Blake Walsh

30 Best Things to Do in Pacific Grove, CA

  • Published 2022/10/28

Pacific Grove is a quaint Californian city on the Monterey Bay coast.

It is known for its charming beaches, monarch butterflies, diverse marine life, purple ice plants, and aesthetically pleasing architecture.

This coastal city is the perfect travel destination, whether you’re looking for a thrilling adventure or a relaxing vacation.

The best time to visit Pacific Grove is in late spring when the magenta ice plants cover its entire shoreline in pink hues.

Interested to know more about this place?

Here are the 30 best things to do in Pacific Grove to jumpstart your planning:

Try Water Adventures at Lovers Point Park and Beach

View of the sea at Lovers Point Park and Beach

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Lovers Point beach provides opportunities for countless recreational activities for you to spend a fun and refreshing holiday.

Beat the heat by swimming in the cool, blue waters or explore the underwater corals and aquatic life by scuba diving.

Kayaking is very popular here, and the consistent, clean waves attract many surfers to this place.

path next to sea at Lovers Point Park and Beach

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Enjoy an invigorating hike along the coastal trail from Lover’s Point to Castroville.

You can meet new people by joining in for a fun game at the beach’s volleyball court.

The park adjoining the beach features a children’s swimming pool, a restaurant, and a concession stand.

The best time to visit is between April to May, when the purple dew-flowers (Drosanthemum floribundum) are in full bloom.

pink flowers at Lovers Point Park and Beach

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Appreciate the Butterflies at Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary

A butterfly at Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary

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In October, the monarch butterflies come to Pacific Grove from miles away for their winter migration.

They hang in clusters from this sanctuary’s eucalyptus, pine, and cypress trees and wait out the winter.

The climate of the sanctuary makes it ideal for them to stay until February.

Several tourists flock to this place to admire the thousands of brilliantly-colored monarchs.

butterflys on tree at Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary

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Entry to the sanctuary is free, and the ideal time to visit is between 12 pm to 3 pm.

The laws of the region relating to the butterflies are stringent and aim to protect them.

Visitors are allowed to watch and take pictures, and the sanctuary is open from dawn to dusk.

Visit this place and appreciate the beauty of these majestic creatures.

Watch a Parade at Good Old Days Festival

The Good Old Days is an annual festival in Pacific Grove that takes place in April for two days.

It is one of the biggest events of this region and includes musical concerts by 50 to 60 bands, dance competitions, quilt shows, a patriotic parade featuring vintage vehicles and live performances, a combat challenge participated by the region’s firefighters, amusement rides, mouth-watering food, funfairs, an arts and crafts exhibition by over 200 artists and artisans, and plenty more.

Catch a glimpse of the local culture at this amazing event.

Shop at Farmers’ market

people shop for produce at the farmers market in Pacific Grove, CA

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Fresh fruits and vegetables, poultry, flowers, nuts, and dairy items are offered for sale by the local farmers at this market.

A majority of the products are sourced from organic farms.

Works by regional artists and artisans are also displayed here for sale.

This market is frequented by both tourists and local patrons alike and is open on Mondays, from 3 pm to 7 pm.

Fresh berries at the Farmers' market

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Travel Back in Time at Point Pinos Lighthouse

View of Point Pinos Lighthouse

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This is a historical landmark that dates back to 1855.

It is the oldest lighthouse on America’s West Coast that has been continuously operating to date.

The original lens is still intact, and the interiors of the building feature various exhibits, including the furniture used by the lighthouse keepers during the 19th and 20th centuries.

Entrance gate of Point Pinos Lighthouse

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Tour the building and also enjoy stunning views of Monterey Bay.

Point Pinos is open to visitors from Thursdays to Mondays, from 1:00 – 4:00 pm.

Aerial view of Point Pinos Lighthouse

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Discover Art at Pacific Grove Art Centre

Founded in 1969, this art gallery is dedicated to making art more accessible to everyone by letting out their gallery spaces to artists at subsidized rates, offering free entry to exhibits, and providing low-cost art classes.

They organize a multitude of cultural events all year round to support and promote the creation of art.

Stop by their gallery to look at some spectacular pieces of work.

Exhibits are open from Wednesdays to Saturdays from noon to 5 pm, and Sundays from noon to 4 pm.

Learn Local History at Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History

Front view of Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History

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This museum educates its visitors on the flora, fauna, geology, natural resources, and cultural histories of California’s Central Coast.

It has a permanent collection as well as a biyearly rotating exhibition.

The permanent display features several mounted regional birds and animals belonging to a broad array of species.

Exhibit of birds at Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History

Missvain, CC BY 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

A specimen of the extinct Passenger Pigeon can be found in this museum.

Regional plants from over 100 species are displayed at the museum’s garden.

Its Annual Wildflower Show in April features over 700 species of local wildflowers.

Display of huge bear model at Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History

Missvain, CC BY 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Hike on the Monterey Bay Coastal Recreation Trail

Bikers at Monterey Bay Coastal Recreation Trail

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Head out for a refreshing morning workout on this 18-mile waterfront hiking trail with scenic vistas of the coast.

Stretching from Castroville to Pacific Grove, this path offers great vantage points to catch glimpses of numerous marine denizens, such as whales, otters, harbour seals, sea lions, and more.

View of the paved Monterey Bay Coastal Recreation Trail

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It is famous for hiking, jogging, and cycling.

Stores around the trail offer rental bikes, surrey cycles, kayaks, surfboards, and other equipment for your various water adventures.

Lovers Point Park, Monterey Bay Aquarium, Cannery Row, San Carlos Beach, Fisherman’s Wharf, Fisherman’s Shoreline Park, Monterey History and Maritime Museum are all located along this trail.

Explore 17- Mile Drive

Aerial view of 17- Mile Drive

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17-Mile Drive is a picturesque oceanside road extending from Pacific Grove to Pebble Beach.

Its main highlights include The Lone Cypress, Bird Rock, Spanish Bay, Seal Rock, Cypress Point Lookout, the Restless Sea, China Rock, and Point Joe.

The route provides great opportunities for viewing sea lions, harbor seals, whales, sea otters, pelicans, deer, dolphins, and plenty more wildlife.

view of plants and road at 17- Mile Drive

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Bring along a nice picnic to enjoy at Seal Rock or Spanish Bay against stunning backdrops.

Being one of the most scenic drives in the country, it is frequented by millions of visitors each year.

A toll fee is applicable for entry to this privately-maintained road.

Name of 17- Mile Drive painted on the road

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Visit John Denver Memorial

View of the John Denver Memorial

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John Denver was a renowned singer and songwriter who lost his life when the aircraft he was flying crashed into Monterey Bay.

The John Denver Memorial is located a few yards away from the site of the crashing.

It consists of a plaque on a boulder and large driftwood with his name engraved on it.

The surrounding area has great views of the ocean.

Watch the Sunset at Asilomar State Beach

The sea at Asilomar State Beach

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Asilomar beach is popular for its hiking trails, tranquil atmosphere, and gorgeous sunsets.

Boardwalk trail at Asilomar State Beach

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Being a dog-friendly beach, it is an ideal place to walk your pet.

The waves here attract numerous surfers.

Visit this spot for an evening stroll and watch the sun paint a kaleidoscope of pink, crimson, and purple.

Gorgeous sunset over Asilomar State Beach

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Attend the Butterfly Days Festival

The Butterfly Parade takes place on the first Saturday of October every year.

Dating back to 1939, this tradition aims to celebrate the return of the monarch butterflies to Pacific Grove for their winter migration.

Children dress up as butterflies, bees, otters, clowns, farmers, and jellyfish and flock to the town’s streets.

The festival also includes live musical performances, art exhibitions, potluck picnics, book launches, and signings, painting competitions, book readings by authors, garden tours, movie screenings, and plenty more.

Diving at Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary

Boats at Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary

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This sanctuary lies in the offshore ocean waters parallel to the shoreline between San Francisco and Cambria.

It features numerous beaches, kelp forests, underwater canyons, a seamount, and a broad array of birds and marine animals.

Divers at Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary

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Marine denizens of the sanctuary include over 30 species of mammals and more than 500 species of fish.

Being one of the largest marine sanctuaries in the country, it is a perfect place for wildlife viewing, fishing, diving, and kayaking.

Sea otter at Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary

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Explore Downtown Pacific Grove

Shops at Downtown Pacific Grove

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Downtown Pacific Grove is aesthetically very pleasing and features countless historic Victorian-style buildings, boutiques, restaurants, bakeries, bed and breakfasts, antique stores, art galleries, and more.

Explore the downtown streets and enjoy the views.

A cafe at Downtown Pacific Grove

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Go Whale Watching at the California Coast

Whale Watching at Pacific Grove

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Pacific Grove has numerous vantage points offering great views of marine wildlife.

Whale watching is on every tourist’s itinerary while visiting this town.

Over 20,000 grey whales cross the California coast biannually.

You can spot humongous blue whales between June to October.

Humpback whales can be spotted from April to early December.

Drive along Oceanview Boulevard and Sunset Drive

When you think of Pacific Grove, two streets immediately come to mind: Oceanview Boulevard and Sunset Drive.

These two streets are basically the heart and soul of this area, acting as an absolute hotspot for recreational types in every way imaginable.

Running pretty much the length of Pacific Grove, these scenic roads provide ample opportunities to get away from the business of Cannery Row during your vacation.

Beachside parking lots make strolling along the walkway easy and convenient, giving you plenty of opportunities to soak up that gorgeous view.

Whether on a walk, bike ride or drive through, this thoroughfare has spectacular views of both rocky cliffs and moving waves.

To get to know Pacific Grove’s beautiful coastline in detail, simply take a drive up either Pacific Grove Boulevard or Sunset Drive and explore the sea-side community.

Take a Picture of the Kissing Rock

Daytime view of the Kissing Rock

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Anyone who’s ever been to Pacific Grove, CA, and explored it in detail won’t ever forget the very unique and distinct rock formation atop the coast.

Erosion along the coastline has caused two rocks to merge together, and as waves crash in from behind them, they appear to be a couple kissing even if they aren’t doing so.

You’ll understand once you see it, though!

Hailed as the world’s most romantic place by Life Magazine, the famous “Kissing Rocks” can be found on a cliff just above the ocean.

Since Victorian times, millions of couples have stopped to take pictures at this spot; both mustachioed gentlemen and petticoated ladies adored posing here.

In April 1970, the City established the “Kissing Rocks” as part of Pacific Grove’s historical culture.

Take the Best Sunset Photo at Heart Shaped Rock-Love Rock

Whether you are just looking to get out of the house and do something relaxing or you’re an aspiring professional photographer who wants to take a world-class photo opportunity of a sun setting over the ocean, you can find your needs met at the Heart Shaped Rock-Love Rock.

You can find this stunning tourist attraction as you explore Oceanview Blvd.

Be there at any time of day or night, and as long as the tide permits, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to get up close and personal with one of the most intimate views of the Pacific Ocean that you’ll ever find.

The coast of Ocean View Blvd is a beautiful place for anyone to take in the breathtaking sights and relax as the day goes by.

The low-tide exposure of rock and sand goes surprisingly well with the photographic and relaxing talents of this area’s scenic layout.

When the tide is low at sunset, you’ll get to see some spectacular colors from the sky come into focus against the silhouette of this unique protrusion.

It feels spacious here, even when the beach is crowded with people.

Learn History at the Pacific Grove Public Library

Pacific Grove Public Library in Pacific Grove, California, opened its doors in 1908.

Despite minor exterior changes, the former Carnegie structure still has a Mission-style facade, and several of its original interior elements, such as the magnificent arches and windows of the Reading Area, have been preserved.

The Pacific Grove Public Library’s goal is to offer a warm environment and a well-balanced collection while protecting history and making plans for the future.

They gather, preserve, and put on exhibit a variety of printed, handwritten, and drawn objects related to Pacific Grove’s history, including books, maps, photos, manuscripts, biographical data, and more.

Due to the significance of their special collection, suitable preservation techniques and supplies are sought for and used.

Book Your Perfect Weekend Getaway at Butterfly Grove Inn

Exterior of the Butterfly Grove Inn

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Pet-friendly Pacific Grove hotels like Butterfly Grove Inn have long been a popular, well-liked accommodation among visitors to the Monterey Peninsula.

The large guest rooms and attractively planted gardens have a warmth that makes it the perfect getaway.

The Butterfly Grove Inn’s non-smoking guest rooms each have a lovely view.

Welcome sign of the Butterfly Grove Inn

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They provide luxurious lodging options, including a king, double queen, and multi-room suites that are ideal for families.

Accessible bedrooms are equipped with various inclusive amenities, from roll-in showers to thermostat controls, to improve visitor comfort.

Explore and Join a Tour with Big Sur Adventures

Big Sur Adventures provides unique excursions of all the greatest attractions in the region!

The company’s strong eBikes make it easy to conquer the hills and slopes in the area, so check out Pacific Grove while riding one of them!

Travel the 17-Mile Drive Tour’s picturesque road to experience one of the nation’s most beautiful drives.

Are you searching for something a bit more sophisticated?

Using an ancient dirt wagon path, their exclusive Big Sur’s Old Coast Road Tour transports you into the wilderness.

Spend a Relaxing Night at Green Gables Inn

The 1888 jewel Green Gables Inn, with its expansive oceanfront views of Monterey Bay, has been painstakingly restored.

The Green Gables Inn is a part of the Four Sisters Inns, a chosen group of unique and independent boutique hotels that expertly blend an appealing and private environment with free trademark amenities and courteous, exceptional service.

Visitors adore the inn’s distinctive design and an unbeatable location next to the Monterey Bay Coastal Recreation Trail, which is perfect for strolling or bicycling with views of the Pacific Ocean.

After having a hearty and delectable breakfast to kickstart the day, you may rent bikes to wander the coast or spend the afternoon leisurely.

Many of their unique features are included as part of your visit.

When planning a truly memorable trip, book your room early in advance.

Delight in Italian Cuisines at Il Vecchio

On Central Avenue, Il Vecchio is a warm and welcoming Roman-style Italian eatery that offers a menu of classic Italian dishes and an exceptional wine list that includes numerous Italian and Californian vintages.

The rustic-chic restaurant has cozy furnishings, a roaring fireplace, and a pleasant atmosphere.

A cuisine fitting to the location is offered, including house-made pasta and rich sauces, wood-fired pizza with a choice of toppings, trays of grilled meats and sausages, fresh salads, and delicious desserts.

Il Vecchio boasts a large Carmel stone fireplace constructed in 1950, a buzzing trattoria-like ambiance, heavenly scents, and sleek, unrivaled service.

They have space for up to 80 people for both evening meals and luncheons.

Other Things to Do Nearby

Explore Marine Life at Monterey Bay Aquarium

People at Monterey Bay Aquarium

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Being one of the region’s top attractions, this exquisite aquarium welcomes millions of visitors each year.

It dates back to 1984 and is located at the site of a former sardine cannery.

It exhibits several thousands of diverse marine flora and fauna, such as Hula skirt siphonophore, Bloodybelly comb jelly, Blue whale, Broadnose sevengill shark, Monkeyface prickleback, Chambered nautilus, Dead man’s fingers, Pom-pom anemone, Giant Pacific octopus, and plenty more.

Exterior of Monterey Bay Aquarium

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The aquarium’s open sea exhibit features the ocean’s exotic underwater life.

You can spot humpback whales, sea otters, and various other marine creatures from the aquarium’s ocean-view decks.

It also features African penguins, a kelp forest, and coral reefs.

Monterey Bay Aquarium is a must-visit in Pacific Grove.

penguins at Monterey Bay Aquarium

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Wine Tasting at A Taste of Monterey

Wine Tasting store Monterey CA

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Monterey County is a world-renowned wine travel destination with around 200 vineyards majorly producing Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

A Taste of Monterey is a popular oceanside wine market and restaurant located on Cannery Row.

They let you taste a variety of wines sourced from nearly 100 wineries of the region.

Interior of A Taste of Monterey

Jim G from Silicon Valley, CA, USA, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Relish a glass of delicious local wine while appreciating the spectacular views of the ocean.

You can also try out the wines of prominent Monterey wineries at their tasting rooms located in Pacific Grove, such as Carmel Ridge Winery and Pierce Ranch Vineyards.

Enjoy Nature at Carmel River State Beach

View of Carmel River State Beach

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This beach is where the Carmel River marks the end of its long journey to meet the seas.

A giant lagoon is formed near the river’s mouth, attracting several beautiful birds.

The beach is ideal for sun-baking and birdwatching.

Its blue waters and white sands create a splendid contrast.

Being a dramatic beach, going into the water is not recommended.

Flock of birds at Carmel River State Beach

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Final Thoughts

Pacific Grove is more than just California’s best-kept secret.

It’s a community showcased in a variety of ways, from historical buildings that have been beautifully preserved to marine life-filled Monterey Bay Aquarium and the butterfly migration in the late fall.

The grand vistas of the Pacific Ocean, the Victorian-style architecture, the historic lighthouse, and gorgeous sunsets make this a perfect place to plan your wedding.

If your time and budget allow for it, there are many things you could do while you’re here.

Pacific Grove is the perfect spot for you or some who you want to surprise with an exploratory adventure.

Check out this curated guide when making your itinerary for a list of the top Pacific Grove places!

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