Thank you for your nice comments on my “What I Wore: Carmel” post about wanting to see our itinerary and my Carmel recommendations. When I imagine you guys potentially going there with your loved ones, it makes me excited to share!
I tried to describe Carmel to a friend the other day and failed miserably. We both ended up laughing at my failed attempt. I’m hoping to make up for it here. Carmel-by-the-Sea, or simply “Carmel”, is a beautiful beach town in the middle of the California coast. The weather simply can’t be beat. A constant dry, cool breeze comes up from the waters of the Pacific Ocean. The surrounding areas have some of the most amazing coastlines you’ve ever seen, and there are lots of golf courses and national forests for you to take full advantage of the beauty! Carmel is extremely charming, with amazing art galleries (its main draw), pretty shops, markets, a quant bakery and a coffee shop or two lining the main street. The street ends at a huge sand dune that takes you down to a white sand beach. There are flowers everywhere, and there’s bougainvillea climbing practically every wall. It’s so charming that you’d think you have found a hidden gem, until you find out that the quant cottages (1-2 bedrooms) lining the neighborhood streets start at a million. But guess what? It has all that and is super laid back! In fact, there is a prohibition on wearing high-heeled shoes (read more here). Ha!
I’ve been to Carmel a few times, so I am going to try and be as succinct as possible. I’d like to avoid the very boring “relative’s slide show of their vacation” effect. Ha!
If you ask me, the highlights are in the checklist, but here’s a bit more information.
We stayed at The Hideaway. I’ve also stayed at La Playa. Honestly, both are very comfy and you’re not really in your hotel room that much. I’d stay at both places again. I might check La Playa first because it’s closer to the beach. Oh, and of course, The Lodge at Pebble Beach is beautiful, too! Keep in mind that the The Lodge at Pebble Beach is not in the town of Carmel.
Eat and Drink:
The Inn at Spanish Bay– There is a bagpiper that starts walking the shore line at 6. It’s the most picturesque scenery, and when the bagpiper started playing “Amazing Grace”, I couldn’t help but cry. We got there at 5 so we could grab a table.
Mission Ranch– Mission Ranch has a spectacular view that overlooks sheep grazing in a pasture and just beyond in the cove. They don’t take reservations, so we got there a bit early to get our names on the list.
Casanova– Everytime I’ve been to Carmel, we’ve had dinner at Casanova. It’s a Carmel staple. It’s a romantic yet lively and charming Italian restaurant. I love all the different rooms and outdoor areas, too. It’a sure bet.
Seventh and Dolores– It’s a new, refreshingly modern steakhouse in Carmel. I really enjoyed its white walls, airy vaulted ceiling, and the pop art by a local artist on the walls. The food was really good.
Katy’s Place– We love Katy’s Place for breakfast. I love this place because it reminds me of my mom’s decorating in the 80’s, with shadow boxes and “Old Town Spring” country trinkets. The food is great, too. They have a variety of eggs benedicts and omelets, bottomless coffee (seriously, the service is extremely efficient), and freshly squeezed orange juice. I think it might be my husband’s favorite place to eat in Carmel.
Big Sur, CA
Rocky Point Restaurant– Rocky Point Restaurant is casual and delicious with amazing views of Big Sur. I loved my cheeseburger, and my friends all loved their food, too. It has lots of outdoor tables that are perched on a cliff! Plus, there’s also a lot of great spots to take photos on Rocky Point. We all got a wild hair and decided to hike out to the points that jutted out into the ocean. I don’t think it was very smart, but it was exhilarating and made for a great picture. I was so freaked! Can you see the worried look on my face? HAHAHAHA!
Post Ranch Inn– Post Ranch Inn is a beautiful, rustic looking resort. The restaurant and houses have grass roofs! In fact, you can barely see the restaurant in this picture! The restaurant is beautiful and has a stunning view of the ocean. We sat inside, and I wish we had sat on the deck. It’s on the dressier side.
Hike Point Lobos– This hike goes along various fingers that jut out into the Pacific Ocean. This is one of my very favorite spots to hike ever. It’s cool, and you have a constant view but without any elevation! Doesn’t sound bad, does it? My husband and I hiked there on our 10 year. It’s definitely a must.
The boys played golf, and you can’t pick a bad golf course to play- Pebble Beach, Spyglass Hill, Spanish Bay and a variety of private courses. You name it, it’s good.
17-Mile Drive– Enjoy a drive on Seventeen Mile Drive. Be sure to stop at various points of interest along the way, like the Bird Rock and The Lone Cypress, or just listen to some jams and never get out of the car. Either way, you’re sure to love it!
The Spa at Pebble Beach– I love the Pebble Beach Spa at Pebble Beach, but I base my experience on three things and they might not be what you are looking for. I base my spa experience on the relaxation room, the quality of the massage (I love a knowledgable masseuse and a deep tissue massage), and whether they serve lunch on the property. If I’m going to spend that much money, I want to be able to spend the entire day there and enjoy all the amenities. They have the best relaxation room I’ve ever seen. It’s a hexagonal room that has (open) windows on each wall and a fire pit in the middle. I also love that the spa guests can enjoy lunch in a courtyard by the pool that is exclusive to spa guests. You don’t have to take off your robe!
Shop- I hit the Citizen of Humanity jackpot at Paloosh and GBG. My favorite jean brand is C of H and they are not widely offered, so I went a little nuts.I found out later that they are the largest C of H retailer in the United States! No wonder I went nuts! I also found an Anthropologie and J. Crew… some things just don’t change and my love for these two stores is one of them. I also enjoyed popping into a few vintage jewelry shops. My favorite was B&G.
Visit the Art Galleries- Stopping in various art galleries is a must. Heck, you may even end up with a painting to take home to remind of your trip!
Whale Watching– Whale watching in Monterey Bay is one of those life experiences I will never forget. This is an actual picture from our trip. At this point, I was holding my girlfriend’s hand because I thought we were all going to die from one of the whales tipping us over. Well, I’m still alive, and it’s one of my favorite memories! We used Sea Goddess (here).
Drive out to Big Sur– This part of the California coastline has views that are unobstructed! The entire time you look out on the prettiest, deepest blue ocean. It’s almost like you’re in a dream! We pulled off the road to capture this photo. Can you believe this is someone’s private property?!?
On a side note, I’ve never made it out to Pfieffer Beach or McWay Falls. Both are on my list, and they should be on your list, too!
Carmel is one of the prettiest (if not the prettiest) places I have ever been. I guess that’s why we keep going back! If I missed anything, please let us all know by commenting below. If you decide to visit any of these places based on my recommendations and want to make my ENTIRE YEAR, tag me or send me a picture. I love to feel connected to you guys. It makes me happy!
If you’d like to see What I Wore in Carmel, click here.
My husband and I love Carmel and visit every chance we get. You nailed it with this guide ~ from the spa at Pebble Beach to Casanova’s to Big Sur. We haven’t been in a while and your guide is making me want to make reservations!
Carly Lee says
It’s such a wonderful place, isn’t it? I’m glad you like my recommendations, Phyllis!
I’ve been to Carmel many, many times since I’m a California (Sacramento) girl, but I don’t think I ever had as much fun as you did! My aunt and uncle lived in Pacific Grove for years, and my cousin’s in-laws live (or did) on the 17-Mile Drive. I’ve never seen the piper, but know I would cry if I did. Glad you had a good time.
Carly Lee says
Ha! I did have fun! I’m envious of everyone who lives in California! To live on 17-Mile Drive would be dreamy! You would love the piper!
OMG, sounds amazing, just added Carmel to our must visit list!
Carly Lee says
Sandy, You would love it! We plan to take the boys with us next!
Kelly Savukinas says
I moved from Houston to Monterey 12 years ago- started my family here and absolutely love it. We take our kids to Carmel for beach picnics all of the time! It is one of my favorite places. We often go to Mission or a few other spots for “date nights” because it is so special. Your list is great and I am so glad to see so many of my Houston peeps coming to vacation here. If you ever need any other tips, please let me know! Always happy to help!
Carly Lee says
Kelly, I’d love to hear your recommendations!
Great pics and breakdown! We spent two weeks in the Monterey area this summer and it was heaven.;) Love Carmel and we did the Point Lobos walk. Gorge. There is so much to do-from San Fran to Big Sur.
Carly Lee says
So fun! I want to spend two weeks in the Monterey area!