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3 spectacular ways to get to Monterey this fall

3 spectacular ways to get to Monterey this fall
With hundreds of miles of coastline, driving is one way to see Monterey County. (Courtesy Monterey CVB)

When you're on vacation, the journey can be part of the destination, memorable and escapist in itself. Other times you just want to get from A to B ASAP, to minimize delay to the actual vacay.

Angelenos headed to the famously serene charms of the Central Coast's Monterey County have multiple travel options. Choosing the one that's right for you can depend upon not only time constraints and budget but also on how much you wish to relish a journey that can include some of the world's most spectacular seaside scenery.

We compared the trip from L.A. to Monterey by plane, train and automobile.

By air
Flying the 267 miles between LAX and Monterey Regional Airport is the fastest of the three options, clocking in under 90 minutes each way. Depart according to your schedule -- United Airlines offers four nonstop flights daily between LAX and Monterey, while Alaska Airlines is adding a direct flight starting Nov. 5 (flown by Alaska's sister carrier, Horizon Air). Alaska's daily flights, which depart Los Angeles at 7:40 p.m. and depart Monterey at 6 a.m., will be aboard comfortable, quiet Bombardier Q400 turboprops.


The airport is located just three miles southeast of the city of Monterey and is served by multiple taxicab services. For even more freedom to roam the bucolic Monterey Peninsula and beyond, car rentals are available right at the airport. Flying maximizes the time you spend in the region, so choose it if you're looking to take in everything the county has to offer.

By rail
Visiting Monterey aboard Amtrak's Coast Starlight is more relaxing than driving and more comfortable than flying and features a relaxed pace -- nine hours each way between Union Station and Salinas Station.

This well-appointed train even features sleeper car berths for those looking for comfortable privacy or a place to lay down and watch the world streak past on their journey. Getting the train is convenient as well: Boarding takes place at Downtown L.A.'s beautiful deco Union Station.

For Valley residents, the Coast Starlight can also be conveniently boarded in Burbank at Bob Hope Airport or in Van Nuys.

The real beauty of Coast Starlight travel is, literally, the beauty. It winds its way along the Pacific coast, often hugging the beach or the seemingly endless green hills. Views are even better from the popular Sightseer lounge car. Starlight comforts include a dedicated dining car, large seats with plenty of legroom and available at-seat meal service. Sleeping car passengers receive complimentary meals and business class passengers enjoy free Wi-Fi.

Upon arrival in Salinas, a short bus ride takes passengers to five points in Monterey and one in Carmel. For visitors looking to enjoy the journey, the Coast Starlight is an unforgettable experience in itself.

By highway
The 400-mile drive between Los Angeles and Monterey along storied, mostly scenic Highway 1 can consume half a day but rewards travelers with relentlessly breathtaking views. It's the most cost-effective travel option, too, particularly for families.

The major plus of driving is the option to break your journey at will -- and there are multiple good reasons to do so in Monterey County alone.

Big Sur covers much of the county's southern coastline and includes numerous climates with plant and wildlife unique to each. The sparsely populated region's campgrounds, hotels, restaurants, gift shops and galleries attract 3 million tourists each year, and visiting one of its main attractions, the spectacular Bixby Creek Bridge, doesn't even require stopping the car: It's a part of Highway 1. As one of the world's tallest single-span concrete bridges, the Bixby's views make a photo stop almost obligatory.

Continuing north, it's easy to see why Carmel-by-the-Sea consistently features in top 10 worldwide destination lists. A picturesque European-style village nestled above a postcard-perfect beach, Carmel's array of restaurants, art galleries, shops and salons are all within walking distance of wherever you park.

To make the final leg of your L.A. to Monterey ride even more stunning, divert along the famed 17-Mile Drive through posh Pebble Beach.

--Paul Rogers, Tribune Content Solutions