When venturing through California, take advantage of our network of West Coast hostels to jump from town to town and experience the glorious Golden State. On the central coast, between Santa Cruz and Big Sur, you'll spot the beautiful, seaside town of Monterey, home to HI Monterey Hostel.
In Monterey, there's a seemingly endless list of things to do, but since any stop along Highway 1 requires an ocean-centric activity of one kind or another, start your adventure on the Monterey Bay Coastal Recreation Trail and see where it leads.
The Monterey Bay Trail is an 18-mile stretch of protected, paved path that hugs the coast from the town of Castroville south to Pacific Grove. The trail follows the same path as the old Southern Pacific Railway and provides a traffic-free alternative for pedestrians and cyclists.
You can pick up the trail just three blocks from the hostel, near the Monterey Bay Aquarium. From there, head south past Lovers Point Park -- a popular park with beautiful ocean vistas -- to the trail's end in Pacific Grove. Or head north along Cannery Row to Fisherman's Wharf, San Carlos Beach (an area popular with divers), and Monterey State Beach, famous for its impressive sand dunes. And speaking of sand dunes, further north along the trail there's the massive Fort Ord Dunes. The trail passes through the towns of Sand City, Seaside, and Marina before ending in the artichoke center of the world, Castroville.
The Monterey Bay Trail is a front-and-center viewing spot -- in addition to gorgeous ocean vistas, it's a prime place to watch sea otters bob in the water while sea lions bask in the sun. Dotted with runners, hikers, bicycles, and surreys (canopied quadricycles), the recreational trail is truly multipurpose, and there are plenty of spots to rent bikes, in-line skates, kayaks, or diving gear along the way. There are many restaurants and cafes along the trail, but there's also ample space to picnic. So why not pack some supplies and grab a few friends from the hostel and go exploring in the sweet spot by the sea.