How to spend 36 hours in Carmel-by-the-Sea

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Jen Lyons

Views of Ocean in Carmel
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Is there a more idyllic name for an oceanfront village than Carmel-by-the-Sea? You’d be hard pressed to find a more charming name — or place — than this Central California coast hamlet just south of Monterey. And since it’s located less than two hours from the Bay Area, it makes a perfect weekend destination. Read on for our guide to spending 36 hours in Carmel-by-the-Sea. And fair warning: A weekend is never enough. 

Friday, 8 p.m. 

Arrive in beautiful Carmel-by-the-Sea and start your weekend on the right foot: Enjoy dinner at one of the town’s charming restaurants. Every dining experience is unique here, from the Italian-meets-Californian cuisine of Basil to the Asian fusion favorite Pangaea Grill. Many of Carmel’s restaurants feature outdoor dining, so ask to sit under the stars if the weather’s nice (which it usually is). 

Saturday, 9 a.m. 

Get an early start with a walk on Carmel Beach, located at the foot of Ocean Avenue. This beach is perfectly picturesque, with a curving coastline and beautiful cypress trees. Can’t start your day without coffee and breakfast? On your way to the beach, stop by one of the village’s local coffee shops, like the Carmel Coffee House or Dutch Door Donuts, then enjoy a beachfront picnic. Ready to get in some steps? The Scenic Bluff Path (3.5 miles round trip) runs above Carmel Beach and leads you through cypress trees and gardens en route to gorgeous views from Carmel Point. Near the south end of the path, you’ll be able to sneak a peek at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Clinton Walker House. 

Saturday, 11 a.m.

While the downtown core of Carmel-by-the-Sea is just one square mile, every block is brimming with quaint charm. Many of the buildings are designed like fairytale cottages, and inside you’ll find local boutiques, sophisticated art galleries, wine tasting rooms and restaurants. You may notice that the storybook village has no street addresses, mailboxes, parking meters or streetlights! It’s all to preserve the enchanted ambiance. Go ahead, wander away! Once you’ve worked up an appetite, find your way to one of Carmel’s casual lunch spots. Without leaving the village, you can find fresh seafood at Catch, California fare at Village Corner, Italian at Enzo and sushi at Toro.  

Saturday, 1 p.m. 

The world-famous Pebble Beach golf resort is just up the road from Carmel, and even if this short weekend getaway doesn’t give you time to play 18 holes, it’s worth a visit — the views from this rocky coastline are nothing short of spectacular. The best way to take in the beauty of Pebble Beach is by taking the scenic 17-Mile Drive. You’ll wind your way through Pebble Beach’s most beautiful spots, with 17 marked viewpoints along the way. Leave ample time to stop, explore and take pictures of white sand beaches, dramatic cliffs and the famed Lone Cypress. 

Saturday, 4 p.m. 

No trip to Carmel would be complete without sipping wines produced from grapes grown in surrounding Monterey County. With 20 tasting rooms in the village, it’s hard to know where to start. Luckily, the folks at Visit Carmel have put together a self-guided Wine Walk. The free mobile guide takes you on a walkable wine tasting journey, pointing you in the direction of tasting rooms that offer special perks for Wine Walk participants. 

Saturday, 7 p.m. 

After a bite to eat, spend your evening indulging in the wonderful cultural scene in and around Carmel. The town has a reputation for celebrating the arts, so there’s always some kind of entertainment to enjoy. Take in a comedy show, musical performance or movie at the outdoor Forest Theater Guild. Enjoy live theater from the Pacific Repertory Theatre. Or see what’s happening at the Sunset Center, a gorgeous gothic theater that plays host to everything from chamber music performances to stand-up comedy. 

Sunday, 8 a.m. 

Is it time to leave already? Pick one last adventure for the day — there’s plenty to do in the area surrounding Carmel, including in next-door Monterey. Of course, the world-famous Monterey Bay Aquarium is a must-see. 

Need more time?

A weekend in Carmel is never enough. If you can’t get enough of this charming coastal town, it may be time to become a regular. When you co-own a Pacaso in Carmel, Monterey or Pebble Beach, you’ll have ample time to explore while being able to relax in your own second home between adventures. 

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