HomeDIY CraftWhat to Do in Carmel-By-The-Sea

What to Do in Carmel-By-The-Sea

Carmel-by-the-Sea is an absolute dream of a village on California’s central coast, with all the charm of a European village. Find travel recommendations below and learn what to do in Carmel, California.

Carmel has been a travel destination for my family for as long as I can remember.

When I was a child, my grandmother and aunt would take me to Carmel and take me through the art galleries and jewelry stores.

We would wiggle our toes on the soft sand of the clean beaches before getting dessert at the sweet shop and heading home for the day.

Now as an adult, I have a renewed love for this magical place, and I’m getting to know it in a whole new way.

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What is so special about Carmel?

Aside from its obvious charm and beauty, there are a lot of things special about Carmel, California.

With its roots as a refuge for many artists, poets, and authors after the San Francisco Fire of 1906, the Carmel District remains an arts haven, with art galleries, shops, and a wonderful center for the performing arts.

Much of the architecture looks like it was taken from a storybook, with the houses resembling jungle huts.

Another whim? Residences have no street addresses. They identify themselves by the names of cute little cottages, and by the number of houses at their distance from intersections.

You’ll find that the Carmel area is incredibly pet-friendly, with puppies welcome in most places.

You’ll also find that it’s an incredibly affluent location, and as such, you’ll see the prices in restaurants and shops reflect that.

But above all, I love Carmel for its amazing beauty. This part of the California coast is one of the most interesting in my opinion. Soft sandy beaches and jagged cliffs with blue waters, sea lions, otters, dolphins and more are part of the atmosphere.

Carmel with kids vs. grown ups

Carmel is a great destination for families but these days I prefer to travel here alone, with my girlfriends or with a partner.

On an adults-only trip, you can really experience the Carmel part that’s all about wine tasting and gourmet food.

However, we have done Carmel with the kids plenty of times and would take our kids there any day!

What to do in Carmel by the Sea

Where to stay in Carmel, California

There are so many charming inns to choose from!

For a family stay, I often recommend Hofsas House.

The Hofsas House was started as a small guest inn in the late 1940s by Donna Hofsas, and is now run by her granddaughter. The family atmosphere continues, and it would be a perfect place to bring the family to stay.

I will say, if you don’t like kitsch, you probably won’t get it. But if you prefer floral wallpaper and a classic vibe, you’ll be in heaven. The rooms are huge. We happened to have a balcony overlooking the ocean which was great.

For something smaller located downtown, I recommend the Monte Verde Inn or Pine Inn.

Both will have smaller rooms but still plenty of comfort and charm. The location of any of these places is absolutely excellent, and they have parking which is important in Carmel.

We don’t usually stay in luxury hotels, so none of them fit this bill, but Carmel definitely has some luxury locations if that’s your travel style.

Where to eat in Carmel, California

You can stay for weeks without running out of great places to eat and drink! Here are some of my tried and true favorites.

No bisquit. Nice place to have lunch solo or lunch with the girls. Split two pizzas and salads!

Toro. Some of the best sushi I’ve had in California.

Tree house. I love this place because of the atmosphere, and if you can get a spot on the second floor patio, you’ll really feel like you’re eating in a treehouse.

box. An old-school caramel favorite, it’s perfect for an easy brunch. This building is also one of the first Carmel cottages ever built in the early 1900s!

Dammitra. Easy place for great Mediterranean food. This would be a perfect place to take the family.

Fixed. Beautiful space with great dishes! I especially love lunch here.

Hog Breathe Inn. Another great place to take the family. Lots of outdoor seating, fire pits, and a menu that kids will love.

Fifth Avenue Deli. I like to grab a sandwich and some snacks here and walk to the beach.

Carmel Valley Coffee Roasting Company You’ll find a few locations of this local chain, each with its own character. If you can get a table on the sidewalk on Ocean Ave. The location makes it an ideal place to drink tea and people watch.

Ascension + wander. Another great place for coffee or a quick and easy lunch.

What to do in Carmel by the Sea

Things to do in Carmel, California

It’s a cozy little town, but there’s no shortage of things to do, especially if you like being outdoors!

Beaches. Carmel Beaches are some of the most beautiful beaches in California! The easiest is Carmel Beach – wide, soft white sand, and dogs can run off leash.

Carmel village. Walking around what they call the Golden Rectangle in Carmel Village is a dream come true! Boutiques, restaurants, wine tastings, salons, galleries and much more.

Cycling. One of my favorite memories in Carmel is renting e-bikes from Mad Dogs and Englishmen and riding around town. Bring your own bikes or rent some and see the area on wheels.

Walking tour. There are lots of beautiful trails and walks. One of my favorites is the coastal trail at Point Lobos Nature Reserve.

the shopping. Come ready to shop! The boutiques are well curated and a lot of fun.

17 Mile Drive. One of the most beautiful stretches of the California coast awaits! It is necessary to drive this path at least once in your life.

the seat. The McGinnis Bench on Carmel River Beach is very special. Underneath you will find a small mailbox with notes and pens, where you can sit to write a letter or read what others have written. You can see more about the bench here.

Spa. At Refuge Carmel, you can spend the day in hot pools, saunas and steam rooms alternating with cold plunges. It’s a silent, technology-free retreat, very peaceful and a wonderful experience.

What to do in Carmel by the Sea

What should I bring?

Carmel is a beach town but there is definitely a coastal grandma vibe that prevails!

Bring layers because it can get cold. Make sure the layers are comfortable and easy to wear.

You won’t find many places where you’ll want to wear sequins or high heels. But if you plan to play golf or spend time at the club, make sure you bring the appropriate clothing.

I hope you have a great time in this magical place! xoxo

What to do in Carmel by the Sea


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