Tours in Monterey: 14 Exciting Ways to Explore the Peninsula

Jill on a windy day at the Golden Gate Bridge

by Jill Loeffler  •

Updated: April 17, 2024

I absolutely love these tours in Monterey. They offer you the chance to discover even more of this cute waterside city and the towns around it, including Pacific Grove, Pebble Beach, and Carmel-by-the-Sea. 

I've taken many of these tours over the years and it's a great way to learn more about the history of the Monterey Bay area, the local cuisines, and the wines from the nearby regions.

One of the most popular options is the local whale watching tours. This area is one of the best to see a variety of whales throughout the year and it's a must-do when visiting the Monterey Peninsula.

You can also head out for some deep-sea fishing, bike rides along the waterfront, ghost hunting at night, or driving around in a sea car.

Here are just a few of the most popular tours in Monterey.

Monterey Tours Locations

Disclaimer: I receive a small commission from some of the links on this page.

1. Whale Watching Tours

Tours in Monterey

Whale watching is one of the most popular Monterey tours. The reason it's such a popular option is because this region is an excellent feeding ground for whales during their migration. It's one of the best places to see them.

In addition to the whales, it's also a fantastic place to get a look at other local wildlife, including sea lions, dolphins, and beautiful birds.

Most of the boats leave from Old Fisherman's Wharf and there are several companies to choose from. Most days of the year, you can choose between a morning and an afternoon tour.

They often offer a slightly different tour during the spring/summer/fall months compared to the winter tour. The tours last about 3 to 4 hours and start at around $70 per person.

However, each one gives you an amazing chance to see whales as they migrate through these waters, as well as other wildlife in and around the water.

>> Pre-book your whale watching tour today

>> Visit my Monterey whale watching page for more details

Other Unforgettable Whale Watching Experiences

2. Deep Sea Fishing in the Monterey Bay

This is the perfect excursion for anyone who loves deep sea fishing and the experience of hauling in a big one! In operation since the 1940s, Chris' Fishing is the best crew to help you find the best catches around the bay.

Some of the fish may include salmon, rock cod, crabs, and more. They offer tours that allow you to select the type of fish you want to catch. There are usually about half a dozen options available for booking, ranging from around $75 to $120 per adult.

All these deep sea fishing tours in the Monterey Bay leave from Chris' Fishing and Whale Watching at 48 Fisherman's Wharf in Monterey. This one is for early risers, as check-in usually starts before 6 am. 

Note: You will need a fishing license if you are 16 years or older. This can be purchased at their office. Children are allowed on the fishing trip if accompanied by an adult. You can also rent a rod from Chris.

>> Visit his site to learn more

3. Original Monterey Walking Tours

Path of History in Monterey

This area is famous for its history and one of the best ways to learn more is on a guided walking tour. Original Monterey Walking Tours has some of the highest rated ones. 

On these walks, you will learn about landmarks, how the Spanish settled the area, and changes to the city over the years.

They offer two tours. The first is the Historic Monterey Tour, where you will learn all about the history of the Spanish here. You will visit old adobe houses, secret gardens, and other historic structures.

It's a two-hour walking tour offered at 2 pm every Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. It departs from the statue in front of the Portola Hotel.

The second is the Monterey Waterfront and Cannery Row Tour. It will take you past cute little sea otters from the Coast Guard Pier to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. It will also transport you back to the Steinbeck era of the 1930s. You will find out why Monterey used to be called the "Sardine Capital of the World." 

This two-hour tour also runs every Thursday through Sunday, but in the morning at 10 am.

These tours cost $25 for adults, $10 for students aged 13 to 21, and are free for children 12 and under.

>> Visit their site to make your reservation in advance

4. Macabre Monterey Ghost Tour

Are you ready to hear some fantastic ghost stories? The Macabre Monterey Ghost Tour is a fantastic pick for those who love chilling and spooky tales. 

This one-hour tour includes stories about infamous murders, sea monsters, and even an exorcism.

It is a nighttime tour that starts at the Colton Hall Museum and Jail, where you can hear the wailing spirits of its former prisoners.

You'll visit places such as the Monterey Hotel and the historic Stokes Adobe. You'll even step inside a local art museum that once was used as a morgue! 

This Monterey tour also includes time to scan the bay for the Moore's Beach Monster. It's a fun way to learn more about the dark history of this area! 

This tour is offered every night of the week starting at $32 per person.

>> Find out more and get additional ticketing information

>> Find some additional fun things to do at night around Monterey

5. Carmel Valley Wine Tasting Tour

Vines around Carmel Valley, CA

Calling all wine lovers! Want to spend a little time sampling local wines during your stay in Monterey? If so, then check out this great Carmel Valley Wine Tasting Tour. 

Your tour starts with a pickup from your local hotel in Monterey. You will then enjoy the beautiful scenery as you make the 30-or-so minute drive over to Carmel Valley with narration from your guide.

You then have the opportunity to taste two or three different wines (fees included, except for some reserve wines), which may include Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Cabernet Sauvignon.

During your winery visit, you'll get a guided educational walk through the vineyard, learn more about local wine production, and have the chance to ask questions.

The full tour lasts about 3 to 3.5 hours. You can take either the morning or afternoon tour, which leave at 10 am and 1:30 pm respectively. Finally, you'll be dropped back off at your hotel.

This tour is offered most days of the week starting at around $150 per person.

>> Find out more and book your seat today

>> Check out some additional places to sample wines around Monterey

6. Old Monterey Walking Food Tour

Monterey is a food lover's paradise, and this tour will let you experience many of the delicious treats here.

Instead of eating a meal at just one location, this tour takes you to different areas around downtown and gives you the chance to nibble on and drink some of the best local foods and wines at five or six different shops and restaurants.

One of the bonuses of this tour is that while you are enjoying local bites, you will learn more about the area's rich history and culture.

I love this one because of its combination of two of my favorite things: food and history! I also like that they limit the size of the tour. It allows for a more personalized experience.

The walk is at a normal pace and it's pretty flat. You'll walk about a total of two miles. It usually lasts about 3.5 hours, which allows you time to check out other attractions on the same day. 

The tour departs at 11 am from the Pink Harbor House near the entrance of Old Fisherman's Wharf. It is offered on select days only. 

>> Find out more and pick up your tickets today

7. Cannery Row Kayak Tour

This kayaking tour is perfect for the adventurous type who loves to explore through physical activity. If you want to soak in the beauty of Monterey Bay, you can't get any closer than this.

While paddling along the calm waters, you're sure to get views of the sea otters, sea lions, and harbor seals who call this place home.

This two-hour tour starts from the Cannery Row kelp forest, where you'll make your way between the Monterey Bay Aquarium and the Coast Guard Pier.

It includes splash gear, life vests, and a guide to help with paddling and share their knowledge about the wildlife. It's offered most days of the week in the morning or in the afternoon.

The booking requires a minimum of two people at $65 per person. Participants must be 5 years or older.

>> Find more details and make your reservation

8. Monterey Bay Tours and Cruises

There is no better way to experience the beauty of the Monterey Bay than by taking a boat cruise out on the water.

I recommend checking out the tours offered by Monterey Sailing, which include both daytime and sunset catamaran cruises.

I love these because they offer a unique experience on the water. They are also smaller-group Monterey Bay tours that only allow up to 18 total people. 

The cruises run Thursday through Monday, for 1 hour and 15 minutes during the day, or 1 hour and 30 minutes in the evening (departing about 90 minutes before sunset). 

Daytime tickets start at $55 per adult and nighttime tickets start at $85. Each ticket includes one complimentary beverage (alcoholic or non-alcoholic) and some free snacks.

Hop aboard, sit back, and relax as you soak in the beauty around Monterey Bay! 

>> Visit their site for ticketing information

9. Monterey & Pacific Grove Sea Car Tour

Cannery Row Monterey

Get ready to zoom around Monterey in a cool little open-roof car made for two. You can either follow the preprogrammed GPS-guided and narrated tour, or spend the two hours exploring on your own.

You will be able to visit places such as Cannery Row, Fisherman's Wharf, the wonderful Lovers Point beach and park in the town of Pacific Grove. You can also stop at other places, including the Asilomar State Beach and the Monarch Grove butterfly sanctuary.

Your personal tour will depart from the Portola Hotel. There are numerous start times, so check the schedule to find one that works best for you on your visit here.

Bookings start at $149 per car, which can accommodate one or two guests. 

Note: The Sea Cars are actually three-wheeled scooters that are low to the ground. Helmets are provided. Children 3 years and under are not allowed on this tour for their own safety. Kids 4 and over must be accompanied by an adult.

>> Find details for this tour and availability during your visit

10. 17-Mile Drive Electric Bike Tour

One of the best ways to explore the 17-Mile Drive in Pebble Beach is on this fun guided electric bike tour. By using an electric bike, you won't have to put too much energy into climbing the hills on this tour. 

Some highlights include the breathtaking Spanish Bay Beach, China Rock, and the Lone Cypress. You'll also be able to explore the Del Monte Forest, which has some Cypress trees that are more than 300 years old! 

This 3.5-hour tour includes the e-bike, a helmet, water, and a tour guide to educate you on this area. Your ticket also includes the entrance fee to access the 17-Mile Drive. The price per adult starts at $79.

The tour departs from Big Sur Adventures at 2106 Sunset Drive in Pacific Grove. From here, you'll get incredible seaside views throughout the whole journey.

Note: E-bikes are recommended for riders 16 and older. There are adjustments and bikes with seats on the back for those who want to do this tour with younger children. Non-electric bikes are generally better for kids who want to ride on their own.

>> Find out more and pick up your tickets today

11. Wharf Walks with Tim Thomas

Wharf Walks

Tim Thomas is well-known in the area as a local historian and author. He offers insightful tours of Monterey that include details about the history of the region. 

Tim is the perfect tour guide, as he was the curator for the Monterey Maritime & History Museum for 16 years and is a 4th generation native of Monterey.

His tours are always informative, fun, and different each time you take one. Make sure to book in advance by phone or email. The minimum age is 10 years old and only 15 people are allowed per tour. 

These free Wharf Walks take place on the first Saturday of each month from 10 am to 12 pm. They depart from the pink Harbor House at #1 Old Fisherman's Wharf.

>> Read more about these fun tours in Monterey and find reservation details

12. Self Guided Tours

One of the new trends in guided tours is self-guided tours. These are audio tours that you purchase, download, and then can listen to at your own pace, starting and pausing whenever you want.

It's great for those who don't like group tours or want to avoid being tied to taking a tour at a specific time. They are also inexpensive, usually less than $15.

Some of the best options around the Monterey Bay Peninsula include: 

  • Historic Cannery Row: A Self-Guided Audio Tour of John Steinbeck's Monterey, learn more
  • Monterey: 17-Mile Drive Self-Guided Tour, learn more
  • From San Francisco: Highway 1 Self-Drive Audio Tour, learn more

Additional Self-Guided Tours Around Monterey Bay

13. Monterey and Carmel-by-the-Sea Tours from San Francisco

This recommendation for tours in Monterey is for those staying in San Francisco. If you want to take in the views from the window and not worry about the drive, I highly recommend taking a guided tour from the city.

These tours drive along Highway 1 on the way down and usually stop at a gorgeous outlook along the way. You will then spend time in Monterey, and some also offer a little time in Carmel-by-the-Sea. Most usually take you through the 17-Mile Drive in Pebble Beach as well.

It's a long day (about 11.5 hours in total), but on the two-hour return trip to San Francisco, you can sit back and relax as someone else does the driving.

These tours are offered three or four days a week, departing from San Francisco at 7:30 am. The price per adult starts at $127.

>> Find out more about this popular tour here

14. Handcar Tours through Fort Ord Dunes State Park

Experience the railroad like never before with this one-of-a-kind tour. To participate, you need a group of at least 2 and up to 4 people to keep moving your four-person handcar, which is just as it sounds—operated completely by hand!

With your team, you’ll have to physically work your way across the scenic 6-mile route, meaning that you’ll get a great workout on the 1-mile stretch of uphill! There are of course other segments where you can relax a little and enjoy the incredible views.

At the top of the hill, you’ll get a gorgeous vista of Monterey Bay on California’s blue coastline. Throughout the park, you’ll also admire the sand dunes and local fauna and flora, including the majestic Monterey Cypress and Monterey Pine.

The tour takes about 1.5 hours to complete, and not to worry—you’ll have trained tour guides cranking their own handcars right in front and right behind your group.

This experience is offered most Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. It costs $298 for each group of two to four people, who must all be age 10 and up.

>> Visit their site to learn more and book your tour today

Fun Tours Around Monterey Bay

Comments? Questions? Suggestions?

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You can ask questions, get advice for your upcoming stay, and then share your photos and advice with others when you return home. It's a great community and the fastest way to get answers to those nagging questions about your visit!

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