Vacation Inspiration: A Coastal Escape to Portola Hotel & Spa in Monterey - 510 Families
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Vacation Inspiration: A Coastal Escape to Portola Hotel & Spa in Monterey

Portola Hotel & Spa is a large, family-friendly hotel in downtown Monterey that recently underwent major renovations. With modern rooms, a revitalized restaurant, an on-site brewpub, a prime location steps from the water, and a new Pirate Program for kids, the hotel is a great choice for a quick weekend getaway down the coast for East Bay families.

portola hotel and spa lobby with trees, chairs, and sparkle lights
Portola Hotel lobby is twinkling with magical trees at dusk | Photo: Portola Hotel & Spa

I recently stayed at Portola with my four-year-old daughter during our first-ever mother-daughter trip. All opinions are our own. Read on for our experience, or pop over to Expedia for dates and rates >

From splashing in the on-site pool to strolling out to see the sea lions in the early morning to finding clues along a treasure map given to us at check-in, we had a blast exploring both the hotel and the coast.

Portola Hotel & Spa is great for families

The drive down to Portola from the East Bay is two to two and a half hours, making it an easy overnight or weekend trip. My daughter and I stayed for just one night and, while it felt like we had a good amount of time to explore, one more night would have been even better.

overhead view of Portola Hotel and proximity to Monterey Bay
Portola Hotel is nestled close to Monterey Bay | Photo: Portola Hotel & Spa

A warm welcome at check-in

When we arrived, I was immediately impressed by the lobby — I had stayed at the hotel five years earlier, and the building had transformed from dated (the property was originally built in the 1970s) to posh. My daughter was also amazed, noticing the sparkling lights dangling from the rows of real trees (“Mom, there are trees INSIDE!”)

At check-in, I gladly accepted a complimentary beer poured on tap in the lobby while my daughter gratefully accepted the treasure map from the friendly front desk staff (more on that later.)

The hotel itself is quite large

With more than 350 rooms, an outdoor pool (located across the street in a second building), a full spa, and two on-site dining options. Room types range from standard rooms to large suites. I think the prices are reasonable for a California hotel so close to the coast, especially if you book during less busy times. For example, December rates for a standard room start at $167.

My daughter and I stayed in a standard room with a partial view of the harbor. The beds were comfy, the interior modern, and we enjoyed sitting out on the deck watching the boats and families walking by below.

Dining at Portola Hotel & Spa

Portola has two dining options on-site: a more sophisticated restaurant, Jack’s Monterey, and a more casual brewpub, Peter B’s. Both are kid-friendly and offer kid’s menus, but Peter B’s is the more relaxed (and in my opinion, better choice) for little kids in particular.

We got cozy for dinner in a booth at Peter B’s, and the waiter brought my daughter plenty of crayons and paper. She colored away while we watched women’s sports on the TV. The food was solid and pretty standard pub fare — think garlic fries, cheese curds, sliders — but the restaurant also offers lighter options like salads, protein bowls, and seafood entrees.
Parent Tip: go for happy hour from 4-6 pm for discounts on both the craft beer and food options.

We ate at Jack’s Monterey only for breakfast. Breakfast isn’t complimentary but refreshingly not overpriced, with items like silver dollar pancakes for $11, Irish oatmeal for $10, and eggs benedict for $19.

child with coloring placemat at a restaurant
Coloring intently at Portola Hotel & Spa Peter B’s Restaurant | Photo: Clara Hogan

The Portola Pirate Program at Portola Hotel & Spa

The Pirate Program at Portola is a “loyalty program” for kids. At check-in, the “Portola Pirate Crew” (the front desk staff), gave my daughter a pirate backpack with an activity book and a treasure map inside. The map instructed you to walk around the hotel to find certain clues — some she could figure out, others were a bit tougher.

Overall I think the treasure hunt is probably better for kids over 7 (ish) to do independently, but younger kids can get the hang of it with parents. The activity book kept us entertained and also taught us about the hotel and Monterey’s history.

Once you find the secret pirate password, there’s some loot to collect — the staff will pull out a treasure box for kids to choose some goodies from, and they can also collect a root beer float at Peter B’s.

two kids study treasure map
Kids studying the Portola Pirates Treasure Map | Photo: Paula Carrera for Portola Hotel & Spa

What to do in Monterey with Kids

Monterey is hands down one of our family’s favorite getaways from the Bay, with both free entertainment (beaches, hikes, and incredible parks) and world-class attractions (the Monterey Bay Aquarium, Fisherman’s Wharf).

Here are my favorite things to do with my daughter in Monterey:

  1. Monterey Bay Aquarium: Undoubtedly one of the best aquariums in the world, this is always a winner with kids of any age. Fawn over the adorable sea otters, marvel over the jellyfish, and get hands-on in the Splash Zone. The only con is that the tickets aren’t cheap ($60 for adults and $45 for kids under 12, but under age 4 are free).
  2. Eco Wildlife Tour: There are plenty of wildlife tours in Monterey, but the best is with Monterey Bay Eco Tours which takes you through Moss Landing in the El Cat, a fully electric catamaran built by the crew locally. My daughter and I saw otters, sea lions, harbor seals, and birds. She’s still talking about it months later! Website for more info >
  3. Pacific Grove Monarch Grove Butterfly Sanctuary: From October to February every year, thousands of butterflies stop by this eucalyptus grove during their migration to warmer places. A visit to the sanctuary is free. My daughter and I had fun looking for them and saw plenty in late October. Website for for info >
  4. Dennis the Menace Park: Every time we’re in Monterey, we make sure to stop by this epic park. Designed by the creator of the ‘Dennis the Menace’ comic, this park is huge and super creative. Trust us, go!
  5. Beach: Free and entertaining for all, Monterey State Beach and Del Monte Beach are both great options to take the kids to burn off some energy.
Monterey Aquarium
The Monterey Bay Aquarium is another option while visiting Aptos. Kids can explore marine life or just search for Dory. | Photo: Parul Patel

More things to do in Monterey County with kids >>

Plan your visit to the Portola Hotel & Spa

Location: Two Portola Plaza, Monterey
Get rates for your dates at Expedia >

Website >

two kids holding hands wearing pirate backpacks
Kids on a treasure hunt through the lobby | Photo: Paula Carrera for Portola Hotel & Spa

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