Carmel California Vacation

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 >>.

Carmel Weather (When to Visit)

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.

Best Carmel Area Beaches

Carmel River State Beach, Carmel California, Carmel0by-the-Sea, Central California beaches, best California beaches, best things to do in Carmel, best restaurants in Carmel, best hotels in Carmel,. best bars in Carmel, Carmel beachesCarmel River State Beach

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.

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Gibson Beach, Point Lobos, Carmel California, Carmel0by-the-Sea, Central California beaches, best California beaches, best things to do in Carmel, best restaurants in Carmel, best hotels in Carmel,. best bars in Carmel, Carmel beachesGibson Beach – Point Lobos

Gibson Beach is the southernmost beach in Point Lobos State Natural Reserve. It’s also the best “beach” in this park which is full of rocky bluffs and small pocket coves.  This park is popular and can fill up entirely – getting here early on nice days is key.

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China Cove, Point Lobos, Carmel California, Carmel0by-the-Sea, Central California beaches, best California beaches, best things to do in Carmel, best restaurants in Carmel, best hotels in Carmel,. best bars in Carmel, Carmel beachesChina Cove – Point Lobos

China Cove is a narrow deep sandy beach surrounded by rock walls. At low tide you can find a small cave and a rock arch in the south wall. China Cove is an emerald green cove with a tiny pocket beach in Point Lobos State Natural Reserve.

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Monastery-Beach, Carmel California, Carmel0by-the-Sea, Central California beaches, best California beaches, best things to do in Carmel, best restaurants in Carmel, best hotels in Carmel,. best bars in Carmel, Carmel beachesMonastery Beach

This beautiful sandy beach is popular on sunny days, but it is not a swimming beach. Due to its shape there is a severe undertow and rip current in the cove that can suck swimmers out to certain death.

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Garrapata Beach, Garrapata State Park, Carmel California, Carmel0by-the-Sea, Central California beaches, best California beaches, best things to do in Carmel, best restaurants in Carmel, best hotels in Carmel,. best bars in Carmel, Carmel beachesGarrapata State Park Beach

The park has two miles of beach front, with coastal hiking and a 50-foot climb to a beautiful view of the Pacific. The park offers diverse coastal vegetation with trails running from ocean beaches into dense redwood groves. The park also features outstanding coastal headlands at Soberanes Point. Sea lions, harbor seals and sea otters frequent the coastal waters and California gray whales pass close by during their yearly migration.

Best Carmel Tours & Activities

Half-Day Whale Watching Tour From Monterey

Look for whales as they migrate through the waters of the Pacific Ocean off of California on this half-day whale-watching cruise from Monterey. Your naturalist guide shares commentary about the whales and their habitat as you search for gray whales (most common), humpback and blue whales, and other marine life such as dolphins and sea lions during your cruise. Get tips for great photo ops and learn all about the mighty creatures at one of California’s most famous whale-watching destinations.  Learn more about the Half-Day Whale Watching Tour.

Carmel Small-Group Food and Wine Walking Tour

Explore the culinary delights of Carmel, just down the coast from Monterey, on this food and wine walking tour. With a knowledgeable foodie guide, you’ll learn about the history and gourmet culture of Carmel, an upscale enclave known for its charming architecture and cozy, small-town vibe, as you visit local eateries to sample locavore and ethnic dishes, chocolate, and wine. Limited to 16 people, this tour provides a small-group experience with personalized attention.  Learn more about the Food & Wine Walking Tour.

3-hour Electric Bike tour, 17-Mile Drive, Monterey Bay Coastal Rec Trail

Discover the natural and manmade beauty of 17-Mile Drive on a 3-hour electric bike tour from Pacific Grove. The eBike allows you to cover more ground without getting worn out. The tour is great for the whole family, with the option to ride tandem with children weighing up to 120 lbs (54 kgs). Along the way, learn about the area from your guide and make stops at impressive viewpoints.  Learn more about the Electric Bike Tour.

Los Angeles Highlights Tour

The best personalized rout in the Greater Los Angeles. From historic Downtown to our beautiful beaches, you’ll visit moviemaking landmarks, lifestyle playgrouunds of the rich and famous, trend-setting art scenes, architectural masterworks, and historic treasures scattered throughout Los Angeles. Search for your favorite stars on the Walk of Fame and take the best memories of Los Angeles with you! Learn more about the Los Angeles Highlights Tour.

Private Hollywood and Los Angeles in a Day Tour

Get the true celebrity treatment in L.A. during this 8-hour, fully-customizable, private sightseeing tour. Ever wanted to explore L.A. on your own terms, but skip the driving? You call the shots on this flexible excursion, sampling top attractions like Hollywood Boulevard, the Sunset Strip, Beverly Hills, the famous Chinese Theatre and much more. Round-trip hotel transport by private vehicle from select Los Angeles hotels, along with bottled water and beverages, are all included.  Learn more about the Private Hollywood & Los Angeles Tour.

Best Carmel Restaurants

Flaherty’s Seafood and Grill  $11 – 30

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. With their extensive non-seafood and gluten free menus, you’ll never feel out of place. Telephone:  831 625-1500  Web:  Flaherty’s Seafood and Grill.

Flying Fish Grill  $31 – 60

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.  Telephone:  831 625-1962  Web:  Flying Fish Grill.

Aubergine  $31 – 60

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.  Telephone:  831 624-8578  Web:  Aubergine.

Basil  $11 – 30

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.  Telephone:  831 626-8226  Web:   Basil.

Enzo Ristorante Italiano  $31 – 60

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.   Telephone:  831 624-6545  Web:  Enzo Ristorante Italiano

Best Carmel Bars

Brophy’s Tavern

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.  Telephone:  831 586-5566  Web:   Brophy’s Tavern.

Barmel By The Sea

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.  Telephone:  831 626-3400  Web:  Barmel By The Sea.

Mulligan Public House

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.   Telephone:  831 250-5910  Web:  Mulligan Public House

A W Shucks Cocktail & Oyster Bar

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.  Telephone:  831 624-6605  Web:   A W Shucks Cocktail & Oyster Bar.

Flanagan’s Pub

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.  Telephone:  831 625-5500  Web:  Flanagan’s Pub.

Best Carmel Hotels

Wayside Inn


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.

Tradewinds Carmel


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.

Quail Lodge & Golf Club


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.

Cypress Inn


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.

Lobos Lodge

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.

28 Comments

  1. Nathalie

    Thanks for your great travel guide! This was exactly what I was looking for. Whilst you can enjoy this beautiful landscape you can also do lots of shopping. Can’t wait to plan my next trip!

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      What is more to ask for? Shopping, beautiful landscape, and beaches 🙂 I don’t think it gets any better. Glad you enjoyed reading about a wonderful Carmel California vacation! Thanks for stopping by.

      Reply
  2. thomas

    Carmel California is so beautiful! I was actually just close to there this past summer when me and some friends went out and played Pebble beach. We didn’t get to do the 17 mile drive though which I really wish we could have. We were in the resort the whole time so we didn’t get to explore much of the California coast outside of there. I’m definitely gonna have to go back and use your site as a means of reference 🙂

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Great Thomas, you just let me know if you need anything! I would be glad to help plan your trip back 🙂

      Reply
  3. Kavitha

    I love your website! Detail information about the place. We are planning to go for vacation on October 2nd week. Will this be the right place of choice to go with kid?

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      I guess it really depends on how old your kids are and if they enjoy the coast. A lot of marine life to see here, playing on the beach, in the water, building sand castles, etc. But in October it is going to start to get a little chilly (in my book), so the water will not be as warm. My son is 18 and we enjoy the coast thru October, but we both love the ocean. I hope that answers your question. Thanks for stopping by!

      Reply
  4. Mick Krug

    Carmel is a beautiful town in California. The 17 mile ride would make a great tour of its own. I enjoyed the pictures of the various beaches there. According to your webpage, Carmel has some great hotels and restaurants to attract tourists plus there is plenty to see and do while visiting. You provide another great video!

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Thank you Mick! Yes, Carmel does have it all for sure. It is just one of those beautiful coastal communities that everyone needs to experience. I hope you can vacation there soon, if you have not already!

      Reply
  5. Amanda Bell

    Thank you for writing this article about Carmel, California. I honestly had never heard of Carmel, but after reading your article, I want to visit. I would love to visit Point Lobos Natural Reserve, you made it sound so beautiful.

    Have a wonderful day!

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Wow, now Carmel California is one of those places that is pretty known. So I am glad you now have learned all about this wonderful coastal community in Central California. You will not go wrong with a visit to Point Lobos Natural Reserve, or any where else in the area actually. Thanks for stopping by!

      Reply
  6. Martin

    Hi Leahrae,

    This is a great set of information – thanks for pulling it all together.

    I remember years ago driving from San Francisco to Dallas and we decided to go inland to Salt Lake, then down to Denver, across to Kansas and then South through Oklahoma to Texas, as opposed to driving down the California coast to LA then across Arizona towards Texas that way.

    As nice as the route we took was, I’ve often regretted since that we didn’t go the LA route – the California coast line looks absolutely stunning..!

    Carmel looks wonderful!

    Cheers,

    Martin.

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      I have driven both routes actually, since I have lived in Texas, Utah, and Colorado. I prefer the coast, just the scenery I prefer. Actually, probably a much prettier drive too. I hope you can drive the California coast sometime soon. It is beautiful! Thanks for visiting Martin.

      Reply
  7. Daniella

    You have given all the information I needed to plan my next trip to Carmel, and I thank you for it!
    California is one of my favorite places since my dear uncle lives there in a beautiful house. We try to meet every year, but it’s not always easy:) Anyway, I can’t wait to tell him we will be staying at Carmel for a long week. I checked in Goole Map, and the distance from my uncle’s house to Carmel is about 5:30 hours by boat. Do you know if there is a possibility to rent a boat or a ferry from Carmel? This would be fantastic!

    Thank you in advance

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      I am not sure where your Uncles house is 🙂 I know that you could rent a boat, but not sure about a ferry, not knowing exactly where you are going. If you let me know where he lives, I can give you better specifics. Look forward to hearing back from you
      Daniella.

      Reply
  8. Jennifer Bloom

    Carmel sounds like the perfect vacationing spot. Now is the greatest time with the fall weather coming. So many beautiful attractions! Also, I love shopping of course! Thank you for being so informative.

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      It is a great time to take a Carmel California vacation! I do believe you will have a wonderful time. Thanks for visiting Beach Travel Destinations.com.

      Reply
  9. KB

    Hey Leahrae,

    You have given yet another informative piece for an appealing vacation spot. I have not been to the state of California yet, but if I do go, It will be hard not to go to one of the destinations within California you have provided. Keep on providing great destinations for your viewers to think on enjoying for themselves.

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Thank you KB, and I am glad you enjoyed reading about a Carmel California Vacation. Please let me know if you need any additional information.

      Reply
  10. Reaghost

    Woah, this is literally everything I was looking for for my upcoming trip to Carmel!! Places to eat, drink, and sleep. This is great. The beaches there are so gorgeous and I’m really excited to check out all the interesting landmarks you pointed out. You’ve basically given me a checklist to work from, hehe. Thanks so much for all this info!

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      I am glad I could help! You will have a wonderful time in Carmel! If you need anything else, please let me know!

      Reply
  11. Thabo

    Your information is always very well written and it always entices me to check out these locations on the net and put them as my bucketlist.
    California is one of my dream destinations because that is where most of the people who play my sport (dancing) like to visit when they are in USA.
    I love to visit Point Lobos State Natural Reserve as I am a sucker for great looking and breathe taking beaches like these.
    Thank you again for a great article.

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      You are very welcome Thabo, and I am glad you enjoyed reading and learning about a Carmel California Vacation. I know that you would have a wonderful time. I hope you can visit soon. Let me know if you need an addition information for planning as well.

      Reply
  12. CT

    What a awesome information. I didn’t know California is so beautiful like this. Next time I go to the USA, I will ask my family to go to California. I am feeling excited in just looking at the photos. I am tired of traveling in just Asia. California will be my next place to have my nice vacation. It’s really nice that you provide all the necessary information regarding the time to travel and hotel choices. Thank you for your sharing.

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      California is beautiful and one of the states in the U.S. you have to visit for sure! I hope you can make it this way with your family soon. Please let me know if you have any other questions. Thanks for stopping by.

      Reply
  13. Rob

    Hey Leahrae! I love California! I remember Clint Eastwood being the mayor too. Carmel looks like it’s as beautiful as any place in California. I would absolutely love to drive the 17 mile drive.Wow. There are so many things to do and I could just spend weeks out there. You always present everything professionally and inviting! Thanks so much for sharing ?

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      You are so welcome Rob! Thanks for visiting beach travel destinations. Hopefully you can take a Carmel California Vacation 🙂

      Reply
  14. Andrew Paterson

    Wow, Nice site, filled with awesome information. This is a place I will add to my bucket list. You have made it very easy by doing all of the homework for me. I now know what do do when I get there, where to stay, eat and play.
    Many thanks for the quality information.
    Kind regards

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      You are very welcome Andrew and I am glad you enjoyed reading about a Carmel California Vacation. It is a great coastal community in Central California definitely worth a visit. Thanks for visiting Beach Travel Destinations.

      Reply

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