Carmel-by-the-Sea On a BudgetA small, beach town on the Monterey Peninsula, Carmel-by-the-Sea is known for its idyllic natural scenery and artistic history. Carmel's village, just one square mile in size, is unlike any other in California with its picturesque views, European style and unusual laws.
Clint Eastwood served as mayor of Carmel from 1986-88. Without a single fast food or chain restaurants, visitors can easily feel that Carmel still preserves its slow and easy lifestyle, with all private-owned restaurants, coffee shops and pubs. This town is undoubtedly charming, even with its anti-high heel laws (though they aren't strictly enforced and permits are free at the City Hall), lack of street addresses and has been named the top destination for dog-friendly towns in the country. Grab your furry friends, leave your heels at home and get ready to explore this quaint and lovely town by the sea.
If you want to avoid the heat, Carmel is the perfect place to go, with year-round mild temperatures. Even during the summer seasons, you may not feel the heat through the fog and cool coastal weather. Peak seasons for travel are during summer months in August and September, (especially popular for weddings) and even then, the highs are still in the low 70s. Winter season lows dip only down to low 50s, with the Pacific Oceans maintaining moderate temperatures.
If you're driving to the city, keep in mind that the businesses do not have numbers in their addresses. To get directions or arrange a meeting, be sure to remember the name of the business and grab a map from the Carmel Chamber of Commerce.
Some famous artists who have resided in Carmel are Upton Sinclair, Jack London and Mary Austin. Carmel is known to be particularly dog-friendly, as almost all hotels allow guests to bring their dogs.
SightsCarmel is an art lover's dream, offering a quaint and romantic getaway without leaving all the creature comforts of home behind. With so many hidden courtyards and cottages, you're bound to stumble across a new place on every walk you take. Whether you're here to shop, lounge, or simply explore, you'll be sure to find something to strike your fancy.
Stroll the famous Carmel Beach, with clean, white sands as you head toward Ocean Avenue, where shoppers will find paradise downtown in the open-air Carmel Plaza, with a plethora of boutiques as well as internationally-known brand-name shops for both high-end and casual fashions. But you won't have to stop there, as different specialty shops and bazaars are sprinkled throughout the town.
Davendorf Park is the perfect place to stop, rest and take in the serenity of the city while enjoying a picnic lunch from a nearby deli.
History buffs will enjoy the beautifully-preserved Carmel Mission, full of Californian, Catholic, Spanish and Native North American history with a free museum and several gardens to explore. The Pine Inn, connected to Il Fornaio restaurant, is centrally located and is not only a beautiful accommodation, but also a well-preserved piece of history in itself.
Carmel has been known as an artist's haven and it's not hard to see why, considering the 100 art galleries situated within the one square mile of the village, including those of the famous painter Ansel Adams, photographer Armin Hansen and even the Dr. Seuss Gallery, especially popular with children. The Thomas Kinkade Studio in the Garden, fittingly located at the end of a beautiful hidden alleyway, is sure to please those who love his world-renowned paintings of fairytale cottages.
ActivitiesIf you love the outdoors, Carmel has many activities to get your heart pumping. One of the prime surfing spots for locals is right at the bottom of 11th Street. If it's your first time, be sure to visit one of the many local surfing schools in the area, such as Carmel Surf Lessons or Monterey Bay Surf Lessons.
Just down the coastline, following Scenic Road is Carmel State River Beach, a quiet, beautiful and dog-friendly beach. Listen to crashing waves, take in the ocean breeze and you may be lucky and catch a glimpse of humpback whales just off the shore.
Trekkers will love Big Sur, which offers countless hiking trails for those who are willing to make a 45-minute drive south for the beautiful scenery. For a local trail, visit Ribera Beach on the way down to Point Lobos. The Mission Trail Park also has many short trails, but beware of Poison Oak.
Wine enthusiasts can buy a Wine Tasting passport to take Carmel's Wine-Walk-by-the-Sea, which allows a $10 flight at nine different wine tasting rooms. The Wine Walk is a self-guided tour which visitors can take at their own pace without worrying about parking or driving, as all tasting rooms are centrally-located within a few blocks of one another. Passports can be purchased at the Carmel Chamber of Commerce and can be used in a day or spread out over months.
Campers can pitch their tents at both Saddle Mountain RV Park and Campground and Carmel By the River RV Park, both which offer amenities such as restrooms, showers and wifi. Less than an hour's drive away from Carmel, Andrew Molera State Park and Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park also offer more primitive-style campgrounds.
On the other end of the spectrum, while it might not necessarily be considered an activity, Carmel has a number of salons and spas for those seeking a rejuvenating and relaxing getaway, including Signature Day Spa and Kush Day Spa, most frequented for microdermabrasion, anti-aging facials and couples massages.
Food and DiningCarmel's restaurants are an experience in themselves, whether you're looking for something elegant or casual. The Lafayette Bakery and Cafe is famous for its baguettes. macarons, and almond croissants, said to rival those of Paris. Bruno's Market and Deli is the place to go for tri-tip sandwiches and wide selection of wines at a fair price. Barmel, a late-night dive bar, is friendly on the wallet with $5 well drinks and street tacos during happy hour.
For Mediterranean food, order a gyro and a Greek salad at Dametra, where you can enjoy live entertainment while you dine. Polish it all off with their famous Baklava, all served at a moderate price in a rustic, warm environment. From Scratch Restaurant takes pride in serving their food with the freshest ingredients, made, of course, from scratch. Open for breakfast and brunch, go for the crab benedict, corned beef hash, and huevos rancheros.
For a fine dining experience, Aubergine features a creative tasting menu using local ingredients paired with wine. Though it's on the pricier side, with luxe dishes like wagyu beef, abalone and foie gras, you'll easily taste what you're paying for at the fanciest restaurant in Carmel.
A short drive away will take you to Clint Eastwood's Mission Ranch Hotel and Restaurant, known for its beautiful views of the mountains and the ocean alongside new American fare menu items such as braised short ribs, crabcakes, and homemade ice cream.
TransportationAt only a square mile in size, Carmel-by-the-Sea is known to be one of the most walkable cities in the country. A short walk can take you to the beach or into secluded alleyways and courtyards to find the gems that nurture the charm of the city.
Drivers will find that there are a limited number of parking lots, so keep an eye out for street parking. Yellow Cab Service as well as Uber also runs in the city.
Several Monterey-Salinas Transit buses can take you into Carmel from nearby cities, such as Monterey, Salinas, Pacific Meadows and Pacific Grove.
The Monterey Regional Airport is the closest one to Carmel, which can be reached through San Jose International Airport or San Francisco International Airport.