Essential local tips from influential Monterey County luminaries.
By Renee Brincks
Lisa Maldonado Bradford
California State Parks Interpreter
Top hiking spot?
"Jacks Peak Park. One trail has stunning Monterey Bay views, and there's plenty of wildlife — banana slugs, hawks, and sometimes even a mountain lion."
Favorite historic building?
"The Stevenson House in Monterey State Historic Park has a beautiful back garden. Inside, light fills the 1840s-era sala and there's a collection of Robert Louis Stevenson's personal artifacts."
Best season to visit?
"The fall. From late August to late October, you get cool mornings and evenings and lovely, mid-70s days that tend to be clear and free of the gray marine layer."
Goat guy and cheesemaker, Carmel Valley Ranch
Where do you take visiting friends?
"The Valley Kitchen here at Carmel Valley Ranch, where Chef Tim Wood does excellent work. Other favorite restaurants are Sierra Mar at Post Ranch Inn and Poppy Hall in Pacific Grove."
Favorite stop in Big Sur?
"I worked as a staff cook at Esalen in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, and came back years later as the head chef. I actually wrote the Esalen Cookbook. So, Esalen has a special place in my heart."
Must-see local attraction?
"The Monterey Bay Aquarium is the jewel of Monterey County. I enjoy visiting, especially when there are new exhibits."
Founder and director, Open Ground Studios
Favorite annual event?
"The West End Celebration, hands down. It's held in Sand City each August, and it's the best place for arts, crafts, music, and food. It's a great place to meet locals."
Best place to shop?
"Monterey's Lilify has hand-made ceramics, modern metal jewelry created by locals, artist-made cards that you can't find anywhere else, and great gifts."
Go-to happy hour spot?
"The rooftop at Vesuvio in Carmel, or the beer garden behind Alvarado Street Brewery."