Known for its abundance of artichoke crops, Castroville is nicknamed the “Artichoke Center of the World.” In fact, Castroville is so into its namesake crop, an artichoke queen is crowned annually as part of a local celebration. That history even includes the Hollywood star Marilyn Monroe when, in 1948, she was named an honorary artichoke queen. But go beyond the artichokes and there is more to this small town that sprouted near the waters and stories of Monterey Bay.
Castroville is less than two hours' drive from San Francisco. You can beat it to Monterey Bay via the fast lane of US-101 S or take the leisurely coast-hugging drive down CA-1 from Daly City.
From US-101, take exit 423B for l-380 W toward l-280/San Bruno and continue on until you see exit 5B, take this exit and turn left on the interstate 280 S. Take exit 12 to merge on to the CA-85 S to Gilroy. From there take exit 336 toward Monterey and merge on to the CA 156 W until you reach Castroville.
If you're up for the CA-1 cruise, take I-280 out of San Francisco. Exit toward the big ocean to the west south of Daly City, and let the 1 carry you all the way to Castroville. The views are more than worth the extra few minutes this route will need.
Contrary to its name, Motel 6 - Monterey is in Castroville. It's a small, budget-friendly option that gives you the basics you need for a launch point to adventure from within Castroville. The hotel is less than 14 miles from Monterey, the heart of Monterey Bay and and the county.
The Holiday Inn Express & Suites in Marina is a six-minute walk to sands between your toes and waves beneath your board. It's a spot just off US-1. It comes with amenities you expect: WiFi, in-room refrigerator and coffee maker, fitness room access and breakfast.
Embassy Suites Monterey Bay - Seaside stands tall in its architecture and its amenities. The hotel offers all the comforts of home and more, with seaside views, an on-site restaurant, made-to-order breakfasts, an indoor swimming pool and only a six-minute walk to the beach.
They don't call this the Trolley Car for nothing ... it is an old car converted to a café. The sandwiches are stacked thick with meat or veggies, as you wish, on top of hand-made breads. This spot is everything you want from a locals' joint that is sandwiched between surf and turf, with beef, vegetables and seafood options.
This is just one of those fun things you have to do. When there's an over-sized vegetable worth standing in front of for pictures, you pull over and get out the camera. And with this one comes food. Order the artichoke plate, of course, with its fried artichoke, artichoke dip, buttered artichoke, and fire-glazed artichoke. Maybe sample the artichoke soup and, where else are you going to be able to cap off a lunch like that with an artichoke cupcake?
Marina State Beach is a lovely place to spend the day. It feels untouched, peaceful, and like you have a slice of the bay to yourself. Maybe you will get lucky and spot dolphins riding past in the waves. If sitting and watching isn't your style, you can jump into surfing or hang gliding. The colorful canopies of para gliders also paint the sky.
There is no higher rush in Monterey Bay than jumping from a perfectly solid airplane at 16,000 feet above the farmland and coast. Never plunged into the big blue yonder before? No worries. Take the tandem leap with a more than qualified instructor. Get a video and photos to save the memories.
At the north end of Cannery Row, you will find the Monterey Bay Aquarium which is a huge hit for marine biologists, locals and tourists alike. With more than 600 marine species held on the site of the former sardine cannery, the aquarium attracts many of visitors each year. It has been home to great white sharks and is also one of the few aquariums to exhibit both yellowfin and bluefin tuna.
Learn where all those artichokes you've been eating while on tour through Castroville are coming from. Pezzini Farms gets you in touch with the soil and the souls that make it happen. Pezzini Farms has produced Heirloom Green Globe artichokes for more eighty years, with each being harvested by hand.
Fort Ord holds a special place in military history, and though it closed that chapter many years ago, the dunes and waves that kept the fort and its soldiers fresh and happy still roll on. Hike over the dunes and you get a view and experience with the beach and water that is secluded from the life that passes nearby.