Carmel (California)

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Carmel (California)

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Point Lobos State Park

Carmel [10] [11] is in the Monterey Bay region of California.


For a few dollars more
Hollywood actor Clint Eastwood served one term as mayor of Carmel, from 1986 to 1988.

Carmel-By-The-Sea is a beautiful oceanside town along California's Highway 1, complete with dramatic views, white beaches, friendly locals and great food. A mostly upper-class destination for adults, the town itself is small - you can walk across it in five minutes - but filled to the brim with art galleries, cafes, restaurants and inns. Every evening, visitors gather on the pristine beach to watch colorful sunsets.

Temperatures in September are perfect - 70 to 80 degrees F during the day and 50's at night. Bring sweaters and dress in layers for all-day activities.

Carmel Valley is the valley formed by the Carmel River, flowing some 20 miles from the Santa Lucia mountains to the Pacific Ocean. The town of Carmel Valley is located 12 miles inland from Highway 1, on Carmel Valley Road. Quite often, when Carmel-By-The-Sea is fogged in, Carmel Valley is sunny and warm.

Get in

By car

Carmel is reachable by car. Take scenic Highway 1 south from the Bay Area or north from the Central Coast.

By train

Amtrak's Coast Starlight passes through nearby Salinas. Amtrak runs a bus service from the station to Carmel with some stops in Monterey in-between. The train can be slow and is often delayed. The food is okay, but sometimes limited so you might want to bring your own food or snacks.

By air

The nearby Monterey Airport (IATA: MRY) [12] offers connecting service through a number of different airlines. The airport also handles a large volume of private air traffic.

Get around

The town and nearby beach can be seen on foot, but you'll need a car to explore the coastline. Street parking is generally free for a couple of hours at a time. There is also a garage at Carmel Plaza (Ocean & Junipero). Many area hotels offer parking spots to guests, but be prepared for a tight squeeze.

Bicycling is an option but should be undertaken with care, as many of Carmel's streets can be hilly, windy, or leave little room to pass.

There are few local buses[13] in this area; however, routes run primarily between Carmel and Monterey instead of around Carmel. There is also a "wine route" (route 24) that takes you out into the Carmel Valley, stopping at about ten local wineries and vineyards along the way. Buses along the wine route stop at each of ten destinations hourly. A unlimited use day pass for this all-day, every-day route costs $4.50 per adult, (half price for seniors, disabled people, and children).

Ocean Avenue is downtown's main street, sloping from the highway all the way down to the beach. Along the way admire the many shops, coffee houses, and galleries.

Scenic Drive meanders along the curve of the beach. A packed dirt path along the roadside is a favorite with local joggers and dog-walkers. Scenic Drive sometimes yields surprisingly convenient (and free!) parking spaces.


San Carlos Borroméo Carmelo Mission (1771)
  • Carmel Mission, 3080 Rio Road, Phone: (831) 624-1271, [14]. One of the 21 missions established by Father Junipero Sera along the coast of California. Established in 1771, The Carmel mission is considered to be one of the most beautiful of the missions.
  • 17 Mile Drive - a famous scenic drive through one of the most prestigious neighborhoods in Northern California. Unless you are a resident you have to pay a fee to get your vehicle through the gate.
  • Point Lobos - A California State Park located just south of Carmel on Highway 1, the park is a rocky outcrop into the pacific that has some great kelp forests, nice trails and small coves excellent for swimming (if you can survive the temperature of the pacific ocean)
  • Gravity Garden, Intersection of Highway 1 and Fern Canyon Road, Carmel Highlands; no phone number, [15]. Open daily. Artist Jim Needham has created a sculpture garden of rocks that have been stacked without the use of any adhesives, bolts or supporting structures. Some of the sculptures are as tall as nine feet. Free.
  • The Barnyard [16] is a "shopping village" on the outskirts of Carmel-by-the-Sea. The collection of art galleries and clothing and antique shops is nestled among fabulously well-kept gardens that are worth the visit even if you don't plan to browse the stores.

Keep an eye out for the sand sculpture artist at the beach at the bottom of Ocean Avenue! Creations range from sand mermaids to sand palaces.


Walk along the beach, play golf at Pebble Beach, visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium, explore Big Sur, shop, listen to live music, enjoy one of the local spas and much much more.

Stroll through the town and admire the incredibly diverse architecture. The quintessential "Carmel cottage" abounds but contrasts, sometimes wildly, with the assortment of surrounding homes. (Local tidbit: can you find any houses with street numbers??)

The historic outdoor Forest Theater [17] presents community theater performances in a sort of natural amphitheater nestled into a pine forest. There are also film screenings throughout the summer as part of "Films in the Forest." Be sure to bring blankets and something warm to drink.

Build a twilight beach bonfire on the stretch of sand at the bottom of 13th (fires must be out by 10pm). Bring lots of blankets, hot drinks, and smore ingredients!

Bring a dog, a Frisbee, or a camera for a stroll down the beach. Dip your toes (or a little bit more if you can brave the chill) into the largest ocean in the world! Be prepared for a crisp ocean breeze.

For the very experienced only (vicious riptides scour the coastline), surfers take off from the beach at the bottom of 8th.

Take a tour of Tor House [18], the famous stone home of poet Robinson Jeffers.

The quieter Carmel River State Beach adjoins an estuary, which provides perfect bird-watching opportunities for those interested. On the hill across from the lagoon you'll find a wooden cross marking the centuries-old "port" for supply ships to the mission. Wading in the river here is possible, but the steep slope of the beach makes for a violent current, and swimming in the ocean here is NOT a good idea.

If you're feeling brave enough to ford the river, behind the cross winds a network of paths that eventually lead to Monastery Beach, a great favorite among scuba divers. Watch as you walk for ubiquitous ice plant, and maybe a golden poppy or two (the state flower).


The village of Carmel is locally famous for art galleries boasting a variety of art. Openings are held frequently and often open to the public.

Unique clothing and jewelry also represent a large portion of shopping in Carmel. Don't miss the following:

  • Girl Boy Girl (100 Dolores St.): Locally owned and operated, this little shop is packed full of unique, high-quality designer clothing. Nearby you'll also find sister shop Paloosh.
  • Carmel Plaza [19] shopping center is a collection of upscale shops in the heart of town. Be sure to look on the lower courtyard level for The Cheese Shop.


For chinese food try Tommy's Wok. It has a humble off-street location but is the best chinese food around by far.

For baked goods try Carmel Bakery or its sister store Napoli Napoli, both on Ocean Avenue.

For a bargain dinner of American-style cooking go to Em Le's before 6PM.

Mission Ranch [20] serves exceptional food with a stunning ocean panorama. The large patio area is perfect for warm days, while the intimate interior is perfect for anytime. A piano bar graces the place on weekends. Mission Ranch is especially strong for its very popular Sunday brunch.

The Hog's Breath Inn [21] has been around for ages. While it struggled briefly under new management, it's now back to serving quality food in a genuinely fascinating atmosphere.

The Forge in the Forest [22] has attracted visitors and locals alike for decades, sometimes a destination in its own right for the signature chocolate chip cookie dessert.

Bruno's Market & Deli [23] has a wide selection of basics as well as imported groceries. The gourmet deli is a must-visit. Especially worthwhile are the tri-tip sandwich and authentic tamales. Perfect to go for a picnic on the beach.

Allegro Gourmet Pizzeria [24] offers THE best pizza around, complemented by a wide selection of classic Italian entrees. The crust is the perfect cross between thick and thin, crispy and chewy...

Rio Grill [25] is another long-standing local institution, serving up the best traditions of creative American cuisine. The daily quesadilla and warm sourdough bread will rev up even the most sluggish of appetites.

Cafe Stravaganza (241 Crossroads Blvd) has been offering Mediterranean-inspired dishes to its diners for years. The herb blend served with warm Italian bread sets the atmosphere. The colorful interior and passionate owner make dining in a sheer pleasure.

R.G. Burgers boasts the best burgers, shakes, and sandwiches around. The simple, cheery decor and quick service make it a favorite among families.

Big Sur offers a number of upscale dining options with spectacular views for those willing to undertake a bit of a drive. Favorites include:

  • Nepenthe [26]
  • Cielo at Ventana [27]
  • Rocky Point [28]
  • Sierra Mar at Post Ranch [29]


Most Carmel drinking revolves around local wines; be sure to indulge in a bottle, available at almost any food shop and every restaurant.

Several restaurants also offer bar areas; but an honest-to-goodness "pub crawl" would be hard to come by in this town.


  • Carmel Lodge, San Carlos Street & 5th Avenue, (831) 624-1255, [1].
  • Carmel Mission Inn, 3665 Rio Road, +1-831-624-1841 (toll free: +1-800-348-9090), [2]. Combines a private garden setting with the warmth of a country inn. Offers free Wi-Fi access.
  • Carmel Valley Lodge, Carmel Valley Road at Ford Road, +1-831-659-2261 (toll free: +1-800-641-4646), [3]. A pet-friendly hotel with rooms, suites and cottages.
  • Carmel Valley Ranch, One Old Ranch Road (Carmel, California 93923), 866-282-4745, [4]. A luxury resort located amid 400 pastoral acres and surrounded by the Rolling Foothills of The Santa Lucia mountains. Amenities include in-room fireplaces, hot tubs scattered throughout the property, a golf course, tennis courts, pool, and an excellent restaurant.
  • Country Garden Inns, 102 West Carmel Valley Road, +1-831-659-5361 (toll free: +1-800-641-4646), [5].
  • Dolphin Inn, 4th & San Carlos, 831-624-5356, [30]. Family-friendly, with several suites and half-suites available.
  • Green Lantern Inn, Casanova and 8th, 831-624-4392, [31]. Collection of cottages and duplex amongst pine and oak trees. Quiet, quaint, rustic yet romantic and comfortable.
  • La Playa Hotel and Cottages-by-the-Sea, 8th & Camino Real, 831-624-6476, [32]. This 75 room historic hotel with picturesque gardens is located just two blocks from Carmel Beach and four blocks from downtown. Ask about their recently renovated cottages, they're perfect for a private romantic getaway.
  • Pine Inn, Ocean and Monte Verde, 831-624-3851, [33]. Historic, full-service boutique style hotel right in downtown and walking to the ocean. Elegant rooms with charm and character.
  • Svendsgaard's Inn, 4th & San Carlos, 831-624-1511, [34]. Freshly baked cookies and coffee offered daily give this inn with its lovely courtyard a sense of home.
  • Tradewinds Carmel, Mission Street at Third Avenue, 831-624-2776, [6]. Asian-themed boutique hotel.
  • Wayside Inn [35], 7th & Mission, 831-624-5336.
  • Carmel Country Inn, Dolores Street at Third Avenue, (800) 215-6343, [7]. checkin: 3 PM; checkout: 12 PM. Pet friendly Bed and Breakfast offering a great blend of convenience, comfort and romance, surrounded by colorful gardens and natural beauty. Indulge in spacious suites and cozy studios with fireplaces, down comforters, bountiful breakfasts and jacuzzi tubs. Only a short walk to galleries, antique and boutique stores, and award winning restaurants. $195 - $425.
  • Comfort Inn Carmel-by-the-Sea, Ocean Ave & Torres St, (831) 622-7090, [8]. checkin: 3:00 P.M.; checkout: 11:00 A.M.. The Comfort Inn, Carmel-by-the-Sea offers visitors the perfect solution to finding Carmel lodging. With its prime central location mere steps away from Carmel Village, this Carmel hotel provides its guests various full service amenities and spacious well appointed guestrooms. The Comfort Inn, Carmel-by-the-Sea is the ideal Carmel California Hotel for travelers seeking an unforgettable vacation getaway. We can provide you with the very best Carmel lodging a Carmel California Hotel can offer. (36.54908666159689,-121.9259262084961)
  • Best Western Carmel's Town House Lodge, San Carlos St & 5th Ave, (831) 624-1261, [9]. checkin: 3:00 P.M.; checkout: 11:00 A.M.. Standing quality-rise above all other hotels in Carmel’s, CA, the Best Western Carmel’s Townhouse Lodge offers a wonderful selection of amenities and accommodations. The Carmel’s Townhouse Lodge sits along the majestic Northern California coastline close to the legendary Pebble Beach, Monterey Bay Aquarium, Cannery Row, and some of the best attractions on the west coast. The Carmel’s Townhouse also offers the finest vacation packages to help you tailor your dream northern California vacation. (36.54908666159689,-121.9259262084961)

Get out

  • Drive north to Monterey's Fisherman's Wharf for clam chowder and an ocean tour.
  • Go further north on Highway 1 to Santa Cruz for the boardwalk amusement park.
  • Travel south along Highway 1 for breathtaking views of the coastline - you'll feel as though you are at the end of the world.
  • Point Lobos State Reserve and the State Parks comprising Big Sur make for an amazing afternoon drive and hiking session.
  • Drive along scenic Highway 68 to the town of Pacific Grove for coastal beauty (tide pools) along Ocean View Blvd and an old fashioned downtow.

Routes through Carmel
Santa CruzMonterey  N noframe S  Big SurSan Luis Obispo

This is a usable article. It has information for getting in as well as some complete entries for restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please plunge forward and help it grow!