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Point Lobos State Park

Carmel-by-the-Sea, often called just Carmel, is a beautiful oceanside town on California's Highway 1, complete with dramatic views, white beaches, friendly locals and great food.


"Go ahead, make my day."

Hollywood actor Clint Eastwood served one term as mayor of Carmel, from 1986 to 1988.

Carmel is five miles south of Monterey city in the Monterey Bay region of California. A mostly upper-class destination for adults, the town itself is small – you can walk across the main part in five minutes – but filled with art galleries, cafes, restaurants and inns. Every evening, visitors gather on the pristine beach to watch colorful sunsets. Carmel's rocky coastline is picturesque but dangerous for boats, so unlike most coastal towns in California, it was never a good base for fishing. After the 1906 earthquake in San Francisco, it became famous as an artist colony, and there are still several dozen art galleries in town.

Temperatures in September are perfect: 70-80°F (21-27°C) during the day and 50-60°F (10-16°C) at night. Bring sweaters and dress in layers for all-day activities.

Ocean Avenue is downtown's main street, sloping from the highway down to the beach, with 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. The town is especially dog-friendly with many lodging and dining accommodations welcoming the canine guests.

Carmel Valley is 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[edit]

Map of Carmel (California)

By car[edit]

By Highway 1 south from Monterey or northwards via Big Sur.

By bus[edit]

By train[edit]

Amtrak's Coast Starlight stops in nearby Salinas. Amtrak runs a bus service from the station to Carmel with 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 plane[edit]

Nearby Monterey Airport (MRY IATA) offers connecting service through a number of different airlines. The airport also handles a large volume of private air traffic. San Jose Airport (SJC IATA) is about a 90-minute drive away, but it is larger and usually has much cheaper flights.

Get around[edit]

There are no street numbers for homes or businesses in the main part of the town. Directions are given by street name and the nearest intersection.

There are almost no street lights at night, and the signs for restaurants and other businesses are not brightly lit.

The downtown area and nearby beach can be seen on foot, but a car is needed 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 and Junipero). Many hotels offer parking spots to guests, but be prepared for a tight squeeze. Scenic Drive sometimes yields surprisingly convenient (and free) parking spaces.

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

There are a few local buses, but routes run primarily between Carmel and Monterey, rather than around Carmel, except for bus 24 which continues through Carmel to Carmel Valley.

One of California's most popular tourist attractions
View from the Cypress Grove Trail, Point Lobos State Park


San Carlos Borroméo Carmelo Mission (1771)
  • 1 Mission San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo, 3080 Rio Rd (bus 24 from Monterey or Carmel), +1 831 624-1271, fax: +1 831 624-8050. W-Th 10AM-4PM, F-Sa 10AM-5PM, Su 11:30AM-5PM. One of the 21 California missions established by Father Junipero Serra along the coast of California. Established in 1771, it is considered to be one of the most beautiful of the missions. Father Serra, the leader behind the greater Spanish mission to California, is buried along with his most faithful lieutenant at the front of the church. During the lifetimes of Father Serra and Father Fermin Lasuen, it was the headquarters of the mission system from 1771 until 1833. Self-guided tours take you through the remaining original buildings which now hold exhibits, a small museum, and a gift shop. Catholic Masses occur regularly. Keep in mind that the mission is a working Catholic church, so dress and act respectfully. $10/adult, $7/senior, $5/youth. Mission San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo (Q2689743) on Wikidata Mission San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo on Wikipedia
  • 2 Tor House, 26304 Ocean View Ave, +1 831 624-1813, . Tours on Sat at 10AM/11AM/Noon/1PM. Carmel Point, just to the south of Carmel Village. The famous stone home of poet Robinson Jeffers. Tours take about 1hr. $12/adult, $7/student. Tor House and Hawk Tower (Q14684152) on Wikidata Tor House and Hawk Tower on Wikipedia
  • 3 Point Lobos State Natural Reserve, +1 831 624-4909. 8AM–5PM. Considered the crown jewel of the California State Park system, Point Lobos is just south of Carmel on Highway 1. It is a rocky outcrop into the Pacific that has some great kelp forests, nice trails and small coves excellent for swimming, snorkeling, and scuba diving (if you can survive the cold temperatures). If the water's too cold for your taste, you can climb on the rocks oceanside or head back to the trails. Look for birds and, in early spring, newborn harbor seal pups. Dress in layers, and include a windbreaker jacket. Multiple picnic areas and restroom locations are wheelchair accessible. Bikes on paved roads only. Extra fees for diving, kayaking, stand-up paddling, and boating. No dogs, no skateboarding, no smoking, no fires. $10/vehicle. Point Lobos State Reserve (Q146341) on Wikidata Point Lobos on Wikipedia
  • 4 Gravity Garden, 97 Corona Rd (intersection of Highway 1 and Fern Canyon Road, Carmel Highlands). 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.
  • Carmel Visitor Center, Ocean btwn Junipero & Mission (2nd floor of Carmel Plaza), +1 831 624-2522. M-Sa 10AM-5PM, Su 11AM-4PM. Friendly volunteers can provide information about things to do, see and eat in Carmel. They have maps, brochures and post cards. free.


  • Architecture. 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?)
  • 1 Forest Theater (Santa Rita St & Mountain View Ave). The historic outdoor Forest Theater presents community theater performances in a sort of natural amphitheater nestled in 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.
  • 2 Carmel Beach (at the end of Ocean Ave). Bring a dog, a Frisbee, or a camera for a stroll down the beach. Dip your toes, or a bit more if you can brave the chill. Be prepared for a crisp ocean breeze. 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! Surfing is a possibility for very experienced surfers only (vicious riptides scour the coastline) - take off from the beach at the bottom of 8th.
  • 3 Carmel River State Beach, +1 831-649-2836. The quieter Carmel River State Beach adjoins an estuary that provides perfect bird-watching opportunities. On the hill across from the lagoon is 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. Carmel River State Beach (Q5043315) on Wikidata Carmel River State Beach on Wikipedia
  • 4 Monastery Beach. 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).
  • 5 Refuge, 27300 Rancho San Carlos Rd, +1-831-620-7360. Daily 10AM–10PM. Co-ed sauna with steam room, Nordic and thermal waterfalls, hot and cool pools. $46 admission.
  • 6 17-Mile Drive. A famous scenic drive through one of the most prestigious neighborhoods in Northern California. Unless you are a resident or hotel guest you have to pay $10.50 to get your vehicle through the gate. This fee is reimbursed if you spend $35 at most Pebble Beach Resorts restaurants. $10.50. 17-Mile Drive (Q197257) on Wikidata 17-Mile Drive on Wikipedia
  • 7 Pebble Beach, toll-free: +1-800-877-0597. One of, if not the, most famous and scenic golf courses in America. Pebble Beach Golf Links (Q534974) on Wikidata Pebble Beach Golf Links on Wikipedia
  • 8 Carmel Bach Festival, Ticket office: Northwest corner of 10th & Mission in Cottage 16, +1 831 624-1521, . Two-week summer festival celebrating Johann Sebastian Bach's music and legacy. Multiple concerts and presentations at several venues in and near Carmel. Some daytime events are free; tickets for the main evening concerts can run $50 to $100 or higher. Order tickets by May if you want the best options. Carmel Bach Festival (Q5043251) on Wikidata Carmel Bach Festival on Wikipedia


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.

  • 1 Girl Boy Girl, 100 Dolores St (corner of Mission and 7th Ave), +1 831 626-3368. 10AM–6PM. Locally owned and operated, this little shop is packed full of unique, high-quality designer clothing. Nearby you'll also find sister shop Paloosh.
  • 2 Carmel Plaza, Ocean Ave. M-Sa 10AM-6PM, Sun11AM-5PM. 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.
  • 3 The Barnyard, 26364 Carmel Rancho Ln. is a "shopping village" on the outskirts of Carmel, on the inland side of Highway 1. 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.


This page uses the following price ranges for a typical meal for one, including soft drink:
Budget under $25
Mid-range $25-$50
Splurge $50+

Carmel restaurants tend to be on the fancy side – eight of them are listed in the Michelin Guide, and one has a star – which means it's a delightful place for the foodie, but also that they tend to be on the expensive side. Many of the bigger restaurants serve lunch and dinner, so if you have your heart set on a fancy meal but don't relish the accompanying price tag, then consider making reservations for lunch, and plan a sunset picnic or a more reasonably priced restaurant for dinner.


  • 1 Allegro Pizzeria, 3770 The Barnyard. Offers pizza complemented by a wide selection of classic Italian entrees. The crust is the perfect cross between thick and thin, crispy and chewy. $20.
  • 2 Bruno's Market & Deli, 6th & Junipero St (downtown), +1 831 624-3821. 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. This market also carries groceries, including some imported groceries, but if you contemplate a major grocery run, your wallet will thank you for heading out to the Safeway or Lucky on the other side of the highway. $10–15.
  • 3 Carmel Bakery, Ocean Ave (between Dolores St & Lincoln St), +1 831-626-8885. 7:30AM til they run out. Carmel Bakery was established in 1899, making it the oldest retail business in the village and the oldest building in the village.
  • 4 R.G. Burgers, 201 Crossroads Blvd. Boasts burgers, shakes, and sandwiches. The simple, cheery decor and quick service make it a favorite among families. $25.
  • 5 Tommy's Wok (Carmel Plaza). Chinese food in a humble off-street location.


  • 6 The Hog's Breath Inn, San Carlos St (between 5th & 6th Ave downtown), +1 831 625-1044. 11AM–9PM daily. This establishment has been around for ages. It serves quality food in a genuinely fascinating atmosphere. $35 lunch, $45 dinner.
  • 7 Rio Grill, 101 Crossroads Blvd (The Crossroads). 11:30AM–8PM daily. Another long-standing local institution, serving up the best traditions of creative American cuisine. The daily quesadilla ($20) and warm sourdough bread ($5) will rev up even the most sluggish of appetites. $30–50.


  • 9 Mission Ranch, 26270 Dolores St (at the Mission Ranch Hotel, around the corner from the Carmel Mission). breakfast and dinner (closed mid-day). Serves exceptional food with a stunning ocean panorama at the historic sheep ranch rescued by Clint Eastwood. The large patio area is perfect for warm days, while the intimate interior is perfect for anytime. A piano bar graces the place at least Thursday and weekends. Mission Ranch is especially strong for its very popular Sunday brunch. No reservations and no large groups (maximum 8 people). $25 breakfast, $55 dinner.
  • 10 Anton & Michel's, in Court of the Fountains on Mission St (downtown between Ocean & 7th Ave), +1 831 624-2406. 11:30AM–4PM, 5–9PM daily. Old-school Continental French restaurant. Smaller portion sizes mean you'll have room for multiple courses. If you've never seen dessert flambéed before, then consider their classic desserts: cherries jubilee, crêpes suzette, or bananas Foster ($40, serves two). $35 lunch, $60+ dinner.
  • 11 Le Soufflé, 5th & Dolores, +1 831 250-5314, . Th–Sun evenings. The menu changes every few months at this tiny restaurant. Pick two or three courses for a set price. About half the options, and usually all of the desserts, are soufflés. French wines offered by the glass at reasonable prices. $100 prix fixe.


  • Carmel Valley Coffee, Ocean Ave (between Lincoln & Monte Verde). 6:30AM-5:30PM. Opened in 1994.

Most Carmel drinking revolves around local wines; be sure to indulge in a bottle, available at almost any food shop and every restaurant or stop into any winery's tasting room.

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

  • Alvarado Street Brewery, Carmel Plaza, Suite 112 (Ocean & Mission St), +1 831 293-8621, . 11:30AM-8PM. This is the Carmel outpost of Monterey's brewpub with outdoor seating.
  • Carmel Craft Brewing Co, 3777 The Barnyard of Carmel (inside Barnyard Shopping Village). W-F 3-8PM, Sa 11AM-8PM, Su 11AM-6PM. An experimental pico-brewery opened in 2018.


This guide uses the following price ranges for a standard double room:
Budget under $100
Mid-range $100-$200
Splurge $200+

Additional lodging options can be found just to the east in Carmel Valley, or to the north in Monterey. Many hotels are less expensive during the rainy winter months (approximately November to March) than during peak tourist months.


  • 1 Best Western (Corner of San Carlos Street and Fifth Avenue). $100.
  • 2 Carmel Wayfarer Inn, 4th & Mission St. Check-in: 3PM, check-out: 11AM. $75-125.



  • 10 Carmel Country Inn, Dolores Street at Third Avenue, +1 831 625-3263, toll-free: +1-800-215-6343, . Check-in: 3PM, check-out: noon. Pet friendly bed and breakfast offering suites and studios with fireplaces, beautiful gardens, and bountiful breakfasts. $195-425.
  • 11 Forest Lodge, Ocean Ave and Junipero St (Hwy 1, West- Ocean Ave), toll-free: +1-888-375-0770. Check-in: 3PM, check-out: noon. Cottages in Downtown next to shops and restaurants. Large suites with fireplaces and parking. Historical building with all new furniture. $200-400.
  • 12 Lamp Lighter Inn, Ocean Ave & Camino Real, toll-free: +1-888-375-0770. Check-in: 3PM, check-out: noon. Cottages and suites in downtown Carmel, and the closest Inn to the beach. Rooms have fireplaces and king beds. Free parking, free light breakfast, beach chairs to borrow as well as beach towels. Pet friendly. $200-350.
  • 13 La Playa Carmel, 8th & Camino Real, +1 831-624-6476. La Playa Carmel is a luxury hotel with 75 rooms, prestigious gardens, and terrace swimming pool. $200-400.
  • 14 Tradewinds Carmel, Mission Street at Third Ave, +1 831-624-2776. Asian-themed boutique hotel. $200-400.
  • 15 Wayside Inn, Mission St, +1 831-624-5336. 7th & Mission. $150-300.
  • 16 Hotel Carmel, Corner of 4th & San Carlos Street, +1 855-622-7635. Hotel Carmel features traditional cottage-style architecture with a modern seaside feel, newly renovated guest rooms, and a warm and inviting garden courtyard. $200-350.

Go next[edit]

  • Point Lobos State Reserve and the State Parks comprising Big Sur make for an amazing afternoon drive and hiking session.
  • Monterey - Four miles north of Carmel, Monterey was founded in 1770 and served as the capital of Alta California under both Spain and Mexico, was a bustling fishing port until the 1950s, and is now a major tourist destination. Attractions include a pier filled with seafood restaurants, a world-class aquarium, a harbor that is home to an enormous number of seabirds, sea lions, sea otters, seals, and other marine life, the historic Cannery Row, and opportunities for whale watching, kayaking, or other excursions into Monterey Bay.
  • Big Sur - The Big Sur region can be loosely defined as the stretch of coastline between Carmel and San Simeon, and the steep cliffs, rocky coast, churning waves, abundant wildlife, redwoods, and remoteness make it one of the most beautiful drives in the world. Big Sur Village lies at its heart, 20 miles south of Carmel, and offers amenities for travelers.
  • Carmel Valley - Located thirteen miles inland from its seaside namesake, this tiny village is home to quaint inns and upscale resorts, but is best known for the wineries that fill the valley. The area is also excellent for hiking, biking and horseback riding, with miles of trails through the mountains and along the Carmel river.
  • Pacific Grove - Located six miles north of Carmel, Pacific Grove is a beautiful town that is home to the oldest continually operated lighthouse on the West Coast, and more Victorian homes per capita than anywhere else in America. It is also the northern gateway of the scenic 17-Mile Drive. The town's rocky coastline is filled with tide pools that are easy to explore, seals, sea otters and sea lions are commonly seen in the waters, and adding to its bounty of natural riches, in the winter thousands of monarch butterflies gather in a grove at the town's center.

Routes through Carmel
Santa CruzMonterey  N  S  Big SurSan Luis Obispo
END  W  E  Carmel ValleyJct N S

This city travel guide to Carmel is a usable article. It has information on how to get there and on restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please feel free to improve it by editing the page.