Stay: Monterey Plaza Hotel + Spa

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With regular frequency, someone on Instagram will post a picture of themselves kayaking the Monterey Bay. You’ve seen it: they’re smiling, sitting on a serene expanse of ocean, the pic slightly blurred from the excitement of it all.

But in none of those pics is anyone in their robe. Which is why we love the Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa. A stay here lends the same views and windswept exhilaration as gliding across the Bay — not from a kayak — but from the comfort of a plush guest room…in your robe…with a bottle of wine. Enjoying the same auspicious setting as the famed aquarium down the street, the Plaza is all about being enveloped by the wonder and beauty of the Monterey Bay. It literally sits over the water feeling more akin to a cruise ship at sea. The rooms include a pair of binoculars, but you’ll rarely use them given your proximity to the sea otters and dolphins splashing outside your window.

It gets better: guests can soak in a pair of rooftop hot tubs perched high above the Bay and warm themselves in front of the outdoor fireplace afterwards. And their restaurant — Schooners Coastal Kitchen — reverses the axiom about the closer to the water, the lesser the food. The kitchen cranks out solid seafood dishes — and a good burger — while the bar stocks a fair selection of craft spirits and local beer. The stylized dining room employs tasteful (read: restrained) nautical clues like ship deck plank flooring and the outside patio is a gorgeous place to be on a sunny afternoon. And while we have yet to receive a treatment, the spa consistently ranks high in Condé Nast and Travel + Leisure round-ups.

The Plaza is the most accommodating lodging option in Monterey. Staffing will remind you how lax other properties have become. On a recent visit, we were consistently checked-in on with sincere concern and efficiency. You know: hospitality.

The Plaza sits immediately opposite the awesome Monterey Bay Coastal Trail and we love sneaking across the street to the treasure-filled Cannery Row Antique Mall, especially on cozy winter days. December is an especially good time to visit: The Plaza’s grand, club-like lobby is filled with the scent of real Christmas trees and Monterey hosts cool events like this.

Oh, and if you want to do some actual kayaking? The put-in sits on the beach just below you.

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