When you envision California aside from Arnold Schwarzenegger, the images that come to mind are ones of relaxation, sun, sprawling coastlines and recreation for days. With a gorgeous sprawling coastline and the rolling hills and grapelands of Carmel Valley, there is no more scenic place to experience the outdoors. All of these can be found in beautiful Monterey County without the hassle of LA traffic or a Hollywood attitude.

"Long Board" by James via Flickr Creative Commons

Take a Surf Lesson

Monterey Bay coastline is a popular destination for surfing because of its twists and turns. With a section of beach that faces literally every direction of the compass, this means that at any time of the year, there's at least one beach in Monterey County with great surf. Del Monte beach is a great spot for beginners and part of Monterey State Beach located conveniently by Fisherman’s Wharf. If you’re looking to take lessons, head to South Bay Surfriders school, but for those comfortable on their own, boards and wetsuits can be rented at multiple spots along the coast.

"2011-07-10 PCH Drive-8" by Wangatang000 via Flickr Creative Commons

Coast Down Route 1

Dubbed America’s Most Beautiful Drive and America’s Best Free Attraction, a trip down the Pacific Coast Highway is one of the most stunning road trips you can take. Grab the whole gang, pump some jams and don’t forget the camera. From the north, the journey extends about 120 miles to San Francisco. From LA, it winds through Big Sur, Carmel and finally Monterey. The whole trip top to bottom takes approximately 10 hours, but drive carefully as it gets very narrow along the breathtaking cliffside.

"Wine Horizon" by Bill Selak via Flickr Creative Commons

Indulge in a Wine Tasting (or 20)

One of the largest wine growing and producing regions in California, going to Monterey and not sipping and swirling is a bit sacrilegious. With wineries in both Carmel Valley and Salinas Valley and tasting rooms in Monterey, it’s hard not to stumble across a place to cleanse your palate. There are also year-round wine events to celebrate the fantastic vintages so anytime you come be ready to toast.

"Just Hit it to the Pacific!" by ELjeProks via Flickr Creative Commons

Get in 18 Holes

From the world-famous Pebble Beach Golf Links to the oldest golf course in continuous operation west of the Mississippi, Monterey County offers some of the finest fairways in the world. Ranked the number one golf resort in America by Golf Digest magazine in 2007, the courses of Pebble Beach Resorts stand as a pinnacle of heritage. Treat yourself to a round where the pros play.

Bask at the Beach

Whether you just want to soak in some rays or get active with a day of kayaking or snorkeling, the warm weather, hot sand, and crashing waves define a beach vacation. Stay on the sandbar and work on your tan or get your feet wet to experience all the wonders of California.

"California Sea Lion" by John Morgan via Flickr Creative Commons

Get Up Close and Personal with Marine Life

Rated the “best beach to dive in the US” by Scuba Diving magazine, more than 65,000 divers visit Monterey Bay every year to experience the unique sensations of the kelp forest and underwater canyon. Bluefish and Whalers Coves at Point Lobos, Lovers Point in Pacific Grove, and Monterey State Beach, San Carlos Beach and McAbee Beach in Monterey are all great beach dives for any skill level. Monastery Beach and Carmel River State Beach in Carmel are popular for more experienced folks. If you'd rather stay on dry land, Elkhorn Slough is the inland nursery for a variety of fish and sharks so get a feel of the open water in a safe environment.