Monterey is a nice place. It's very laid-back, almost sleepy, with a pleasant vibe. This is not a place to come for frenzied nightlife or extreme antics.
Rather, it's a place to come and just relax, enjoying the natural beauty, historic setting, and wildlife. The old downtown has many historic buildings from California's Spanish and Mexican past, as well as quaint shops and restaurants. A pleasant waterfront walkway leads past an endearingly kitschy fisherman's wharf and nice ocean views to the newer but still historic Cannery Row area. This is area is a bit more touristy and is also where you can find the justifiably famous Monterey Bay Aquarium. The waterfront walk continues into the adjacent and equally pleasant town of Pacific Grove. At any point along the shore you have a pretty good chance of seeing sea otters, seals, or other creatures. There are plenty of parks, shops, eateries, and cultural sites to check out. The place has the gentle, comfortable, unpretentious feeling that you get from sitting in a coffee shop talking with an old friend. A great place to decompress, forget your worries, and just enjoy puttering around.
So much to do and most is in walking distance. The scenery is beautiful. The weather is perfect. There are many restaurant choices.
The gift shops are nice and prices are good. The drawback is the high price of hotels on summer weekends. It is hard to find parking on Cannery Row.