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Carmel, California Travel Guide
Last Updated: Mar-05-2019, Hits: 6,336, Rating: 2, Reviews: 1, Votes: 1 Bookmark and Share
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Carmel, California Travel Guide Restaurants (57)
Hotels and Lodging (34)
Bars and Nightlife (11)
Attractions (24)
Links (2)
Services (5)
Additional Articles (1)
California Travel Forum (1)
Location: North America
Geography: Beach
Vacation Type: Family, Romantic, Relaxation, Cosmopolitan
Popularity: Moderate Tourism
Costs: Expensive
Attractions: Golfing, Food Destination, Scenery, Cultural Attractions, Hiking, Shopping, Spa & Wellness, Surfing, Wineries

Editor's Note:
This travel guide covers Carmel, Carmel Valley, and Pebble Beach.

Facts and Stats:
City Population: 3,886
Land Area: 1.1 sq mi
Government: Constitution-based federal republic
Country Dialing Code: +1
Area Code: 831
Languages: English
Electricity: 110V
Currency: U.S. Dollar
Time Zone: PST (UTC -8), Summer: PDT (UTC -7)
Current Time:

Carmel-by-the-Sea, or more commonly called Carmel, is an upscale town located on the Monterrey Peninsula 120 miles south of San Francisco. Carmel is best known as a community built by artists in the early 1900's. Today, Carmel offers several beautiful beaches, world class golfing, numerous galleries, and luxurious accomodations and dining.

Carmel is located on the Pacific coast of the United States, approximately 320 miles north of Los Angeles and 120 miles south of San Francisco. It lies on the Carmel River and Carmel Bay at the northern edge of the Big Sur region on Monterey Peninsula. Adjacent to Carmel in the north is the famous golf community of Pebble Beach. 4 miles further north is the town of Pacific Grove and the city of Monterey. 13 miles to the East of Carmel is the town of Carmel Valley Village.

Brief History:
Carmel was first inhabited by the Ohlone tribe. In 1602, a Spanish explorer named Carmelite Friar Sebastian Viscaino "discovered" what is known as Carmel Valley. Since the discovery, mission sites were built around the area to spread the Christian doctrine among the local native Americans.

Mission Basilica San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo was founded on June 3, 1770 by Father Junipero Serra and was the second mission of the 21 California missions. The mission was named for Saint Charles Borromeo, Archbishop of Milan. "Mission Carmel", as it came to be known, was Father Serra's favorite mission and being close to Monterey, the capital of Alta California, became his headquarters. It was also the location of the state's first library. The colony of Monterey was established at the same time as the mission and soon became the capital of California until 1849.

From the late 18th through the early 19th century most of the Ohlone Indians died from diseases, as well as overwork at the missions and malnutrition. When Mexico gained independence from Spain in 1821 Carmel became Mexican territory. After the Mexican-American war, Mexico ceded California to the United States in 1848.

Carmels artistic roots can be traced back to the 1875 arrival of Frenchman Jules Tavernier, a flamboyant bohemian artist who stayed at the legendary French Hotel until his tab at the neighborhood bar reportedly contributed to his departure in 1880.

In 1905 the Carmel Arts and Crafts Club was formed to support and produce artistic works.

Although artists, writers, academics and wealthy vacationers had been quietly retreating to the Central Coast for years, one of the more dramatic influences on the populous of the Peninsula was the San Francisco Earthquake of 1906, an event whose artist refugees found shelter in the cabins and tents erected in Carmel.

In 1916, Carmel was incorporated as a city.

In addition to his career as an actor, Clint Eastwood was elected mayor of Carmel-by-the-Sea, California on April 8, 1986. Running as a Republican, he received 72% of the vote (voter turnout was also doubled over the previous mayoral election). He served a two-year term before declining to run for re-election. One of the things that Dirty Harry accomplished while in office was to make city hall bulletproof by installing lead into the walls. Apparently, he was afraid that some deranged fan might try to take him out.

If nothing else, Carmel certainly looks different than most places in America with its Bavarian gingerbread house style of architecture. On top of the visual differences, you may find the town to be quirky, slow-paced, and oddly laid-back yet a little uptight at the same time.

While Carmel is still known for fine art, artists and professionals typically don't live here as the average home price is over a million dollars. Instead, Carmel has become a place where art is sold to wealthy visitors and the large population of affluent retirees that do live here.

The town and surrounding area are a playground for an older crowd made up of wealthy (often famous) visitors and residents, and the culture of the town has been shaped accordingly. In an effort to keep the town small, quiet and quaint, neon signs are not allowed, there are no parking meters, few street lights, no sidewalks outside the "downtown" area, no dance clubs, and until 2005 live music was not allowed in establishments that serve alcohol. There are no street addresses and no mail delivery service as all mail is picked up at the central post office.

A famous archaic law still on the books forbids the wearing of high heels as they were deemed to dangerous to wear while walking on the streets that were once cobblestone. You can go to City Hall and pay $1 for an official high-heels permit for a souvenir as the law is no longer enforced.

Carmel is crazy about dogs. So much so that many hotels, restaurants and bars (with patios) encourage you to bring Fido with you. Some shops will also allow a leashed dog to enter. For dogs, visiting Carmel is like trick-or-treating on Halloween as many establishments keep dog treats on hand. And after fattening up on treats and table scraps, you can take your dog down to Carmel Beach where s/he can run leash-free. If you are a cat, you should probably avoid Carmel.

For a town its size, Carmel has a number of performance art venues including the Sunset Center, Forest Theater, Golden Bough Playhouse, and the Carl Cherry Center for the Arts.

Food and Drink:
As Carmel is a small town, the diversity of the food options is somewhat limited. The most common type of food found here is often referred to as "Californian Cuisine" which is as diverse as the availability of local ingredients. As would be expected, many of the restaurants here are upscale and tend toward the expensive side of the spectrum - Many of them are worth it and some even offer excellent views. There are no fast food restaurants in Carmel or Pebble Beach.

This area is a wine-lover's paradise with numerous wineries and tasting rooms around. The area in and around the Monterey Peninsula holds the distinction of being one of the largest fine wine regions in the United States. There are more than 40,000 acres planted in vineyards. Nestled in the coastal hills of the Monterey Peninsula lies the Carmel Valley Apellation, a special wine-growing region similar to the valley on the Bordeaux Coast of France. Carmel Valley Village alone is home to Bernardus, Boëté, Chateau Julien, Chateau Sinnet, Galante, Georis, Heller Estate, Joullian Village, Parsonage, San Saba and Talbott.

To repeat a recurring theme, Carmel is expensive and most people that stay here wouldn't worry about reading this section of the guide. If you are traveling on a budget or looking for a more family oriented destination in the area, Monterey is a much better choice. Note that we were unable to find any accomodations under $100/night in Carmel or Pebble Beach. If you bring a dog, almost all of the hotels and inns will charge a pet fee.

As for food, it is pretty much the same. Even breakfast at most places will run over $10 apiece. Standard tipping practice in the USA is 15% although many people tip up to 20% for good service.

Getting There and Around:
If you are flying into the area, there are a couple of options. The easiest is to fly into the Monterey Peninsula Airport (MRY) and take a shuttle or taxi to Carmel or Pebble Beach. At the time of this writing, the airport is serviced by American Eagle, Allegiant Air, United Airlines and US Airways. The airport does not have international flights, so if you are coming from outside the U.S., you will want to fly into the San Francisco International Airport (SFO). From there, you can catch a connecting flight to the Monterey Airport or drive 2 hours from San Francisco. If you are coming from Los Angeles, it is just over a 5 hour drive. You can take I-5 north and head east on Hwy 46 to Hwy 101. The better option if you don't mind a slightly longer trip, is to drive up Hwy 1 along the coast. It is a MUCH prettier drive and there are interesting sights to see along the way.

Once in Carmel, you may not even need your car depending on your itinerary. Walking is the best way to see Carmel as the main portion of town is only about 1 mile long by 1 mile wide. If you need transportion, there are several taxi and limousine companies that service the entire peninsula including Carmel, Carmel Valley Village, Pebble Beach, Pacific Grove, and Monterey. There is also a public bus system. More information about transportation companies can be found in the Services section of this guide.

As mentioned earlier, there are no street addresses in Carmel, just intersections, which can make finding places a little daunting. Just use the maps in our Restaurants, Lodging, Nightlife, and Attractions sections of this guide. They are the most accurate maps you will find anywhere.

If you want to go wine tasting without having to worry about driving, Tours Monterey has a wine trolley that departs from Monterey and goes up the Carmel Valley. For more information about this, go here.

Because of its location on the coast and its longitude, Carmel experiences a cool Mediterranean climate. The warmest months are August and September and the coldest are December and January. No matter when you come to Carmel, you will want warmer clothes for the cool evenings. Most rainfall occurs between November and April. The climate is fairly steady year round with little spread between high and low temperatures. Fog is common and a cool breeze often blows in from the Pacific Ocean.

Below are the current conditions and weather forecast for Carmel.

Below are the average high/low temperatures and precipitation by month.

Month Avg High Avg Low Average Rainfall
January 60 43 4.19"
February 61 45 3.75"
March 62 46 3.53"
April 64 47 1.48"
May 65 48 0.50"
June 67 50 0.20"
July 68 52 0.09"
August 70 53 0.11"
September 71 53 0.28"
October 70 51 1.06"
November 64 47 2.43"
December 60 43 2.73"

Important Contact Information:
  • Emergency Police, Fire, Amublance: 911
  • Police (non-emergency): 831-624-6403
  • Animal Control: 831-624-6403

  • Tips/Additional Information:
  • Weekend traffic on the Monterey Peninsula can be awful. If you want to avoid the crowds, visit during the weekdays.
  • Carmel has very little violent crime and is very safe.

  • User Reviews (1)

    Reviewed by: sloshed
    Review date: Sep-18-2010

    Carmel isn't really for me. I like the beach, the Hog's Breath, and the town is beautiful. I might like it more if I were a member of this societal class. I think I'd prefer to hang out in Monterrey. 

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