Driving along the Pacific Coast Highway from San Francisco all the way to Carmel-by-the-Sea was a dream come true. I have always wanted to ride along the gorgeous coast and one day, we will go all the way down to Southern California, from San Francisco, but that is for another time. Like the title says, Carmel has a ton of coastal charm – it was the cutest, most laid back city I have ever visited! The restaurants were fantastic, the people were kind, and it was extremely walkable. Keep reading along this Carmel-by-the-Sea travel guide to see what we did while we visited!
Carmel-by-the-Sea Travel Guide
What to know
Like I mentioned above, Carmel is extremely walkable. Most everything is within a few blocks of the center of Carmel-by-the-Sea, so unless you want to venture out somewhere farther out, you do not need to use your car while you’re there.
Carmel is all about relaxing! Everyone there wants you to have a great time and it’s very apparent.
What to do
I have already written a post on Carmel-by-the-Sea activities, but I wanted to include it all in my travel guide, as well, so that you could have it in one place. If you want to read more in detail about some of these things, head on over to my activities post!
Drink Wine: Monterey County is surprisingly a huge wine production area, which I did not realize. Luckily, Carmel-by-the-Sea offers many tasting rooms all within the center of the city, so you can walk to each tasting room, instead of having to drive to each winery (like you will find in Napa Valley and Sonoma County). Although we did not receive a full Carmel Wine Walk pass, we thought that what we did receive and try out would be well worth the money, so I’d definitely recommend purchasing one if you are interested in trying out different tasting rooms around the town. The best part of the Carmel tasting rooms is the fact that you will bump into the same people over and over and it really makes you open up a dialogue with them. We left the Carmel-by-the-Sea tasting rooms with two friends and are so thankful for that!
Hike Point Lobos: We photographed a lot at Point Lobos and it was beautiful! Next time I am back in Carmel, I will make it a point to hike the entire thing and maybe camp there, as well.
Beach: Relax at the beach for a day!
Carmel Mission: Although it is a walk, Ian and I trekked over to The Carmel Mission, without a car. The Basilica Church was absolutely stunning. Before you leave Carmel-by-the-Sea, you need to stop here. It is a must-see!
Also in my Carmel-by-the-Sea activities post: 17-mile drive & explore the hidden passageways.
Where to stay
We stayed at The Hofsas House while we were in Carmel-by-the-Sea. Showing off its European vibes, The Hofsas House Hotel is a boutique, family-owned inn in downtown Carmel, California. It is situated only three blocks from Ocean Avenue, which is the ‘main’ street in downtown Carmel-By-The-Sea, according to locals. Because of this, The Hofsas House is extremely convenient. In fact, we walked everywhere and only hopped in the car one time during our entire stay. I would not say that The Hofsas House is a luxury inn, so if you are looking for a luxurious place to stay, it might not be for you, but if you are looking for a cozy, extremely convenient, and affordable place to stay in Carmel-by-the-Sea, it will probably be perfect for you!
What to eat
The Carmel Coffee House and Roasting Company: Boy, did this place have good coffee and pastries! I got a latte and a chocolate croissant and it was the perfect breakfast. The sitting area outside of the coffee house is so romantic and cute, as well. I highly recommend going here!
La Bicyclette: La Bicyclette was on my ‘must try’ list since I first started planning our trip and it did not disappoint! I will say that this restaurant fills up very quickly, so make reservations before you go. Ian ordered the Champignons pizza, which has Portabella, oyster mushrooms, mozzarella, thyme, caramelized onion puree, and truffle oil on it (AMAZING!), and I ordered the Duck Confit au Jus (again, amazing!). La Bicyclette says, ” La Bicyclette features European Country Cuisine, hand-crafted using local ingredients and old world artistry. Our food is simple and spontaneous, blending flavors and cooking techniques in a way that is rooted in tradition yet creative.” We highly recommend this restaurant! I’m planning on writing a separate post about La Bicyclette, whenever I get a chance to do so.
A W Shucks: The oysters here were good and it was perfect for a quick and simple lunch. If I had the choice to go to Cantinetta, Luca, La Bicyclette, or A W Shucks, I would probably choose one of the first two, BUT A W Shucks is perfect for a quick and simple meal. If you go, I recommend getting the raw or baked oysters. We also had an oyster po’boy which was good and the clam chowder, which was not the best.
Cantinetta Luca: This is my favorite restaurant that we tried while in the area and I just knew I had to add it to this Carmel-by-the-Sea travel guide. If fact, I wrote an entire post on Cantinetta Luca because it was that good. According to the website, “Cantinetta Luca offers an authentic menu inspired by the traditional recipes of various regions of Italy featuring hand-crafted dishes using the finest Italian goods and locally sourced ingredients in a lively atmosphere. Executive Chef Aaron Rayor shares his experiences and travels through handcrafted dishes prepared traditionally with a simple and rustic presentation.” We tried so many dishes and I would love for you to read the full review because I just cannot fit everything on this travel guide post, but some of our favorites were the Fristene Caduto di Luca, Rabarbaro Mulo, Octopus, Luca’s Signature Bistecca Alla Florentina, and the Cacio E Pepe. So amazing, you guys! Please, please, please go read my full review on Cantinetta Luca in Carmel-by-the-Sea and please try it out if you travel to Carmel.
Aubergine: We did not eat at Aubergine because we only had about 1.5 full days in Carmel, but it was very high up on our list. Aubergine is the restaurant at L’Auberge Carmel (aka. where I would love to stay next time we travel to Carmel!). The restaurant is award-winning and they have a tasting menu that changes daily. The pictures I have seen all look phenomenal!
Although our time in Carmel-by-the-Sea was very short, I now have a long list to do once I come back. I hope you enjoyed this Carmel-by-the-Sea travel guide and please let me know if you have any questions at all about the town. We loved our time there and hope you do, as well!