Located on the rugged Central Coast of California, Pacific Grove offers visitors a peaceful weekend retreat. This quiet town is well known for its long stretch of undeveloped coastline that provides lovely views of the Pacific Ocean. The historic downtown is full of Victorian-era buildings that house small boutiques and restaurants.
Flanked by the popular and pricier destinations of Monterey and Pebble Beach, Pacific Grove also offers a more reasonably priced weekend getaway. For a really relaxing time, simply explore the town. Or visit nearby attractions like the Monterey Bay Aquarium and 17-Mile Drive. Pacific Grove is an ideal base from which to explore the entire peninsula.
Things To Do In Pacific Grove
The Pacific Ocean is definitely the top attraction in town, so our first five suggestions focus on what to do along this protected stretch of rugged coastline. Then head inland to explore downtown and spend some time shopping and dining.
Walk Along The Beach
Head to Asilomar State Beach and its mile-long Coastal Trail for a leisurely walk. The path winds its way through grasses, shrubs, and wildflowers. Keep your eyes open for the plentiful deer that feed on the plant life and the seals and sea lions that rest on the rocks in the water. Extend your walk by exploring the quarter-mile boardwalk through the Asilomar Dunes Natural Preserve, a 25-acre restored sand dune ecosystem. Dogs are permitted in this area as long as they are leashed.
Another scenic walk to consider is the Monterey Bay Coastal Recreation Trail. The complete trail is 18 miles long and follows the former Southern Pacific Railway. Separate paths are offered for cyclists and walkers. If you’re looking for something short and scenic, start at the aquarium and end at Lovers Point in Pacific Grove.
Picnic At Lovers Point
It would be hard to find a better picnic spot than Lovers Point, so plan to end your short walk here and enjoy an al fresco breakfast, lunch, or dinner. According to local legend, the original name of this spot was Lovers of Jesus Point, when Pacific Grove was a Methodist retreat camp. Today, it’s a popular spot for surfers, kayakers, and divers. Because of its unique east-facing location, it is one of the only spots on the West Coast where you can watch the sun rise over the water.
Located at the end of 17th Street, Lovers Point offers a park, beach, and volleyball court. If you didn’t pack a picnic, don’t worry. There’s also a restaurant and snack bar.
Learn About The Lighthouse
Pacific Grove is home to the oldest continuously operated lighthouse on the West Coast. The Point Pinos Lighthouse has been in operation since 1885 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Today, visitors are allowed inside to learn about the history and operation of this historic site with volunteer docents. The furnishings reflect life during the time of Emily Fish, a keeper of the lighthouse from 1893 to 1914.
The hours of operation are very limited, but the lighthouse is worth visiting even if you can’t take a tour. Explore the grounds and appreciate the views of the ocean.
Drive Along The Ocean
The 17-Mile Drive through Pebble Beach is well known and very scenic, but a nice -- and free -- alternative is Ocean View Boulevard in Pacific Grove. Since parking is typically plentiful along the way, you can stop as often as you’d like. You may spot sunbathing seals and sea lions on the rocks, or even a sea otter bobbing in the water. Grab a takeout lunch and enjoy a picnic along the way.
Explore The Tide Pools
The coast of Pacific Grove is dotted with rocky outcroppings that hide abundant marine life in tide pools. Look closely, and you’ll see crabs, abalone, mussels, sea anemones, starfish, sand dollars, sea urchins, and more. If you’re traveling with the grandkids, this is a terrific hands-on science lesson. But tide pooling is also fun for adults. While at first there doesn’t appear to be much life, a closer examination proves the opposite is true.
Point Pinos is known as the Great Tide Pool and is one of the most populated tide pool habitats in the world. Asilomar Beach is another good option. Be sure to wear non-skid shoes while exploring, since the rocks can be slippery.
Hit The Links
If you’re traveling with a golfer, you simply can’t leave the Monterey Peninsula without hitting the links. Nearby Pebble Beach is home to some of the world’s greatest courses, but those can be very pricey and require reservations far in advance. For something more budget friendly -- but still with an ocean view -- head to Pacific Grove Golf Links. Designed by H. Chandler Egan and Jack Neville, the course is located on the tip of the peninsula, offering golfers views of the Point Pinos Lighthouse and the Pacific Ocean.
Stroll Through Downtown
After a day at the ocean, it’s time to head downtown to explore this historic area. Start with a self-guided architecture and history tour. You’ll learn how Pacific Grove began as a retreat destination for Methodists and then grew into a city with year-round residents. Along the way are 13 examples of the city’s Victorian, Gothic revival, and Romanesque structures.
If you’re in the mood for shopping, then spend more time downtown exploring the antique shops and boutiques. Start at the little red house where Miss Trawick’s Home and Garden Shop is located. Here you’ll find home and garden items as well as a nice selection of gifts. Nearby Bookworks sells a wide range of books for adults and children. Grab a book and sit down in the coffee shop with a warm beverage. If you’re looking for greeting cards and stationery, head to The Quill. You’ll be impressed with their large collection of cards and paper.
Best Restaurants In Pacific Grove
Pacific Grove may be small, but it has plenty of restaurants offering everything from comfort food to fine dining. If you’re a seafood lover, you’ll be especially pleased with the options.
Start your day right with a hearty breakfast at First Awakenings. You can choose from a large variety of egg dishes, omelets, pancakes, and crepes.
For more than two decades, Red House Cafe has been a favorite of both regular visitors and locals. Whether you’re here for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, you’ll enjoy a delicious meal. Don’t leave without trying their signature oatmeal, apricot, and pecan cookies!
Passionfish proudly serves sustainable and local seafood and is certified as green by the Monterey Bay Area Green Business Program. Even the wine list focuses on sustainable vintages. The menu does change according to availability, but regulars praise the scallops and halibut.
If you’re yearning for dinner with an ocean view, make a reservation at the Beach House at Lovers Point. This casual restaurant offers a nice selection of seafood entrees along with pasta, steak, and chicken. For an especially romantic evening, make your reservation for around sunset.
For a taste of the Mediterranean, try Jeninni Kitchen + Wine Bar. They offer a large variety of small plates if you want a lighter meal, or full entrees for something heartier. The extensive wine lists feature local wines as well as those from Italy, France, and Spain.
Best Hotels In Pacific Grove
While the surrounding cities offer large, full-service resorts, Pacific Grove specializes in smaller motels, hotels, and inns. Many are located within walking distance of the beach.
The Green Gables Inn is housed in a restored 1888 Victorian home with panoramic views of the ocean. Each of its 11 rooms is uniquely decorated. A full breakfast and afternoon wine and hors d'oeuvres are included. Bikes are available to borrow if you’re eager for a ride.
Nestled among pine trees, Andril Fireplace Cottages is located within walking distance of Asilomar State Beach. Every cottage comes with a kitchen and a private patio or deck. Breakfast is included, and pets are welcome.
The Martine Inn is housed in the former Parkes Mansion and was completely refurbished to accommodate modern travelers. The inn is decorated with antiques from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, including a pool table from 1890. Enjoy an ocean view from the parlors and some of the guest rooms. A full breakfast is included as well as evening wine and hors d’oeuvres.
While a weekend getaway can be spent entirely in Pacific Grove, it’s also possible to venture a bit farther. If you’re traveling with the grandkids, be sure to visit the world-famous Monterey Bay Aquarium. The town of Monterey is also known for its Cannery Row and Fisherman’s Wharf. Or head to Pebble Beach to check out 17-Mile Drive and the posh golf clubs along the way.
The weather is mild all year long in Pacific Grove, with temperatures rarely topping 70 degrees. It can, however, be damp and windy, so bring a warm jacket, even in the summer. Summer is certainly the peak season on the peninsula, so if you can come in winter, spring, or fall, you’ll be rewarded with fewer people. But no matter when you come, or what you choose to do, you’ll be rewarded with a tranquil and restful getaway.