There’s nothing quite like arriving in Carmel-by-the-Sea for the first time. Strolling down Ocean Avenue is enchanting. Quaint cottages, candy stores, and flowery courtyards — the whimsical seaside city is small at one square mile but packs a mighty punch. Tucked away on the Monterey Peninsula, the village, the heart of Carmel-the-Sea, offers an abundance of boutique shops, art galleries, restaurants, and bars. Its main attraction, though, is the very dog-friendly Carmel Beach. At roughly one mile long, the white-sand crescent beach bordered by Cypress Trees often hosts as many dogs as people, and it's the perfect place to admire the sunset.
The stunning shoreline and cute, bustling village create the perfect weekend getaway in California. While fall typically sees the best weather, Carmel-by-the-Sea is lovely any time of year. No matter when tourists choose to visit, check out our list of popular hotels, restaurants, and things to do to plan the perfect weekend in Carmel-by-the-Sea.
Where To Stay In Carmel-By-The-Sea
This coastal village is home to over 40 hotels and inns, all walkable to restaurants, art galleries, and the beautiful Carmel Beach.
Lamp Lighter Inn
The Lamp Lighter Inn is just a three-minute walk to the beach. It offers comfortable, stylish, pet-friendly rooms, but the highlight of this accommodation is its lush gardens. Complete with gazebos, hand-built birdhouses, and an outdoor fireplace, the Lamp Lighter Inn offers the perfect setting for relaxing outside by the fire on a chilly evening.
Candle Light Inn
Another accommodation with an outdoor fireplace, the Candle Light Inn offers spacious rooms, and its suites have fireplaces and whirlpool tubs. Add on the romance getaway package, which includes sparkling wine, chocolate truffles, and a dining certificate for the ultimate romantic getaway in Carmel-by-the-Sea.
The Normandy Inn
The Normandy Inn has welcomed guests to Carmel for the past 90 years. The French Country-style accommodations are surrounded by pops of color from the fragrant gardens. The outdoor pool, heated from April through October, is perfect for cooling off on warm days. The vintage cottages are the ideal getaway for families visiting Carmel-by-the-Sea. Each one has three bedrooms, two bathrooms, and a full kitchen.
The Cypress Inn
With its 20s style Spanish architecture, a lively lounge, and a Hollywood vibe, the Cypress Inn, a historic landmark since 1929, blends classic hospitality with modern amenities. For 20 years, The Cypress Inn was jointly owned by legendary Hollywood actress Doris Day. As a devoted animal activist, Day helped the Cypress Inn’s popularity as the “pet friendliest” inn in the “pet friendliest” town in the U.S.
Where To Eat In Carmel-By-The-Sea
With 60 restaurants to choose from, all within walking distance, visitors to Carmel-by-the-Sea are spoilt for choice.
The Carmel Valley Roasting Co. is the best place for a coffee and a tasty breakfast treat. Located on Ocean Avenue between Lincoln and Monte Verde, this place doesn’t disappoint. For a sit-down breakfast, try Katy’s Place. Established in 1982, this cozy restaurant in Carmel serves big and hearty traditional American meals.
Porta Bella, built in 1925, looks like a cottage with a beautiful garden entrance and a few tables outside. Inside is just as lovely. Serving local, fresh cuisine in a romantic setting, guests can expect an extensive lunch menu, including pasta, salads, sandwiches, burgers, and entrees, like Grilled King Salmon and Wild Mushroom Risotto. For a more casual atmosphere, Brophy’s Tavern offers excellent pub fare and a good selection of cocktails and cold beers.
For an intimate dining experience with an eight-course tasting menu, try Aubergine. The Michelin one-star-rated restaurant offers coastal California cuisine focusing on local ingredients, even seaweed straight from Carmel Beach.
More excellent dinner options include Il Tegamino, which serves Italian comfort food in one of Carmel’s many hidden courtyards, and La Bicyclette, which serves European bistro cuisine prepared in wood-fired ovens.
The Best Time To Go to Carmel-By-The-Sea
Carmel-by-the-Sea offers moderate weather year-round, so there really is no wrong time to visit. Spring brings May flowers, but summer is Carmel’s busiest season. Tourists flock to the village and spend days relaxing on the beach. Winters are quieter and cooler but equally beautiful.
While visiting Carmel-by-the-Sea is a fun California summertime activity, the village typically offers even better weather in the fall. Fall is known as Carmel’s secret season and provides the sunniest time of the year, with an average high of 72 degrees. Clear, warm days and a refreshing sea breeze create picture-perfect fall afternoons ideal for a leisurely stroll along the town’s charming streets or alongside the shoreline at Carmel Beach.
For tourists visiting Carmel-by-the-Sea in October, consider attending the Annual City of Carmel Birthday Party & Parade. The city was founded on October 31, 1916, and the day has been celebrated annually. The village welcomes residents and visitors to enjoy a City Birthday and Halloween Parade downtown, with trick-or-treating and fall festivities amongst the quaint shops and boutiques.
Things To Do in Carmel-By-The-Sea
Go to Carmel Beach
Carmel Beach attracts visitors and locals from early morning until sunset over the Pacific Ocean. This super Instagrammable destination is the perfect place to stroll along the sand, walk your dog, admire the scenery, or have a picnic. The wide sandy beach is one of the most beautiful in California. It’s a popular surfing beach, and swimming is allowed, but the water will be too cold for most tourists. Those brave enough to get in the cold water should be aware of unpredictable rip currents.
Stroll Along The Scenic Bluff Path
Nine stairways lead from the famous white-sand beach to the Scenic Bluff Path. This trail offers tourists a casual walk or run along the jagged coastlines surrounded by Monterey cypress and landscaped gardens. It’s the perfect spot to catch the sunset.
Ocean Avenue is the main shopping strip in Carmel-by-the-Sea. Tourists will find hundreds of locally owned, unique stores on both sides of the street and throughout the main cross streets, alleys, and charming courtyards. Some favorites include Diggity Dog for gifts for your favorite four-legged friends, Thinker Toys for little ones, and the Hat Shop Carmel for — you guessed it —hats! Ocean Avenue is also full of women’s clothing stores, restaurants, candy shops, and boutique souvenir stores.
Visit Art Galleries
Carmel is home to close to 100 art galleries. Expect to find world-renowned artists, local California pieces, pottery, sculptures, photography, and more. Tourists can easily spend the afternoon feeling inspired by moving masterpieces. A few favorite galleries include the Weston Gallery for photography, the Gallery by the Sea Carmel for local pieces, and the Jones & Terwilliger Galleries for beautiful paintings.
Sip and Savor
Carmel-by-the-Sea has 18 wine-tasting rooms. A popular place to sip, the casual watering holes are small, friendly, and often include meeting the winemaker. For wine enthusiasts, try the Carmel-by-the-Sea Wine Walk. To partake, simply sign up for the free mobile guide. The guide will be instantly delivered to your phone. Follow the guide to participating wine-tasting rooms throughout the village and check in to redeem exclusive offers, like coupons for full bottles, complimentary cheese and salumi tapas plates, and extra tastings.
Nicole is a freelance writer based in San Francisco. As a former professional athlete, she gravitates toward active vacations, but also loves a great luxury hotel (The Palace Hotel in San Francisco is her favorite). In addition to travel writing, Nicole has published pieces about sports, parenting, entertainment, art, technology, and law. When she's not writing, she can be found reading a good book, hiking around the Bay Area with her son, trying to train their 70 lb. puppy, or watching reruns of I Love Lucy.