Life in a tourist town on a holiday weekend

There are four no parking signs along the southbound side of Highway 1, Pacific Coast Highway, adjacent to Point Lobos State Reserve. Last year on Memorial Day weekend, most of the cars lining the southbound side of the 2-lane highway had parking tickets. The other side of the road was also lined with cars, but there are not ‘No Parking’ signs on the north side of Highway 1. Locals park there regularly to avoid paying the $10 admission fee to drive into Point Lobos.

Memorial Day holiday weekend will have 37.2 million Americans traveling father than 50 miles from home. This is expected to be the most travelers on the road for the start of summer season since 2005.

Monterey, California is a small tourist town with big tourism. The population of Monterey is about 30,000 people. The number of visitors to the Monterey Bay Aquarium was 1,883,671 in 2013. Statistics indicate there were more than 7 million leisure visitors to Monterey County in 2013. There are about 10,000 hotel rooms on the Monterey Peninsula in the towns of Monterey, Carmel, Pacific Grove and Seaside.

We tend not to drive anywhere around Monterey on holiday weekends. Yesterday, AAA’s official start day for the driving holiday long weekend, I watched cars run red lights on my drive to the supermarket, cars making u-turns on major roads blocking traffic, and my favorite as a local are the tourists who slow to 25 mph to take photos when they first see the scenic view of the Monterey Peninsula and Pacific Ocean from Highway 1. The posted speed limit is 65 mph.


Don’t drive like an idiot or you may have locals like us screaming at you when you create a traffic hazard. Stop your car in an appropriate place and get outside for better photo opportunities.

Safe travels this holiday weekend.

About Ric Garrido

Ric Garrido of Monterey, California started Loyalty Traveler in 2006 for traveler education on hotel and air travel, primarily using frequent flyer and frequent guest loyalty programs for bargain travel. Loyalty Traveler joined in 2008.

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  1. Ric, there is one and only one way to have a stress-free, safe, and fun drive on Highway 1 south of Monterey. You need to start before 7 AM. Traffic will be very light, but you still need to watch for cyclists.

    If you encounter a slow vehicle, just pull off and take some pictures to create several minutes of open space on the road. Highway 1 is a completely different experience at dawn. Try it sometime.

  2. I am pretty sure I have driven Highway 1 Big Sur at every hour of the day and night over the past 39 years.

    Early morning is when do my grocery shopping in Carmel on holiday weekends and summer months to avoid the traffic.

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