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The Best Things to Do in Carmel By The Sea California

The Best Things to Do in Carmel By The Sea California

Carmel by the Sea es un patio de recreo para los ricos y famosos. Clint Eastwood fue el alcalde de esta bella localidad costera, que alberga una de las comunidades más exclusivas de Estados Unidos y que lleva décadas atrayendo a famosos y artistas. Esta encantadora ciudad sólo tiene un kilómetro cuadrado, pero tiene un enorme poder. Con sus pintorescas casas, galerías de arte y espectaculares vistas al océano, Carmel es realmente como algo salido de un cuento de hadas.

Cuando se viaja de San Francisco a Los Ángeles, una visita a Carmel, California, debería estar en lo alto de la lista. Hay tantas cosas que hacer en Carmel by the Sea -desde visitas al centro hasta excursiones de un día a la costa del Pacífico- que definitivamente querrá pasar algún tiempo en este pequeño trozo de paraíso californiano. Y nosotros estamos aquí para darle ideas sobre cómo aprovechar al máximo sus vacaciones en Carmel.

About Carmel by the Sea, California

Note: COVID-19 may affect some activities and attractions. Check for closures and restrictions before planning your vacation. For restrictions, updates and closures, visit the Carmel Visitor website.

Before exploring Carmel by the Sea, let’s get acquainted with this beautiful coastal city that attracts so many people. With its small-town atmosphere and breathtaking scenery, it has been attracting artists for decades. It first caught the eye of Spanish explorer Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo when he saw its white sandy beaches.

Things to do in Carmel By the Sea

The Spanish sailed it for a century before Father Junipero Serra established the second California mission here in 1771, which still stands today. In the early 20th century, artists flocked to Carmel’s shores to turn it into an artist’s oasis, and after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, they succeeded, and people made Carmel by the Sea their permanent home.

The old traditions persist a hundred years later, as there are still no addresses outside of downtown Carmel. You won’t find any chain restaurants in Carmel by the Sea, but boutique and fine dining restaurants, tasting rooms and family-owned businesses.

And for the record, did you know it’s illegal to wear heels in Carmel? Although not enforced, if you want to wear heels, you have to get a permit. This law was created in the 1960s to ensure that Carmel’s forests and natural environment remained intact and that no one was going to sue for tripping over the roots and trees that are scattered throughout the city.

While Carmel counts Doris Day, Jack London and Clint Eastwood as famous residents, celebrities continue to own property in Pebble Beach, with real estate prices in this exclusive community reaching as high as $15 million.

Where to Stay in Carmel, California

The Hideaway in Carmel By the Sea California

There are many hotels to choose from in Carmel by the sea. We stayed at The Hideaway, which had lovely rooms and was only half a kilometre from the beach. It was located in the centre of Carmel so we could walk to restaurants in the evening, making it a great base. Room rates started at over $200 a night, but it was well worth it. TripAdvisor / Booking.com

Another charming hotel in Carmel is the Cypress Inn – this legendary hotel was owned by actress Doris Day and was named the most pet-friendly hotel in the country. This luxury boutique hotel is located in the heart of the city. Check rates on TripAdvisor / Booking.com

The Lodge at Pebble Beach – Pebble Beach is a community located just minutes from Carmel by the Sea. Stay at this exclusive resort with ocean-view rooms in total luxury. Dating back to 1919, this historic hotel is close to several points of interest, including Seal Rock Creek Beach and Lone Cypress Beach. Check availability on TripAdvisor

Vacation Rentals in Carmel

Vacation rentals in Carmel By the Sea California

A great way to save in Carmel is to rent and share the price with other couples or families. This oceanfront property has a capacity of 8 people and is located on the beach. The village is a 30 minute walk or 5 minute drive.

For two people, staying in this quiet villa is a good option at an affordable price. It’s a little off the beaten path, but it’s in the center of it all – less than 4 miles from Cannery Row, 1.2 miles from Carmel Beach, and 1.8 miles from 17 Mile Drive and Delmonte Forest.

If you want something more central, check out this cozy one-bedroom condo that’s just a short walk to the beach and close to downtown.

Best Things to do in Carmel by the Sea

Carmel by the Sea Views

Hotel Carmel by the Sea is a great place for a weekend getaway or as a base for exploring Monterey, Big Sur and the Pacific Coast Highway. We’ve put together a roundup of the best things to do in Carmel by the Sea so you can start planning your trip to California or a weekend in this charming town.

Learn to Surf

Learn to Surf at Carmel by the Beach California

One of the best things we did at Carmel was the surf lesson. When you’re in California, how could you not try it? Carmel Surf Lessons offers lessons, rentals or just a fun day with an instructor to help you get on your board. Become a true Californian and learn to surf on a sandy beach with gently rolling waves. An instructor will help you with hands-on wave riding and getting on your board. We’ve tried surfing around the world several times and this was a great place for beginners.

Stroll Along Carmel Beach

Stroll along Carmel Beach

If you’re not into surfing, that’s okay, Carmel Beach is a great place to enjoy the sun and sand. For a downtown beach, it’s a large horseshoe-shaped beach with rocky outcroppings and beautiful views. This is where we took our surf lesson, but there were plenty of people just walking along this 1km long crescent shaped dog friendly beach with their dogs.

Carmel River State Beach

Another beach located south of Carmel by the Sea is Carmel River State Beach. If you like bird watching, this is a good beach. Located in the Carmel River Lagoon and Wetlands Nature Preserve, tourists can see great blue herons and brown pelicans, among other gulls and terns flying over the lagoon. If you head upriver, you may also spot other birds such as the black woodpecker.

Point Lobos State Reserve

Point Lobos near Carmel By The Sea California

A little further south is a popular stop outside of Carmel at Point Lobos State Reservation. This beautiful state park is one of the main attractions around Carmel by the Sea. There are several hiking trails here that offer spectacular views of the cliffs. Don’t miss a hike on the Bird Island Trail, where you’ll get a view of picturesque China Cove. Point Lobos (Punta de los Lobos Marinos) was named by Spanish explorers after all the sea lions that hang out on the rocks. Translated, Point of the Sea means Point of the Sea Wolves and you have a good chance of spotting a harbour seal. Continue on to Gibson Beach for more great views.

Whaling Station Museum 

Point Lobos has a long history and at one time there was a whaling station and a coal mine in the area. Fortunately, it was set aside as a protected area for the Monterey cypress, but you can learn all about the history of the area at the old whaling lodge, which is now a cultural history museum.

Mission Ranch

Mission Ranch in Carmel By The Sea California

One of the most amazing places we visited in Carmel by the Sea was the Mission Ranch Hotel and Restaurant. Thanks to the efforts of Clint Eastwood, this historic property has been preserved. This old dairy farm dates back to the 1850s. While it is not open for residency, you can eat at the Mission Ranch Restaurant for dinner or go there for Sunday brunch. Another great place to watch the sunset is the patio of the Mission Ranch Restaurant.

Carmel Mission

Carmel Mission in California

While you’re in Mission Ranch, stop at Carmel Mission . This historic Spanish mission is one of the most popular attractions in Carmel by the Sea. The Basilica of Mission San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo (Carmel Mission) was founded in 1770 and is considered the most authentically restored Franciscan mission. You can visit the Carmel Mission Museum and learn all about one of California’s most important historic sites.

17 Mile Drive through Pebble Beach

17 Mile Drive Pebble Beach California

One of the most interesting activities in Carmel by the Sea and Monterey is a drive along the famous 17-mile road. This stretch of road runs along the beautiful coastline from Pacific Grove to Carmel and passes through the exclusive community of Pebble Beach. Here you will find many attractions including world-class golf courses, numerous beaches and scenic overlooks. Our favorite stop was definitely the Ghost Tree and don’t forget the famous Lone Cypress. There are restaurants and hotels along the way. We went on an electric bike tour, which was a great way to see it. Book a tour with Big Sur Adventures

Shopping on Ocean Avenue

Ocean Avenue is the main street of Carmel by the Sea and is a great place to shop or sit with a coffee while people watching. The street leads from downtown to the beach and there’s plenty to see along the way. You’ll pass historic hotels, cottages and hideaways. Grab a coffee at the Carmel Valley Coffee Roasters and soak up the sunshine while you browse photo and art galleries featuring local art and artists, charming courtyards and hidden trails.

Pick up this audio guide to Carmel and explore Hugh Comstock’s fabulous cottages in Carmel by the Sea. This clear map offers highlights and history of the cottages.

Sunset at Carmel Waterfront Scenic Road Walkway

Sunset at Carmel by the Sea California

Scenic Road is a one-way two-mile stretch of road along the Carmel coast. It has beautiful ocean views and is drivable, but it’s even better to walk on. As you drive along Scenic Road, you’ll notice a sidewalk that leads to the cliffs of Carmel Beach. Head up the stairs and relax on one of the park benches to enjoy the sunset views. If you are traveling by car, there is parking available at Scenic Road and Ocean Avenue.

Day Trip to Big Sur

Big Sur Day Trip from Carmel By the Sea

If you’re looking for an impressive day trip and scenic drive, head to Big Sur along California’s Highway 1, which skirts the Pacific Coast. It’s only a 38-mile stretch of road, but it’s one of the best ocean-view drives in the world. You’ll pass famous landmarks and photo spots like the Bixby Creek Bridge, the sea stacks at Garapta State Park and Point Lobos. Be sure to rent a car (if you’re not driving yourself) to take in the beautiful ocean views. There are plenty of detours along the route, so take your time and make a day of it.

Monterey

Monterey Day Trip Carmel By The Sea

Monterey is a destination unto itself and here we’ve written about all the things you can do in Monterey. To give you a quick overview, Monterey is just a few minutes from Carmel and if you want to stop by for just a day, you should have no problem doing so. You’ll certainly want to spend some time exploring the Monterey Bay shoreline. Stop by the Monterey Bay Aquarium to see the marine animals that live in the kelp forest, check out the restaurants, art galleries and shops along Cannery Row and explore 17 Mile Drive from Pacific Grove to Pebble Beach. In fact, we went all the way from Pacific Grove to Carmel by the Sea on electric bikes. Check it out here.

Pebble Beach

Carmel by the Sea attracts many avid golfers and no trip to Carmel would be complete without visiting at least one of the world-class golf courses. The Pebble Beach Golf Course is often rated as one of the best golf courses in the United States, and the Links at Spanish Bay course has beautiful ocean views and a bagpiper plays every night to welcome the sunset. The community of Pebble Beach is worth a visit just to see its mansions.

Art Galleries

Carmel by the Sea has always been a haven for artists. Writer Jack London was one of the founders of the local art colony in 1906, and Ansel Adams lived in Carmel in 1961. There are over 100 art galleries in the Carmel area to explore in a day. Since Carmel is home to wealthy patrons, you are sure to find unique art. Gallery by the Sea features local artists who depict scenes from Carmel, Pebble Beach and Big Sur. Dawson Cole Fine Art offers sculptures and prints, and Dennis Rae Fin Art offers authorized reproductions of Dr. Seuss.

Wine Tours

Wine Tours in Carmel California

If you are a wine lover, one of the best things to do in Carmel is to tour the wine cellars. You don’t even have to leave the village! There are a dozen tasting rooms in Carmel. Since we were staying in the village, we were able to enjoy the fine California wines from the Carmel Valley wine region that we took with us on our evenings on our Central California tour. Wander the countryside in search of one of Carmel’s many secret passageways to find your favorite Pinot Noir or California Zinfandel. My favorite white wine is California Chardonnay and they have that too!

Some tasting rooms you can visit are:Albatross Ridge Tasting Room on Dolores StreetWrath Wines on Ocean AvenueBlair Estate Tasting Room on Mission Street in Carmel Plaza.

Another great product produced in the Carmel Valley is olive oil and aged balsamic vinegar, so be sure to buy some when browsing the shops in the village.

Tour the Tor House

One of the most unique things to do in Carmel by the Sea is to tour the home of California poet Robinson Jeffers. In 1914, a cemetery was built in the town of Jefferson. Jeffers began building the Thor House and Hawk Tower after falling in love with the Carmel waterfront and Big Sur. His family lived here and he wrote many of his works here. He then built the stone Hawk Tower, which he built himself as a retreat for his wife. You can see the Thor House, which is open to preserve the legacy of Robinson Jeffers.

Where to Eat in Carmel, California

Where to Eat in Carmel by the Sea

One of the best restaurants in Carmel is La Belana Cucina Toscana. It transports you to the heart of Tuscany where you will find a traditional atmosphere, fresh local olive oil, quality local wines and cheeses. Sit outside on the heated terrace and enjoy a menu of farm fresh produce, drizzled with olive oil and truffles.

Pescadero is one of the best restaurants in Carmel, serving Mexican cuisine with a Baja-inspired menu. If you’re looking for a pub with a hipster vibe, Brophy’s Tavern is one of the most popular restaurants in Carmel.

Another spot for deep L lovers is Carmel Cafe, where you can get a special coffee. But don’t worry, there are plenty of cafes in Carmel by the Sea where you can get your caffeine fix. For a full list of restaurants, visit Carmel’s official website.

How to Get to Carmel by the Sea, California

Carmel By Thea Views

The waterfront village of Carmel is located just a 2-hour drive from San Francisco Bay on California’s Central Coast. It’s a great place for a weekend getaway. We recommend you rent a car and you can compare rental prices at RentalCars.com

Carmel by the Sea is located just 10 minutes from Monterey and it’s easy to explore Carmel Village, Pebble Beach or Carmel by the Sea.

Carmel is a 5-hour drive from Los Angeles and many people take Highway 1 to the Pacific Coast Highway. Check to make sure the road is not closed, however, as there was a mudslide last year that took out part of the road.

When to visit Carmel, Ca

When to visit Carmel by the Sea California

Being located in Central California, there’s no bad time to visit Carmel by the Sea, but apparently summer is the best time to go to the beach since temperatures are at their highest. However, it is crowded here.

We were in Carmel in late spring and loved the weather. It was pleasant during the day and cool in the evening. In the fall the weather is still warm and it is less crowded than in the summer.

You can see whales year round in the ocean waters in Carmel, California. Humpback whales migrate from March to Novembergray whales migrate from December to Maygray whales migrate from May to October.

And these are the best things to do in Carmel, California, with some interesting facts and places to visit in the Carmel vicinity.

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