Feeling nervous about Valentine’s Day and the perfect date you haven’t planned yet? We got you. Our team had plenty of suggestions for their favorite spots to celebrate Cupid’s holiday, ranging from dinners, to hikes, to archery courses. So, consider this your romantic cheat sheet for the best Valentine’s Day dates in Monterey Bay and beyond.
In Monterey County, you have a host of romantic options to choose from. We’ll start with the beaches. Down Highway One, Garrapata State Beach is a secluded getaway begging for a beachside picnic or a gorgeous stroll. One of our favorite parts of this beach is actually the hike in – you wind your way through a beautiful valley of lilies before the trail opens up onto a private beach. If a trek down Highway One isn’t in the cards this year, maybe the beach voted “Best Place to Watch a Sunset in Monterey County” is more your speed. Carmel Beach is known for its expansive, dog-friendly, stretches of white sand. Sit back for a phenomenal view of the sunset – bonus romance points for making a beach bonfire!
To get a little more hands-on, book a workshop at Board and Brush in Monterey. Create a welcome mat, a sign, or a piece of decor for your home. For something even more relaxing, book a couple’s massage at Signature Day Spa in Carmel by the Sea, then head over to La Bicyclette for dinner. The cozy dining space is moody and romantic, and the menu features bites like baked oysters, Parisian gnocchi, and delicious pizzas.
For another dinner option, settle in at Roy’s at Pebble Beach. This upscale, Hawaiian-inspired restaurant features sushi, seafood, decadent cuts of steak, and Hawaiian-style mixed plates. Every meal comes with a staggering view of the Pacific Ocean – best enjoyed at sunset when the bagpiper plays. One last restaurant that’s on our list: Bistro Moulin in Monterey for wine and French cuisine, followed by a walk down the coastal recreational trail.
Another fun Valentine’s Day activity: wine tasting! Peruse the options in Carmel-by-the-Sea, where every block has an acclaimed tasting room to tuck into. Or venture down to Carmel Valley for a selection of tasting rooms that are equal parts rustic and refined – and all grown in the local Santa Lucia Highlands. Or, go completely off script, and take a cruise down the vastly underappreciated River Road Wine Trail in Salinas Valley. Highlights include Hahn Family Wines, Odonata Wines, and Pessagno Winery.
Santa Cruz County
If you’re looking for the love in Santa Cruz County, here are our team’s favorite activities that make the most of this beautiful area: Start the day off with a sunrise picnic on the oceanfront bluffs of the Old Landing Cove trail in Wilder Ranch State Park. This easy, 2.4 mile loop is flat and gives you some of the best views in the county – especially at sunrise! For another easy stroll, meander around Seymour Marine Discovery Museum and pop inside to learn about the local oceanic ecosystem!
For something a little wilder, head up to Three Mile Beach where the safety of Monterey Bay is left behind and the full force of the Pacific Ocean mesmerizes you from the beach. If you’re really looking for a drive, head even further north to Costanoa. This eco-resort is on a secluded stretch of the coast, and features a lodge, spa, restaurant, and glamping! Make a night of it, or book a couple of massages and enjoy the stunning scenery.
If it’s a go for the spa but you don’t want to drive quite as far, check out Well Within Spa. Book a massage or facial, or take a soak in one of their healing hot tubs that overlook a traditional Japanese garden. Sounding too serene? Head up to Mt. Madonna Park in the Watsonville foothills and try your hand at their archery course. You will have to bring your own bow and arrow, but nothing beats feeling like Robin Hood for an afternoon.
Alright, we’ve given you plenty of fun activities – now onto the food! For breakfast and lunch, you can’t go wrong with The Farm Bakery in Aptos – with selections like brioche french toast, house-made quiche, and salmon avocado toast, we guarantee that breakfast will not disappoint. Neither will lunch: try their burger, fresh salads, or sandwiches like the BLAST – bacon, lettuce, avocado, smoked salmon, and tomato! Dinner finalists include Oswald and Makai Island Kitchen & Groggery (yes, groggery – you read that right) if you’re looking to stick around Downtown Santa Cruz/The Wharf. Venus Spirits Cocktails & Kitchen, VIM Dining & Desserts, and Bantam are all hard-hitters on the Westside that dial up the ambiance and romance.
Further south, you can’t go wrong with a special heart-shaped pizza from Pizza My Heart. Take it to the beach with a couple of Tommy Bahama chairs, and you have yourself a pretty stellar Vday date. One last dinner spot we love: HOME in Soquel Village. This delicious restaurant is an elevated dining experience featuring plates like homemade focaccia, oysters, bucatini carbonara, and osso bucco.
Want to go straight to dessert? Mackenzies Chocolates is a can’t-miss: step into the Tudor-style storefront and pick from chocolate boxes, chocolate animals, or chocolate hearts.
To round out this guide, we want to conclude with a few stellar options in the Bay Area. Spend a refreshing afternoon at Gamble Garden in Downtown Palo Alto. This garden spans 2.5 acres and boasts a rose garden, cutting garden, herb garden, and wisteria garden. For even more garden space, check out Filoli in nearby Woodside: 16 sprawling acres of manicured grounds that keep 14 horticulturists working full time are in bloom with thousands of daffodils this time of year.
In Downtown San Jose, book a seat at the Dancing Cat, a cat adoption lounge. For a nominal admission fee that goes towards supporting the organization, you can spend an hour with adoptable kitties – and even take one home! Also in Downtown San Jose, Cultivate Kitchen offers hands-on cooking classes. Book one of their Valentine’s Day specials to learn how to cook a filet mignon, or book the class that’s all about the Valentine’s treats!
Which brings us nicely to the food, which is probably why you’re all here. Head up to The Grandview restaurant on Mt. Hamilton for sunset cocktails – or stay for their four and five-course tasting menus. For a Michelin-star experience, make a reservation at Protégé in Palo Alto. Order from their a la carte menu, or splurge on the $225, 7-course tasting menu! Wrap up the night in Saratoga at the Plumed Horse Chocolaterie, where the decadent candies are as much works of art as they are treats!
There you have it: our team’s picks for Valentine’s Day ideas in the Monterey/SF Bay Areas! We hope you have a magical Valentine’s day this year.