Navigating the Monterey Peninsula

No matter where you live in the Monterey area you will be part of a vibrant, diverse community. For more information on each town, please see the descriptions below. Feel free to contact the Office of Student Services or 831-647-4128.

Each neighborhood has its own unique vibe and character, and MIIS students live all over!


The city of Monterey is home to approximately 30,000 year-round residents. Monterey is one of California’s oldest and most historic cities. First founded in 1770, Monterey served as the state’s capital from 1777 to 1849. Now Monterey is a popular tourist destination year-round, with its mild climate and numerous things to do. From the many hiking trails, to the Monterey Bay Coastal Recreation Trail, to the many music and art festivals that are held here each year, there is always something interesting going on in town. In addition, Monterey has earned a reputation as the “language capital of the world,” due to the presence of the Institute, the Defense Language Institute, and Language Line Services, and its culturally diverse residents.

This helpful map of Monterey neighborhoods provides an accurate visualization of neighborhoods’ proximity to the Institute. Our campus is located in “old town” near to border of downtown. 

Monterey is divided into two main sections: downtown, or “Old Monterey,” and “New Monterey.” The majority of MIIS students live in these two areas of town. The neighborhood referred to as “Spaghetti Hill” is located just behind campus. There you can find numerous housing options such as home shares, single-family cottages, and apartment complexes at reasonable prices. Similar prices and housing types can be found in the New Monterey area, which is located near Cannery Row and approximately 1 mile from campus. Some students also choose to live near Lake El Estero, another area of Monterey where many small apartment complexes and single-family homes are found. This area is about a 20-30 minute walk, or a 5-minute drive to campus.

Pacific Grove

The town of Pacific Grove is located next to Monterey, and is about half the size at around 15,000 residents. Founded in 1875, Pacific Grove, known as P.G. to locals, is home to Asilomar State Beach and the Point Pinos Lighthouse, the oldest continuously-operating lighthouse on the West Coast. This small, picturesque town has a classic Main Street, USA feel; with restaurants, shops, and movie theaters. Also known as “Butterfly Town, USA,” Pacific Grove one of the top wintering-over spots for Monarch Butterflies.

Although some students choose to live in Pacific Grove, prices tend to be slightly higher than in Monterey. However, the homes in Pacific Grove are larger on average and have bigger yards than homes in Monterey. Students who live in Pacific Grove can bike to MIIS on the Monterey Bay Coastal Recreation Trail, about a 15-20 minute bike ride, or make the 10 minute drive from Pacific Grove to campus.


Founded in 1887, just north of Monterey, the city of Seaside began as a part of the city of Monterey, and was initially created to be an extension of the resort community and a tourist destination. In 1917, the US Army established Fort Ord north of Seaside, giving the community its diverse and multicultural character as a military town. Fort Ord closed as an active duty base in 1994. The city has recently seen a large amount of growth and development, with many new restaurants and shops found downtown.

Students who choose to live in Seaside usually do so because of lower housing costs and larger yards. Landlords in Seaside also tend to be more willing to allow pets. Many homes in Seaside are located near the Monterey Bay Coastal Recreational Trail, which makes it a convenient 20 minute bike ride to campus. Students who live in Seaside generally own cars, driving approximately 10 minutes to and from campus.


Located about 10 miles north of the MIIS campus, Marina has a population of around 19,000 people. Also located on the coast of the Monterey Bay, Marina is sheltered from the bay by the Marina Dunes State Park, which offers a gorgeous beach and dunes. Marina is very popular with hang-gliders, due to its steady winds, good launching area, and beautiful views.

Like Seaside, Marina has been undergoing a renovation. Many new businesses have been established in the community and the Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula has just opened a large health and wellness center there. Lower housing costs, larger yards, and more pet-friendly homes make Marina a great alternative to pricey Monterey. However, it does take about 15 minutes by car or 30-40 minutes by public transport to get to Marina from campus, which dissuades many students from living in the area.

Carmel-by-the-Sea and Carmel Valley

The town of Carmel-by-the-Sea, known locally as just Carmel, was first colonized in the same year and by the same founders as the town of Monterey. The site was originally intended as a mission settlement, and now the San Carlos Borroméo de Carmelo Mission is one of the oldest and most beautiful basilicas in all of California. Now the town of Carmel is a popular tourist destination, with its various art galleries, well-known restaurants, and gorgeous beach. Carmel Valley, adjacent to the town of Carmel, runs eastward along the Carmel River at the base of the Santa Lucia mountain range. Located in Carmel Valley is some of California’s most fertile soil, and it is home to many exemplary wineries and fun hiking trails.

Although few students tend to live in Carmel and Carmel Valley due to the higher prices, some do find affordable homestays or rooms for rent in the area. Homes in these areas are at least 4-6 miles from campus, and students who choose to live in this area generally own a car to get to and from campus. In addition, students with families may choose to live in Carmel due to the high scores of the public schools in the area.