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Monterey Tides
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The best hotels in Monterey Bay

Headed to the world-famous aquarium? Book a room at one of these chic hotels in Monterey.

Written by
Garrick Ramirez

Given its spectacular bayfront setting, world-famous aquarium, plethora of things to do and immediate access off Highway 1, Monterey hosts its fair share of travelers. Lodging leans toward cozy inns—some of which are getting a 21st century refresh—while a handful of larger properties flex their waterfront muscle.

Properties tend to be clustered around Cannery Row, a touristy, waterfront thoroughfare lined with former sardine factories that was immortalized in John Steinbeck novels. Disregard the sea otter plushy-filled shops and head straight for the shore. Whether you dive, kayak, or simply peer into its sealife-filled waters, the Monterey Bay casts a spell. Here are the best hotels in Monterey Bay. 

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Best hotels in Monterey

Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa
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1. Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa

Only kayakers get closer to the water at this handsome, upscale property. 

This posh hotel dials up the wow factor with a dynamo waterfront setting—half of the hotel sits on stilts directly above the crystal-clear Monterey Bay. Looking out from the warm, clubby lobby, you’d swear you were aboard a cruise ship at sea. Needless to say, you’ll want to spring for the newly renovated ocean view rooms (we’ve often wondered if the perfectly pleasant inland rooms end up being used for storage). Get a room with a seafront balcony and you’ll enjoy gazing through the room’s binoculars to spot otters and dolphins frolicking just offshore. We’re fans of the nautical-themed Schooners Coastal Kitchen & Bar, especially during daylight hours given the knockout views. But the best views are located at the top-floor spa which features a fireplace-warmed outdoor deck with hot tubs, lounge seating, and sweeping vistas of the Monterey Bay.

Time Out Tip: The property is steps from San Carlos Beach Park, a popular scuba spot that features a pocket, golden sand beach with tables for waterfront picnics.

Portola Hotel & Spa
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2. Portola Hotel & Spa

Recent refresh spruces up solid lodging with killer locale.

This venerable conference-friendly hotel has a lot going on for it, most notably its enviable setting between the waterfront and Monterey’s revitalized downtown. Rooms are comfy and well-kept, akin to what you’d find at a solid Westin or Marriott (unfortunately, so is the pay-to-play Wi-Fi). The property’s tree-filled atrium lobby received a recent refresh which makes it a pleasant space to grab a bite from the airy Jack’s bar and restaurant. And despite the 1980s microbrew-era logo, Peter B’s Brewpub is a decent spot to sip a beer around a patio firepit. The hotel fronts the amazing Monterey Bay Coastal Recreation Trail. Hop on a bike from the onsite rental company and cruise south for stunning waterfront views.

Time Out Tip: The property sits amidst beautiful—but obscured—gardens from the Mexican rancho period. Hidden behind tall white walls immediately adjacent to the Portola, the Pacific House garden hides Insta-worthy blooms and a rippling fountain in a courtyard that once hosted ferocious bear versus bull fights.

Hotel Pacific
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3. Hotel Pacific

Spread out at Monterey’s only all-suite property.

Settle into spacious digs at this attractive spot with a contemporary Cal-Moorish design. The 500-sq.-ft. standard rooms feature lounge areas with fireplaces, dining areas, and private balconies. Plus, you can ditch the car and walk to most of what Monterey has to offer. Guests enjoy perks including free Wi-Fi and a cut-above continental breakfast, while weekend guests are treated to evening wine and cheese. The property also hides three courtyards dotted with fountains and fire pits—the perfect spot to knock back that bottle of wine you nabbed at one of the region’s many wineries.

Time Out Tip: As the name suggests, the hotel faces oft-busy Pacific Street. Those sensitive to road noise should ask for an internal room.

InterContinental The Clement Monterey Hotel
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4. InterContinental The Clement Monterey Hotel

Modern, waterfront retreat in the heart of bustling Cannery Row

You’ll appreciate returning to the sleek interiors of this refreshingly modern hotel after a day exploring the sites, including the popular Monterey Bay Aquarium which sits a sardine can’s throw away. Spa-like rooms feature bathrobes, Frette linens, and marble bathrooms with soaking tubs. And like all properties situated along the bay, the ocean-facing rooms offer mesmerizing views. The dining room at C restaurant peers out over the water, but we wish the same could be said of the hotel’s tiny yet serviceable bar. Instead, walk your drinks out to the waterfront deck, warm up alongside a pair of fire pits, and relish front-row views of the magnificent Monterey Bay.

Time Out Tip: The property advertises a pool, and we suppose that’s technically true, but the narrow strip of water located at the rear of the property isn’t worth packing your swimwear.

Monterey Tides
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5. Monterey Tides

Hip lodging plunked directly on the sand. 

Boutique-hotel whisperer Joie de Vivre took a staid Best Western property and transformed it into a desirable destination worthy of its beachfront locale. It was a remodel, not a tear down, so expect exterior corridors and slender walls. Yet, interiors shine with modern furnishings and a hip, coastal design. Plus, the hotel offers fun perks such as a bonfire kit for roasting s’mores at the beach which sits steps from the front desk. After you’ve shaken the sand from your espadrilles, sip sangria at Spanish-inspired Bar Sebastián and nosh tuna tacos at the waterfront Vizcaino restaurant.

Time Out Tip: Room sizes might be cozy, but the views from the oceanfront rooms are expansive. Ask for floors 2 and 3 for the best vistas.

Wave Street Inn
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6. Wave Street Inn

Affordable botlhole with modern interiors and walkable locale.

Don’t need the full-service day spa or plush cocktail lounge for your overnight jaunt? Book this stylish, low-key spot for its central locale and newly remodeled interiors. Rebranded in 2017, the 32 guest rooms feature contemporary design with shiplap walls, tufted headboards, and restrooms with sliding barn doors. You’ll also get a mini fridge, Keurig machine, and free Wi-Fi. Use the cash you saved on the modest room rate to hit the many eateries and bars right outside your door.

Time Out Tip: In lieu of a minibar or continental breakfast, the inn provides a fun snack bag at check-in. Yet, if you’re craving something more nourishing than Svenhard’s danishes, you may want to hit the local Whole Foods beforehand.

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