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Stay in Santa Cruz or Monterey? Or Carmel?

Cleveland
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Stay in Santa Cruz or Monterey? Or Carmel?

Hi, my husband and I will be traveling to California in early September and I am trying to decide between Santa Cruz or Monterey (for 1 night, we're doing the SF to San Diego road trip). At first I was thinking Santa Cruz but the more I read on here the more I can't decide!

We are both 31, no kids, and enjoy cool bars/restaurants, preferably beachfront to sit and enjoy drinks and meals. We don;t need anything too touristy, but a town with shops, boardwalk, etc would be nice for a stroll.

Or I also read about Carmel, but not sure if that is any different than Monterey?

Thanks for your help!

Grover Beach...
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for Pismo Beach, Cambria, Big Sur
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1. Re: Stay in Santa Cruz or Monterey? Or Carmel?

Santa Cruz is a cool beach town. Great for families. Not sure what choices you have in the way of beachfront meals and drinks, though. Hopefully, some of the locals will chime in with suggestions.

Monterey is another family friendly beach town. Dining available on Fisherman's Wharf and on Cannery Row (Although Cannery Row dining isn't exceptional). The restaurants at the Monterey Plaza Hotel would likely fit the bill you're looking for.

Carmel is quite different from Monterey. There are no ocean front hotels, restaurants/bars, etc. there. The main part of town is up from the beach, but offers many exceptional dining options. Carmel is a charming town with storybook architecture and a beautiful beach with wind swept cypress trees.

Another option is Pacific Grove, which is nestled between Monterey and Carmel. PG is also a quaint town, but with lots of Victorian architecture, narrow streets and a gorgeous dramatic rocky shoreline. There's a nice recreational trail for walks and soaking in the beautiful bay views. A new restaurant recently opened up at Lover's Point overlooking Monterey Bay called The Beach House. Pacific Grove is less touristy in comparison to both Monterey and Carmel.

Carmel, Indiana
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2. Re: Stay in Santa Cruz or Monterey? Or Carmel?

We just finished our vacation. Stayed in Santa Cruz, but visited the others. For the 2of you, I would choose Monterey. I think the town is more upscale, has some nice restaurants on the Wharf overlooking the beautiful Bay.

Cannery Row would be nice to stroll down, shops, etc.

San Francisco
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3. Re: Stay in Santa Cruz or Monterey? Or Carmel?

How much time have you allotted for the SF to SD road trip? I ask because Santa Cruz is only 90 minutes from SF so it may not be far enough along.

IMO Monterey is more touristy than Carmel or Pacific Grove. Either of the later would be better, especially for a young couple without kids.

Carmel, Indiana
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4. Re: Stay in Santa Cruz or Monterey? Or Carmel?

I agree with WhiteDahlia about Carmel bing the place to go without kids. DH and I also made that comment while there. However, I didn't see any beachfront restaurants, that's why I said Monterey.

Grover Beach...
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5. Re: Stay in Santa Cruz or Monterey? Or Carmel?

And there lies the conundrum. Wanting something specific that doesn't really exist: Lodging in a "non-touristy" area close to ocean view dining/drinking. Visitors need to weigh the pros and cons of each location and choose based on what's most important to them. Stay somewhere in the thick of things and be close to restaurants with ocean/bay views or stay somewhere a little quieter and be willing to walk to dinner and those drinks.

CT
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6. Re: Stay in Santa Cruz or Monterey? Or Carmel?

I vote Pacific Grove, Seven Gables. We have stayed on a couple separate occasions. Location is amazing, can walk to monterey for restaurants. I believe they offer wine tasting as well. Victorian decor isn't really our thing, but nothing beats the view from the Arbor room. Felt like our own private little apt, never once felt I was in a touristy location. Heading out in 3 weeks, wishing we were staying there ourselves! Enjoy!

San Jose, California
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for California
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7. Re: Stay in Santa Cruz or Monterey? Or Carmel?

Carmel is actually too cute and upscale for my tastes - the beach there is great, but the town itself is a little much for me. I much prefer Monterey - it's more diverse and fun. So I wouldn't say that Carmel is the automatic choice for couples without kids. It really depends on what you are looking for.

Santa Clara...
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8. Re: Stay in Santa Cruz or Monterey? Or Carmel?

I am with November. Carmel is a bit "old" for me too but I better take good look in the mirror! I too prefer Monterey and have enjoyed my visits staying on Cannery Row and downtown.

Carmel, Indiana
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9. Re: Stay in Santa Cruz or Monterey? Or Carmel?

I agree, more mature folks in Carmel...and I'm 54 and felt several store were geared for those even older than I.

10. Re: Stay in Santa Cruz or Monterey? Or Carmel?

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