If you've seen HBO's Big Little Lies, you've likely considered, if only momentarily, visiting Monterey, California. You're not alone. The show's depiction of the scenic waterfront, the dramatic cliffside parks, and the small-town charm have led many to travel to this coastal gem since it first aired, even if the reality differs from the show, because there's less, you know, intrigue and drama. But the tourism business is booming there: In fact, according to a new report from the Monterey County Convention and Visitors Bureau, tourism contributed $2.85 billion to the county's economy in 2017.
While the stunning landscapes that dominate the show's most breathtaking scenes are typically found away from the Monterey's downtown area, the city center has plenty to offer, too. Split into two main sections—Cannery Row, a waterfront street that used to house canneries and inspired the John Steinbeck novel of the same name, and Fisherman's Wharf, where you can to this day watch fishermen unload their catch, while spotting sea lions and otters in the water—Monterey has plenty to offer to visitors.
Ahead, our guide to where to stay, eat, drink, and shop at and what to do to live out your Big Little Lies fantasy—sans murder.
Where to Stay
Portola Hotel & Spa at Monterey Bay: This newly renovated property, steps away from the Fisherman's Wharf, offers warm chocolate chip cookies upon check-in. I repeat, warm cookies. The modern lobby (pictured above) brings Monterey's coastal beauty and wildlife inside with a greenhouse-like rooftop, manzanita trees, and a library filled with coffee table books on nature, while the outside holds an outdoor pool with cabanas. True fans can take partake in the property's (which also hosted the cast and crew for Season 2) newly launched Big Little Getaway package which includes a tour map of the filming sites and complimentary tickets to the Monterey Bay Aquarium (Jane and Ziggy visited on the show).
Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa: If views are what you're after, look no further than this stunning waterfront property on the historic Cannery Row. With an award-winning restaurant, modern rooms with balconies overlooking the water, and complimentary bikes that you can take to explore attractions like Lovers Point Park, a beach park overlooking the oldest operating lighthouse on the West Coast that's the backdrop for several Big Little Lies scenes. Speaking of that, if the modern fire pits scattered around the hotel look familiar, it's because it's the site where Laura Dern’s character confronts Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman about her daughter’s birthday party in one of the early episodes. For the best views, head up to the penthouse Vista Blue Spa featuring two outdoor whirlpool spas overlooking Monterey Bay; it's also where I had one of the best massages I've experienced in a long time.