More than a hundred notable art galleries, plenty of pet-friendliness, and seasoned chefs accentuate this historic coastal town with no actual street addresses.
Family-owned vacation properties are a rarity in a world filled with corporate behemoths, but what's this? Carmel-by-the-Sea boasts two. Carrie Theis, owner and manager of the Dutch-themed — and pink! — Hofsas House (hofsashouse.com) gives justice to her intrepid grandmother, who founded the multilevel property (then the only hotel with an ocean view in town) some 60 years ago. Over at Tradewinds Carmel (tradewindscarmel.com), proprietor Susan Stilwell goes for Zen. With its in-room bamboo decorative accents, outdoor Buddha garden, and tranquil fountains on the property, this modern boutique venue is worthy of a check-in (and retreat). Both properties are pet-friendly.
Tickle Pink Inn (ticklepinkinn.com) offers some of the best ocean views from private balconies. The complimentary bottle of Champagne on ice and evening wine and cheese reception don't hurt, either.
All things posh are yours at three venerable properties — Pine Inn (pineinn.com), Monte Verde Inn, and the pet-friendly Cypress Inn, owned by Doris Day (cypress-inn.com). Each is nestled right in the heart of the festive downtown area.
Begin your culinary journey at Basil Seasonal Dining (basilcarmel.com), where farm-fresh, locally sourced dishes like grilled octopus and abalone from the Bay are served in a casual setting on a dogfriendly patio.
Carmel loves Italian fare, and so will you with longtime favorites like Little Napoli's exquisitely prepared homemade pastas (chefpepe.com/restaurants/littlenapoli); Il Tegamino's plump, flavorful ravioli (iltegamino.com); and da Giovanni's old-world recipes (threecarmelrestaurants.com). Dametra Café (dametracafe.com) marvels with its high-energy vibe and Mediterranean specialties on the festive corner of Lincoln and Ocean avenues.
Always making the top of the list: fine dining in the woods at Casanova Restaurant (casanovacarmel.com) and the American comfort food domain that Clint Eastwood breathed new life into, Mission Ranch Restaurant (missionranchcarmel.com/restaurant.htm).
Pick an avenue. Any avenue. Shopping and dining go hand in hand in Carmel-by-the-Sea. Carmel Plaza (carmelplaza.com) at the eastern end of town includes a bevy of high-end shopping (Khaki's of Carmel stands out, with luxury menswear brands and an unrivaled assortment of colorful ties).
Ocean Avenue's many boutiques offer plenty of options for distinctly original clothing. Consider Pamplemousse Boutique (pamplemousseboutique.com) for its chic European edge and eclectic offerings.
Girl Boy Girl features upscale clothing for women from more than 50 designers. Find classic and contemporary pieces by Vince, Rag & Bone, Rebecca Taylor, Joie, and more. Hint: Sister store Paloosh is known for its huge selection of denim.
The Crossroads Carmel (thecrossroadscarmel.com), located along Highway 1, is a complete shopping experience with boutique retailers, dining venues, and everyday goods and services such as hardware, medical, and beauty salons. Debra C (debrac.com), famed former Beverly Hills retailer now located in the Crossroads shopping village, was voted Best Designer Boutique and houses collections from Akris, Armani, Escada, Maria di Ripabianca, and more.
For all things shiny, check out some of the city's high-end jewelry purveyors. Topping our list are Fourtané Jewelers (fourtane.com), one of the leading estate jewelry and vintage watch stores in the country; Weber Goldsmith Gallery (webergoldsmithgallery.com), which specializes in crafting one-of-a-kind jewelry and features pieces from all over the world; and Kerry Lee Remarkable Jewelry (kerrylee.com), a second-generation, family-owned business that showcases Kerry Lee's custom designs and a selection of jewelry from Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Belgium, and the United States.
Book lovers and New Thought enthusiasts appreciate Pilgrims Way Books (pilgrimsway.com) for its diverse selection of best-sellers, holistic gemstones, various metaphysical cards and journals, and side entryway to The Secret Garden (a bounty of a garden shop).
Vino Napoli Wine Bar (chefpepe.com/restaurants/vino-napoli) is a festive local hangout with its high-top tables, extensive wine list, and flatscreen TVs. Starlight Rooftop Lounge at Vesuvio (chefpepe.com/restaurants/starlight-rooftop-lounge) is a charmer with fire pits, craft cocktails, and plenty of vino to go around. For something more eclectic, experience Barmel (831-626-3400), part "old saloon," part modern-day drinks hub with live music, DJs, and $5 well drinks (open until 2 a.m.).
Look no further than Carmel Beach (located at the end of Ocean Avenue). The dogfriendly, off-leash beach stretches from Pebble Beach to a rockier southern portion of the area. All stunning.
Founded in 1771 by Father Junipero Serra, The Carmel Mission is a National Historic Landmark that remains an active Roman Catholic church with daily Mass and a Christmas Eve service that is one for the books. Visit the museum. Tour the grounds. Junipero Serra is buried on the site.
Carmel Beach is a haven for canines and their owners. This off-leash beach offers endless space for playing fetch in the sand or simply walking.
Photo by Michelle Magdalena