Where to Unwind in Monterey, California: The Portola Hotel & Spa

The lobby at the Portola Hotel and Spa in Monterey, CA © Portola Hotel & Spa
The lobby at the Portola Hotel and Spa in Monterey, CA © Portola Hotel & Spa
Photo of Culture Trip
4 April 2018

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.

Pacific Grove in Monterey | © Culture Trip

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.

Portola Hotel & Spa lobby | © Portola Hotel & Spa

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.

The fireplace at Jack's Monterey in the Portola Hotel & Spa | © Portola Hotel & Spa

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.

The outdoor pool and hot tub at the Portola | © Portola Hotel & Spa

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.

The Bixby Creek Bridge near Monterey, California | © Cristofer Jeschke / Unsplash

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.

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