Activities & Adventure 8 MINS READ

10 Amazing Things to Do in Carmel-by-the-Sea, California

10 Amazing Things to Do in Carmel-by-the-Sea, California

Activities & Adventure 8 MINS READ
Carmel By The Sea, in California, USA.

Carmel-by-the-Sea is a charming coastal town spiked like a gem on California’s Monterey Peninsula. Located just 11 minutes from Monterey City, this dreamy destination dazzles and enchants visitors with natural beauty made of rugged landscapes, dramatic rocky beaches, and lush forests, which provide a showstopping backdrop for an array of bucket-list experiences.

Travelers visiting Carmel-by-the-Sea love exploring the city’s idyllic beaches and hiking in surrounding state parks like the Point Lobos Natural Reserve. A great way to absorb the city’s energy is to walk on Downtown Carmel, an atmospheric area filled with boutique shops, quirky art galleries, and seafood restaurants facing the Pacific Ocean.

Carmel-by-the-Sea also provides easy access to some of the most beautiful locations on glittering California’s central coast, meaning you’ll have plenty of opportunities for scenic day trips.

The range of experiences available in this charming city is immense. To help you plan the trip of your dreams, we’ve created a complete guide to the ten best things to do in Carmel-by-the-Sea. Have a look!

The Top 10 Things to Do in Carmel-by-the-Sea

Relax In Carmel Beach

Aerial view of Carmel by the Sea in California, US.

Regarded as one of the most beautiful beaches in California, this dreamy seaside escape is at the foot of Ocean Avenue. It features white sands, a gentle cove backed by majestic cypress trees, and peaks that create the ideal conditions for surfing.

On this half-mile beach, they can make cozy fires at sunset, jog around the beach, or play with their dogs in the sand.

At the end of the beautiful Carmel Beach, in Carmel Point, you’ll find the iconic Mrs. Clinton Walker House, an architectural masterpiece designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1948. This sculptural structure leaves visitors in awe with its appearance of a ship with a bow cutting through the waves.

Address: Ocean Ave and Scenic Rd Carmel, CA 93923

Recommended Read: The Most Beautiful Beaches in Southern California

Go Birdwatching On Carmel River State Beach

The Carmel River State Beach, in Carmel by the Sea, California.

Carmel River State Beach is a must-visit spot for nature enthusiasts. This one-mile-long beach boasts a unique bird sanctuary in a lagoon just before the Carmel River flows into the sea. Here, visitors will come across various waterfowl and songbirds, including a Great Blue Heron, the Virginia Rail, the Brown Pelican, and the Greater Yellowlegs.

The beach is pristine, with soft sand that makes it ideal for walking, and the water is calm, creating perfect conditions for diving and kayaking.

Address: 26478 Carmelo St, Carmel-By-The-Sea, CA

Explore Downtown Carmel on Foot

Downtown Carmel by the Sea, in California, USA.
Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Walking through Downtown Carmel is an excellent way to absorb the city’s energy and immerse yourself in the local culture.

Ocean Avenue is the main artery running through Downtown Carmel’s center. The road stretches from Highway 1 all the way to the pristine sands of Carmel Beach. This street is lined with shops and charming art galleries offering unique and unique items. If you love shopping, you won’t want to miss the hundreds of shops clustered in the area surrounding Ocean Avenue.

At the Carmel Visitor Center (still on Ocean Avenue), you can pick up a map that indicates where the fairy-tale cottages are located and then go on a self-guided tour.

One of the most popular activities in Downtown Carmel is wine tasting. With almost 20 wine-tasting rooms within one square mile, it’s easy to sip and stroll through an afternoon. Carmel wine producers offer something for every taste, and most feature the wines of the highly-rated Monterey County appellations.

Take a Hike At Point Lobos State Natural Reserve

The transparent blue-green waters of the ocean surrounded by forests at the Point Lobos National Park, in California.

Situated less than 15 minutes from Monterey, the Point Lobos State Park offers visitors the opportunity to experience nature uniquely. This scenic coastal park is home to the Cypress Grove Trail, which allows hikers to see one of the two naturally growing stands of Monterey cypress trees remaining on Earth.

Bird Island Trail is one of the most popular hiking trails in Point Lobos. This 0.8-mile loop trail will lead you to attractions like picture-perfect China Cove, Gibson Beach, and Pelican Point.

There’s also the Sea Lion Point Trail, a short scenic hike at the northern end of Big Sur, just south of Carmel-by-the-Sea. The trail’s main highlight is the Sea Lion Point, where you can see (and hear!) the sea lions that huddle in masses on rocky islets off the shore.

Address: Point Lobos State Natural Reserve

Go On A Day Trip To Monterey

Monterey, in California, USA.

Travelers seeking to explore beyond Carmel village can’t pass up the chance to go on a day trip to the nearby Monterey. Located on the edge of Monterey Bay, this gorgeous coastal town delights visitors with its historic buildings (the age-old San Carlos Cathedral is a must-see), world-class museums, and luxurious wineries.

One of Monterey’s top attractions is the Monterey Bay Aquarium. At this family-friendly facility, visitors will get the chance to meet cute sea otters, penguins, jellyfish, sea lions, and other marine creatures.

If the weather is warm and luminous, head to Monterey State Beach, which provides a glorious setting for swimming, boating, and fishing. 

Outdoor enthusiasts visiting Monterey will love hiking the scenic Coast Guard Pier, which offers great opportunities for wildlife viewing.

Recommended Read: The Best Things To Do in Monterey, California

Visit The Carmel Mission Basilica and Museum

Carmel Mission Basilica and Museum, in California, USA.
Photo Credit: Shutterstock

The Carmel Mission Basilica and Museum is a bucket-list attraction for anyone interested in California’s rich history and culture. This beautiful Spanish mission was built in 1797 and is now a National Historic Landmark and listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Founded in 1770 by Father Junipero Serra of Spain, this is the second of California’s famous missions.

One of the most artfully restored Catholic mission churches in California, the Carmel Mission Basilica Museum is s a picture-perfect example of the mission architecture style. It features stunning artwork and artifacts from the mission’s early days.

Address: 3080 Rio Rd, Carmel-By-The-Sea, CA 93923

Hit The 17-Mile Drive

17-Mile Drive, in California.

One of the top experiences in Carmel is experiencing the scenic 17-Mile Drive, a portion of the Pacific Coast Highway that runs through Pebble Beach and Pacific Grove and offers fantastic views of dramatic coastal cliffs, snow-white beaches, mystical forests, and iconic golf courses.

See a 250-Year-Old Cypress Tree In Pebble Beach

The Lone Cypress, in Pebble Beach, California, at dawn.
Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Pebble Beach, located just a 7-minute drive from Carmel, is an unincorporated community on the Monterey Peninsula in Monterey County. Accessible via the scenic 17-mile drive, this alluring city treats visitors to breathtaking views of the California coastline and the majestic Pacific Ocean along the way.

One of the top things to do in Pebble Beach is to play a round of golf at the world-renowned Pebble Beach Golf Links, rated the No. 1 Public Course in the Country. For non-golfers, there are plenty of other things to do and see. Be sure to check out the Lone Cypress, a 250-year-old cypress tree located atop a granite headland overlooking Carmel Bay.

Pescadero Point, near Pebble Beach, is located at the southern tip of the peninsula and offers views of small patches of Monterey cypress clinging to the cliffs. The Cypress Point Lookout, accessible via the 17-mile drive, is another must-see attraction that offers spectacular views of the rocky California coastline and the cypress trees.

Discover The Natural Beauty Of The Garland Ranch Regional Park

Couple hiking in the Garland Ranch Regional Park, California.

Garland Ranch Regional Park is a must-visit destination for nature lovers. This 3,464-acre public recreational area is located at 700 West Carmel Valley Road in Carmel Valley and encompasses a wide variety of landscapes, including the rugged Santa Lucia Mountains, making it a perfect spot for hikes with breathtaking views.

Visitors can explore the park’s hiking trails at elevations ranging from 200 to 2,000 feet. The pathways take you through willow-covered banks of the Carmel River, cottonwood-sycamore stands of the old floodplain, open oak savannas, and dense oak woodlands. You can also enjoy spectacular vistas, maple-filled canyons, and thick stands of chaparral.

Explore The Scenic Trails Of The Garrapata State Park

Garrapata State Park, in Carmel, California.

Garrapata State Park is a natural wonder located approximately 6.7 miles south of Carmel and 18 miles north of Big Sur Village on the Monterey coast. This park spans just under 3,000 acres and features spectacular scenery, a sandy beach, and a variety of hiking trails that lead through steep mountains, redwoods, and along the rugged coast.

One of the park’s most stunning trails is the Rocky Ridge Trail, which starts across the highway from gate sign seven and takes hikers on a seven-mile round-trip journey. This trail climbs quickly up 1,200 feet to Rocky Ridge, offering achingly beautiful views of the Pacific Ocean before descending steeply to connect with the Soberanes Canyon Trail.

Apart from hiking, visitors can observe a variety of sea life along the coast, with whales passing during the winter months as they make their seasonal migrations. The coastal woodlands are home to 110 species of birds, adding to the park’s diverse natural beauty.

Address: 34500 CA-1, Carmel-By-The-Sea, CA


What is Carmel-by-the-Sea known for?

The Carmel village is known for its scenic natural landscapes comprising dramatic rocky beaches and lush parks with views of the Pacific Ocean and historic sites, plush boutique stores, quaint art galleries, and fine restaurants.

What is the best time to visit Carmel?

Fall, specifically between September and October, is the best time to visit Carmel-by-the-Sea. This is is the sunniest time of the year in Carmel, and the clear days and cool nights create the ideal conditions for exploring the area’s outdoor attractions.

What are the best things to do in Carmel, CA?

The best things to do in Carmel-by-the-Sea are:

  • Relax In Carmel Beach;
  • Go Birdwatching On Carmel River State Beach;
  • Explore Downtown Carmel on Foot;
  • Take a Hike At Point Lobos State Natural Reserve;
  • Go On A Day Trip To Monterey;
  • Visit The Carmel Mission Basilica and Museum;
  • Hit The 17-Mile Drive;
  • See a 250-Year-Old Cypress Treet In Pebble Beach;
  • Discover The Natural Beauty Of The Garland Ranch Regional Park;
  • Explore The Scenic Trails Of The Garrapata State Park.

Where is Carmel-by-the-Sea located?

Carmel-by-the-Sea is located on the Pacific coast, about 300 miles north of Los Angeles and 100 miles south of San Francisco.

Browse. Book. Stay.

CuddlyNest provides all accommodations to all travelers at the best price. Find unlimited travel inspiration on our blogs and our social media channels FacebookInstagramPinterest.

You might also like:

North America Travel Guide
Most Romantic Weekend Getaways in the United States
Long Weekend Getaways in the United States
Best Family Vacations In The United States
Best National Parks In The United States
Best Cabin Rentals in the United States
Best Dog-Friendly Vacations In The United States
The Most Amazing Things To Do in San Diego, California
The Best Time To Visit San Diego, California
The 6 Best Hotels in San Diego, California
Best Hotels in Santa Barbara, California
Bucket-List Things to do in Santa Barbara, California
Best & Fun Things To Do In Santa Monica, California
Best Restaurants In Los Angeles, California
Ultimate Guide To Downtown Los Angeles, California

Millions of places to stay, one app.

Don’t miss out on mobile-only deals and one-of-a-kind offers.

QR image

Get the app now.

Download from Apple Store button Download from Google Store button
Phones images

Read more