Perched on the banks of Sonoma County's Russian River, on the north end of a scenic 10-mile stretch known as the Bohemian Highway, the hamlet of Monte Rio rolls out the welcome mat with flair — the result of long experience as a vacation getaway.
Tourists began flocking here by train in the 1870s; then by the thousands in the 1930s and ’40s, when the era’s Big Bands played to huge crowds in outdoor pavilions. Today, a historic 1950s-style neon sign arches overhead at the entrance to town, proclaiming "Welcome to Monte Rio Vacation Wonderland."
Here are five fun things to do during your stay in Monte Rio:
Bicycle the Region’s Back Roads
Cycling offers one of the best ways to enjoy the beautiful scenery surrounding Monte Rio. You might leave Highway 116 just south of town on Cazadero Highway, which runs through woods alongside Austin Creek (experienced cyclists can opt to continue all the way to Cazadero and beyond). You could also ride along the Bohemian Highway to Occidental, stopping at Sonoma Canopy Tours to zipline through redwood trees—or head west on Highway 116, following the Russian River until it meets the Pacific Ocean at Jenner, and then go tidepooling at Goat Rock Beach. Don’t have bikes with you? Russian River Cycle Service in nearby Forestville will deliver hybrid or road bikes to Monte Rio (for a small fee). Each bike comes with a helmet, pump, basket, and enough locks to secure the group; at the end of your ride you just lock the bikes and you're on your way. For other options, check our listings of Bike Rentals & Tours.
Relax on a Beautiful Beach
Situated on a large bend of the Russian River at the Monte Rio Bridge, Monte Rio Community Beach offers calm waters, a long and lovely beach on both sides of the river, a concession stand offering food and canoe/kayak rentals, a picnic area, volleyball and horseshoe pits, a good-feel summertime atmosphere — and it’s family- and dog-friendly. As if that weren’t enough, it’s all backdropped by soaring redwood-covered hills. The beach is open from Memorial Day Weekend through September.
Hit the Links at Northwood Golf Club
Nestled into the beautiful Russian River Valley and backdropped by redwood giants, this par 36 nine-hole course is truly beautiful (and one of its early designers was Dr. Alister MacKenzie, designer of Cypress Point and other famed courses). The pro shop carries brand name apparel and equipment, and PGA Golf Pro Vern Ayres would be happy to give you a lesson that aims to improve your score. And when you do, celebrate at the on-site Northwood Restaurant and Bar, with its redwood dining room, spacious outdoor patio and bar.
Catch a Film in a Quonset Hut
Built inside a surplus World War II Quonset hut, the one-of-a-kind Rio Theater has operated since 1950. Great snacks and food — including real butter on popcorn, hot apple cider, veggie dogs and red hots with hot kraut — are part of the experience. The theater’s false-front entrance holds a mid-century marquee, the Quonset’s sides display giant murals of the region, and draped from the auditorium ceiling is a section of the 1976 “Running Fence,” a globally-acclaimed environmental art piece by Christo and Jeanne-Claude (it ran for 24.5 miles, from Highway 101 in Cotati until descending into the Pacific Ocean at Bodega Bay). The Rio shows classic and cult films; check its calendar for details.
Go Skateboarding at Russian River Skate Park
Located inside Creekside Park, this state-of-the-art skateboarding facility offers ramps, ledges, stairs, half-pipes, a snake run, and more, allowing skaters to practice their sport under fun and safe conditions. (Scooters are also allowed here.) The skate park is open year-round and free of charge. Creekside Park, which is beautifully landscaped and contains a community-run farm and garden, is encircled by a 1/3-mile long trail. 20488 Highway 116, Monte Rio, 707-865-2487.
Written by Sonoma Insider Suzie Rodriguez.