Monterey, California, marked the first stop on our 17-day cruise from San Francisco to Fort Lauderdale via the Panama Canal.
I admit we underestimated this gorgeous bay on the Pacific coast of central California, choosing instead to more thoroughly research other countries we would be visiting, like Colombia, Mexico and Guatemala.
However, we enjoyed ourselves completely during our trip around Monterey and fell for its sunny charm. The historic piece of America was a former thriving fishing village and more recently a hub for artistic types. John Steinbeck, who lived in the area, famously immortalizes the city in his works "Cannery Row" and "Tortilla Flat."
We were able to briskly explore Monterey and its stunning coast thanks to Sea Car Tours. The new Monterey company gave us use of two of its three-wheel cars to tool around for a half day. The open-air vehicles can reach speeds up to 50 mph and give turn-by-turn GPS navigation of a plotted route from the company's shop and back.
We started out in town near the cruise pier at Sea Car Tours' location at Alvarado Plaza. All we needed to know was that the route would keep us away from any busy traffic streams and that we shouldn't head up any steep hills. Apparently there have been issues with this type of driving by some rowdy tourists.
We heeded the rules and warnings and had a blast. I couldn't believe all the jealous looks we got as we motored around Monterey. People were intrigued by the bright yellow cars and the helmeted tourists zipping past. We became the subjects of several photos as we drove around the town.
First we made our way along the coast on a perfectly sunny and warm day. We traced the route along the water and adjacent to the walking/biking trail that is gorgeously maintained and fully utilized by residents and visitors for jogging, skateboarding, roller-blading and just strolling.
We stopped for a scenic picnic lunch, enjoyed perched on the rocky outcroppings and in the company of dozens of birds and even an otter who floated by (belly up, of course).
While the tour offers a GPS outline of the route, we found it easy to modify the plan and hop in and out whenever a new sight drew our attention. Of course, we were going to seek out a place to enjoy a local brew and a snack of homemade chips and salsa.
Sea Car Tours provides a map and details of all the highlights in town. The company had seven cars when we visited and said more are on the way because of demand. Sea Cars also rents pimped-out scooters to tour around Monterey, too.
Prices are $60 per car for one hour, $110 for two hours and $160 for three hours. I have no doubt you will have a lot of fun if you choose to try them out. Also, make sure to get to Monterey if you ever have the chance. It's a nice gem right here in the United States and is not to be underestimated or overlooked, I learned.
Thanks for reading,