The colors and contrasts of California’s Central Coast come to life on the Monterey Peninsula. From the vibrant wings of butterflies amid eucalyptus trees at Monarch Grove to steaming-hot sourdough bowls of chowder at Fisherman’s Wharf, the area offers countless opportunities to witness something special — and to capture the perfect Instagram pic.
Some of the local subjects — blue whales, for example — are so big they’re hard to miss. Others, however, like those butterflies, possess so many small details and finer points, it’s important to linger and take a closer look.
Whatever your approach, there are great shots to be had in Monterey. Here are some of our favorite spots to see all the region has to offer and post a photo to your Insta so the memory lasts forever.
The “Purple Carpet” of Pacific Grove
For most of the year, ice plants are green and nondescript. In April and May, however, the plants explode with vibrant purple flowers. Clustered together, these flowers resemble a long carpet. The best area to spot the “Purple Carpet” is the rocky coastline alongside Pacific Grove’s Ocean View Boulevard. Make sure you’ve got plenty of battery before you go.
Instagram tip: Especially if you’re going in for a close-up of the flowers, use the Lark filter to brighten your images and intensify the colors.
The Open Sea Gallery, Monterey Bay Aquarium
This iconic exhibit at Monterey’s legendary aquarium holds 1.2 million gallons of seawater — a veritable ocean unto itself. These waters are home to glittering schools of fish, pelagic stingrays, green sea turtles and more. The exhibit’s 90-foot glass window is a great spot to pose for silhouette photos. Our advice: Wait for a critter to swim by for the ultimate photobomb.
Instagram tip: As always with silhouettes, take your photos from a low angle to frame the subjects and minimize glare. Once you’ve got the shot, tap into the Clarendon filter to make the blue waters in your photo gleam brighter.
Butterflies at Monarch Grove
Every fall thousands of monarch butterflies stop in the eucalyptus trees of Pacific Grove on their migration to warmer climates for the winter. The insects hang in clusters when they come — a practice that keeps them warm and provides visitors with perfect opportunities to snap epic pictures to share with friends. Whatever you do, don’t touch — the fine for harming butterflies is $1,000 per incident.
Instagram tip: As tempting as it might be to try to snap the butterflies with still pics, video likely is the best bet to capture those fluttering wings. Use Instagram’s Boomerang feature to capture their movement on loop.
Carmel Beach, Carmel-by-the-Sea
The tiny town of Carmel, situated just a few miles south of Monterey along the coast, is renowned for one thing above all others: sunsets. That means the late-evening views from Carmel Beach are second to none. Most locals bring picnic blankets, wine and light bites to nosh while they’re waiting for the main event. So long as you stay vigilant for the money shot, why not follow their lead?
Instagram tip: To make sure you don’t miss any of the colors, shoot in raw and go back to edit the image in an add-on program such as Adobe Lightroom. Then use Instagram’s Toaster filter to warm up the image before posting on your Insta.
Sourdough Soup Bowl, Cannery Row
Monterey has become famous for its sourdough bread, and nothing captures the spirit of the city better than a sourdough bread bowl filled with homemade clam chowder full of potato chunks and freshly caught clams. Locals swear by the bowls at Old Fisherman’s Grotto and The Fish Hopper in Cannery Row. The reality? Wherever you get the bread bowl, it’s bound to be good.
Instagram tip: When capturing a bread bowl with rising steam, be sure to leave enough space in the photo for the steam. It also pays to shoot against a dark background so the steam stands out. The Crema filter will help warm or cool your image colors as needed.
Dennis the Menace Playground at El Estero Park
Yes, Monterey really has a playground named after the comic strip character Dennis the Menace; Hank Ketcham, the comic’s creator, lived in the area for decades and helped plan the play area. Today the playground is a family travel wonderland, with a hedge maze, suspension bridge and decommissioned steam locomotive. Don’t leave without taking a pic of your kids next to the Dennis statue.
Instagram tip: It’s usually foggy and gray at El Estero Park, so applying the Earlybird filter to pics shot here adds a nice summery glow. If you do catch a bright day, use X-Pro II; it’ll really make the playground equipment colors pop.