Stepping into the spacious lobby of Monterey CA’s Portola Hotel and Spa, you just might think you’ve taken a wrong turn and stepped back outside instead. The wide, open space is canopied with lush, live trees giving way to bright skylights, and the front desk staff is equally sunny. Upon arrival, my kids (and the adults!) were offered warm chocolate chip cookies, and the kids were ushered into the Portola Pirate Program, a fun and inventive perk including a goodie bag of pirate treasure and an interactive scavenger hunt around the hotel grounds. The boys immediately departed to scour the lobby for their first clue (an impressive pirate ship model), while my husband and I left the car with the valet service and trailed after them.
The Pirate Program serves a duel purpose that parents can appreciate: it gets the kids moving after time in the car, introduces parents to the amenities of the resort (the treasure hunt includes stops at the hotel’s two restaurants and adjacent candy shop), and emphasizes the hotel’s policy of valuing kids and family. We really appreciated how welcome our boys were to literally have the run of the place.
After settling into our courtyard-view room (which was very nicely decorated, and included welcome, if not fairly standard) amenities like a mini-fridge, ample closet space, and spa robes as well as extra touches like slatted blinds and chic decor, we checked out the outdoor heated pool (adjacent to the spa, which sadly, I didn’t have opportunity to try out). We did enjoy taking a glass of wine to the hot tub while the kids splashed in the pool before dinner. We were tempted by the outdoor fire pit and fresh California cuisine at the hotel’s Peter B’s Brew Pub, but in the end, the kid-friendly offerings on Fisherman’s Wharf (only steps away) won out. Note: Jack’s, the hotel’s main restaurant, looked a bit too dark and stuffy for our taste, decorated more like an old-school nautical club, though the staff was friendly and kid-welcoming.
We ate in our room in the morning (easy with the mini-fridge and plenty of counter space), but plenty of coffee and cafe-style breakfast spots are in walking distance (including a coffee shop right at the hotel). Also on-site: a candy store, a great bike and outdoor equipment rental shop, Adventures by the Sea, and a fitness center. I loved how close Monterey’s Historic Walking Tour was (the historic custom house was right outside the resort), and how easily families could connect with the many bike and walking paths. We could easily walk to the Coast Guard Pier to see the seals, and all the way to Cannery Row, should we desire. Point Lobos State Natural Reserve and Carmel’s 17 Mile Drive are only minutes away by car. All in all, the Portola is a great home base for visiting Monterey with kids.
Distance from the interstate:
Five minutes from Highway 1.
Rates at the time of our visit varied from $225 for a standard (courtyard view) double room to $309 for a harbor-view room. We experienced a courtyard view, which was still lovely…upgrading is not necessary for a peaceful, pretty view. The Portola offers valet parking for $20 a night or self parking for $17.
The Portola’s nightly rate does not include a complimentary breakfast, but does include a heated outdoor pool and spa, fitness room, and kids’ Portola Pirate Program. Free wifi is available in the spacious (and comfortable) lobby area, and available in-room for an additional fee. Room service is also available.
The Portola Hotel and Spa is located at 2 Portola Plaza, Monterey, CA. From downtown Monterey, it’s an easy few blocks to the hotel (right outside the busy Cannery Row area and adjacent to the Historic Fisherman’s Wharf.
As I disclose whenever applicable, we experienced the Portola Hotel and Spa as guests of the hotel and Monterey County. Though their hositality is appreciated, as it allows us to review amenities for traveling families, this compensation came with no expectation of a positive review.