February 2015

Monterey, Carmel and Santa Cruz offer quintessentially California experiences

by Carolyn Blackburn

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    Hiking, Big Sur

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    Carmel Food Tours

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    Monterey Bay Aquarium

The slice of California that is home to Monterey, Carmel-by-the-Sea and Santa Cruz is foremost known as a picturesque place that lures outdoorsy types who appreciate beautiful coastal sights.

While meeting attendees also enjoy soaking in the views here, there are other quintessential experiences that set the area apart from other West Coast meetings contenders.

Coastal Excursions

Water-focused pursuits in Monterey County can be both laid-back, such as a whale-watching outing on the Monterey Bay, or active, depending on the group’s wishes.

Jerry Diaz, director, strategic client services for the Monterey County CVB, says hiking in nearby Big Sur is certain to morph a staff into a team.

“Take them on an exhilarating hike up a mountainside or through a canyon of redwoods to astounding ocean views at the top of the mountain,” he says. “Pack a lunch and camera, and witness a marked change in your team.”

Carmel-by-the-Sea in Monterey County is famous for its white sand and according to Safarina Maluki, destination marketing manager for Carmel-by-the-Sea Hospitality Improvement District (HID), it’s a lovely setting to watch the sunset, take a walk along the ocean, surf, boogie board or just sit and listen to the waves.

And Point Lobos State Reserve, Maluki adds, is a great place to enjoy spectacular coastal scenery via either a guided tour or self-guided trails that vary in difficulty.

The stand-up paddle boarding craze has brought many outfitters to Santa Cruz County, according to Krista Rupp, sales and marketing manager responsible for group sales at the Santa Cruz County Conference and Visitors Council.

“It’s great for groups that want to do something active but still be able to chat and enjoy the coastal scenery,” she says, citing the SUP Shack, which operates out of the Santa Cruz Harbor, as a great launching pad for a SUP adventure.

And at Seabright State Beach there are bonfire rings for public use if the group is interested in a truly California experience.

“Pack some beach chairs, s’mores fixings, maybe even a guitar or two, and kick back as passing dolphins and sailboats set the perfect backdrop for this memorable coastal gathering,” Rupp says.


From drumming to driving, the area’s teambonding activities are fun and memorable.

Adventures by the Sea is a Monterey-based outfitter for group kayaking events.

“They take you out to Monterey’s kelp forest habitat for viewing dozens of species of wildlife,” Diaz says of the popular teambuilding outing.

Maluki adds that Carmel Valley’s Quail Lodge & Golf Club offers an exciting Land Rover Driving Experience that runs groups through an obstacle course with lots of surprises.

“We introduced this to a group of meeting planners during a fam and they loved it!” she says. “Everyone has the opportunity to be at the wheel and participate.”

And in Santa Cruz, surf classes, beach cleanups and instructed group drumming sessions with Jim Greiner’s Hands-On! Drumming are go-to events for teambuilding when convening in the area.

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