In a pure moment of weakness, here it goes. My secret will now be out in the world for a ridiculously affordable weekend in one of the most beautiful places.
Highway 1, Monterey, Carmel - they all conjure images of crystal blue water, striking ocean cliffs, cream colored sand and delicious seafood. When I hear or see those things, dollar signs immediately start flashing across my eyelids. It all sounds so wonderful, but is there really a way to stay and play near the ocean on a budget?
The answer is a resounding YES. As long as your budget affords you a mid-priced hotel room. We are in California here, people.
Where to Stay
Avoid the crowded streets and high budget hotels in Monterey and Carmel and head to Pacific Grove, a small town nestled between the two more famous towns. Tucked along the ocean off Sunset Drive, you will find the Asilomar State Beach and Conference Grounds. Asilomar means "refuge by the sea" and this 107 acre oasis is just that.
|The Visitor's Lodge by Julia Morgan|
|Boardwalk through the sand dunes|
The sunsets from the boardwalk are incredible and remind me of my evenings in Santorini.
|Sunset from the Asilomar|
How to Spend Your Time on a Dime
Speaking of ocean walks and bike rides - here is a not-so-secret, secret. The famously breathtaking 17-mile drive is free for cyclists and walkers/runners. Motorists pay $10 a car to enter one of the most scenic drives in the country, but on foot or wheels, you can cruise on in for free.
|The 17 Mile Drive at Mile 6|
From the Asilomar, the Pacific Grove Gate entrance to the 17-mile drive is a short uphill walk on Sunset Drive. For walkers and runners, the path is a dream. A gravel pathway straddles the road for the first five miles keeping you off the road and saving your knees from the pavement. Bikers have a true bike lane for almost the first five miles and after that you share the winding, narrow road.
|Ocean view from the walking path on the 17-mile drive|
When you go
- Be prepared for all climates. The ocean fog can roll in thick in this area so night and morning temperatures can be chilly
- Go to bed early. The free breakfast only goes from 7:30-9:00 a.m!
- Bikes can be rented at the Asilomar Store if you don't bring your own
- There is one main restaurant in walking distance to the Asilomar. Fishwife is a small, family joint with great chowder and what looked like killer calamari
My weekend at the Asilomar was so uncrowded, peaceful and refreshing that I'd wish it on anyone. How about we keep this between us though?