Monterey is less scenic but offers decent hotels and a great aquarium.
Carmel-by-the-Sea is quaint and storybook like. Small hotels are abundant. There are a couple of very high-end hotels, but most of the places are cute little motels that have been around for 1000 years and updated frequently.
Further south is Big Sur. Famous for its Dramatic Coastline along a harrowing Highway 1 and Redwood Forest. A bridge washed out recently there, so it is always wise to check for current conditions. Check out the Post Ranch Inn.