Top things to do

Top Choice Historic Building in San Simeon

Hearst Castle

Hearst Castle is a wondrous, historic, over-the-top homage to material excess, perched high on a hill. The estate sprawls across acres of lushly landscaped gardens, accentuated by shimmering pools and fountains, sta…
Top Choice Aquarium in Monterey

Monterey Bay Aquarium

Monterey’s most mesmerizing experience is its enormous aquarium, built on the former site of the city’s largest sardine cannery. All kinds of aquatic creatures are featured, from kid-tolerant sea stars and slimy sea…
Top Choice Lighthouse in Big Sur

Point Sur State Historic Park

A little over 6 miles south of Bixby Bridge, Point Sur rises like a velvety green fortress out of the sea. It looks like an island, but is actually connected to land by a sandbar. Atop the volcanic rock sits an 1889…
Top Choice Seafood in Pacific Grove

Passionfish

Fresh, sustainable seafood is artfully presented in any number of inventive ways, and a seasonally inspired menu also carries slow-cooked meats and vegetarian dishes spotlighting local farms. The earth-tone decor is…
Top Choice Seafood in Pismo Beach

Cracked Crab

Fresh seafood and regional wines are the staples at this super-casual, family-owned grill. When the famous bucket o’seafood, full of flying bits of fish, Cajun sausage, red potatoes and cob corn, gets dumped on your…
Top Choice Market in San Luis Obispo

San Luis Obispo Farmers Market

The county’s biggest and best weekly farmers market turns downtown SLO’s Higuera St into a giant street party, with smokin’ barbecues, overflowing fruit and veggie stands, live music and free sidewalk entertainment,…
Top Choice State Park in Carmel-by-the-Sea

Point Lobos State Natural Reserve

They bark, they bathe and they’re fun to watch – sea lions are the stars here at Punta de los Lobos Marinos (Point of the Sea Wolves), almost 4 miles south of Carmel, where a dramatically rocky coastline offers exce…
Top Choice Church in Carmel-by-the-Sea

Mission San Carlos Borroméo de Carmelo

Monterey's original mission was established by Franciscan friar Junípero Serra in 1770, but poor soil and the corrupting influence of Spanish soldiers forced the move to Carmel two years later. Today this is one of …
Top Choice Lighthouse in Avila Beach

Point San Luis Lighthouse

Just getting to this scenic 1890 lighthouse, overshadowed by Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant, is an adventure. The cheapest way to reach the lighthouse is via a rocky, crumbling, 3.75-mile round-trip hiking trail,…
Top Choice Park in Big Sur

Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park

If you're chasing waterfalls, swing into this state park named for a Big Sur pioneer. From the parking lot, the 1.3-mile round-trip Overlook Trail rushes downhill toward the ocean, passing through a tunnel underneat…