Famed for its sea otters and premier golf resorts, the Monterey Peninsula offers the Southern California resort destinations a run for their money.
Some 335 miles north of Los Angeles, the peninsula offers renowned attractions such as its 17-Mile Drive, which wends along the coast and through the Del Monte Forest; Monterey's Cannery Row, the sardine packing hub-turned-shopping-mecca immortalized by novelist John Steinbeck; the shops and restaurants of Monterey's Fisherman's Wharf; the village of Carmel-by-the-Sea, once presided over by Mayor Clint Eastwood; and the Monterey Bay Aquarium.
And while the attractions are fabulous, the big draw is golf. The peninsula has 16 courses, most of them public or resort. Die-hard golfers inevitably dream of Pebble Beach Golf Links, one of the public courses, where the greens slope toward the sea and the 18th hole is sited on a promontory overlooking the ocean. The course, along with the equally notable Links at Spanish Bay and Spyglass, is owned by the Pebble Beach Company, which also has two luxury resorts, the Inn at Spanish Bay and the Lodge at Pebble Beach, in its fold.
The peninsula's largest hotels are in the town of Monterey. The Hyatt Regency, with 575 guest rooms and meeting space accommodating 1,200 people, is the biggest.
For groups requiring more space, the Monterey Conference Center offers 58,000 square feet of meeting space, including ballrooms of 19,600 and 10,624 square feet. The center also includes the 494-room Steinbeck Forum Theater.
The peninsula's most popular visitor attraction, the Monterey Bay Aquarium, harbors more than 340,000 individual creatures, according to its recent census. For groups of 20 to 2,500 people, the aquarium has a variety of galleries and meeting rooms, as well as an ocean-view restaurant and a 273-seat auditorium.
Holman Ranch is a 70-year-old hacienda outside of Carmel, suitable for western-themed events. The ranch accommodates 300 for open-air dinners and receptions. For indoor events, a theater seats 60 and a carriage house 100.
Though not as well known as the Napa Valley to the north, the Monterey Peninsula is a major wine-growing region. Many wineries offer tours and tastings; for information, contact Monterey Wine Country Associates at (408) 375-9400.
Adventures by the Sea arranges beach parties andprograms at Pirates Cove, its 3,000-square-foot facility on Monterey Beach. But you can't wear your bathing suit year-round like you can down south: The weather on the Monterey Peninsula is more akin to San Francisco's than Southern California's.
Last January 2 to 5, Koral Flynn, manager of public affairs for the southwestern territory of MetLife, brought area managers to the Hyatt Regency San Diego for their annual merchandising meeting. She appreciates the hotel's bay and ocean views, versatile space, and downtown location, which allowed her to turn attendees loose. Most walked the five minutes to the Gaslamp Quarter, the downtown's dining hub, or shopped at Seaport Village, a New England-style marketplace. The concierges helped arrange transportation to the San Diego Zoo and to area golf courses. And several attendees boarded the San Diego Trolley's bright-red rail cars for the short trip south to the Mexican border and Tijuana. "Downtown San Diego itself is its own playground," says Flynn.
Last March, 250 salespeople for Hartford, CT-based Travelers Insurance attended a three-day conference at the Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel, perched on a rocky stretch of coastline in southern Orange County. "It's one of the most beautiful places on the California coast," says Martha Fetter, senior meeting planner for Travelers Insurance. "I would say it's second only to the Big Sur-Carmel area."
Perhaps because of the appeal of Laguna Niguel, which is south of Newport Beach, more people ended up qualifying than Fetter had expected. The Ritz-Carlton worked with her in arranging overflow accommodations at the area's other first-class resort, the nearby Marriott at Dana Point.
The incentive program consisted of business sessions at the Ritz-Carlton in the morning, with afternoons devoted to recreation. Avid golfers, Fetter's attendees enjoyed the Pelican Hill Golf Course, which Fetter calls "the Pebble Beach of Southern California." Schooner sailing out of Dana Point was easily arranged, and Fetter also offered a tour of the Richard Nixon Library & Birthplace in Yorba Linda. One evening event was a dine-around involving ten restaurants in artsy Laguna Beach. She worked with a destination management company and lauded the local dining scene.
Fetter saw to it that her attendees left Laguna Niguel with memories of the coastline. ("Everyone wanted an oceanfront room," she says, "but not everyone gone one"). The final-night pillow gift was a framed and signed print of a local artist's painting of the Laguna coast.
Anaheim /Orange CVB Tony Toth, convention sales director Jim Kissinger, VP convention sales (714) 999-8999; Fax (714) 991-8963 www.anaheimoc.org
Long Beach Area CVB Steve Hammond, senior vice president of sales and chief operating officer (310) 436-3645, (800) 4LB-STAY Fax (310) 435-5653
Los Angeles CVB Jo Ann Worthington, associate vice president of convention sales (213) 624-7300; Fax (213) 624-9746
Newport Beach CVB Christine Castro corporate sales manager (714) 722-1611, (800) 94-COAST Fax (714) 722-1612 www.city.newport-beach.ca.us
Palm Springs Desert Resorts CVB Douglas Small, director of sales (760) 770-9000, (800) 96-RESORT Fax (760) 770-9001 www.desert-resorts.com
Pasadena CVB Barbara Garcia, director of sales (818) 795-9311; Fax (818) 795-9656 www.pasadenacenter.org
San Diego CVB Sandra Butler, vice president of sales (619) 232-3101; Fax (619) 696-9371 www.sandiego.org
Santa Barbara CVB Kathy Janega-Dykes, director of sales (805) 966-9222, (800) 676-1266 Fax (805) 966-1728