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Things to do in Carmel, CA

If you’re looking for a relaxing getaway, Carmel-by-the-Sea is the perfect choice with its abundance of fantastic restaurants, art galleries, and shops, and its proximity to unlimited outdoor activities.

Almost everything in Carmel is close by, so strolling through town is an easy affair. After taking a leisurely walk through downtown, you may wish to head back to your hotel and relax for a bit before getting ready for the evening. Then meander back to town to unwind at one of Carmel’s many wine bars.

After tasting some great local wines you could visit one of the fantastic restaurants for dinner and revel in the chef’s creativity.

Looking for more ideas for things to do in Carmel, CA? Look no further!

1. Aquariums, Whale Watches & More

It's no secret that Carmel and the Monterey area have one of the world's best aquariums at Monterey Bay Aquarium. From fish, to otters, sea lions, and more, enjoy everything from educational series to exhibits and special events. If you're looking to connect with marine life out in the open water, consider hopping aboard a whale watch with Monterey Bay Whale Watch or Chris’ Whale Watching. Looking for a little bit of everything? Head to Fisherman’s Wharf Monterey where you'll find great restaurants (think seafood and incredible chowder), unique shops, fishing and sailing tours, bay cruises, and more. Looking to get your shop on? Hit the Carmel Plaza.

2. Hit the Links or Head to the Trails 


The Carmel area is arguably our country's golf capital. Whether you're an avid or casual golfer, there's no shortage of greens in the Carmel area, including the incomparable, oceanside Pebble Beach. Less than 3 miles from our hotel, Pebble Beach is rated the No. 1 public course in America and is a 6-time host of the U.S. Open. If you're able to get to play it, you're promised the round of a lifetime. Along the way, take the time to enjoy the world-famous 17-Mile Drive, one of the most scenic drives in the world, and visit the Lone Cypress tree.

Trouble getting a tee-time at Pebble Beach? (And if you do, congratulations—consider yourself having won the lottery!) There are four courses that are part of Pebble Beach Resorts that should not be missed, including Spyglass Hill, Spanish Bay, Del Monte (the oldest 18-hole course in continuous operation west of the Mississippi, dating to 1897), and the Peter Hay short course (nine par-3 holes). (Keep your eyes open for the renovated Peter Hay course, set to open in 2021 and designed by Tiger Woods!)

Looking for more suggestions? We also highly recommend Poppy Hills in Pebble Beach and Bayonet & Black Horse in nearby Seaside, CA, as well as the courses in Carmel Valley (which will be warmer during our cool seasons), Carmel Valley Ranch and Quail Lodge.

Hike & Explore

If hiking and exploring is more your thing, consider this region Shangri-La. It's hard to choose our favorites, but here is a shortlist to get you started—and don't forget to tag us in your Instagram shots (@carmellodge)!

3. Explore the Area on Two Wheels or by Sea

Gain a new perspective of the area by renting a bicycle and heading out to explore—there's no shortage of gorgeous CA coast rides. Feeling ambitious? The famous 17-Mile Drive in Pebble Beach is free for bicyclists!

Another way to see the area? Head to the water! With plenty of options for local rental shops, there's ample opportunity to explore the sea by kayak, paddleboard, snorkel, or surfboard. Check out one of our favorite destinations, Elkhorn Slough—a 7-mile-long tidal slough and estuary on Monterey Bay and one of the most incredible kayaking destinations in the central coast.

Try one of these great rental locales, and stop at a local deli or café to grab a picnic lunch before hitting the road or trails:

4. Artistically Inclined

Stroll the galleries (or let the locals show you around with Carmel Art Tours) and view works by local artists. With all types of artwork represented from contemporary to classic to multimedia, each of Carmel's many galleries offer unique experiences to while away an afternoon. While you're here, make sure to visit the Monterey Museum of Art as well, and if you're looking for inspiration, check out the resources from the Carmel Art Association.

Looking for a performing arts event to attend? The Sunset Center and PacRep (they have an outdoor theater as well) host a multitude of events all year long. And don't forget the renowned music festivals in the area, such as the Cali Roots Festival in the spring, summer's Carmel Bach Festival, and the Monterey Jazz Festival in September.

5. Take a Tour

Enjoy the beauty and culture of Carmel and the Monterey Peninsula by embarking on a guided or self-guided tour. From movie tours to "foodie" tours or a visit to one of Carmel's top attractions, we highly recommend an afternoon adventure during your visit to Carmel. Carmel Walks offers both guided and customized brochure tours, allowing you to explore everything from downtown to the stunning coastline, the redwoods, Big Sur, and more. Try Monterey Movie Tours and Carmel Food Tours if you love film and food. And don't forget the wine! We love Cane & Spur or Ag Venture Tours.

A tour of one of our top attractions also makes for a great visit. Check out the famed Carmel Mission, one of California’s most important historic sites, or the beautiful Robinson Jeffers Tor House.

6. Sip Your Way Through Monterey

California and wine are almost synonymous (Monterey County has been named one of the top five worldwide wine destinations by Wine Enthusiast magazine and has over 65 tasting rooms). With over two dozen tasting rooms in Carmel and Carmel Valley alone, you don't have to travel far to experience some of the world's best wines. Monterey Wine offers great resources and recommendations—or check in with our concierge to find out their favorites! Check out our favorite cheese shop to go with your wine—appropriately named The Cheese Shop in the lower level of Carmel Plaza at Ocean and Junipero in Carmel.

Not a wine fan? Our region offers plenty of great local craft beer options such as Alvarado Street Brewery & Bistro and Carmel Craft Brewing Co.

7. Become a Beach Bum

From surfing to lounging to long walks with the dog, Carmel and Monterey County offer up an incredible variety of world-famous sandy beaches that have something for everyone. We have to admit, a beach day tops the list when it comes to our favorite things to do in Carmel, CA! Here are some of our faves:

8. Hit the Road

Though you could easily spend your whole getaway in Carmel alone, don't forget our incredible surroundings. World renowned for its scenery and views, Big Sur is a 26-mile drive to the south along the stunningly beautiful Pacific Ocean coastline. Surrounded by the three million-acre Los Padres National Forest, Big Sur offers magnificent scenery, hiking, surfing, and countless other outdoor activities. We can promise that driving the 100-mile stretch of Highway 1 between Carmel and Cambria will leave you breathless.

Another of our favorite journeys is to head to Pacific Grove. Famed as the "Last Hometown in America,” Pacific Grove is conveniently sandwiched between Pebble Beach and Monterey and sits furthest out on the Monterey Peninsula. It offers a beautiful downtown area with little shops, restaurants, and historic buildings. Pacific Grove is well known for its numerous Victorian homes that can be admired throughout the town.

If you're looking for another great wine destination, head inland 20 minutes to the lovely Carmel Valley, offering tasting rooms, championship golf, and outdoor adventures galore. And right in Carmel Village you can always visit galleries and shops on storybook-pretty streets.