No exploration of California’s central coast is complete without a visit to Carmel. This town is well known for its shopping, as well as for its most famous former civil servant, Mayor Clint Eastwood. This quaint blend of art galleries, boutiques, hotels, shops, fine restaurants and whimsically styled homes gives out a storybook ambiance that can be appreciated by romantics of all ages. It’s no wonder why Travel + Leisure has named it as one of the “World’s Best Cities for Romance.”
Carmel’s rugged coastline, featuring both sandy beaches and rocky, cypress-covered outcroppings, has provided inspiration for artists of every stripe. On any evening, you will find town residents enjoying the beauty of a Carmel sunset at Carmel Beach while watching surfers ply the waves. Just a mile south, Carmel River State Beach is a popular spot for diving, kayaking, surfing and birding. Don’t forget to visit Point Lobos State Reserve, the crown jewel of the State Park system, which is photographed by artists and tourists intent on capturing its astounding beauty. A Carmel California Vacation has plenty to offer; plenty of designer stores, gourmet eateries and upscale art galleries that cater to its wealthy residents. You’ll find most shoppers and diners around picturesque Ocean Avenue, which leads to Carmel Beach. For a list of all the area beaches << Click Here >>.
Weather (When to Go)
The best time to visit Carmel is in the early fall when temperatures are still warm but room rates are less expensive. During this time, hotel rates are going to be less than in during the summer. Temperatures are in the high 60s, a few degrees colder than what you could experience during peak season. The busiest season in Carmel is in the summer, so expect hotel rates to surge during this period. Try avoiding the Concours week (August 14th – 21st) and September 1st – 4th (Labor Day Weekend) if you’re on a budget; accommodation rates are the highest during these weeks. Be prepared for some rain if you go to Carmel during the winter, there are 12 days with precipitation each month on average.
Tracing the rugged Pacific coastline, the 17-Mile Drive isn’t just a road. The route offers breathtaking views of the ocean, hugging the Pacific coastline as it weaves through the Del Monte Forest. You can experience the natural wonders of Monterey and marvel at the multi-million-dollar homes along the coast. It is highly recommended to get out of your vehicle and park at the marked points of interest along the 17-Mile Drive. Don’t miss getting a picture of the Lone Cypress, or taking a short stroll along the wooden paths that line the shores of Spanish Bay.
The Basilica of San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo Mission (Carmel Mission) was founded by Fr. Junipero Serra in 1770, making it the second of the 21 California missions. Though San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo Mission was founded in Monterey, it was quickly decided that Carmel-by-the-Sea was a more appropriate location for its purpose. The fledgling establishment was moved to the Rio Road site in 1771 and the Carmel mission was dedicated in 1797. Fr. Serra was buried within its grounds. San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo Mission is considered the most authentically restored Franciscan mission, and despite its many events and services, the Carmel Mission’s courtyard and gardens are peaceful places to meditate or rest. Self-guided and docent-led tours are available.
Long considered the “crown jewel” of California’s 280 state parks, Point Lobos State Natural Reserve is a magnet for nature lovers around the world. With its breathtaking beauty, fascinating wildlife and friendly and knowledgeable volunteers, Point Lobos is a place where one can experience nature at its best and explore this area’s fascinating human history. Point Lobos is a natural reserve, not a park, and afforded the highest level of statewide protection. The purpose of a reserve is to forever protect an area of unique natural beauty and ecological significance.
On Carmel Bay, the mile-long beach features a bird sanctuary in a lagoon (just before the Carmel River empties into the sea) featuring a wide variety of waterfowl and song birds. Monastery Beach, also known as San Jose Creek Beach, is part of the park and is popular with scuba divers. Swimming, wading or walking near the ocean can be extremely dangerous at this beach.
Situated between the base of the St. Lucia Mountains and the rugged Pacific coastline, this 3,000-acre state park is overflowing with trails highlighting the park’s diverse landscape. From coastal headlands to redwood canyons and a valley lined with calla lilies, there is terrain to appease every type of traveler. Garrapata has five main marked trails, four of which are grouped together in a loop going up into the St. Lucia mountain range. The Rocky Ridge Trail takes travelers through shrub-lined canyons, leading up to two towering lookout points. The more coastal 2-mile-long Soberanes Point Trail snakes around Whale Peak and makes a pit stop at the scenic Soberanes Point. If the beach is all that you’re looking for, there are various coastal trails that take you around and down to Garrapata Beach.
Things To Do
Teaching surfing in Carmel, Monterey and Pacific Grove since 1986, professional instruction, professional grade gear. Trusted by all three surf shops on the Monterey Peninsula. Parties, groups and privates lessons offered almost daily all year around. All equipment included all ages and abilities welcome. For more information call (831) 915-4065, or visit them on the web at Carmel Surf Lessons.
Original sea kayaking and stand up paddle outfitter offering eco-guided natural history tours, rentals, classes and retail sales of kayaking related gear and casual beach items. Two great paddling destinations right on the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary where kayaks are waiting for you on the beach. We include everything you need for a day on the water of fun, exercise and wildlife viewing. Visit with marine mammals like sea otters, harbor seals, sea lions, shorebirds and enjoy the beauty of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. For more information call (831) 373-5357, or visit them on the web at Monterey Bay Kayaks.
Fast Raft Ocean Safaris are a fun and exciting way to explore the beautiful Monterey Bay Sanctuary! Their low to the water boat, Ranger is comfortable and highly maneuverable, offering an incredible perspective of ocean wildlife and beautiful coastal scenery. With a maximum of six passengers, each Eco-Tour is custom designed to the unique desires of their guests. For more information call (831) 324-4883, or visit them on the web at Fast Raft Ocean Safaris.
47’Luxury Italian Racer Cruiser sailing yacht for your personal and intimate pleasure for sailing the beautiful Monterey Bay Sanctuary. Perfect for a couples get away on the water, or for family and friends to enjoy being on the Monterey Bay Sanctuary without the crowds of the commercial boats. Bring your own snacks, beer,wine to enjoy for the trip. Bella has all the glasses and things you may need for your goodies. Beautiful coast lines and lots of marine life to enjoy. I keep her stocked with plenty of extra jackets, blankets and pillows so if you need extra to be warm and cozy. Best times for sailing is going to be in the early afternoon and any times are available as long as Bella is not already booked. For more information call (831) 822-2390, or visit them on the web at Bella On The Bay.
Whether as an individual, family, group charter, corporate event, or just plain fun – there is something for everyone. A day from which wonderful memories and tales are made! Our daily fishing trips depart from Monterey Old Fisherman’s Wharf. For more information call (831) 372-7440, or visit them on the web at Discovery Whale Watch.
Best Rated Area Restaurants
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$$ – $$$ Flaherty’s Seafood and Grill
At Flaherty’s Seafood and Grill, Fish is among one of their most important aspects in the restaurant! Fresh fish in delivered two or three times a day. Are you aware that the majority of fish served at other restaurants is frozen? Customers here rave about the overall quality of the restaurant quite often. But what about their vegatarian, gluten free customers? OR consumers who want some meat? They’ve got you covered! With their extensive non-seafood and gluten free menus, you’ll never feel out of place. It’s at Flaherty’s that you’ll experience a nice, calm, comfortable, family-oriented atmosphere. For more information call (831) 625-1500, or visit them on the web at Flaherty’s Seafood and Grill.
$$$$ Flying Fish Grill
Proprietors Tina & Kenny Fukumoto welcome you to the Flying Fish Grill, in Carmel, California. Enter the discreet Carmel Plaza entrance leading you to comfortably dim lighting, wood walls, and subtle Asian decor. Diners are delighted by their distinctive offerings, ranging from salmon to lobster to abalone, plus clay pot dishes bursting with noodles, broth and seafood, beef or vegetables. For more information call (831) 625-1962, or visit them on the web at Flying Fish Grill.
The award winning restaurant Aubergine is located at L’Auberge Carmel, Relais & Châteaux in the heart of Carmel-by-the-Sea. Executive Chef Justin Cogley, a Relais & Châteaux Grand Chef, and Executive Pastry Chef Ron Mendoza prepare skillful, ingredient-driven cuisine that celebrates the bounty of the region. Chef Cogley’s cuisine showcases the finest ingredients with a razor-sharp balance of deference and innovation. The two menus served nightly highlight the best ingredients of the season, enhanced by skillful technique and an eye toward varied textures and flavors. Desserts, masterfully prepared by Chef Mendoza, are irresistible complements to Cogley’s savory courses. For more information call (831) 624-8578, or visit them on the web at Aubergine.
$$ – $$$ Basil
Menu based on seasonal products, locally grown produce & organic ingredients, fresh wild and sustainable seafood every day, modern & creative local California cuisine. Vegan, vegetarian and gluten free options are available. Carmel’s First Certified Green Restaurant. Reservations are required especially on the weekends due to a very limited indoor seating capacity. They offer a friendly and welcoming outdoor covered patio on the beautiful Paseo San Carlos Courtyard; heaters and blankets are available. They are Dog friendly! For more information call (831) 626-8226, or visit them on the web at Basil.
$$ – $$$ Enzo Ristorante Italiano
If a Western Mediterranean version of life exists, you will find it nestled between Ocean ave and Seventh st on San Carlos Street in Carmel-by-the-Sea. The European style village nestled above a picturesque white sandy beach is the perfect backdrop to “ENZO”. At Enzo, you will be beckoned by the rustically charming patios surrounded by draping bougainvillea on a sun drenched day or the cozy and simplistic interior warmed by the fireplace when the cool fog blankets the coast. For more information call (831) 624-6545, or visit them on the web at Enzo Ristorante Italiano.
Centrally located on the corner of 4th & San Carlos in downtown Carmel. Brophy’s offers hand-crafted cocktails, cold draft beer, 7 large screen TV’s, and the best pub fare in town. For more information call (831) 586-5566, or visit them on the web at Brophy’s Tavern.
No nonsense bar with quality liquors, fresh juices, great happy hour, friendly staff. They feature live music Thurs-Sat 7pm-9pm and DJs on Thurs-Sat 9:30pm-1am. For more information call (831) 626-3400, or visit them on the web at Barmel By The Sea.
A cozy, fun filled gastro pub serving American comfort food, sports and lively conversation. Our heated patio is dog friendly and a great place to enjoy a libation with friends or celebrate that special occasion. We are proud to serve locally sourced food cooked fresh daily. For more information call (831) 250-5910, or visit them on the web at Mulligan Public House.
Enjoy their fabulous oyster bar, clam chowder, calamari, fish & chips, burgers, salads & more. Full bar includes 90 scotches, 55 bourbons, 50 vodkas, 45 tequilas, 28 gins, cocktails, beer, and wine. Try their “Best Bloody Mary” in a fun and casual atmosphere. For more information call (831) 624-6605, or visit them on the web at A W Shucks Cocktail & Oyster Bar.
They have fantastic Fish and Chips….and also a great burger and fresh cut fries. They have the ONLY public pool table in Carmel and three flat screen HD TV’s. Join them for a pint, a match, or take some friends to challenge in darts or billiards. For more information call (831) 625-5500, or visit them on the web at Flanagan’s Pub.
This quintessential cottage style inn provides the perfect location for your stay. Wayside Inn’s 22 guestrooms and suites offer soothing elegant décor and are equipped with feather beds, flat screen TVs and luxury Italian linens. Located next door to the premier shopping of the Carmel Plaza and steps away from a wealth of exceptional restaurants, guests of the Wayside Inn are perfectly situated to enjoy all the charms of Carmel-by-the-Sea. For more information, pricing, or to reserve your room, visit Wayside Inn.
A serene sanctuary nestled among the tree-lined streets of Carmel-by- the-Sea, Tradewinds Inn radiates calm and comfort. Originally built in 1959, this ideally located boutique hotel incorporates Japanese, Balinese and Chinese décor elements in its 28 rooms and throughout the premises. Set against a backdrop of the Pacific Ocean and just steps from the town’s shops, galleries and restaurants, Tradewinds features a tranquil private courtyard and meditation garden with cascading fountain, bamboo trees, lush flowering ginger and cozy fire pit. Inside, guests will enjoy well-appointed rooms with luxurious linens and high-end amenities in addition to a daily continental breakfast featuring the area’s best French pastries. For more information, pricing, or to reserve your room, visit Tradewinds Carmel.
Retreat to the unsurpassed beauty of our 850-acre paradise. This historic Carmel Valley hotel and clubhouse is situated among the stunning green grasses of their award-winning championship golf course and the picturesque backdrop of the Santa Lucia Mountains. This Monterey Peninsula hotel features the freshest and finest locally sourced dining options and a wide-array of lively events and entertaining activities to be enjoyed by all. For more information, pricing, or to make reservations, visit Quail Lodge & Golf Club.
Nestled in the heart of Carmel is the elegant Cypress Inn, which CNN Travel called a “legendary overnight oasis” and Sunset Magazine termed “Probably the most famous dog-friendly hotel in the country.” Co-owned by legendary singer, actress and animal activist Doris Day and Dennis LeVett for more than 20 years, Cypress Inn masterfully blends Old World hospitality and service with modern comforts and amenities. By combining Mediterranean grace and charm with warm hospitality and exemplary service, Cypress Inn has drawn everyone from kings, queens and Hollywood royalty to the everyday traveler, and especially all those who like to travel with their pets. Cypress Inn has been a pioneer in pet-friendly accommodations, firmly believing that pets of all shapes, sizes and breeds are an integral part of the family and welcome to join their humans during their stay at the hotel. For more information, pricing, or to reserve your room, visit the Cypress Inn.
They have 30 guest rooms with a king, queen or two full-sized beds that sits in an alcove. Each room has a conversation area with a sofa, gas log fireplace, a separate dressing area and private bath with tub and overhead shower. Amenities include: In room coffee maker, small refrigerator, flat-screen television, and free wireless Internet. Most rooms have a private patio or balcony overlooking our gardens, Ocean Ave or a view of the Pacific Ocean. For more information, pricing, or to reserve your room, visit Lobos Lodge.