The Bestie took me out for a day to celebrate the day we would add another candle to the cake, but I hate birthday cake (and the spit produced when candles are blown out on said cake), so she instead took me to the second happiest place on Earth.
Monterey, CA is beautiful, and makes for a pretty romantic getaway. But since it was a girls’ day, it was full of screams and laughter and people staring at us. Nothing new.
First stop was LouLou’s Griddle in the Middle because we showed up way too early for our first activity. This place is tiny, but still a yummy breakfast and our waitress was hilarious. Try their sourdough toast — I thought it rivaled Boudin, but you be your own judge.
Next stop was Monterey Bay Kayaks for a standup paddleboard tour. Definitely recommend this tour. Neither of us had ever done paddleboard-ing, so it was bound to be interesting. Our guide was John (surprise, I remembered a name) and he was awesome. Great sense of humor, SUPER patient, and definitely knew his shit when it came to paddleboarding and marine life in the bay. I have no pictures of this activity, as I didn’t want to deal with my phone while simultaneously trying to not fall into the freezing water or crash into a boat. I succeeded in staying on my board. I did not succeed in not running into a boat. Anyways, one too-small wetsuit aside, John gave us a quick paddling tutorial and we were off.
So if you’ve never been paddleboarding and you’re under 5’9″ or so, just know that the board acts as a freaking sail when it’s windy and you’re trying to make your way to the water. It was light enough, but my 5’2″ Bestie definitely flew to the sides a few times while walking down the beach. I also had some trouble, but I also have a good 40 lbs. on her. The water is pretty cold (like I felt that my feet were going to freeze off), but the wetsuit provided by the company definitely helps. You have the option of either paddling on your knees or standing up, but because I’m top-heavy, I opted for staying kneeling on the board. We got to see an otter, lots of sea stars (and even got to hold one), small jellyfish, a ray, a crab, sea hare, and several sea lions and/or seals. I even got to take home an abalone shell (empty, of course) as a birthday gift. After a good cleaning, the ocean smell was gone.
PRO TIP: Park downtown and make use of the free trolley system. My preferred lot is Downtown East on Tyler and Franklin. Parking is $7 flat all day and the trolley stop is right across the street. It’s still walking distance to Fisherman’s Wharf, but definitely take the trolley to get the aquarium, unless you’re in the mood to walk about 2 miles.
Lunch was at Old Fisherman’s Grotto. The waiter shook our hands, which was different. He also had a very firm handshake, and part of me thought I was going to lose my hand. But he was still nice. We sat right by one of the windows facing the rest of the pier, and I made awkward eye contact with several other tourists. Try the Cheesy Bread Bowl with Monterey’s version of clam chowder. I still prefer my San Franciscan sourdough bowls, but this was really good. Better than East Coast clam chowder (sorry guys). The rest of Fisherman’s Wharf was scattered with restaurants, candy shops, and your generic souvenir shops.
And now . . . my favorite part of this trip . . .
. . . THE AQUARIUM! The Monterey Bay Aquarium is my favorite so far. I love the Open Sea tank. I could just stare at it all day. The volunteers are great and super knowledgable, and selfies galore can be taken at their Wave Crash exhibit. Plus the otters are super cute. If you’re really into aquarium life, take one of their tours. I’ve been on the behind-the-scenes tour before, and it’s actually pretty interesting. Did you know that they place Astroturf on the top of octopus tanks to keep them from escaping? Venture out on the decks for some absolutely beautiful views of the bay. On a good day and during the right season, you might even see whales from the outside decks.
See? Beautiful, no? I won’t bore you with any more exhibits, but if you like marine life or like learning about conservation efforts, you may want to make a trip.
Definitely one of my favorite birthday trips AND a very memorable Bestie trip for the the books. And I survived.
If you’re looking for a nice little seaside town to have some boo time, Monterey is also the place. Book yourself a room at a cute little B&B and go to town *insert winky face here*