We all love a good fairytale, right? Also, huzzah for weekends - because when you combine the two of these, you get a town called Carmel-by-the-Sea, and it's located on California's coast not far from Big Sur. This big state might be known for its bustling towns, Hollywood lifestyle, and classic San Fran skylines, but one town is about to change everything you think you know about it. Vacationing in Carmel-by-the-Sea is more than a getaway, it's a chance to feel as though you've stumbled into a storybook setting.
Perched high on a hillside along the coast, this town gives way to thatched, moss-covered roofs, cobblestone streets, and charming restaurants. It's a unique corner of California that many people don't know about despite its reputation as being a true fairy tale come to life, appearing more like a medieval European town than one that can be found on the Pacific Coast. From seaside views to boutique shops, there is nothing visitors won't love about this town - and the best part is that you can see all of its best features in one weekend.
Where To Stay
A long weekend should be plenty of time to see all of the best things about Carmel-by-the-Sea, and an important part of planning is deciding where to stay. Since a long weekend only consists of three nights, this is a great time to take advantage of hotels that are right in the center of town. Their price tags might be higher than what you're expecting but trust us, it's worth it to be within walking or biking distance to the center of town, which is the most fairytale-esque part of Carmel-by-the-Sea.
Some hotels to consider are Cypress Inn, La Playa Carmel, and L'Auberge Carmel. Each one is less than a ten-minute walk to Carmel Beach (which means a beautiful sunset is guaranteed every night) and a short walk into town, along with a short drive to 17-Mile Drive. While rates can run up to $499/night during peak season, they do drop during the off-peak, so if you'd rather save some money, consider booking before or after the summer months.
Airbnb rates are fairly mixed when it comes to booking in Carmel-by-the-Sea, but some good deals can be found if you don't mind staying a little further from the main points of interest. While prices per night can range from $85 for a guesthouse to $1,443 for an entire house in a prime spot with a fairytale exterior, it might be worth it to do some research here. The median price for rentals in Carmel is anywhere between $250 and $500 per night, so if you don't mind a short drive, it's something to consider - just make sure to book early.
What To Do And When
There's plenty to do in Carmel-by-the-Sea but there are some things that count as must-do activities, and one of them is 17-Mile Drive. It only costs $10.75 to drive along this scenic roadway or $5.25 for the tour bus, and for its vistas, that's well worth the price of admission.
It's hailed as one of the most scenic drives in the entire world and takes visitors past even more fairytale-like forests, dramatic cliffside views, and pristine beaches. Some of the most notable points to stop and explore along the way are Lone Cypress, Crocker Grove for its massive trees, Fanshell Beach for practically untouched coastline, Point Joe to see the Restless Sea, and the boardwalk at Spanish Bay. Since the drive is off Pebble Beach, start the day early and explore the Pebble Beach Market and scope out its restaurants for dinner later on. The drive itself should only take a few hours if visitors choose to see every point along the way.
Point Lobos State Park is a great way to explore the nature that surrounds Carmel-by-the-Sea. It's one of the most picturesque parks in the state and includes stunning views of the Pacific Coast, and many of its hiking trails are well-suited to novice hikers. It's best to get here early otherwise it can get a bit crowded, especially during the summer months. Start the morning off with a hike and then head into town to explore boutique shops and grab a bite to eat.
If bike riding is your thing, renting a bike to explore the center of Carmel-by-the-Beach is a must. This is a great way to explore its side streets and immediate surroundings, as well, since many of the houses in the area were built with the same storybook construction in mind.
The center of town is also easily walkable and features outdoor seating on patios attached to the restaurants, an English-style candy store that looks like something out of Grimm's Fairy Tales, and plenty of shops devoted to one-of-a-kind gifts and products, many of them which are locally made.
End the day at Carmel Beach, which is known for its incredible sunsets and for being devoid of crowds most of the time. It's romantic and intimate and known as one of the most beautiful beaches in the country.