Imagine quaint cottages, topped with the terracotta roof tiles as in Europe, lined with lush lawns, pristine landscaping, and towering palm trees. And all of this is set to a soothing soundtrack of waves rushing in and flowing out to the Pacific Ocean. “Picturesque” aptly describes Carmel-by-the Sea, an idyllic village in Monterey, California.
But make no mistake; Carmel-by-the-Sea is not exactly a sleepy beach town. With so much to see and do here, deciding what to experience first might be your biggest challenge. Just remember to keep your flashlight app handy when you’re walking around at night because there are no street lamps to illuminate your path—all the better to view a romantic star-filled sky with, my dear. Here’s some inspiration for your travel itinerary in Carmel-by the-Sea and its surrounding region of Monterey, California:
1. Monterey Bay Kayaks
It was a cold December day in Monterey Bay (with an expected daytime high of 49°F/9°C) and although my usual favorite cold-weather activity is hibernation, kayaking had me changing out of my thermal layers and into a rubbery wetsuit. Suffering a few chilled moments while idle on the beach was well worth it, though. Paddling alongside seals, sea lions and otters ranks as of my favorite activities in Monterey. Sign up for an aquatic adventure with Monterey Bay Kayaks.
2. Point Lobos State Nature Reserve
The scenic views will have you awestruck as you hike the seaside trails in Point Lobos Nature Reserve. The turquoise waters in the shallow pools at China Cove rival the green-blue hues you might expect to see in Caribbean destinations. Make time to go hiking for fresh air and fitness that’ll have you enjoying your indulgent restaurant dinners guilt-free.
3. Monterey Bay Aquarium
See mind-boggling, hypnotizing jellyfish, playfully hyperactive otters, intimidating hammerhead sharks, turtles, tunas, and a lot more fascinating sea life at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Don’t miss their impressive jellyfish exhibit “The Jellies Experience” and a chance to learn what you can do to protect our oceans and the species that call them home.
4. Earthbound Farm Organic
What started as a 2.5-acre raspberry farm bloomed into America’s biggest grower of organic produce, and the first makers of packaged, pre-washed salad. A visit to Earthbound Organic Farm offers a sense of place as well as fun events you can enjoy with the family. You can cut your own herbs and fresh flowers, stroll through a chamomile aromatherapy labyrinth, and enjoy a delicious meal that’s made with organic, local ingredients in their on-site kitchen.
5. Carmel Valley Ranch cooking lesson
Connect with nature at Carmel Valley Ranch, a sprawling playland featuring hiking trails, an on-site aviary, golf, tennis, lavender fields, and vineyards. A “Chef’s Experience” lunch with Chef Tim Wood is a treat. This informal and lively cooking lesson has Chef Wood demonstrating how to make savory and satisfying butternut squash soup. Then his team serves up a comforting home-cooked lunch with tender beef strips, French fries, fresh salad greens, and more.
6. Art and history
Check out the colorful collections at Monterey Museum of Art, where you’ll find Early California and contemporary art exhibits. And then visit several historic buildings in Monterey such as Colton Hall and California’s First Theatre. With so many historic treasures within walking distance, you can easily discover Monterey’s heritage while you’re in town.
7. Food and wine
All that touring can leave you feeling hungry and you’ll find no shortage of great restaurants in Monterey County. So splurge on fine dining, enjoy the impeccable service and gourmet meals at:
Sierra Mar Restaurant at Post Ranch Inn.
Monterey is an established wine-producing region and you won’t need a designated driver in order to taste some local wines during your stay. With over 13 wine-tasting rooms in Carmel-by-the-Sea, you can simply walk to various winemakers’ shops for sampling and then walk on back to your inn when you’re ready to turn in for the night.
Don’t try to stay overnight without a confirmed reservation. Don’t try to go to a nice restaurant without a reservation (unless you like to wait). Carmel lost the word sleepy after Hollywood found it during a movie shoot.