Seafront Stay and Play at Cannery Row in Monterey -
Downtown Cannery Row in Monterey, California

Seafront Stay and Play at Cannery Row in Monterey

If you like the seafront, then Cannery Row is your kind of spot. The wharves and piers along the waterfront in Cannery Row bring guests close to the abundant sea life of Monterey Bay. In fact, many of Cannery Row’s hotel rooms and restaurants are positioned over the water. This is a very rare thing in California, and definitely worth the experience. It is one of the only places you can enjoy seeing sea lions, otters, pelicans and other creatures playing in the ocean directly below your hotel room.  This one of the many reasons why there are so many things to do at Cannery Row in Monterey.

waves splash on rocks at Cannery Row, Monterey, California
Cannery Row is perfectly positioned along the coastline of Monterey Bay, California.

Perhaps this is why the world famous Monterey Bay Aquarium chose Cannery Row as its home. Clean, clear ocean waters here harbor many sea creatures large and small. The aquarium includes them in its nature programs, along with mysterious and colorful creatures from all over the world. But fish and sea life have been a part of Cannery Row since way before attractions like this located here. What’s so cool is that Cannery Row has preserved this legacy while updating to meet our modern interests.

It’s quite a place with many stories to tell. Read on to learn about all the cool things to do at Cannery Row.

The History of Cannery Row

When we first thought about visiting Cannery Row in Monterey, we likened it to Seaport Village in San Diego or Pier 39 in San Francisco. We were very wrong.  In addition to fresh new cool stuff, there is a lot of authentic history packed into Cannery Row. Back in the day, the wharves here were lined with warehouses, boats, fishermen and tons and tons of sardines. Immigrants moved here to settle and fish the seas, coming from China, Portugal, Italy and other far off seafaring destinations.

Huge canning facilities were built to accommodate the daily haul of fish. Seafood was off-loaded from boats directly on to docks and wharves for processing. Bridges and latter-day conveyor belts moved the fish from one side of the street to the other. From there, it was canned, labeled and shipped off to people hungry for seafood they were not near enough to catch themselves. It was a huge and successful operation.

A historic photo of Cannery Row during its early days as a fish canning operation.

When the industry changes, the canneries and wharves were vacated. New interests reimagined the history buildings into modern day Cannery Row. Canneries and facilities with historic locations and architecture have been reborn as hotels, restaurants, shops and attractions.

Things to Do at Cannery Row

Now the area is gentrified and reborn as a fun family destination, and there are so many things to do at Cannery Row in Monterey.

Granted, if you are looking for the occasional tourist-centric shop full of t-shirts and plushie toys, you’ll find them. However, those are vastly outweighed by the fun amusements, shops, galleries, restaurants and experiences. There is even a large-scale ride being constructed onsite right now, which will open very soon. (Opening March, 2023). Treasure Hunt: The Ride has a pirate theme, which is fitting for the local lore about the underground hideout of infamous Pirate Captain Hippolyte Bouchard.

All of this is punctuated by the gorgeous ocean waters of Monterey Bay, lapping on the rocks and piers of the wharves and buildings on its shore. Tourist or not, no visitor can ignore the gorgeous bay and coastline. This is the reason Cannery Row is so popular = its beauty.

At sunrise, this seagull roosts on a plaza pedestal at the Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa.

Wide Variety of Activities and Interests

My family and I set off from San Diego for a weekend of exploration and things to do at Cannery Row in Monterey. Getting there is now even more convenient, and we were thrilled to learn there is a direct flight on Alaska Air from San Diego to Monterey. The flight was a little more than an hour, and we were landed and ready to start our adventure.

Alaska Air wing shot over Monterey Bay, California
Winging over Monterey on our Alaska Air non-stop from San Diego. Sweet!

Here’s a breakdown of our itinerary for fun things to do at Cannery Row, in case you want to follow in our footsteps!

Fun Things to See and Do

Ocean Kayaking with Adventures by the Sea

This was a tough one, talking the girls into trying ocean kayaking. There were none too excited to put on waterproof jackets and pants, climb into 2-person ocean kayaks, and paddle around Monterey Bay. Once we got into the water, however, their attitudes changed like the wind. It wasn’t so bad after all, they had decided. In fact, it was pretty darn great!

Kayaking among the sea life and kelp forests in Monterey Bay, California with Cannery Row in the background. 2022
Kayaking in Monterey Bay with Cannery Row in the background.

Our guide led us across the harbor so we could see some amazing sights. Sea otters floated on their backs and played with each other lovingly. Sea lions barked their greetings as they perched on rocks and piers. All sorts of birds flew about and dove for invisible fish that they gobbled immediately upon surfacing. Two hours of paddling fun went by quickly, and helped us work up a great appetite for lunch. Of all the things to do at Cannery Row, this was truly one of the highlights.

Father and daughter kayaking in Monterey Bay
After a few practice strokes, we were off and running.
Monterey Bay Aquarium

Giant octopus, deep sea creatures, cute sea otters, splashing penguins and a host of colorful fish welcome guests at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Massive in size, the aquarium possesses an enormous collection of sea life. On display to help educate us, the collection here is accompanied by thoughtful programming and activities for all ages. In all, there are more than 35,000 sea animals and 2.3 million gallons of seawater to house them. The whole facility is extremely impressive.

Observation decks overlook the Monterey Bay, where whale sightings are not uncommon at the right time of year. Honestly, we could stay here all day and never tire of watching these interesting creatures in their near-to-natural habitats. The aquarium is known the world over for its attention to detail, fierce protection of its sea life and strong education programs about the environment and how we can help it. A non-profit organization, the Monterey Bay Aquarium is a leader in research and conservation.

Giant kelp forests inside aquarium tanks at Monterey Bay Aquarium in Cannery Row, Monterey Bay, CA. 2019
The exhibits at Monterey Bay Aquarium are stunning.
Spa Daze for Days

Within the Monterey Plaza Hotel, we ambled over to the top-floor Vista Blue Spa and were taken by the rooftop hot tubs and dipping pool overlooking the Bay. Inside, the spa is surprisingly large despite its modest lobby area. Everything has an ocean-centric theme here, and the services and treatments run the gamut from classic massages to Detox Body Peels to Clarifying Facials. Several options looked appealing, but the De-Stress Massage stood out as sorely needed. It was the perfect antidote to a long work week and one of our favorite things to do at Cannery Row on this trip.

rooftop hot tubs with ocean views at Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa, Monterey, California
Sitting in one of the rooftop hot tubs is a great way to unwind at the Vista Blue Spa.

 

Shopping Along Cannery Row

There are a ton of unique and fun shops along Cannery Row, and we ducked into several to let the girls have a good long look. Galleries selling original watercolors, painting and sculptures caught our eyes, but the girls were drawn to the sparkles in several jewelry stores. Custom artisan-crafted jewelry is very popular here, and we ogled different necklaces, earrings and bangles. Ultimately, Ava and Sophia decided on simple earrings from a fun bohemian store called Enlightenment Zone.  This could have gone on for hours but the smell of chocolate from famous Ghirardelli beckoned us. And who were we to resist?

Downtown Cannery Row in Monterey, California
So much shopping and people watching along Cannery Row, day or night!

Where to Eat in Cannery Row

Fish Hopper

Perched at the end of a pier on Cannery Row, Fish Hopper Restaurant served a delicious lunch, and those of us that like seafood were in seventh heaven. Overlooking Monterey Bay at a window-side table, we enjoyed our lunch immensely. Our tuna sashimi appetizer was a true standout, but so was my creamy lobster roll, all buttery-licious with fries and ranch dressing on the side. And Triton loved his Sesame Crusted Ahi Tuna and Coconut Prawn Salad. Sophia (who doesn’t care for seafood) gobbled up her Poached Pear Salad with strawberries and candied pecans, which was colorfully plated with an orchid on top.

Poached Pear Salad at The Fish Hopper, Cannery Row, Monterey
The Poached Pear Salad was a huge hit with the family.
  • The Fish Hopper – open daily from 10:30 for lunch and dinner
  • 700 Cannery Row (831) 372-8543
  • Lunch entrees start at $14.95 USD
The Fish Hopper restaurant at Cannery Row, Monterey, California
Set on the end of a historic pier, The Fish Hopper has a great menu.
Schooners Monterey

The Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa has a fantastic restaurant onsite, built right over the surf. Our dinners were classic and well-created, with some menu favorites that pleased us all. Standouts were the ribeye steak (massive) and the locally caught Black Cod with chantarelle mushrooms, wilted spinach, shrimp stuffed squash blossoms, and pineapple ginger sauce. More than that, our service was spectacular – both the server and her assistant kept us happy, entertained and anticipated our every need. Really solid.

Schooners Coastal Kitchen & Bar at Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa
The interior seating areas at Schooners Monterey are bright and colorful, with ocean views all around.
  • Schooners at the Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa
  • Dinner entrees start at $27/USD
The Sardine Factory

Perhaps this was the biggest surprise of our trip, because a restaurant with the name Sardine Factory could be misleading. From the outside, the landed sailboat and red clapboard sides of the restaurant might seem like a casual fish house. But inside is another story, and it was actually a sophisticated and highly popular restaurant with a celebrity chef and a long list of A-List stars, sports figures, politicians and regular schmoes like us.

The Sardine Factory restaurant entrance, Cannery Row, Monterey, California
Walking up to The Sardine Factory, we knew we were in for an experience like no other.

The host led us down a dark hallway to our table, and when we turned the corner the room opened up into a giant glass gazebo filled with good looking people and great smelling food.

glass rotunda at The Sardine Factory restaurant at Cannery Row, Monterey, California
We were so impressed walking into this glass rotunda at The Sardine Factory.

Our meal was a masterpiece of both taste and showmanship, and when we met the Executive Chef Bert Cutino we understood why. He’s an accomplished and much-awarded man both in the kitchen and out, and we absolutely loved our dinner here. From The Factory’s Famous Cheese Bread to my traditional Italian Clams and Linguini (Pasta Vongole) the dishes were superb. We loved the Castroville Artichoke Bisque and the Shrimp Scampi Rigatoni. My husband devoured his Diver Scallops with Wild Mushroom Polenta, and everyone rated their meals as truly delicious.

Diver Scallops at The Sardine Factory, Cannery Row, Monterey, California
Triton’s Divers Scallops were a specialty of The Sardine Factory.

And then came dessert. Served dramatically on a raised silver platter, Chocolate-Dipped Ice Cream Bon Bons required the waiter to trigger a dry ice-induced spectacle. This covered our table in a dense, thick fog which spilled over and on to the floor. Other tables were as excited as we were to watch the action unfold. The ice cream was clearly secondary to the presentation, which was just fine with us.

Ice Cream Bon Bons at The Sardine Factory, Cannery Row, Monterey, California
This photo does not do the dry ice fog justice, but you get the point.
  • Sardine Factory
  • 701 Wave Street, Monterey  (831) 373-3775 – Dinner 5 – 9:30 weekdays, 5-10 weekends
  • Dinner entrees from $29 USD
The C
The C restaurant outdoor seating, Cannery Row, Monterey, California
The C restaurant has both indoor and outdoor seating with amazing views of Monterey Bay.

Over in the lobby of the Intercontinental The Clement Hotel facing the ocean, The C restaurant was a welcome respite after our kayak sojourn. Again we were really pleased with the fresh seafood choices, and perhaps might have over-ordered a bit. But those giant prawn cocktails and fried calamari were so darn good! Main courses we enjoyed most were the Monterey Bay Rock Cod Tacos, the Flat Iron Steak Sandwich (with bleu cheese and carmelized onions- yum) and of course, the cheeseburger with fries. Ava even said her hamburger was one of the best she’s had in a long time. Triton and I added to the decadence by ordering martinis at lunch, slurping them up like old pros from an episode of Mad Men.

toasting martinis at The C restaurant at Cannery Row
These dads needed a little pick-me-up after all that ocean kayaking.

  • The C restaurant at the Intercontinental The Clement Hotel – open 6:30 am – 10 pm
  • 750 Cannery Row, 831-375-4500
  • Lunch entrees start at $17 USD

Places to Stay in Cannery Row

Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa
Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa entrance, Monterey, California
The Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa strikes an impressive portrait at the entrance to Cannery Row.

When we walked in the front door of the Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa, we all drew a deep breath. The front lobby is bounded by a row of windows, all looking out on the ocean with perfect views. In the middle of that wall, a roaring fire crackled in the fireplace with cozy chairs surrounding it. Immediately impressed, we had that feeling continue for the duration of our stay.

One of the hotel’s main features is a huge plaza between the buildings that overlooks the ocean (get it? Monterey Plaza Resort). With an arbor and columns, an enormous fountain and tons of vantage points, the plaza is a great gathering place for families, friends and lovers. At night, a large outdoor firepit warms guests who can sit in comfy chairs and sofas positioned around its sides.

Room view of plaza, fountain and Monterey Bay at the Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa
The view from our room at the Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa look over it’s enormous plaza and ocean beyond.

With a little chill in the evening air, this was a great way to end the evening before heading upstairs to sink into slumber.Our rooms were spacious, beds were very comfortable, and everything was spotlessly clean. Follow the link for a more detailed review of the Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa.

king bedroom at Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa at Cannery Row
Spacious rooms are a hallmark of the Monterey Plaza Hotel, and that bed was soooo comfy.
Spindrift Inn

With intimate turn-of-the-century style, the Spindrift Inn is one of the oldest buildings on Cannery Row. Updated over the years since 1927, the boutique hotel has just been renovated with fresh design and furnishing. Yet it still offers a historic feeling as you enter the lobby. Positioned right on McAbee Beach, the hotel is built on piers over the water so rooms can look straight down at the sea.  It offers 45 guest rooms with European charm and continental breakfast each morning.

Guest room overlooking Monterey Bay at the Spindrift Inn in Cannery Row, Monterey, California 2022
The rooms have recently been renovated at the Spindrift Inn.

I enjoyed my coffee and blueberry muffin while perched on my room’s window seat, overlooking Monterey Bay. On the rooftop, there is a deck with broad views of the ocean, Cannery Row and the hills of Monterey beyond. Kayakers paddled in the calm waters while sea otters played nearby in the kelp beds. I watched a flock of pelicans swoop and dive for fish as I sipped my coffee. Pretty darn peaceful.

Ocean view room from window seat with cushions and cup of coffee at the Spindrift Inn, Cannery Row, Monterey, California 2022
Enjoying coffee and the bay view from my room’s window seat at the Spindrift Inn.

A Fantastic Weekend at Cannery Row

Our entire family returned home with hue smiles on our faces from a fun and active weekend in Monterey. After all, there was something for everybody and so many things to do at Cannery Row. Ocean kayaking adventures. Relaxing massages. Cute sea animals. Amazing meals. And room service!

Cannery Row with the Spindrift Inn in the foreground and Fish Hopper Restaurant in the background.

 

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