Pebble Beach is located in the Del Monte Forest about 2 hours south of San Francisco. It is home to a several mile stretch of the most beautiful coastline in the world. It’s also home to 5 of the most amazing golf courses in existence . Ask any golfer – playing Pebble is akin to a pilgrimage to a sacred shrine. How do I know? I’m a local – my parents live in Carmel-by-the-Sea, and my Dad still plays golf at Monterey Peninsula Country Club twice a week. I’m sure he’ll want his ashes scattered in one of the sand traps when his time comes.
Be sure to bring along a lot of layers. The microclimate in Pebble Beach is usually cool, and either windy or foggy. We usually have guests bring a jacket and a sweater since you never know what the temperature will be. Add a bit of windchill from the Pacific breeze, and it can get downright nippy.
To do a 4 hour tour properly, the best way is to start is in the Del Monte Forest. If you’re in Monterey, continue down Lighthouse Avenue into Pacific Grove and enter the Forest through the Pacific Grove Gate. If you’re driving south on Highway 1, take the Pebble Beach exit and enter the Forest through the Highway 1 Gate. It costs $9.50 per carload to enter, you get a cool map, and a nice smile from the ranger on duty. Trust me, they’re all really nice people. What you’re looking for is 17 mile Drive. Start up by Spanish Bay and work your way back to the Pebble Beach Lodge – this way you see bits of all 6 golf courses as well as the best of the coastline. If you’re hungry, I can recommend Sticks at the Inn at Spanish Bay for lunch. It has a great view, and the food is good.
As you’re driving south, the coastline will be on your right with
several turnouts with scenic views. Each one has different prospects – rocks, tidepools, birds, sea lions, and the odd whale traveling between Alaska and the feeding grounds in Baja California. If you’re there between December and March, look out to the sea for gray whales leaping from the water, enormous flukes popping out, or huge waterspouts. Closer to shore, there are also usually an odd group or two of seals or sea otters that can frolic by at any particular time.
Our personal favorites for incredible pictures are Bird Rock, Seal Rock, and Point Joe. Yes, those are sea lions on Bird Rock. They moved in many years ago, and now won’t leave. The birds have to be content with the tidepools and all the yummy sea life therein – lucky birds…
Point Joe is also the site of what my son Alexei calls “the money hole”. It’s one of the tees of the Dunes course at Monterey Peninsula Country Club, and he loves to get up there and whack the ball a few hundred yards in front of the tourists. If you see any white-haired golfers, be sure to give them a bit of sass. They’ll probably wave and answer back. If it’s a Saturday morning, the chances are pretty good one of those old farts is my Dad, and he loves to sass right back at you.
There are several small beaches along the way that lure the unwary into putting their toes in the water. Beware – the northern Pacific Ocean is very, very cold. Surfers and divers must wear wetsuits or suffer hypothermia. Also, beware of the very strong riptides and undertow on this section of the Coast.
Best of all, don’t go in the water past your knees, no matter how warm the day is. My colleague Stefanie found that out the hard way during her visit, as you can see here.
Continuing on, you’ll go past the scenic views around Cypress Point Country Club and Spyglass Hill Golf Course. Cypress is a private club like Monterey Peninsula, but Spyglass is open to the public, as is Pebble Beach and The Links at Spanish Bay. As long as it’s not raining, you see those golfers who like a challenging course with winds that will slap your ball down like the Hand of God (or so my son claims), and want to say they ‘played Spyglass’. Most of the higher handicaps go to Spanish Bay (my dad finds a lot of gently-used, expensive golf balls that get sliced and shanked onto the grounds of MPCC by hacks who should know better) while those who don’t mind getting torn up play Spyglass. If you’re up for a round that costs upward of $400 per person, then go for Pebble Beach. The views alone are worth the price. Watch for duffers sacrificing balls to the Golf Gods over the cliffs. Great fun!
The next sight is probably the most famous of all – The Lone Cypress. The Monterey Cypress is only found naturally in this area, and this tree has grown on this rock for hundreds of years, weathering high winds, storms, pollution and the awed gaze of millions of tourists. The tree is now getting some help to live for another 50 or so years by cables and a foundation around it’s roots. The ocean prospect around Cypress Point is incredibly beautiful – especially when the waves are 10-12 feet, as they often are in the winter.
As you leave, you’ll go through a lovely cypress grove, and more of the forest. Check out the multimillion dollar homes on both sides and imagine what it would be like to live in one of them. Well, you can dream, right??
The next stop is the Pebble Beach Resort. Park here and walk around. There are some overpriced shops there selling AT&T Pro-Am and US Open logo gear in addition to just about anything they can put the Pebble Beach logo on. Recognize it? It’s The Lone Cypress. Moichandizing!! You’ll see a post office (yes, it has its own zip code!) and a small general store if you need water or something for the kids. The Lodge at Pebble Beach is another neat sight to see. If you’re hungry, the Stillwater Bar&Grill and the Tap Room both have excellent food. If you’re casually dressed, go to the Tap Room – the Grill can be a bit dressier.
Now take a walk (or drive) down to Stillwater Cove – it’s right below the Pebble Beach Club – you can’t miss it. The Beach Club is a private club, but is open to guests staying at the Lodge. Just beyond it is a public access to the pier and the beach at Stillwater Cove. If you’re a golfer, you’ll probably recognize this view – it’s the cove that you see on TV coverage from the 17th and 18th fairways and holes on the Pebble Beach Golf Links.
Now it’s back to your car and out of Pebble Beach Resort. Take a right at 17 Mile Drive and continue on, gawking at all the homes on both sides. You can drive through the forest, gazing at the natural habitats of deer, rodents, and celebrities, or you can exit at the Carmel Gate and enter into the lovely little village of Carmel-by-the-Sea.
Now you know how to see Pebble Beach in 4 hours or less – including lunch. May the Travel Gods be with you!