The Monterey Peninsula Toy Box
The Monterey Peninsula Toy Box

Getting to Monterey

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Instructions, tips and trivial details to get you to the Monterey Peninsula from wherever you are now.

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"Every journey has a secret destination of which the traveler is unaware"
-Martin Barbe


You can get to the Monterey Peninsula by almost any mode of transportation known to man with the possible exception of flying saucer. People have come on blimps, navy ships, Oscar Meyer Weinermobiles and more. Mind you, not every type of transport is available to you, so you may be limited to the more ordinary things like those listed below.

This is a long page, so here are some shortcuts for getting you here
By Train

By Plane
By Car from the North
By Car from the South
By Boat

By Bus


 

By Train

Mr. Toy puts this first because it is his favorite way to travel. There's nothing more relaxing than a train ride, at least for those of us who value the journey as much as the destination.

Amtrak Coast Starlight at Dolan Road in Monterey County

Train #11, Amtrak's Southbound Coast Starlight, seen at Dolan Road in northern Monterey County.

Amtrak's Coast Starlight, one of the most prestigious trains in Amtrak's system, can bring you here from Los Angeles, Seattle, or any of 26 other cities and towns along its route. You can also connect to the Starlight from several other trains and busses. The Starlight stops 20 miles from Monterey in downtown Salinas.

Southbound train #11 comes to Salinas daily around midday, while #14, the northbound train, arrives in the evening. Schedules vary somewhat depending on the season. Actual timekeeping is at the mercy of the Union Pacific Railroad which does better on some days than others (this is not Amtrak's fault). Delays may be caused by freight traffic or track work. Relax and go with it. You'll be fine as long as you don't schedule any important activities on the day of your arrival. Regular rail travelers consider delays to be extra time on board for free. Train timekeeping status for the last five days can be monitored at Amtrak.com. You can also get today's train status by calling 1-800-USA-RAIL.

Amtrak provides a short bus ride from Salinas to five points in Monterey and one in Carmel. These stops are all within an easy walk of lodgings. Or you can rent a car. Automobile rentals are available at the Salinas train station on an on-call basis.

If you are coming from the San Francisco Bay Area or Sacramento, you can ride either Caltrain or the Capitol Corridor to San Jose, where you can connect with a Monterey-Salinas Transit bus (line 55) for the rest of your journey. Timetables are available on their respective websites.

If you've never taken a train, Mr. Toy suggests you give it a try. Amtrak's cheapest coach seats offer legroom that first class air travelers would envy. First-class offers privacy in your own sleeping accommodations and access to the Coast Starlight's exclusive Pacific Parlor Car. The dining car provides plated meals while the Sightseer Lounge - which is open to all passengers - features a well stocked cafe with snacks, sandwiches and more. Social opportunities abound while America glides past your window. Its not for everybody, or for every trip, but once you've tried it you may never want to get on an cramped airliner again.

Book your rail tickets at Amtrak.com. You can also call 1-800-USA-RAIL. If you need to talk to a real person say "Agent" when "Julie" answers.

If you need rail travel advice, please feel free to ask Mr. Toy. Or discuss your plans with many experienced rail travelers at Trainweb's Railforum. And be sure to take a look at Mr. Toy's Train Travel Tales for travelogues and photos of the Coast Starlight and other trains.

Want to see the Coast Starlight in action? Video: The Coast Starlight in Salinas.
(WMV format requires Windows Media Player 6.0 or higher. Approximately 1.6mb.)

For more information on existing and proposed rail services to Monterey County step into the Del Monte Club Car. And don't miss our Del Monte Club Car Gift Shop.


By Plane

Moonrise over the Monterey Airport

Moonrise over the Monterey Peninsula Airport

The Monterey Peninsula is served by multiple regional airlines using a variety of turboprop aircraft and small jets. United Express is the anchor airline, offering frequent flights to Los Angeles or San Francisco throughout the day.

Other carriers that serve the Monterey Peninsula include American Eagle, which provides several flights to Los Angeles, US Airways has a connection to their hub in Phoenix, Alaska files direct to San Diego, and Allegiant Air goes to Las Vegas. Most flights operate daily, but some only run a few days per week. Mr. Toy cautions potential travelers that not all of these flight options will endure long-term, as airline services in Monterey seem to come and go with the tides. 

For the most up-to-date data on flights to and from The Peninsula please visit the official Monterey Regional Airport site. If you happen to have your own plane, it'll also tell you what services are available when you fly yourself in.

The Monterey airport is located near the southeast corner of Monterey, just off of Highway 68 at Olmsted Road. Several automobile rental outfits are on-site.

If you're looking for a more economical alternative, it is often less expensive to fly into San Francisco or San Jose and take the Monterey Airbus to the Monterey Peninsula. The shuttle drops passengers in downtown Monterey just a short walk down the street from the Monterey Conference Center, the Marriott and Portola hotels, and other downtown lodgings. Mr. Toy's mother used this service several times and always had a good experience.



By Car

Driving to the Monterey Peninsula is the most common method of getting here. But in this state dominated by the Modern Freeway, you may be surprised to learn that at least part of your trip will involve one or more segments on an old fashioned two lane highway. Many of these roads haven't seen significant improvements since the 1960s. Mr. Toy is not a map maker, so you'll have to make do with these written directions. 

From the North:

Most people come here from the north because it is closer than the south. You have a choice of several alternate routes. We're assuming here that you are either in the San Francisco Bay Area or you can find your way there without help. The options follow:

Highway 1 approaching the Monterey Peninsula

The Highway 1 approach to the Monterey Peninsula

Highway 101: This is probably the most commonly used route, for it can bring you here from downtown San Francisco, San Jose, and all points in between. Follow it south through San Jose where it will pass through world famous Silicon Valley before opening up into a real valley complete with hills on each side.

South of San Jose you'll pass the town of Morgan Hill. A short time later when you smell garlic you'll be passing Gilroy. Beyond Gilroy the road becomes an older style divided highway with some cross traffic, so be cautious.

After a few miles the highway runs into some very pretty hills and from there on the drive will be quite scenic. You'll pass the exit for San Juan Bautista (featured in the Alfred Hitchcock movie Vertigo) then you'll pass through a tunnel of eucalyptus trees (also seen in Vertigo).

After winding through a few more hills you'll come to Prunedale whereupon you'll see a sign that telling you the exit for the Monterey Peninsula is coming up. When you take that exit, the ramp will quickly split. Bear left, or you'll end up getting sucked into Prunedale.

If you did that correctly, you will be on Highway 156, a five mile long two-lane road with cross traffic. Just past Castroville you'll gently merge onto Highway 1 southbound and you can take that all the way into Monterey or Carmel. If your destination is Pacific Grove or Pebble Beach you'll find the exit on the hill between Monterey and Carmel.

Alternate Freeway Route: If you're in the Western half of San Francisco it will be faster to take Highway 280 south from 19th Avenue. 280 is one the prettiest urban freeways in California. South of The City it runs parallel to the San Andreas Fault. You'll see it on the right where two reservoirs take advantage of the natural depression. Follow 280 south to Highway 85, and take 85 until it joins up with 101. If you miss 85 just follow 280 all the way to 101.

Coast Route: From San Francisco take 19th Avenue south until it becomes a freeway leading out of town. Merge over to the right as quickly as possible. Soon you'll see an exit for Highway 1 to Pacifica, which will take you up over a hill towards the ocean. As you come over the top of this hill you'll cross the San Andreas Fault and if your passengers look back (don't even think about it if you're driving) you can see a large notch in the cliff. That's the fault.

Follow Highway 1 to Santa Cruz, stopping along the way to visit one or more of the many parks and beaches speckled along the route. At Santa Cruz you may encounter heavy traffic as you pass through the northern part of town. At one traffic light the highway will bear to the left. Follow it and you will soon be on a freeway, which may also be heavily congested.

After Santa Cruz the freeway clears up and it will be smooth driving until you pass Watsonville, where the freeway ends and it becomes a two-lane highway. You'll pass agricultural fields, then the Elkhorn Slough before you reach the twin stacks of the power plant at Moss Landing. More farms lay on the other side of Moss Landing as you proceed to Castroville. There the road becomes a freeway again. It will take you all the way into Monterey, as per the instructions under Highway 101 above.

The Coastal Route from San Jose: To get to Highway 1 from San Jose you must take the treacherous Highway 17 for 20 miles through the Santa Cruz Mountains. Mr. Toy really recommends you avoid this highway. Although it is, technically, a freeway, it has steep grades and sharp curves and it is saturated with commuters who drive much too fast. This combination makes for a stressful workout. Highway 17 is often heavily congested and subject to frequent delays caused by accidents, mostly caused by the aforementioned commuters. Rush hour traffic is intolerable. While the route is kind of pretty, there are too many hazards to really enjoy it.

From the South:

Mr. Toy doesn't have much occasion to take this route so he isn't too familiar with the various twists and turns, but if you're coming from there you have two options.

The inland route: Take Highway 101 to the Monterey Peninsula exit at Salinas. Follow the Highway 68 West signs as they wind their way through town. Eventually you'll be on a four lane freeway leading out of town towards Monterey. After a couple miles the road will narrow to two lanes for most of your journey.

When you reach Monterey the road will again have four lanes of divided highway. Get in the left lane unless you are headed towards North Fremont Boulevard or Seaside. You'll find yourself in a spaghetti interchange which will put you onto southbound Highway 1. To get into central Monterey stay in the two right lanes and you'll go right on in. Also go through Monterey if you are going to Pacific Grove. Follow the signs towards Cannery Row, but don't stop there. Keep going to the city limit.

However, if your destination is Carmel or Pebble Beach quickly get into the two left hand lanes and proceed on down the freeway and over the hill.

Alternate scenic route: Before you get to Salinas take the Abbott Street exit towards Spreckles. You'll pass under 101 and run parallel to the freeway until you get to Harris Road. Turn left and follow Harris Road across the fields. It will curve sharply to the right and take you through the tiny town of Spreckles. If you miss the turnoff for Harris Road, go a little farther and take a left on Harkins Road which will also take you into Spreckles. Harris Road becomes Spreckles Boulevard which will take you through a tunnel of trees on your way to Highway 68. Go under 68 and turn left onto the freeway ramp and follow the instructions above.

WARNING: The coast route (Highway 1) is closed to through traffic for the foreseeable future due to a double whammy brought about by early 2017 Winter storms. 

First came the failure of the Pfeiffer Canyon Bridge, which is located about half way between Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park and Ventana Inn. The entire bridge is being replaced. If all goes well Caltrans expects a new bridge to be completed sometime in September 2017. 

Then a massive landslide just north of the Monterey/San Luis Obispo county line buried a third of a mile of Highway 1 under rock and mud. Fixing it could take at least a year so it pobably won't reopen until mid-2018.  

There is NO WAY AROUND these obstructions other than to take the inland route via Highway 101. Check the current road conditions at Caltrans District 5.

Coast Route: Take Highway 1 north. It's a spectacular twisting road along the edge of the continent. Just don't expect to get here very fast. You'll probably average about 35 or 40 MPH. In the winter the Highway 1 can be subject to closure from landslides, so check with Caltrans or the California Highway Patrol prior to your departure. If the weather is stormy take the inland route no matter how badly you want to see the coast. Highway 1 can be very treacherous in adverse weather, and not much fun.

Northbound Highway 1 will lead you first to Carmel. To enter Carmel turn left at either Rio Road or Ocean Avenue (the latter being the simpler way in). To get to Pacific Grove or Pebble Beach take the first exit after the freeway starts just North of Carmel. Monterey is accessed at four subsequent exits.



Welcome to Monterey

Driving You Crazy

Walking & Hiking

Sports & Recreation

The Best Beaches

Stuff for Kids in Monterey

Tourist Attractions
vs.
Real Life

Art & Entertainment

Atmospheric Conditions

Where to stay?

Eating Out

Tidbits & FAQs

Photo Gallery

Home

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By Boat

Find the Pt. Pinos lighthouse and then just putter on into the bay. Contact the Monterey Harbormaster for information on where to drop anchor.

Cruise ship in Monterey Bay

A cruise ship
visits Monterey.

For the more luxury minded, you may be able to sail here in style. From time to time cruise ships anchor in the waters adjacent to downtown Monterey and Cannery Row as part of their west coast cruise adventures. Though the visits tend to be brief they give you a chance to taste a sample of our historic community sufficient to entice your return for a longer stay. That's our hope anyway. We suggest you contact your favorite travel agent for details, as offferings change more often than we can keep up with.


By Bus

Monterey-Salinas Transit (MST) offers bus service thrice daily to and from the San Jose Amtrak station, where it connects with various bay area rail services.. Look for Line 55

The closest Greyhound station is in Salinas. From there you can take the local MST bus to Monterey. The Salinas MST transit plaza is just a short walk from the Greyhound depot.

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