It’s the last leg of our four-day journey. And what a journey it’s been – starting off in Los Angeles and driving nearly to the very top of California to see the volcanic Lassen National Park and the snowy peak of Mt. Shasta. Then, turning around to drive through wine country, San Francisco and now to Monterey Bay before heading back to LA.
Without a doubt, this is a road trip for those who love to drive. Because you’ll be doing a lot of that! In total, it would take about 23 hours to do this loop non-stop. And that’s with very little traffic most of the way. It’s doable in four days, but if you want to take it at a slower pace, I’d recommend extending your time in Lassen to see more of the park.
Today, we left San Francisco (first grabbing some sourdough at Boudin bakery) and drove to Monterey, located about 2 hours South. The Monterey Bay Aquarium is top-notch. They have exhibits on sea life around the world, with a strong emphasis on conservation and species off the coast of California. And even better yet, a live sea otter web cam! But if you want to get even closer to the action, I’d recommend renting a kayak and heading along the Monterey Bay coastline. This has been on my list of things to do in California for a long time – and did not disappoint!
Monterey Bay Kayaks
There are a few places to rent kayaks around Monterey, but was impressed with the ease of booking with Monterey Bay Kayaks. Rentals for the full day (on individual kayaks) are around $40 per person. You just show up, sign a few forms (the standard of don’t sue us, harass the animals or die out there) and before you know it, you’re getting all your gear (optional wetsuit, jacket and a required life vest). There is a shop on site with anything you might need. We ended up buying a beach towel (oh, and a cookie which was REALLY good!). I was also told someone’s mom made the brownies, but I had some self control on that.
After a brief lesson on kayaking (move the paddle, don’t get too close to the wildlife), we were off. You can stay out on the water as long or as little as you want. They can give you advice on what to see, and it’s virtually impossible to get lost (thank god!). Just keep the shore along your side the entire time. We have a tendency to get lost on our hikes, so were happy this activity was pretty straightforward! We paddled from the rental center past the marina and pier. I even saw the site where I got scuba certified a few years back (incredibly painful by the way… the water in Monterey is ice cold and I got certified in the month of November!). You will come face-to-face with Sea Otters, Harbor Seals, Sea Lions and see Star Fish clinging to the rocks underneath.
A good end point is the Monterey Bay Aquarium, a 45 minute paddle away. Just keep in mind which way the current is moving since you’ll either have a breezy paddle back (or might find yourself considering an Uber!).
Post Kayak Lunch Spot: Lou Lou’s
We were starving after all that paddling and walked about 10 minutes to Lou Lou’s. If it feels like you stepped into an episode of Diners, Drive-ins and Dives, well, you are exactly right. The owner explained that Guy Fieri featured the restaurant on his show.
The place gets busy — in fact, there wasn’t an empty seat in the place. The owner told us a pretty funny story. Apparently, when the Food Network called about being featured on national TV, one of the workers told them it was too busy and they should call back. When they eventually did, the producer joked that it was pretty much the first time ever a restaurant told the Food Network to call THEM back!
Sadly, our road trip is coming to an end. We have a 5 hour drive back to LA that we’ll pretty much go straight through. Stay tuned for more of our adventures in the next few days. We will take you along a hidden brunch spot where you can get a workout in while paddle boating (in the middle of LA!). Then, we head to Cleveland for a wedding. So more to come from the Buckeye state!