Four Days in Carmel by the Sea —What to See and Do
Want to get to know someone? Travel with them. That's just what I did on this trip. I was dating this guy and we decided our first trip should be somewhere neither of us had been. We jumped on a direct flight to San Jose from Dallas, rented a car and drove over an hour to the Monterey Bay area. Prior to the trip it had been raining non-stop and I was prepared for cloudy days, but boy, was I wrong. Mother Nature showed out every day of this magical adventure. We did a four-day trip, but it felt like longer...kind of like my relationship with that guy. Now, we're married! So here is how we spent our days exploring, and falling in love with the area and each other.
We took an early flight from Dallas and were sitting down to a fresh plate of seafood at Schooners by noon. My parents are familiar with the area and suggested this spot. We got lucky with a patio table and watched the sailboats in the bay. After lunch we went for a walk along the infamous Cannery Row. It's a quaint area with shops, bookstores and tourist spots for the John Steinbeck fans.
To make our way to Carmel by the Sea where we were staying we opted for the scenic route along the 17-Mile Drive through Pebble Beach. I wasn't sure what to expect, but we paid our fee and we were on our way stopping at pretty much every turn-in we could find. It truly is an unbelievable drive with houses that you see in the movies.
Did I mention we had beautiful weather? My parents have been to this area multiple times and said they'd never seen blue skies like this before. We took full advantage of the weather and a 17-mile took us nearly two hours. Maybe more. I mean just look at this place. You have to stop to take in the beauty of The Lone Cypress from every angle you can get. Tip: go into the Pebble Beach Golf Club market for snacks and even wine if you so desire.
A friend suggested I look into Hotel Carmel and as soon as I saw the cute, quaintness of this boutique hotel we booked it. We went in February which is considered the off-season so rates were pretty reasonable. We checked-in right at sunset, had our complimentary wine and walked to the beach to watch the sunset. Tip: Rise and shine for the complimentary breakfast that includes fresh bagels and locally made cream cheese.
If you've watched Big Little Lies you may have seen the Bixby Bridge in the opener. It's iconic. It's stunning. It will take your breathe away. Pull into the turn-in and take the beautiful bridge in from both sides. There are areas you can sit down and take in the silence of the sea.
We had plans to go for a hike in Big Sur, but due to the recent rains the area was closed. We did make it to the Big Sur Bakery for breakfast which I definitely recommend. Driving back up the coast we found our way to Point Lobos State Park. The hikes are low-grade, but highly-scenic. You can hike along the ocean or go into the wooded area for a totally different vibe.
Even if our hike wasn't as challenging as we'd expected, doesn't mean we didn't deserve a cold beer! We found a great spot right along the coast called the Rocky Point Restaurant. We had one of the best octopus salads ever and stayed all the way until sunset! There are paths around the area you can walk along to climb along rocks and fields of succulents, yes, succulents! Oh, and we saw whales, yes, whales!
Sometime vacations call for no reservations. Our schedule was loose so we could opt for whatever comes along. Well, that meant creating a charcuterie plate and a bottle of wine for dinner. We learned from the locals Nielson Bros. Market was a good spot so we walked there and back with a bagful of happiness.
If you're in the Monterey Bay whale watching has to go on the list. I'll be honest, it was cold, it was wet, but it was worth it when you see the whales and dolphins.
Next to our whale watching boat was the cutest coffee shop, Water + Leaves. Make sure you stop in for a delicious coffee or tea and baked goods.
Tip: ask locals and other guests for suggestions. This one came to us from guests at our hotel in the hot tub the previous night so of course we went. The Bernardus Resort & Spa in the Carmel Valley was a relaxing spot to grab a drink, play some bocce ball or grab a little brunch.
My parents went to The Highlands for their college formal and mentioned we should stop by. Well, it was better than I thought! They've recently remolded the sunset lounge and it's wonderful. You can grab a seat on the balcony and take in the view. Tip: go for their happy hour drink specials, then stay for dinner at their new California Market restaurant.
We were not ready to leave so before we got in the car we went back down to the Carmel by the Sea beach before heading home to get our feet in the sand and collect some seashells and driftwood souveniers.