Monterey, along with its neighbors Carmel-by-the-Sea and Pacific Grove are part of California’s gorgeous central coast. The area is known for its dramatic coastline, an abundance of beautiful hiking trails, nature, and wildlife as well as chic boutiques, and a real estate market that will make you dream what you would buy if you won the lotto.
The area really has it all, including vegan food!
This vegan guide to Monterey, Carmel-by-the-Sea, and Pacific Grove will help you enjoy the sun, sea, and of course, find the best vegan food that includes breakfast, ice cream, burgers, and much more.
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Take us along on your California adventure! Share your photos on Insta using #veggiesabroad! We can’t wait to see all the tasty things you find to eat.
Vegan & Vegan-Friendly Restaurants in Monterey
791 Foam St, Monterey, CA 93940
If you’re looking for authentic Mexican food that is 100% vegan, look no further than El Cantaro in Monterey. This restaurant is serving up an incredible menu of Mexican favorites like homemade tamales, chilaquiles, empanadas, tacos, and more! Try my favorite — the Hurache — a corn tortilla layered with beans, cheese, smoky cactus, and topped with avocado and a tangy tahini sauce.
But don’t worry, if you can’t decide what to order, check out their combination plates that feature samplings of multiple tasty options. Just make sure you save room for an order of fried plantains served with vanilla soy ice cream, strawberry sauce, and chocolate.
622 Lighthouse Ave, Monterey, CA 93940
Although this laid-back, island-inspired restaurant isn’t 100% vegan there are multiple great vegan options to check out, and their staff is great about modifications. Check out their Jungle Tofu Bowl loaded with sweet plantains, black beans, rice, fried tofu, and covered in their special Jungle Curry sauce.
They also have multiple great taco options including spicy tofu tacos (just make sure you have them swap out the sundried tomato pesto aioli for a vegan sauce option).
660 Del Monte Center, Monterey, CA 93940
Crispy, cheesy goodness isn’t off the table at Pizza My Heart! Their menu features multiple vegan pies as well as the option to create your own. While creating your own is fun, why not let the pizza experts do the work for you?
Check out the Mt. Diablo loaded with Miyoko’s plant-based mozzarella, Beyond Meat hot Italian sausage, garlic, fresh mushrooms, banana peppers, and fresh parsley. If you need something a little greener, try their Linda Mar topped with spinach, garlic, artichokes, broccoli, olives, and Roma’s — just add Miyoko’s mozzarella!
309 Lighthouse Ave, Monterey CA 93940
This is the perfect place for fresh, herbaceous Mediterranean dishes. It isn’t 100% vegan but has a full vegetarian menu full of dolmas stuffed with rice, lemon, and parsley, falafel served with house-made hummus, baba ghanouge or their own Loubiya (green beans simmered in tomato sauce and served with rice, hummus, and spinach).
Make sure you save room for a sweet slice of house-made vegan Baklava! They are proud to be one of the few bakeries to make this traditional treat vegan!
565 Abrego St, Monterey, CA 93940 (multiple locations throughout Monterey)
If you’re craving a savory bowl of Chana Masala, look no further than Ambrosia. Their traditional Indian fare has been delighting clients throughout the Monterey area with their locations in Cannery Row, Downtown, and Scotts Valley.
They have a full vegetarian menu but also note all their vegan options, including a spicy Vegetable Vindaloo and their house specialty, Bhindi Masala (fresh crisp okra, tossed with onion tomato and fresh ginger).
570 Munras Ave Suite 50, Monterey, CA 93940
Whether you’re looking for a berry-packed bowl for breakfast or a bountiful grain bowl for lunch or dinner, you’ll find it at this spot. The entire menu is vegetarian; they just use honey and bee pollen in a couple of items that can easily be omitted. You can build your own superfood smoothie bowl or leave it up to the experts — you can’t go wrong with their Terra Bowl — the nutty, berry combo is fantastic!
731 Munras Ave suite b, Monterey, CA 93940
This quaint café is the perfect place to go to start your day! Their breakfast menu features a “vegan favorites” section packed with savory breakfast tacos, veggie-packed potato skillet, tofu scramble, and much more! They also have a lunch menu, but it’s not as vegan-friendly as the breakfast menu!
Vegan-Friendly Ice Cream Shop in Monterey
463 Alvarado Street Monterey, CA 93940
This local creamery makes all its creations in small batches with local, seasonal, and sustainable ingredients. The best part is there are always multiple vegan options, including their waffle cones which are vegan and gluten-free! If it’s in stock, you need to try a scoop of their decadent chocolate hazelnut and peanut butter chip — you’ll thank me!
Vegetarian Restaurants with Great Vegan Options in Pacific Grove
173 Central Avenue in Pacific Grove, CA
This sweet little café is the perfect place for breakfast or brunch in Pacific Grove! Their café menu features a full coffee bar, house-made baked goods, snacks, and other grab and go fare.
I suggest that you start your day with their chickpea frittata and a couple of slices of toast. I know, toast sounds boring, but they make all their own breads and jams! The best part is they can and jar a myriad of jams, veggies, pickles, and more. The perfect thing to take home with you!
1180 Forest Ave suite f, Pacific Grove, CA 93950
This place is so good you’re going to want to go more than once! Almost everything on their menu — from brunch to dinner can be made vegan and there is so much to try. Immune boosting and antioxidant-rich mushrooms are the star on their menu and can be found in many dishes from Cordyceps Al Funghi to Candy Cap French Toast.
If you’re looking to splurge then you must try the banana split French toast, it is just as decadent as it sounds! Caramelized bananas, vegan vanilla ice cream, toasted walnuts, and a sinfully sweet sauce top their house-made Candy Cap French Toast. Need something a little less sinful?
Try their Huevos Rancheros (crispy corn tortilla topped with beans, vegan egg, fresh poblano sauce, and guacamole). The smoky flavor of the poblano and beans with the crispy corn tortilla is an amazing combination.
Vegan-Friendly Restaurant & Dessert Spot in Carmel-by-the-Sea
Dolores Street, between 5th and, 6th Ave, Carmel-By-The-Sea, CA 93923
Finding vegan food in Carmel-by-the-Sea isn’t easy, but luckily Cultura has an amazing menu of fresh flavors from Oaxaca, Mexico. Their menu is well marked for items that are vegan and the staff is super helpful and can point out other items that can easily be made vegan.
You can’t miss their smoky mushroom pozole or plantain tacos — these tacos are out of this world. The combination of the sweet plantain with the savory cashew crema will have you ordering more!
Make sure you save room for dessert, both their house-made churros and oat milk flan are vegan.
San Carlos St, Ocean Ave, Carmel-By-The-Sea, CA 93923
This little café is hidden amongst a cluster of small shops, if it hadn’t been for their street sign, we would’ve missed it. Their menu features smoothies, juices and a of couple vegan sandwich options all made with fresh, local veggies, but the real stars of the show are the desserts.
They offer multiple house-made raw, vegan, and gluten-free cheesecakes like tiramisu, mango lime, and blueberry. The flavors will make your taste buds dance! I suggest you order multiple flavors, don’t worry, they are small!
The Best Places to Stay
I recommend staying in Carmel-by-the-Sea or Monterey. Both locations are centrally located to neighboring cities and the start of Big Sur.
Hotels in Carmel-By-The-Sea
Junipero St &, 8th Ave, Carmel-By-The-Sea, CA 93923Book Your Stay
Junipero Street &, Ocean Ave, Carmel-By-The-Sea, CA 93923Book Your Stay
Hotels in Monterey
2 Portola Plaza, Monterey, CA 93940Book Your Stay
750 Cannery Row, Monterey, CA 93940Book Your Stay
What To Do in Monterey, Carmel by-the-Sea, & Pacific Grove
The winding and narrow road that hugs the cliffs of the California coast is one of the most scenic drives in the country. So much so that it is dotted with scenic lookouts to stop and take in the breathtaking scenery.
The beautiful route officially starts in the Carmel Highlands and continues for about 70 miles to San Simeon. Throughout the drive there are multiple spots that you should pencil in a stop; Garrapata State Park, Calla Lily Valley, Bixby Bridge, Pfeifer Big Sur State Park, and the Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. Each spot, aside from Bixby Bridge, offers a variety of hiking trails and a diversity of scenery from dramatic cliffs to mythical forests with mammoth Redwoods.
There are plenty of other scenic lookouts throughout the drive, make sure you take your time, this isn’t an activity that should be rushed.
#2 Visit Point Lobos State Natural Reserve
This beautiful natural reserve is home to over 300 plant and over 250 different animal species coupled with the rugged coastline, it is truly stunning. There are also multiple scenic hiking trails throughout the reserve which range from under a mile to about 3 miles — don’t forget a wide brimmed hat with UPF protection! None of them are overly strenuous.
Aside from the beautiful landscape, it is also home to California’s sea lions, which live near the aptly named, Sea Lion Point. During the spring, from April – May, you might also get lucky enough to catch a glimpse of seal pups.
During this time, the moms take shelter at Whalers Cove, China Cove, Bluefish Cove, and Moss Cove to birth their pups and rest. It is important to watch quietly as not to disturb the new moms.
#3 Explore the downtowns of Carmel-by-the-Sea, Monterey, and Pacific Grove
Each of the downtown areas is quite different and offers a variety of shops and activities to explore. In Carmel-by-the-Sea, the downtown looks as if it has been plucked from a storybook. Take your time wandering through the town exploring the wide range of art shops, cafes, and boutiques. Afterward, head down to Carmel Beach to relax and enjoy the sand and sun — it’s one of the best beaches in Monterey.
Downtown Monterey is the largest of the three with great options for vegan food, shopping, and activities. There are a few key areas to note. The first is Cannery Row — right on the waterfront, this area used to be the center of sardine packing and is now home to many shops and activities. I will note I did find it touristy.
A second area is the Fisherman’s Wharf, while the area isn’t vegan-friendly for dining it is a great place for harbor views and there is a spot to reserve a whale watching tour with a marine biologist or naturalist. The best time to catch humpback whales in Monterey is March through November with peak seasons in July and August.
Along the pier near the Fisherman’s Wharf make sure you wander down to say hello to the sea lions who like to rest on the sun-soaked rocks. If you don’t see them right away, it’s guaranteed that you will hear them.
Lastly, Pacific Grove has a charming downtown with a small-town feel and is known as Butterfly Town, USA for its once abundant population of Monarch Butterflies. In past years, thousands of Monarchs would spend their winter in the Monarch Grove Sanctuary giving visitors the opportunity to see them up close. Unfortunately, over the years the Monarch population has plummeted, which could be due to the California fires and/or increases in agricultural pesticide use.
Aside from trying to catch of glimpse of beautiful butterflies make sure you wander down to the Pacific Grove Marine Gardens Park to stroll the waterfront and enjoy more beautiful sea views.
#4 Go wine tasting at Folklore Winery & Vineyards
The enchanting gardens at Folklore welcome guests to sip and enjoy the story they believe every great bottle of wine has to tell. You will be delighted to know that all of the wines produced on this sustainable and organic vineyard are vegan.
Aside from sipping a sweet rose with hints of watermelon, or a full-bodied Pino Noir with a kick of spice they also have multiple vegan food options for wine pairings to fully enjoy the tasting experience.
Reservations are recommended.
#5 Enjoy the views along 17 Mile Drive
In order to drive this scenic route, there is an admission fee of $11.25 per car. If you really don’t want to pay, you can also catch beautiful views along Highway 1 on the way to Big Sur. The scenic route passes by the famous Pebble Beach Golf Course and features dramatic coastal views and lush forests.
There are many scenic stops along the way but make sure you stop at Stillwater Cove, Cypress Point, Bird Rock, Restless Sea, and Spanish Bay. If you’re driving later in the afternoon, try and catch the Bagpiper at Spanish Bay. He plays every day in the late afternoon, rain or shine.
On another note, there are only a couple of stops for public restrooms with one at the visitor center near The Lodge at Pebble Beach and the other at Bird Rock.
How to Get Around Monterey
The closest major airport is San Francisco International Airport (SFO), there also is the Monterey Regional Airport (MRY) which is just 3 miles outside of Monterey but it doesn’t serve the volume of flights as SFO. If you’re coming from Los Angeles, Portland, or other cities on the West coast it would be a good idea to check if you can get an affordable flight into MRY.
We flew into SFO, from there it is just under a two-hour drive, to the Monterey area. Coming from the airport, Google will route you inland for the quickest route to Monterey, if you have time, skip that and take the scenic route along Highway 1. It is a little longer, just about 2 hours and 15 minutes but well worth it for the scenic views.
Taking this route also allows you the opportunity to make a stop in the charming town of Half Moon Bay and grab something to eat in Santa Cruz. When stopping in Santa Cruz there are a couple of great vegan restaurants — Café Gratitude and Veg on the Edge.
While you’re in Monterey, the easiest way to get around will be with a car. There is a bus line – The Monterey Salinas Transit (MST) which has routes throughout Monterey, Carmel, Pacific Grove, as well as others, but part of the fun of visiting the area is for the scenic drives. Your best bet is to rent a car.
On your way back to SFO, take Google’s suggested route inland and pencil in a stop at the tasty 100% gluten-free bakery, Sweet Diplomacy in Los Altos. Aside from everything being gluten-free many of the bakery’s muffins, cookies, and treats are also vegan. It is the perfect place to pick up a snack for the airport and grab a caffeinated beverage to fuel the rest of your drive.
Big Sur Trip Planning Tips
While planning your epic vegan food adventure to Monterey, Carmel, & Pacific Grove here are a few tips to keep in mind to have the best time.
- Pack layers – the weather in Monterey, Carmel by-the-Sea, and Pacific Grove average in the 50s – 70s year-round, the closer you are to the water, the cooler it can be. Further inland the temperature can be much warmer. For example, I started one morning in Carmel with a jacket and by the afternoon in Big Sur I only needed a t-shirt.
- Cell phone coverage in Big Sur is spotty to nonexistent, make sure you download your Google Map before you start your drive. I lost service just outside of Carmel Highlands.
- Pack snacks and food for your drive through Big Sur. There are a few restaurants along the drive, but they are not very vegan-friendly unless you have a love for expensive lettuce. There are multiple Trader Joe’s in the area and a Whole Foods in Monterey and so you can make a vegan picnic to take with you.