Beginning where Monterey’s Cannery Row ends, Pacific Grove sits at the very tip of the Monterey Peninsula. With Lighthouse Avenue its main artery, running the length of the community and shaded by sidewalk oak trees, Pacific Grove exists in a distinctly small-town-Americana light, invoking memories of endless summers, singing hamburger patties, iron lampposts and jovial neighbors. Every cross street furnishes a sight of the waterfront, and at night, walking beneath the strands of white bulbs strung between the trees, one can hear the bells of the harbor, the barking seals and the unending ostinato of the rolling tides.

“America’s Last Hometown,” it can be an excellent place for quietude and relaxation, to visit with children, to explore and fall in love. With its collective passion for sustainability, Pacific Grove offers outdoorsmen a number of nature-based pursuits—including kayaking and surfing in the bay, fishing in the shoals, hiking in the woods and enjoying its countless coastal trails and vistas. Despite its size, or lack thereof, there are no shortage of attractions here. Whether you’re refining your swing atop their inexpensive driving greens—with their wide views of the bay—or learning the myriad histories of the area in the Museum of Natural History, time spent in Pacific Grove will not be wasted; indeed it may feel timeless.

But most famous of all the town’s charms is the Monarch Grove Butterfly Sanctuary. In fall and winter this area functions as the tableaux for one of California’s most beautiful natural events, as every year in October tens of thousands of Monarch butterflies inundate the preserve’s pines and eucalyptus, laying their eggs on the trees and igniting the forests with their fire opal wings. If one has the fortune of witnessing this molten spectacle, one will come away remembering it forever, and the little settlement waiting down the road.