In recent years, this rustic and slightly warmer locale has reinvented itself as the go-to spot for winery hopping, hikes with friends, and locally sourced meals away from the coastal hubs.
Sometimes you just need a 500-acre playground to escape to. That's where Carmel Valley Ranch (carmelvalleyranch.com) comes in as one of the best resorts around. The spa is ultra-luxe (beyond massages, facials, and the like, consider Hypno-Health & Wellness treatments). A bee experience with a trained beekeeper is a nice touch. So, too, is the property's extensive list of events, golf packages, and tennis offerings. Bernardus Lodge & Spa (bernarduslodge.com) shares that kind of luxury in a more bucolic setting with plenty of spa perks and memorable California country cuisine. Blue Sky Lodge (blueskylodge.com) delivers a down-home, family-friendly vibe and is close to the 20 wine tasting rooms in rustic Carmel Valley Village.
Corkscrew Cafe (corkscrewcafe.com) inspires, and its wood-fired pizzas compete with fresh baked breads and gourmet desserts. Try the local Carmel Valley Lavender Ice Cream and make a point of perusing the Corkscrew Museum. Cafe Rustica (caferusticavillage.com) feels like a refuge, and its tempting Alsatian dishes are infused with Tuscan flavors. Our lunch recommendation: the wood oven–baked rigatoni. For dinner: marinated lamb filets or the Cattleman's rib-eye will do. But the menu here is extensive. Explore.
Upscale dining never felt more divine than at Lucia Restaurant & Bar (bernarduslodge.com/winecuisine). Chef Cal Stamenov culls from the area's agricultural riches, and his dishes — from concept to presentation — are works of beauty (consider the diver scallops for dinner). At Roux (rouxcarmel.com), take note of how well Chef Fabrice Roux infuses local ingredients with his unique French techniques, offering small plates and entrées that pair perfectly with some of the region's finest wines. (Truffled deviled eggs and salmon caviar entice.) Few people would pass up the organic foodie experience that occurs at Valley Kitchen, nestled within Carmel Valley Ranch (carmelvalleyranch.com). Plaza Linda Restaurant (plazalindarestaurant.com) and Holman Ranch Tavern (831-659-2774) treat everyone like locals, and their menus range from quick bites to modern tavern fare.
You are in the valley, so think rustic and bring home something specific to the region. To that end, you will find plenty of diverse attire at Cheppu Clothes & Gifts (cheppu.com) or The Resale Emporium. Consider Robert Talbott Ties (roberttalbott.com) for gents or Masaoka Glass Design (masaokaglassdesign.com) for art lovers. The Carmel Valley Art Association (carmelvalleyartassociation.org) is also located here, and local fine art and jewelry are yours for the taking. Meanwhile, Casa Del Soul (casadelsoulonline.com) goes for global chic with everything from designer clothing to modern fragrances.
See the light — literally. Avant Garden and Home (avantgardenandhome.com) houses some of the finest lamps around. (And they ship!)
This would be a good time to dress casual. Think cowboy boots or clothing that makes you feel confident and vibrant. Head to The Running Iron (runningironrestaurantandsaloon.com), an old cowboy bar turned local hot spot with meats on the menu, drinks always poured, and a lively night scene. Look up: You will see practically every kind of farm- and ranch-related item hanging from the rafters. The Locals Night on Fridays makes The Tasting Experience (tte.wine) the area's go-to tasting room (they specialize in wines and craft beers).
The drive into the Carmel Valley Village from Highway 1 is incentive enough. Lush mountainscapes are dreamy, but rustic roadside stops like Hacienda Hay & Feed (carmelvalleyroadco.com/business/hacienda-hay-feed) are great places for the family. Kids can visit with a donkey, an emu, goats, and turtles.
Garland Ranch Regional Park (mprpd.org/garlandranch-regional-park) marvels with its stunning landscapes and elevations ranging from 200 to 2,000 feet. Make a day of it and you can see just how breathtaking the Carmel Valley River and the northern crest of the Santa Lucia Mountains really are. Note: When you locate Garzas Creek, take the shaded trail and you can settle in a secluded, yet majestic canyon of redwoods. Take it in. Breathe. For another memorable excursion, head to Happy Trails Wagon Tour (carmelvalleyhappytrailswagontours.com) and hop aboard the 10-passenger vintage McCormick International antique tractor pulled by longtime local Cowboy Pete. He visits the valley's 14 tasting rooms and will even drop you off to dine or for a trek down to the river.
Carmel Valley Art & Wine Celebration, June 2018
A block party held throughout Carmel Valley Village featuring stellar wine and fine art ranging from painting and photography to jewelry and other artisan crafts. A free Grapevine Express offers rides between downtown Monterey and the event.
There's no shortage of activities, award-winning meals, and blissed-out spa experiences at Carmel Valley Ranch, nestled in the Peninsula's premier wine region.
Photo courtesy Carmel Valley Ranch