taking pictures of people taking pictures of things that have had their pictures taken millions of times. Even though you can walk, run, or bike 17 Mile Drive, you don't want to do either in the area around the Lodge at Pebble Beach because it has no berm or bike lane, and traffic will push you off into the bushes.
Unique Suggestions: I really think 17Mile Drive is very, very overrated for the price. Sure it has some beautiful scenery, but so do Ocean View Drive in Asilomar Beach, Scenic Drive in Carmel, and Highway 1 in Big Sur. Like to walk? You can walk into Pebble Beach from Asilomar Beach to the north for free, and see all of the same sights. You can also walk in from the south along Carmel Beach. Perhaps the only thing that would be difficult to see by walking is the Lone Cypress (which is supported by steel cables and rock walls). Even better...take a walk in Point Lobos for some far better scenery. The worst thing about 17-Mile Drive? Over at least half the drive, houses block the view of the Ocean, so you might as well be driving through the woods for your $9.
Fun Alternatives: Park outside any of the gates and walk in or drive some of the other coastal routes!
While the Lone Cypress has existed on this rocky perch for over 250 years, if it were not for a corporation hijacking this image as their logo, no one would ever think of stopping at this parking lot.
I have heard the Lone Cypress is copyrighted as in no photographs for any professional/money making purpose. If that were the case, all images would have to be removed from Virtual Tourist and other similar websites as these photos are used by VT to make money from advertising revenue. Though the previous owners may have tried to enforce a copyright on photographs of the tree, the current owners seem to understand that copyright only protects their lone cypress graphic that is part of the Pebble Beach Trademark.
You will be charged $8.75 to enter the area, unless you are a resident.
Unique Suggestions: Enjoy yourself. :-D
Fun Alternatives: There is none if you want to take the 17-mile Drive.