Monterey County ( MON-tə-RAY), officially the County of Monterey, is a county located on the Pacific coast in the U.S. state of California. As of the 2020 census, its population was 439,035. The county's largest city and county seat is Salinas.Monterey County comprises the Salinas, California, Metropolitan Statistical Area. It borders on the southern part of Monterey Bay, after which it is named. (The northern half of the bay is in Santa Cruz County.) Monterey County is a member of the regional governmental agency: the Association of Monterey Bay Area Governments.
Scenic features along the coastline - including Carmel-by-the-Sea, Big Sur, State Route 1, and the 17 Mile Drive on the Monterey Peninsula - have made the county famous around the world. Back when California was under Spanish and Mexican rule, the city of Monterey was its capital. Today, the economy of the county is mostly based on tourism in its coastal regions, and on agriculture in the region of the Salinas River valley. Most of the county's inhabitants live near the northern coast or in Salinas Valley; the southern coast and inland mountainous regions are sparsely populated.