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
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.
Gibson 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.
China 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.
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.
Garrapata 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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.