A Travel Price Comparison for California Carmel-by-the-Sea vs. Monterey for Families, Attractions, Food, and Nightlife

Should you visit Carmel-by-the-Sea or Monterey?

Which is cheaper to visit? Which is more expensive for vacation?

Trying to figure out where to travel next? This travel comparison between Carmel-by-the-Sea and Monterey can help. It includes a travel cost comparison in addition to other factors. For many travelers, the cost of a destination is a primary consideration when choosing where to go.

Carmel-by-the-Sea

Carmel-by-the-Sea is a quaint, charming, and picturesque town. With amazing attractions and sights, it's also a fun small town not to be missed. With stunning beauty, it attracts visitors from all around. It's also popular because of the beaches, shopping, and museums.

Monterey

Monterey is a nature-oriented, laid back, and relaxing city. Other popular activities here include scuba diving and snorkeling, beaches, and shopping.

Carmel-by-the-Sea and Monterey: Pros and Cons

Pros
  • Popular museums and historical sights
  • Popular beach
  • Good for couples and romance
  • Small town charm
  • Impressive beauty
  • Home to Pebble Beach Golf Course
Things to Consider
  • Less popular for nightlife
  • Less family-friendly
  • Less popular with backpackers
Pros
  • Popular museums and historical sights
  • Active nightlife
  • Good scuba and snorkeling destination
  • Popular beach
  • Family-friendly
  • Good for couples and romance
  • Good for backpackers and budget travelers


Is there more to do in Carmel-by-the-Sea or Monterey?

Travelers will usually find more to do in Monterey. Although Carmel-by-the-Sea and Monterey are popular destinations, Monterey has more sights and attractions for tourists. Monterey is very popular for its museums, nightlife, and scuba diving & snorkeling, while Carmel-by-the-Sea attracts visitors for its beaches, small town charm, and impressive beauty. Carmel-by-the-Sea is famous for its storybook architecture, its opulent setting, and its popularity with golf enthusiasts. Monterey is famous for its rugged coastline, diverse marine life, and excellent seafood. It is also well known for the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

How is Carmel-by-the-Sea different from Monterey?

Which is Better for a Holiday?

Let's take a look at the differences and similarities between Monterey and Carmel-by-the-Sea. Then, you can decide for yourself which place is better for your next trip.

Are the Museums and Historical Sights Better in Carmel-by-the-Sea or Monterey?

Carmel-by-the-Sea
Monterey

Monterey is a well-known place for its sights and museums. Also, Carmel-by-the-Sea is not as famous, but is still a good town to visit for its museums and history.

You'll find a good number of museums and monuments packed into Monterey. The Monterey Bay Aquarium is a not-to-be-missed destination in town. You can also visit the Monterey State Historic Park or the Monterey Museum of Art.

Carmel-by-the-Sea is a good place to visit if you're interested in museums or other recognizable sights. The Carmel Mission is a beautiful and fascinating Spanish mission that dates back to 1770. It's also well worth visiting the nearby Pebble Beach Golf Course. There are also a few fairytale style cottages in the area with some of the most notable being the Hansel cottage, the Gretel cottage, and the Tuck Box cottage.


Is the Food Better in Carmel-by-the-Sea or Monterey? Which Destination has the Best Restaurants?

Carmel-by-the-Sea
Monterey

There are opportunities to sample the local cuisine at very good restaurants in both Carmel-by-the-Sea and Monterey.

Dining out in Carmel-by-the-Sea is an experience not to be missed. For such a small town there is a huge number of bistros and local cafes. Seafood is popular, but you'll also find international restaurants and more casual eateries.

The food selection at local restaurants is excellent in Monterey. Seafood and local produce are what make the food special. There are many great restaurants to you can choose from that will let you enjoy the classic seafood dishes like clam chowder or oysters, as well as fresh artichokes and local wine.

Is Carmel-by-the-Sea or Monterey Better for Nightlife?

Carmel-by-the-Sea
Monterey

Monterey is a well-known place for its evening party scene. However, Carmel-by-the-Sea is not a good town for nightlife.

Monterey offers plenty to do in the evening. There's a buzzing atmosphere at night with bars, breweries, and casual eateries all coming to life. Some of the best venues are found at the Old Fisherman's Wharf and along Alvarado Street.

Those looking for nightlife will find a few places to hang out in Carmel-by-the-Sea. It's not a late night town, but there are a couple of bars and some decent Happy Hours around town.

Is Carmel-by-the-Sea or Monterey Better for Scuba Diving and Snorkeling?

Carmel-by-the-Sea
Monterey

Monterey is a city with good options for snorkeling and scuba diving. However, Carmel-by-the-Sea is not a scuba or snorkeling destination.

It's fun to get in the water and check out the local marine life in Monterey. Scuba diving offers an unforgettable experience. The Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary gives you the unique experience of seeing sea lions, otters, kelp forests, crabs, and more.

Carmel-by-the-Sea is not a scuba or snorkeling destination.


Is Carmel-by-the-Sea or Monterey Better for Beaches?

Carmel-by-the-Sea
Monterey

Carmel-by-the-Sea is a very popular place for the beach. Also, Monterey is not quite as popular, but is fairly good for its beaches.

Many people visit Carmel-by-the-Sea for it's beautiful beaches. It's easy to walk to the beach from the village center. Just head down Ocean Avenue and you'll be at a beautiful beach with great scenery, surfing, and fun activities.

Monterey is a good option for a beach vacation. The beaches highlight the laid by California vibe with sunbathers and beachgoers soaking up the atmosphere. There are both inlets and sandy beaches where you can see sea lions or explore the tidal pools.

Is the Shopping Better in Carmel-by-the-Sea or Monterey?

Carmel-by-the-Sea
Monterey

Both Carmel-by-the-Sea and Monterey are very good shopping destinations.

Browsing through shops is a popular activity in Carmel-by-the-Sea. It's easy to walk around the heart of town and pop in the many shops and galleries. The highest concentration of shops is found around the Carmel Plaza which has upscale brands as well as local items.

Shopping is a popular activity when visiting Monterey. You'll find both local vendors and tourist shops around town. Cannery Row is a popular destination, as is Old Fisherman's Wharf and the Old Farmer's Market.

Is Carmel-by-the-Sea or Monterey Better for Families?

Carmel-by-the-Sea
Monterey

Monterey is renowned for its family-friendly activities. However, Carmel-by-the-Sea is not a good town for its kid-friendly activities.

Monterey is an extremely popular city to visit for families. Monterey Bay Aquarium is a highlight for kids and adults alike. There's also the Monterey Zoo as well as lighthearted activities like a mirror maze. MY Museum is an interactive museum that's perfect for younger kids. There are also whale watching trips and nearby beaches.

Carmel-by-the-Sea is not always a place people visit with their families. Carmel is a good place to let the kids stretch their legs. There are also some good kid-friendly walks in the area.


Is Carmel-by-the-Sea or Monterey Better for Couples?

Carmel-by-the-Sea
Monterey

Both Carmel-by-the-Sea and Monterey are very good destinations for a couple's getaway.

Carmel-by-the-Sea is a very popular place to visit for couples. It's a charming town with a beautiful coastline and plenty of cute hotels that makes for a great romantic getaway. There's wonderful shopping and many great restaurants where you can enjoy a local meal.

Monterey makes for a fun place to visit for a couple. There are many romantic inns in town as well as quaint restaurants and fun activities. There are also spas, wine bars, and plenty of shopping for couples to enjoy as well.

Is Carmel-by-the-Sea or Monterey Better for Backpackers and Budget Travelers?

Carmel-by-the-Sea
Monterey

Monterey is a city with good options for backpackers. However, Carmel-by-the-Sea is not a good town for backpackers and budget travelers.

Monterey is a good city to visit for backpackers. There's a hostel in town as well as fun activities that will appeal to backpackers.

Carmel-by-the-Sea is a challenging destination for budget travelers and backpackers due to the higher prices. There aren't any real hostels or accommodation options that appeal to backpackers.

Is Carmel-by-the-Sea or Monterey Better for Public Transit? Which Is Easier to Get Around Without a Car?

Carmel-by-the-Sea
Monterey

Both Carmel-by-the-Sea and Monterey offer reasonable public transit options.

Public transit is generally limited in Carmel-by-the-Sea. There are a couple of buses, but you can't really depend on them to get around.

Public transit is mostly limited in Monterey. There is a bus system through the area.


Is Carmel-by-the-Sea or Monterey a more walkable city?

Carmel-by-the-Sea
Monterey

Carmel-by-the-Sea and Monterey both are very good when exploring on foot.

Carmel-by-the-Sea is a very walkable destination. The village center is very walkable so it's easy to park you car and shop or walk to the beach.

Monterey is very walkable. If you stay near the town center, it's very walkable and easy to get around on foot.

For even more information, also check out Is Carmel-by-the-Sea Worth Visiting? and Is Monterey Worth Visiting?.

Should I spend more time in Monterey or Carmel-by-the-Sea?

How long in Carmel-by-the-Sea or Monterey?

Visitors can find plenty of fun things to do in both Carmel-by-the-Sea and Monterey. In our opinion, Monterey has more to see and do, so we recommend spending more time in Monterey than Carmel-by-the-Sea. However, 1-3 days is a good amount of time to spend in either destination.

Families should spend more time in Monterey than Carmel-by-the-Sea. Because of the many family-friendly attractions and fun things to do for kids in Monterey, it's a great place to visit with the whole family.

Couples should spend more time in Monterey than Carmel-by-the-Sea. You'll find plenty of romantic sights and fun activities in Monterey that are perfect for a weekend getaway or a longer couple's trip.

Backpackers and budget travelers should spend more time in Monterey than Carmel-by-the-Sea if your budget allows for it. With a larger number of budget-friendly sights, good nightlife, and active things to do, anyone traveling on a budget would have a good time in Monterey.


  • How many days in Carmel-by-the-Sea or Monterey? Ideal Length of Stay
    Carmel-by-the-Sea 1-3 
    Monterey 1-3

One day in Carmel-by-the-Sea or Monterey?

Carmel-by-the-Sea is a small town where visitors enjoy the food and shopping. Most people come for the beaches. With all of its activities, you can easily fill one day here. It will give you the chance to have new experiences.

With shopping and museums around the destination of Monterey, there's plenty to do. One day is often enough time to do most activities. It offers something for everyone.

A weekend in Carmel-by-the-Sea or Monterey?

Carmel-by-the-Sea is a popular place that is full of things to see and experience. If you have a weekend, this town makes for a great vacation. Many visitors spend time at the beach while visiting the area. While some people choose to spend more or less time in Carmel-by-the-Sea, a weekend is sufficent for most. Take your pick from the many activities offered here.

With museums and nightlife around the relaxing city of Monterey, there's plenty to do. Your budget might influence how long you stay. This is a popular place to visit for a weekend. With all of its activities, you can easily fill a weekend here.


Five days in Carmel-by-the-Sea or Monterey?

Carmel-by-the-Sea is a popular choice for travelers. Five days is usually plenty of time to spend here with extra days to spare. With this much time, visitors often visit nearby destinations or take day trips. The entire region has so many activities, and you'll want time to do everything.

Travelers enjoy the nightlife and food when visiting the nature-oriented destination of Monterey. It has many unique tourist attractions and fascinating things to do. Five days is more than enough time to enjoy everything. Take some day trips to nearby places to fill the extra days.

A week in Carmel-by-the-Sea or Monterey?

Carmel-by-the-Sea is a great place to explore. It's also a great beach destination, too. One week is more than enough time to enjoy everything. Take some day trips to nearby places to fill the extra days. This town offers something for everyone.

Monterey is a popular choice for travelers. This city offers a variety of activities to choose from. One week may feel like too much time unless you plan to do a lot of relaxing.


For some great organized tour ideas, see The Best Camping Tours in United States of America, The Best Romantic Tours for Couples in United States of America, The Best Walking Tours in United States of America, and The Best Tours Under $1000 in United States of America.


Which place is cheaper, Monterey or Carmel-by-the-Sea?

These are the overall average travel costs for the two destinations.

The average daily cost (per person) in Carmel-by-the-Sea is $0.00, while the average daily cost in Monterey is $170. These costs include accommodation (assuming double occupancy, so the traveler is sharing the room), food, transportation, and entertainment. While every person is different, these costs are an average of past travelers in each destination. What follows is a categorical breakdown of travel costs for Carmel-by-the-Sea and Monterey in more detail.



Accommodation
  • Accommodation Hotel or hostel for one person
    Carmel-by-the-Sea -
    Monterey $90
  • Accommodation Typical double-occupancy room
    Carmel-by-the-Sea $0.00
    Monterey $180
Compare Hotels in Carmel-by-the-Sea and Monterey

Looking for a hotel in Carmel-by-the-Sea or Monterey? Prices vary by location, date, season, and the level of luxury. See below for options and compare which is best for your budget and travel style.

Hotels in Carmel-by-the-Sea


Hotels in Monterey


Kayak helps you find the best prices for hotels, flights, and rental cars for destinations around the world. Compare prices for multiple destinations when planning your next trip.


Our Analysis
We've analyzed the average and typical hotel prices based on guest reviews, star ratings, and hotel amenities here: Carmel-by-the-Sea Hotel Prices and Monterey Hotel Prices.

Local Transportation
  • Local Transportation Taxis, local buses, subway, etc.
    Carmel-by-the-Sea $125
    Monterey $32

Is it cheaper to fly into Carmel-by-the-Sea or Monterey?

Prices for flights to both Monterey and Carmel-by-the-Sea change regularly based on dates and travel demand. We suggest you find the best prices for your next trip on Kayak, because you can compare the cost of flights across multiple airlines for your prefered dates.





Food
  • Food Meals for one day
    Carmel-by-the-Sea $153
    Monterey $56

Food Tours and Cooking Classes in Carmel-by-the-Sea

Also, here are some specific examples of food and dining related activities in Carmel-by-the-Sea.

  • Old Monterey Walking Food Tour: $150

Food Tours and Cooking Classes in Monterey

For Monterey, here are some samples of tours and activities related to meals and dining experiences:

  • Guided Walking Food Tour with Tastings: $150

Entertainment
  • Entertainment Entrance tickets, shows, etc.
    Carmel-by-the-Sea -
    Monterey $27

Tours and Activities in Carmel-by-the-Sea

Some specific costs of activities, tours, and entrance tickets for Carmel-by-the-Sea are as follows:

  • 1-Hour Monterey and Cannery Row GoCar Tour: $79
  • 17-Mile Drive Electric Bike Guided Tour: $75
  • 2-Hour Monterey and Pacific Grove GoCar Tour: $149
  • 2.5-Hour Electric Bike Tour Along 17 Mile Drive of Coastal Monterey: $60
  • 3-Hour Monterey, Cannery Row and Pacific Grove GoCar Tour: $189
  • Big Sur Self-Driving Audio Tour: Highway 1, Pacific Coast Highway: $17
  • Big Sur's Old Coast Road eBike Tour: $250
  • Carmel Small Group Walking Food & Cultural Tour: $139
  • Carmel Tour in The Heavenly 17 Mile Drive: $30
  • Carmel by the Sea 2-Hour Private Walking Tour: $20
  • Carmel-By-The-Sea Electric Bike Guided Tour: $75
  • Fairy Tale Houses Self-Guided Audio Tour: $7.99

Tours and Activities in Monterey

For Monterey, here are a few prices for actual activities, tours, and tickets provided by various companies:

  • App self-guided tour Monterrey in California: $4.37
  • San Fran Pacific Coast Self-Driving Tour App: $7.32
  • Self-Guided John Steinbeck Walking Tour with Audio: $7.99
  • Monterey Peninsula Drive: A Self-Guided Audio Tour: $8.99
  • Uncover Monterey's Cannery Row: A Self-Guided Audio Tour: $11
  • Scenic 17-Mile Self-Guided Driving Audio Tour: $15
  • 17-Mile Drive Tour: $15
  • Monterey Cannery Row: Self-Guided Scavenger Hunt & Tour: $49
  • Monterey Fisherman's Wharf & Presidio Scavenger Hunt & Tour: $49
  • California: Self-Guided Audio Tours Bundle: $50
  • Monterey Bay Dolphin and Whale Watching Boat Tour: $60
  • Catamaran Sailing Cruise: $65

Alcohol
  • Alcohol Drinks for one day
    Carmel-by-the-Sea -
    Monterey $21

Sample the Local Flavors in Carmel-by-the-Sea

Here are a few nightlife and alcohol tours and activities from local tour providers in Carmel-by-the-Sea:

  • Wine Tasting Tours in a Vintage VW Bus: $139
  • Carmel: Wine Tasting Tours in a 1970 VW bus.: $139
  • Wine Tasting and Walking Tour of Carmel-by-the-Sea: $159
  • Wine Tasting and Walking Tour of Carmel-by-the-Sea: $159
  • Carmel Valley Wine Tour's Premium Package: $299

Sample the Local Flavors in Monterey

Here are a few nightlife and alcohol tours and activities from local tour providers in Monterey:

  • Carmel Valley Wine Tasting Tour: $188


When we compare the travel costs of actual travelers between Carmel-by-the-Sea and Monterey, we can see that Monterey is more expensive. And not only is Carmel-by-the-Sea much less expensive, but it is actually a significantly cheaper destination. So, traveling to Carmel-by-the-Sea would let you spend less money overall. Or, you could decide to spend more money in Carmel-by-the-Sea and be able to afford a more luxurious travel style by staying in nicer hotels, eating at more expensive restaurants, taking tours, and experiencing more activities. The same level of travel in Monterey would naturally cost you much more money, so you would probably want to keep your budget a little tighter in Monterey than you might in Carmel-by-the-Sea.

If you're trying to decide if either of these two destinations are within your price range, also see Is Carmel-by-the-Sea Expensive? and Is Monterey Expensive?.


Which is Bigger, Carmel-by-the-Sea or Monterey?

Monterey has a larger population, and is about 7 times larger than the population of Carmel-by-the-Sea. When comparing the sizes of Carmel-by-the-Sea and Monterey, keep in mind that a larger population does not always imply the destination has more attractions or better activities. So, always research the type of place that you want to visit along with the activities and attractions that interest you.


When is the best time to visit Carmel-by-the-Sea or Monterey?

Both places have a temperate climate with four distinct seasons. As both cities are in the northern hemisphere, summer is in July and winter is in January.

Should I visit Carmel-by-the-Sea or Monterey in the Summer?

Both Monterey and Carmel-by-the-Sea during the summer are popular places to visit. The beaches, the small town charm, and the family-friendly experiences are the main draw to Carmel-by-the-Sea this time of year. Also, many travelers come to Monterey for the beaches, snorkeling, and the family-friendly experiences.

Carmel-by-the-Sea is around the same temperature as Monterey in the summer. The daily temperature in Carmel-by-the-Sea averages around 63°F (17°C) in July, and Monterey fluctuates around 63°F (17°C).

Carmel-by-the-Sea usually gets around the same amount of rain in July as Monterey. Carmel-by-the-Sea gets 0 inches (1 mm) of rain, while Monterey receives 0 inches (1 mm) of rain this time of the year.


  • Summer Average Temperatures July
    Carmel-by-the-Sea 63°F (17°C) 
    Monterey 63°F (17°C)

Should I visit Carmel-by-the-Sea or Monterey in the Autumn?

The autumn attracts plenty of travelers to both Carmel-by-the-Sea and Monterey. Many travelers come to Carmel-by-the-Sea for the shopping scene, the small town atmosphere, and the natural beauty of the area. Also, many visitors come to Monterey in the autumn for the shopping scene.

In the autumn, Carmel-by-the-Sea is around the same temperature as Monterey. Typically, the autumn temperatures in Carmel-by-the-Sea in October average around 62°F (17°C), and Monterey averages at about 62°F (17°C).

In October, Carmel-by-the-Sea usually receives around the same amount of rain as Monterey. Carmel-by-the-Sea gets 0.6 inches (14 mm) of rain, while Monterey receives 0.6 inches (14 mm) of rain each month for the autumn.


  • Autumn Average Temperatures October
    Carmel-by-the-Sea 62°F (17°C) 
    Monterey 62°F (17°C)

Should I visit Carmel-by-the-Sea or Monterey in the Winter?

The winter brings many poeple to Carmel-by-the-Sea as well as Monterey. Many visitors come to Carmel-by-the-Sea in the winter for the museums, the shopping scene, and the cuisine. Also, most visitors come to Monterey for the museums, the shopping scene, and the cuisine during these months.

In January, Carmel-by-the-Sea is generally around the same temperature as Monterey. Daily temperatures in Carmel-by-the-Sea average around 51°F (11°C), and Monterey fluctuates around 51°F (11°C).

Carmel-by-the-Sea usually gets around the same amount of rain in January as Monterey. Carmel-by-the-Sea gets 2.3 inches (58 mm) of rain, while Monterey receives 2.3 inches (58 mm) of rain this time of the year.


  • Winter Average Temperatures January
    Carmel-by-the-Sea 51°F (11°C) 
    Monterey 51°F (11°C)

Should I visit Carmel-by-the-Sea or Monterey in the Spring?

Both Monterey and Carmel-by-the-Sea are popular destinations to visit in the spring with plenty of activities. Most visitors come to Carmel-by-the-Sea for the beaches, the small town charm, and the natural beauty during these months. Also, the spring months attract visitors to Monterey because of the beaches.

Carmel-by-the-Sea is around the same temperature as Monterey in the spring. The daily temperature in Carmel-by-the-Sea averages around 56°F (13°C) in April, and Monterey fluctuates around 56°F (13°C).

In April, Carmel-by-the-Sea usually receives around the same amount of rain as Monterey. Carmel-by-the-Sea gets 1.1 inches (29 mm) of rain, while Monterey receives 1.1 inches (29 mm) of rain each month for the spring.


  • Spring Average Temperatures April
    Carmel-by-the-Sea 56°F (13°C) 
    Monterey 56°F (13°C)

Typical Weather for Monterey and Carmel-by-the-Sea

Carmel-by-the-Sea Monterey
Temp (°C) Rain (mm) Temp (°C) Rain (mm)
Jan 51°F (11°C) 2.3 inches (58 mm) 51°F (11°C) 2.3 inches (58 mm)
Feb 53°F (12°C) 1.8 inches (47 mm) 53°F (12°C) 1.8 inches (47 mm)
Mar 54°F (12°C) 2.1 inches (55 mm) 54°F (12°C) 2.1 inches (55 mm)
Apr 56°F (13°C) 1.1 inches (29 mm) 56°F (13°C) 1.1 inches (29 mm)
May 59°F (15°C) 0.2 inches (4 mm) 59°F (15°C) 0.2 inches (4 mm)
Jun 62°F (16°C) 0.1 inches (2 mm) 62°F (16°C) 0.1 inches (2 mm)
Jul 63°F (17°C) 0 inches (1 mm) 63°F (17°C) 0 inches (1 mm)
Aug 64°F (18°C) 0.1 inches (2 mm) 64°F (18°C) 0.1 inches (2 mm)
Sep 64°F (18°C) 0.2 inches (6 mm) 64°F (18°C) 0.2 inches (6 mm)
Oct 62°F (17°C) 0.6 inches (14 mm) 62°F (17°C) 0.6 inches (14 mm)
Nov 56°F (13°C) 1.8 inches (45 mm) 56°F (13°C) 1.8 inches (45 mm)
Dec 51°F (10°C) 2 inches (51 mm) 51°F (10°C) 2 inches (51 mm)