Hyatt Regency Monterey Hotel
and Spa on Del Monte Golf Course

Monterey is all about the sea:  Cannery Row, the wharf, and the famed Monterey Bay Aquarium are all major tourism draws to the Spanish-influenced coastal community.

Cannery Row is a shopping destination.

Only a couple hours drive from San Francisco and the Bay Area, Monterey is an easy day trip to help take the hustle and bustle out of city life and breathe cool wisps of ocean air directly into your soul.

Arriving in Monterey felt like a breath of fresh air, quite literally. Driving up to the Hyatt Regency Monterey Hotel and Spa on Del Monte Golf Course, I couldn’t help but keep the windows rolled down to appreciate the salty ocean air as it cooled my face. Upon arrival, my girlfriend and I were greeted by a friendly and helpful hotel staff who immediately offered us water, which my girlfriend (who might as well be part fish since she drinks four liters of water per day), especially appreciated after the drive.

Coming from San Francisco, where we are regularly serenaded with the sounds of honking cars and screeching Muni busses; we greatly enjoyed the change of pace. Here in Monterey, we were greeted with the soft calls of seagulls, the lapping of ocean waves, and the soft sea breeze gently caressing the trees around the beautiful Hyatt resort.

The Hyatt Regency Monterey glows during twilight.

Surrounded by 22 acres of soaring Monterey Pines on the scenic Central California coastline, the Hyatt Regency Monterey Hotel and Spa on Del Monte Golf Course is a hidden garden oasis.  Its close proximity to popular tourism areas in downtown Monterey makes it much more than a golf-cation. In fact, I don’t even golf and I very much enjoyed being here.

The check-in process was quick, and within minutes we were in our room. It was tempting to sink into the plush pillow-top mattress and relax since the room boasted blue hues and soft lighting all throughout. We (and by we I really mean I) also took advantage of the Earl Grey chocolates immediately;  they were delicious. Don’t tell my girlfriend. Our spacious suite tempted us to stay and take a bath or shower under the rainwater faucet, but we wanted to see Monterey and take in the sites, so we dropped off our bags and headed for town.

Hyatt's Pebble Beach golf course Fireplace Lounge.

Going straight for the #1 attraction in the area, we drove the quick commute to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Filled with sea otters, an 800lb tuna, sharks and tons of other sea creatures, the Monterey Bay Aquarium is recognized as one of the best in the country. And more than just seeing the huge glass enclosures, the aquarium is a staple for environmental oceanic conservation and research.

With cute little penguins stammering for fish, peaceful currents of various schools of fish, the aquarium is more than just a science exhibit. You can also spend the night inside the aquarium and sleep with the fish. It may seem strange at first, but once you find yourself immersed and surrounded by the deep blue and all its oceanic life, you’ll want nothing more but to sit and contemplate life as you watch them float by in their huge glass tanks.

Interact with jellyfish at Monterey Bay Aquarium.

One of our favorite exhibits here was the jellyfish tank. These otherworldly creatures bounce about like glowing sea-aliens. Whether you are traveling with curious kids, or are looking for a way to slow down and escape your day-to-day, this exhibit is visually spectacular and offers a great way to step outside of what’s expected.

As we departed, the scattered puffy white clouds rolled in bringing with it beautiful curtains of rain over the sea. You can see this and other beautiful seaside sites along an outdoor patio connected to the aquarium. Rainbows appeared and disappeared as though Mother Nature was performing a show just for us. Once the sunlit color refractions faded, we eventually made our way towards the famed Cannery Row before the sun dipped behind the low-lying clouds.

Wander the quaint shops of Cannery Row.

From funny sock stores to a gigantic candy store, we meandered around entertained and again tempted by delicious smelling snacks. I, being the sugar fiend of the century, couldn’t resist the candy store. Barrels of taffy, hilariously named presidential campaign chocolates and pretty much anything you could imagine that could be made with sugar was there. They even had some video games. My girlfriend literally had to pull me out of the store by my arm so I wouldn’t buy up everything and get myself sick.

But just because the sock and candy stores were my highlights doesn’t mean its for everyone. Some may be more interested in knowing that Cannery Row was made famous at the turn-of-the-century when it was known more for the canning of sardines, and for John Steinbeck’s novel Cannery Row. There’s even a bronzed statue of Steinbeck at the bottom of Prescott Ave. From what started with a fishy stink and blue-collared industrial area, Cannery Row now is seen as a touristy collection of seaside shops where visitors can stock up on their local souvenirs to take home. Although the raw industrial use of the area has passed, the architecture echoes the past of that bygone era.

Hyatt's Knuckles Sports Bar - voted Monterey's
best sports bar 14 years in a row.

Exhausted from candy and shopping and seeing tons of fish, it was a perfect day. We retired back to the Hyatt where we wandered into the Fireplace Lounge to relax over a few glasses of wine. After my girlfriend convinced me to get off Facebook (they have a local WiFi network complimentary to guests), we had a small bite to eat and sank into the relaxation of the room before dinner.

Disconnect in Hyatt's suites on the golf course.

If you’re lucky enough to snag one of the Monterey Suite rooms, you’ll enjoy a one and a half-bath, 685 square foot room with its own sofa and desk. Better yet is the glass shower and marble flooring that makes you truly feel rich. The backlit mirror, although mainly for functional purposes, will have you looking at yourself with what looks like photo studio quality light. You may just be overwhelmed with temptation to take the obligatory bathroom selfie in here.

Overall, the hotel boasts 550 guestrooms including 27 of the above-mentioned suites, but you won’t likely be in the room most of the time if you plan to take advantage of the huge amount of amenities. If you’re a candy fiend like me, you may want to work on that pudge and hit the 2,000 square foot fitness facility, or one of the tennis courts. Or better yet, get out into the fresh air and rent a bicycle so you can carve out new territory along one of the pleasant bike or jogging paths.

Relax on clean cotton linens in a standard room.

Too lazy for all that? Just go to the pool and impersonate one of those lumbering walrus-like sea lions you saw at the aquarium and order food poolside. Or if you want a change of scenery, switch it up from the pool to one of Monterey’s famed beaches.

We headed down to Carmel for a day trip, not at all enticed by the sweet city name. Carmel Beach is quite nice and quaint, and the shops nearby are similarly cute and boutique-y. But to be honest, we ended up spending most of our time relaxing in the hotel room watching TV and listening to the sounds of the birds from our golf course view balcony. It’s a relaxing way to get away from the construction and city sounds of home up in San Francisco.

While candy is my Achilles heel, another key indulgence in the Monterey area is the wine. For wine enthusiasts, like my girlfriend, this town is truly a hidden gem. Unlike the hoit- toity counterparts in other famous California wine regions, local wineries near Monterey offer delicious wines without the attitude. We visited one such winery on our trip, and enjoyed great conversation with the winemaker, along with several wine members who stopped in for a tasting on a rainy Sunday afternoon. According to my girlfriend (who actually knows about wine), the wines were delicious. If you are looking to take home a bottle and meet some friendly locals, definitely take the time to stop by one of the many wineries in the region. They will not disappoint!

Five-star chefs prepare meals in the
open kitchen at the Hyatt's TusCA Ristorante .

But when It comes to food and drink, the Hyatt made us feel like we were at a big family gathering. We sat around a large, elegant table at TusCa Ristorante, alongside the winemaker and his wife. All locals to Monterey, they regaled us with stories of local life in their community. Everyone was very warm and friendly, and we could tell how much pride they all took, not only in the food and wine they were serving, but also in their hometown. Each course was lovingly explained by the chef himself. He would stand by the table as we ate to watch our happy expressions with each savory bite. The winemaker was quick to refill our glasses, learning from each guest which varietal they preferred, and taking the time to explain the process behind the wine.

Coming from a big, friendly family myself, the Hyatt staff made me feel at home. We left the meal feeling happy and satisfied, not just from the food and wine, but from the company as well. This was the running theme throughout the duration of our stay at the Monterey Hotel and Spa on Del Monte Golf Course, and it left an impression that transcends the normal expectations for Hyatt into a realm that felt more like a familial home away from home.

— Feature by Josh Edelson, Jetsetters Magazine Correspondent; photos by Josh Edelson and courtesy of the Hyatt Regency Monterey. View Josh's Recent News Work: AFP via Getty and his portfolio: