Monterey, Carmel – Visiting, Things To Avoid, Things To Do!

Published Categorized as Travel

Hey! This site is reader-supported and we earn commissions if you purchase products from retailers after clicking on a link from our site.

Ah, Monterey, home to Carmel beach, with it’s crystallised sands and pristine waters that glimmer in the sunlight, gentle waves crashing against rocks that litter the beach. You’ll find your toes curling as gentle waves of salty water, tickle them tantalisingly.

Carmel beach should definitely be on the list of places for you to visit in Monterey, California. Though you’ll find yourself immersed in almost everything you find to do in Monterey; sights that’ll leave an everlasting imprint on its visitors, that you can’t help but find yourself back on its magnificent beach once again.

If you’re on the lookout for an enchanting getaway, packed with scenic walks, stumbling upon architecture that’ll have you reaching for your camera, desperate to keep this piece of beauty with you forever, then you’ll love Monterey, California.

Table of Contents


A breathtaking California destination, made up of 12 cities, including the cities of Monterey, Carmel-by-the-sea, Pebble Beach and Big Sur – is full of exuberant, and dramatic scenery, that is somewhat breathtaking. With seaside cliffs, and glistening beaches where you could spot whales, sea otters and migrating birds, animals that you had only seen virtually, that will be exposed before your eyes in real life! The famous writers that roamed the lands, the history here is just fascinating; savouring unforgettable flavours from award-winning food and wine scenes. And a limitless opportunity for recreation, including world-class golf, kayaking, hiking and lots more.

Things To Do In Monterey, Carmel

Monterey is a gorgeous coastal city located just a couple of hours of South Francisco. The city rests on Monterey Bay and is home to amazing creatures such as sea otters, seals and bottlenose dolphins. Monterey is on the migratory path for both grey whales and humpback whales, so if you’re lucky, you may catch a fleeting glimpse at these fantastic beasts of the ocean. Wandering along the seafront catching an eyeful of heart-stopping sunsets, discover the countless things you can do in Monterey, Carmel, that’ll leave you breathless forever.

For a blissful adventurous getaway, let’s take a look at the wonderful things there are to do in Monterey, Carmel.

  • Carmel Beach and Ocean Avenue
  • Carmel Mission
  • Point Lobos State Nature Reserve
  • 17-Mile Drive
  • Shopping on and Around Ocean Avenue
  • Explore Fairy-Tale Cottages and Hidden Passageways
  • Tor House and Hawk Tower
  • Monterey Aquarium and Cannery Row
  • Garland Ranch Regional Park
  • Mission Ranch Hotel and Restaurant
  • Pebble Beach Golf Links
  • Festivals and Events

Carmel Beach and Ocean Avenue

Arching around a cove of Carmel Bay, this majestic stretch of soft, toe tickling white sand is one of the most magnificent beaches in the world. The beach has an air of seclusion that is rarely found in a popular resort town. Littered with rocks along the coastline, and Pacific waves that crash against their surface, Carmel Beach is crawling with blissful nature. With iconic cypress trees that add to the intriguing scenery, a touch of it’s own unique style that is very different from nearby beaches.

Before you plan to rip off your clothes, and dive straight into the crystal waters, be aware that this beach is not for swimming, as dangerous rip currents and rogue waves are a common occurrence, and with no lifeguard on duty there is no need to place your precious life in danger. Despite this, it is an excellent place for natural walks, sunbathing, and playing games like volleyball or frisbee. the stunning scenery is enough to make up for the lack of swimming that you’ll be doing. You won’t be able to peel your eyes away from its tremendous and exquisite beauty.

Running parallel to the beach, the 3.5-mile Scenic Bluff Path gives tourists the chance to step back and admire the views of Carmel Bay, and the coastline from Point Lobos, to Pebble Beach. Multiple stairways lead between the beach and path. The trail winds up at Carmel River State Beach, although many people only walk a short portion of the path to take advantage of the ocean overlooks or stop and watch the sun disappear for the evening,

Carmel Mission

The San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo Mission is one of the most gripping and attractive Spanish mission sites in California. Founded in 1770 by Father Junipero Serra of Spain, the Carmel Mission is still an active parish church. The centrepiece of the Carmel mission is the basilica that was completed in 1797 and is listed as a National Historic Landmark. The Carmel Mission Basilica has a magnificently decorated interior, visitors marvelling over the pretty exterior with its garden courtyard and Moorish-style domed bell tower that stands tall, with the cross erected atop of it almost touching the sky.

Equally impressive are the sanctuary’s tunnel-vaulted ceiling and 30-foot-tall gilded reredos behind the altar. Displayed throughout the basilica are many fine pieces of Spanish Colonial liturgical art, a pleasant eeriness emanating from each art piece, that is quite magnificent. The Carmel Mission Basilica Museum includes several different collections that feature treasured artefacts and present the monument’s history. In one of the mission’s purpose of serenity, the garden in the Munra’s Courtyard is planted with lush flowers and wide leafy palm trees. Sometimes Anna’s hummingbirds – their face and neck dipped in red – can be seen dancing around the grounds.

The Carmel Mission and Carmel Mission Basilica Museum are open to the public for visits Wednesday through Sunday. Mass is celebrated at the basilica on Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, so if you’re ever interested in participating then take notes!

Point Lobos State Natural Reserve

Enchanting coastal scenery followed by a spectacular variety of wildlife, makes Point Lobos and amazing place of discovery. You’ll find your mouth dropping open dramatically as you gaze awe-struck at the incredible Pacific ocean scenery, with rippling waves that occasionally strike at the rocky bluffs and outcrops. Scenic hiking trails lead through forests of Monterey pines and cypress trees, as well as marine terraces, tide pools, and fields of coastal scrub blossoming with precious wildflowers. In springtime, an affluence of wild lilacs and California poppies, beautifully coat the fields.

Seeing the Point Lobos’ marine mammals will be a highlight for many. The Sea Lion point Trail leads hikers down to a staircase that offers a good vantage point of coves where the barking sea lion rests on offshore rocks. Head to the Cypress Grove Trail to catch an eyeful of the most adorable animals in Point Lobos, where you’ll stumble across some playful sea otters munching on mussels, or swimming around the kelp in the Headland Cove. Sometimes otters can be spotted in the tranquil waters of “the pit” on the Granite Point Trail.

You’ll find yourself appreciating the natural picturesque sights surrounding your peripheral vision, perhaps you’ll wonder whether you’ve touched paradise, the things to do in Monterey Carmel will certainly have you feeling some type of way. Escaping from reality, even for 48 hours is enough to recharge anyone’s battery.

17-Mile Drive

Expanding from Arrowhead Point in Carmel-by-the-sea to the Spanish Bay in Pebble Beach, this scenic coastal drive wraps around the edge of a small outcropping that separates Monterey Bay and Carmel Bay. For many who visit, they’d quite enjoy a jolly trip down the 17-Mile Drive, marvelling over the breathtaking landscapes. Gasping at the dazzling ocean, at every turn of the curving oceanfront route. Along the way you’ll find yourself immersed at the overlooks, nose glued to the window of your vehicle as you catch an eyeful of wildlife viewing points, secluded beaches their pearly waters calling your name, and picnic areas that’ll give you an incredible view of the magnificent scenery.

The 17-Mile Drive is famous for The Lone Cypress, a Monterey cypress tree that stands isolated atop a granite hill, the tree which is over 200 years old, happens to be one of the most photographed trees in North America. A short drive from The Lone Cypress viewing point is the country’s premier public golf course – Pebble Beach Golf Links. For the golf lovers out there you’ll be pleased to know that there are five other golf course areas within the 17-Mile Drive area: Cypress Point Club, Spy Glass Hill Golf Course, Poppy Hills Golf Course, Monterey Peninsula Country Club, and The Links At Spanish Bay.

Though for many the highlight of their journey is the elegant Spanish Bay Beach, you’ll appreciate the brilliant stretch of an elegant sandy shoreline and picnic tables that lookout onto the cerulean waves. Bird watchers and lovers can appreciate the Bird Rock and Seal Rock stops. The Bird Rock viewing point provides an outlook onto a large rock in the ocean where flocks of birds meet. Bird Rock is also home to barking sea lions, that you’ll hear from a distance. The Seal Rock stop includes a sheltered beach, tide pools and a picnic area.

Shopping on and around ocean Avenue

The best thing about visiting Carmel is discovering the unique speciality boutiques which are found on the wide main drag of Ocean Avenue, obscured on the charming streets, lingering in quaint courtyards and passageways. Walking through the town feels like participating in a treasure hunt that’ll lead you to unique shops that can only be found here, not forgetting artisan shops, jewellers, antique shops and much more.

Amongst the dozens of speciality stores one that will stand out, due to its cuteness is Cottage Sweets which is a traditional British-style sweet shop. The selection includes English style gummies that’ll glue your mouth shut for a couple minutes, a wonderful variety of fudge, and more.

Downtown Carmel also happens to have charming historical hotels and quaint bed-and-breakfasts, as well as dozens of excellent restaurants and local markets fit for exploration. The options of international cuisine include Italian, French, Mexican, Mediterranean and even Irish food. There are an excellent variety of cafe’s and coffee houses, not forgetting the fact that there are lots of places where you will find live music! Sing along, and let your body carry you to your next destination.

Explore Fairy-Tale Cottages and Hidden Passageways

The precious charm of Carmel is explored through the town’s fantasy architecture, created in the 1920’s and 1930’s. At the Carmel Visitor Centre on Ocean Avenue, you can pluck a map that indicates where the fairy-tale cottages are located. Taking a self-guided tour effectively allows visitor to hold each discovery close to their heart, letting their lips move as they converse amongst themselves, creating interesting theories of their own, excited chatter that is quite common whilst exploring the towns beauty.

Whilst hunting for fairy-tale cottages, tourists can also enjoy wandering and photographing the numerous atmospheric secret passageways and tranquil garden courtyards of Carmel. You’ll find yourself stumbling upon little boutiques, art galleries, cute little cafes, and other businesses. Las Tiendas Building which was built in 1929, has a passageway leading to the Carmel Coffee House – an inviting café with pleasant outdoor seating in the courtyard.

Tor House and Hawk Tour

Built by Californian poet Robinson Jeffers, Tor House was constructed off local granite and positioned so that it directly overlooked the sea. A fantastic way of preserving literary and philosophical legacies of the poet, enriching the public with some interesting cultural resources, that’ll offer some light education to those who desire it. I mean there’s nothing wrong with sucking in some knowledge while you’re having fun! You’ll find the famous poetry written by Robinson Jefferey whilst he resided at his house with his wife and children, take a tour of the house and perhaps you’ll feel a magnificent presence.

Monterey Aquarium and Cannery Row

Carmel is only about 10 minutes away from Monterey or an hours drive through the scenic 17-Mile Drive. A blissful coastal route rolls past Pebble beach Golf Course and The Lodge at Pebble Beach. Cannery Row is the waterfront district that was the setting for a John Steinbeck novel, the area is swimming with shops and seafood restaurants.

An excellent family attraction, the Monterey bay Aquarium is home to adorable penguins, playful southern sea otters, puffins, sea turtles, sharks and a wide variety of fish. From the aquarium’s observation decks, you’ll catch sweeping views of the bay and ocean, ideally a good place to come to for whale-watching and spotting other wildlife in the coastal waters.

Discovering the on goings of underwater life available at your finger tips. Press your hands to the clear glass as you catch an eyeful of jellyfish spinning in the water, if you’re curious as to whether this trip is worth the time and money, be assured that watching the creatures of the ocean at that proximity, is definitely worth it.

Garland Ranch Regional Park

This expansive parkland offers several hiking trails with a diversity of landscapes, ranging from cottonwood trees and sycamores in the floodplain to the peaks of the Santa Lucia Mountains. the trails slither through canyons loaded with maple tress, redwood forests, and shady oak woodlands, while the peaceful Garzas Creek traverses the park.

Whilst taking a nature stroll in Garland Ranch Regional Park, hikers will have a chance to seek out a variety of birds and wildlife. The park is also a great place for jogging, horseback riding, and photographic safaris. Garrapata State Park is another popular nature area in Carmel, a coastal park which includes two miles of beach and coastal hiking trails that lead to a scenic overlook. You’ll be pleased at the countless activities you’ll find here, from watching sea lions and harbour seals, to snorkelling, windsurfing and swimming.

Mission Ranch Hotel and Restaurant.

In an idyllic countryside setting close to the sea, the Mission Ranch and Restaurant stands on the property of a dairy farm that operated in the 1850s. With it’s outdoor fireplace, and calming views that stretch for miles over the horizon, sunlight bouncing off the tables. Rooms that feel like cabins, and a cosiness that is unmatched when surrounded by natural beauty. You can watch the sheep graze in the meadow as you clasp the hand of your romantic partner absorbing the rays of treasured beauty in Monterey, Carmel.

Encased by a forest of Monterey pine and cypress trees, this legendary 18-hole golf course sits in a glorious coastal setting, on rocky bluffs overlooking the crashing surf. Many renowned golfers and celebrities have played including Bing Crosby, Teddy Roosevelt, and even Winston Churchill! Imagine playing on a golf course that many famous feet had walked before you, the arms that swung with all their might, as each pristine gold ball sailed through the air and met its mark. a truly fascinating sight.

Pebble Beach Golf Links is considered the country’s premier public golf course. If you’re a lover of big, brilliant and rapid cars, then you’ll be pleased to know that the most eagerly awaited event of the year at the Pebble beach Golf Links is the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance which is held in mid-August. This divine car show offers a chance to see about 200 of the worlds finest collections of cars and motorcycles, such as Ferraris, British Prewar Sports Cars, and Shelby GT350 Mustangs.

Festivals and Events

As expected Carmel has interesting cultural events and festivals throughout the year. the Carmel Art Festival is a three-day event that takes place in <ay and is completely free of charge, you get to keep your pockets full, and have fun too! held at Devendorf Park in Carmel, this festival features open air painting, a juried painting competition, art sale, and live music. If you’re on a holiday at Monterey Carmel, with your kids then they’ll be very excited to attend this festival, as one of the festival days is devoted to children’s activities, allowing kids to be miniature artists. The Carmel Bach Festival is usually held during the second two weeks of July, and it includes concerts, recitals, classes and lectures.

Where To Stay in Carmel For Sightseeing

So we’ve mentioned the little pockets of paradise that are scattered across Monterey, California, but what about the hotels for overnight trips? You’ll be delighted with the list of hotels that are available with the most picturesque views of tantalising oceanic sunsets, that’ll have yoiur heart gently hammering in your chest, an escape to a peaceful location can do wonders for anyone. Of course luxury hotels aren’t for everyone, some may decide that they’d like to stay on budget and keep some money for splendid activities, instead of splashing out at a lavish hotel. Which is fair enough. Let’s take a look at your options.

  • Luxury Hotels
  • Mid-Range Hotels
  • Budget Hotels

Luxury hotels

With dazzling views of the Big Sur coastline and enchanting Pacific sunsets, Carmel’s Tickle Pink Inn is perfect for a romantic getaway. With guest rooms and suites featuring private balconies, fine Egyptian cotton bed linens, coffee makers with fresh aromatic ground coffee, and free movie rentals. Some rooms even has ocean vistas and wood-burning fireplaces encasing the inhabitants with pleasantness. The complimentary continental breakfast includes fresh-baked pastries, yum!

For golfing enthusiasts, the Quail Lodge and Golf Club, has its own golf course. There’s also a fitness center, outdoor swimming pool, and tennis courts followed by restaurants that serves seasonal cuisine. The spacious contemporary-style guest rooms feature modern amenities like high-definition televisions and premium cable channels.

Surrounded by rolling hills and vineyards, the Carmel Valley Ranch provides incredible amenities: an 18-hole golf course, spa, tennis court, family and adults-only swimming pools, and fire pits for s’mores. A shuttle service transports guests throughout the complex, resorts offering a variety of activities for kids, adults and families. You really can’t say no to that!

Mid-Range Hotels

The three-star Tradewinds Carmel is a boutique hotel with Asian-inspired design details including a courtyard/meditation garden with a Buddha and a tremendous fountain. Guest rooms feature silky soft pillowcases, down featherbeds, fireplaces and spa tubs. Some rooms are blessed with the views of the ocean, and the hotel offers free parking, and a pet friendly policy.

Just footsteps away from Ocean Avenue is the Cypress Inn which is an upscale boutique hotel known as the most dog-friendly hotel in California. Its guest rooms are decorated in warm Mediterranean style that melds with the buildings traditional Spanish architecture. Accommodation include a complimentary continental breakfast with fresh-baked popovers, pastries and fresh fruit, served at the hotels restaurant.

Budget Hotels

For a more affordable option, the Comfort Inn Carmel-by-the-sea, which is a cosy three-star hotel located within walking distance of the beach, restaurants and Ocean Avenue shopping. Guest rooms have coffee makers and microwaves available upon request.

The pet-friendly Carmel River Inn is nestled in a picturesque pastoral setting surrounded by 10 acres of gardens and forest near the Carmel River, and about a 20-minute drive to the Carmel River State Beach and the Carmel Mission. Guests have the option of booking a guest room at the inn or a small independent cottage. Amenities include an outdoor swimming pool and free parking.

Caramel Beaches

With crystallized, caramel sandy beaches, and enchanting views that have you wondering whether you’ve stepped through a portal to paradise, Monterey, Carmel, is a magnificent place for one to escape the soul-sucking reality of today. Get in touch with the world your ancestors grew up in and perhaps you’ll find yourself immersed in its exuberance you cant help but return. Plan your holidays near the time of a festival, so that you can take part in some live music, or a fun painting activity, whatever you choose, you’ll be mind blown by all.

By Mike

Mike leads research, writes, and keeps the site up and running. He's worked on upgrades to an old class A Winnebago, vans, and other homes - wherever they are.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *