Nestled among the wineries and beaches of sunny California, the Portola Hotel & Spa is a charming and well-appointed seaside resort just a short drive from the coastal views, seaside cliffs and winding, misty coastlines of Monterey Bay. Halfway through a road trip from San Francisco to L.A., Culture Trip pulled off the Pacific Coast Highway to check it out.
Ideally located in the heart of Monterey, the Portola is just steps from Fisherman’s Wharf, John Steinbeck’s Cannery Row, the Monterey Bay Aquarium and National Marine Sanctuary, and a short drive to Big Sur, Carmel Valley, 17-Mile Drive, Carmel-by-the-Sea and the world-class Pebble Beach Golf Links.
Destinations Unlocked:Let our travel expert Stefano help you find your perfect Culture trip
Looking for an expert's perspective?Uncover my top 3 recommended places from each continent on the map.
1. GuatemalaAn express adventure for those with limited time off. Prepare yourself incredible experiences. You will hike a volcano, visit mayan temples and witness a ceremony and take in beautiful colonial Antigua.
2. BelizeA quick trip not too far away for those seeking a relaxing mini break. You will have plenty of free time to relax but also some awesome activities to experience the rainforest and the caribbean sea.
3. MexicoAn exciting mini trip exploring the lesser known colonial towns of central Mexico. This is hte perfect trip for someone with limited time off and still wants to turn on explorer mode and do something different.
1. EcuadorA remarkable 8 days adventure through the Andes and the Amazon rainforest. The best choice for adventure seekers wishing to visit the 2 most iconic areas of South America, in only 1 week and no flights.
2. PeruAn alternative itinerary to classic Peru, from Cusco to Arequipa. This itinerary is great combination of highlights Cusco and Machu Picchu with the lesser known Arequipa and Colca Canyon.
1. ItalyThe ultimate Italian experience from the vibrant streets of Naples to the breathtaking sceneries of the Amalfi Coast followed by Matera and down to Puglia with its golden beaches, intense flavours and fascinating destinations.
2. ScotlandEmbark on this great adventure starting from London all the way to Scotland with a true Scottish experience made of breathtaking sceneries, whisky tasting and ..lots of fun! Ideal for train lovers and explorers.
3. PortugalA wonderful train journey around Portugal, from the romantic city of Porto to the Douro Valley, to the beautiful Aveiro all the way to Lisbon and Sintra. The perfect trip to train, culinary and culture lovers.
1. South KoreaDiscover incredible temples, mountains and modern cities on this 10 day adventure. This trip is perfect for those seeking immersion in the cuisine, culture and natural wonders of South Korea.
2. ThailandFrom Bankgok to Angkor Wat to Ho Chi Minh City and everything in between - adventure through the heart of South-East Asia. Taste the delights, see history brought to life and unwind on a Mekong River cruise.
3. Sri LankaA fantastic adventure that showcases Sri Lanka's fantastic landscapes, wildlife and flavours. With 3 epic rail journeys, 3 UNESCO heritage sites and time to relax, this trip has loads to offer at a great price
1. MoroccoAn epic journey across Morocco: from Casablanca to Marrakech, through the blue city of Chefchaouen to the wonders of the desert and deep to the High Atlas Mountains - this trip has it all! Ideal for true explorers!
2. EgyptFrom Cairo to Aswan, this trip brings the land of the pharaohs to life. You'll visit the Pyramids, Valley of the Kings and Luxor Temple and cruise down the Nile in style. This is the perfect way to explore Egypt.
The airy, sun-drenched lobby is an atrium-like space complete with living trees and natural wood elements – a nod to the Portola’s status as one of the first eco-friendly hotels in central California.
Our sizable double room had tasteful nautical décor, a pillow-top King size bed with 300 thread-count white linens, oversized club chairs and a large balcony with a panoramic view of the marina. The organic bath products were made from renewable and biodegradable materials, and the shower, toilet and faucets were all low-flow to reduce the hotel’s carbon footprint.
Guests are treated to a variety of on-site dining spaces: Peter B’s Brewpub, Monterey’s original craft brewery stocked with locally-brewed beer, 18 high-definition televisions and pub-style comfort foods, or Jacks Monterey, a sophisticated but unpretentious space specializing in small plates, high-quality seafood and wine.
At Jacks Monterey, we enjoyed the restaurant’s interpretation of a local delicacy – Jack’s Chowder with clams, dungeness crab, grilled artichoke hearts, bakers bacon ($8), and topped up with a Hamachi Crudo of yellow tail tuna, watermelon radish, pickled alba mushrooms and a serrano chili vinaigrette ($11). For mains, we dug into filet mignon with sauté of wild mushroom, potato puree and sauce bordelaise ($25) and butternut squash ravioli noisette ($15), which left us feeling full and satisfied.
Equipped with the largest day spa in Monterey County, the Portola offers an outdoor pool and hot tub, steam room, sauna, separate men’s and womens’ locker rooms, relaxation lounge, and a separate salon facility for manicures and pedicures.
In the morning, we woke up to the sounds of sealions barking in the harbour below, and took in the stunning harbor view over a cup of coffee on our balcony.
We decided to skip breakfast (though a tempting European-style buffet served with Peet’s Coffee® and bottomless mimosas is available for $20 per guest in the Club Room, the Portola’s third dining space) and set out to explore the riches of the area, including the nearby Bixby Bridge.
At check-out the next morning we were already dreaming about the family-run wineries, craft breweries and scenic drives we’d take in on our next trip back to the Portola.
Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip
meet our Local Insider
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A GUIDE?
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR JOB?
It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.
WHAT DESTINATION IS ON YOUR TRAVEL BUCKET-LIST?
I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!
Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.
KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?
Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world
Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.