Skip to main content

Staycations for MILSOs: Monterrey, California

I just got back from a week of visiting my hubby in Central California (the fly over area).  After visiting several times, I’ve really discovered some great spots for military families in the area (or those wanting to visit).  Hashtag ItsSoAwesome  Hashtag ImNotKidding

Throw in family beaches and gorgeous sunsets and this region of the Golden State is ripe for a staycation.

Just an hour south of San Francisco or 5 hours north of Los Angeles, you’ll find Monterrey.  If you are coming from Southern California, may I suggest Amtrak?  It may be quicker on a Friday night and a whole lot less stressful.

So where to?  What do you want to do?  What’s military friendly?  I’ll show you through my trial and error (wait – adventures never have error, you just learn), so you, too, can enjoy this splendid region.




Accommodations can be made at the Navy Lodge in Monterrey or the Post Graduate Navy School.

Monterrey holds a special place in my heart.  At the Naval Post Graduate School, the lodging on base is in a renovated historic hotel and the rooms are stunning.  The grounds alone are elegantly maintained with several rose gardens.  The lodge itself is well appointed and can accommodate couples or 1 additional child, I believe.

Check out the intricate ceilings in the main reception area.  This was like its own attraction for us.  But then people in uniform walk by and you realize there is a chow hall in the basement and reality sets in.  You’re still on a base.  But a really nice one.




Activities that are a must do include:


  • Monterrey Bay Aquarium – great for couples, but must do with kids.  I grew up going to aquariums – I even wanted to be a marine biologist when I grew up.  This aquarium, with all of its accolades, did leave a little to be desired.  I guess I’ve seen too many incredible aquariums, but I will say their conservation efforts are superb. (Military Discounted Tickets – on base or at the window)
  • Cannery Row – definitely a tourist spot.  I wasn’t all that thrilled with it, but after the aquarium, we wandered around a bit.  If souvenir shopping is your scene, enjoy!
  • Whale Watching – there is a natural preserve that is perfect for whale watching.  We chartered with Randy’s Fishing – purchased through ITT (on base) and got a good discount.  I enjoyed the knowledge of the crew and how much time we had at sea.  Take Dramamine and buy the ginger candies!  (Military Discount Tickets – on base for reservations)
  • Carmel by the Beach – this fun town near by has a great shopping district – its quirky and fun, but there are a lot of gourmet shops.  Yum!
  • Asilomar State Beach – the crashing waves against the cliffs are just pristine at this beach.  Bring money – all state beaches have an entry fee (about $10/day), but you can save your receipt and use it same day at others.  Also, bring a sweater – the beaches aren’t super warm, and can get awfully breezy.


Recommended eats:
  • Old Fisherman’s Grotto – I admit, I’m not a fan of chains or tourist-y spots, but after trying every restaurant on the wharf’s clam chowder (they give free samples – what!) this stop was a must go.  Hubby had the clam chowder, but I endulged a bit more (see the photo above) – YUP!  Check out that fish dish.   Great for date nights, but its also a good lunch destination for kids (probably not after 5pm – I’ve heard rumors they aren’t so kid friendly).
  • Demetra Fresh Mediterranean – I love to eat out when I’m staycation (hello – no dishes), but I certainly can’t afford fine dining every night.  Cue Demetra Fresh.  Its located at the Monterrey Mall, and is a fast casual.  That’s where all of the assumptions end.  BEST.GYRO.EVER.  I repeat that.  BEST.  I love Med food, and yet, this place, so Chipotle-esque, nails it.  At under $10 a plate (easily less than that for many items), you get a huge box full of gyro / hummus deliciousness.
  • Crepes of Brittany – you and every other tourist will want to stop here for breakfast before your Whale Watching tour.  My lemon and sugar crepe was fabulous – with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice it blended into pastry sugar – light and airy for summer.  Mini Me had the nutella and banana one, and as a fan of nutella, she was quite pleased.  Hubby went for a savory version with ham and swiss and still, very happy.  I think he may have ordered one to go – for a second helping on the boat.  I’m totally not judging him, and in fact, was jealous.
  • The Wharf Marketplace – if you are looking to pack a picnic and head to a beach, or head out on the water, stop by this really nice marketplace along the wharf.  I was planning to cook a meal one of the evenings, and bought a baguette of bread to make garlic bread.  Before I left, the cashier asked if I wanted it sliced for easier serving – of course!  The chef kindly sliced it up for me at no charge. They sell local wines and can help with pairings or putting a whole basket together for a nice charcuterie.  Their display cases full of yummy, local food will have you salivating.  Don’t go when hungry.  Its dangerous!  (Military Discount – just ask!)
When we spent three days in Monterrey back in June, I didn’t expect to fall in love with the town so much.  I started talking about retiring there.  Then, I realized that property values were probably very high, and I would need to sell a kidney, or my first born (sorry, Mini Me).  That won’t stop me from taking a staycation there any day!
It’s such a military friendly town, but also one perfect for couples and kids.  There is no pretentiousness walking down the streets.  Just friendly, sometimes eclectic people, who truly enjoy the California outdoor lifestyle.




Smiley face