Have you ever thought of taking a girl’s trip to Carmel and Monterey, California? If not, it’s time to reconsider. If you have a few days and a long weekend to explore, don’t miss out on an amazing getaway filled with breathtaking views, delicious food, and history that you will be talking about for months to come. Traveling with kids instead? Not to worry as many of these attractions are kid-friendly. Purchase a tour complete with stops and a map here.
- Girls Trip Guide to Carmel and Monterey, California
- Where can I find a self guided Big Sur tour guide?
- Where is Carmel and Monterey?
- What is Carmel known for?
- Carmel, Monterey, and Big Sur 3 Day Itinerary
- Day 1: Arrival
- Day 2: Monterey and Big Sur
- Day 3: Carmel by the Sea
- Day 4: Departure
- More Fun Things to Do in Carmel and Monterey
- More Girls Trip Ideas
Girls Trip Guide to Carmel and Monterey, California
Taking a girl’s trip to Carmel and Monterey, California was just what I needed to get a little “me” time and explore the area with my best friends. We booked a direct flight from Dallas to Monterey Regional Airport. The five carriers that currently provide service to Monterey are American Airlines, Alaska Airlines, United Airlines, JSX, and Allegiant Air.
Where can I find a self guided Big Sur tour guide?
Download the Built Story app and purchase our self-guided Big Sur tour here. It will guide you to all the fun spots and save you time researching.
Where is Carmel and Monterey?
Carmel is a city in Monterey County, California. Monterey is only approximately 4 miles from Carmel if you drive non-stop. Monterey is north of Carmel by the Sea.
What is Carmel known for?
Carmel by the Sea is commonly referred to as Carmel. Carmel is known for its unique charm and its European style. Did you know that Clint Eastwood was once mayor? Carmel has no chain restaurants and to this day, there are still no addresses, parking meters, or street lights. The city’s charming eateries and tasting rooms offer a full range of cuisine and wine tasting all within walking distance from over 40 hotels and inns.
Carmel, Monterey, and Big Sur 3 Day Itinerary
Day 1: Arrival
Hotel check-in: Hofsas House
Hofsas House is located in beautiful Carmel by the Sea. The Hofsas House is a boutique family-owned inn with 37 uniquely decorated, spacious rooms, many with ocean views overlooking the pines in the village of Carmel by the Sea.
Dutch doors accent each room, allowing guests to enjoy the fresh ocean air. One can watch amazing sunsets over the Pacific Ocean from the privacy of the inn’s decks or rooms. Selected rooms and most suites have fireplaces, private balconies, wet bars, or kitchens. See video tour here.
The Hofsas House is located three blocks north of Ocean Avenue, eight blocks from the picturesque white sand Carmel Beach and one block from a child-friendly City Park. It’s easy to walk everywhere in Carmel from the inn.
We enjoyed a continental breakfast in the morning with French Roast coffee, tea, yogurt, fresh pastries delivered from a local bakery, juice, and fruit.
Other amenities include a heated swimming pool, dry saunas, and view deck areas.
The hotel is .8 miles from Pebble Beach and the 17 Mile Drive, 1.1 mi from Carmel Mission, and 3 miles from Point Lobos State Park. Monterey Airport is 14 miles (15 minutes), San Jose International Airport is 56 miles away and San Francisco International Airport is 108 miles.
First, we stopped at Brophy’s Tavern for a quick bite. We were starving after our bumpy flight into Carmel. (The day we flew in the wind was fierce). I enjoyed a grilled cheese sandwich and tomato bisque with truffle fries.
Mulligan Public House
Mulligan Public House – Next, we walked to Mulligan Public House for a quick drink. This establishment is a friendly and lively gastropub with twelve beers on tap.
Dinner at Little Napoli
Little Napoli – This restaurant is located within walking distance from Hofsas House on Dolores between Ocean & 7th. Founded in 1990, Little Napoli is one of Carmel’s oldest restaurants. The Italian country-style dishes are unique, tasty, and filling.
The Truffled Gnocchi is a must-have. We could’ve ordered three more of these – it’s that addictive!
Other recommendations include lobster and crab ravioli and Alla Parmigiana. See Little Napoli’s menu here.
Day 2: Monterey and Big Sur
We started out our day early and had a quick grab-and-go breakfast at the hotel. Our goal for the day was to get active and pack as much sightseeing, hiking, and activities as we could in one day. The Big Sur coast is south of Carmel. The best views are approximately five miles from Carmel.
Tip: Make sure you have a full tank of gas before going on the Big Sur Road Trip. There are a few gas stations but not many. Cell phone coverage isn’t great either.
Highway One Drive in Big Sur
Taking a Big Sur Scenic Drive has always been on my travel bucket list. I’ve seen Big Sur through the lens of television, but seeing it in person is unlike anything else. Rightfully so, it’s rated as one of the top road trips in the world. It’s simply breathtaking and my photos don’t do it justice.
- Garrapata State Park – Garrapata State Park’s unpopulated hiking trails provide access to both the beautiful Big Sur coastline and the breathtaking Santa Lucia Mountains There’s only one sign indicating it’s existence so be on the look out or you will miss it.
Bixby Bridge in Big Sur’s version of the Golden Gate. Throughout the Big Sur drive, there are amazing views where you can pull your car over to snap some photos. According to Wikipedia, the bridge is the most photographed feature on the West Coast and in the World
- Pfeiffer Beach – This stunning beach is known for Keyhole Rock and makes for a beautiful photo opportunity. Sadly, we weren’t able to see the purple sand in person because it had rained the night before thus flooding the entrance. Finding the road to see this beach was difficult as it’s hidden in plain sight. Take Sycamore Canyon Rd off Highway 1. The road you turn on is located between the post office and ranger station. Don’t confuse this park with Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, which is twelve miles south.
- Rocky Creek Bridge and Rocky Creek Bridge Beach – Rocky Creek Bridge is Bixby Bridge’s younger sibling. There are plenty of walking trails to explore the ocean.
After our Big Sur driving, we decided to backtrack a little bit and head to Monterey for lunch. On the way back to Carmel by the Sea, we took the scenic 17-mile drive located near Pebble Beach.
- Lunch: Fishhopper – This establisment is popular with tourists and for good reason. The views are spectacular and the cuisine is fresh and irresistable. With the waves crashing within view, it was a nice spot to unwind, have a glass of wine and satisfy our appetite.
17 Mile Drive
- The Lone Cypress Tree – The Lone Cypress is the midpoint of the 17 mile drive. It’s hard to describe the feeling you get when you first feast your eyes on this living legend. I was in awe of its beauty and how it’s able to stand tall against all odds. There’s nothing like it in the world.
- Pebble Beach – stop by for a chance to see sunbathing seals and sea lions.
- Bird Rock – another spot for bird and sea lion viewing.
- Spanish Bay – Take a walk on a beautiful boardwalk that wraps around the shoreline.
- Point Joe – This vista offers incredible panoramas looking into Spanish Bay, and toward Spyglass Hill and Fanshell Beach.
We drove back to Carmel but wanted to see Carmel Beach before getting ready for dinner. Carmel Beach is a few blocks away from Hofsas House. Tip: You go to Carmel beach for sunset and Monterey for sunrise!
Dinner: Hog’s Breath Inn
Hog’s Breath Inn is a hidden treasure. The famous Hog’s Breath Inn was once owned by Clint Eastwood and sold to a good family friend. Enjoy a variety of items such as natural and hormone-free USDA PRIME beef, free-range organic chicken, sustainable/wild seafood, and fresh, local produce.
Day 3: Carmel by the Sea
On our final full day, we hiked at a nearby nature preserve and explored Downtown Carmel’s eateries, shops, and wineries.
Breakfast: The Tuck Box
The Tuck Box – Open for breakfast, lunch, and afternoon tea, this quaint restaurant only accepts cash. The Tuck Box Benedict is a must-try. This dish includes two Poached Eggs, Canadian Bacon & seasoned cheddar welsh rarebit sauce on an English Muffin.
Carmel Belle – We stopped by Carmel Belle for a latte to go. If we had more time during our trip we would’ve tried their breakfast and lunch offerings as well.
Point Lobos State Natural Reserve
Point Lobos State Natural Reserve – This area contains headlands, coves, and rolling meadows. Thousands of seabirds also make the Reserve their home. Hiking trails follow the shoreline and lead to hidden coves.
It’s not unusual to see seals, sea lions, and otters during a hike.
Lunch: 5th Avenue Deli
After a morning of nature and wildlife viewing, we stopped by 5th Avenue Deli for sandwiches to bring back to our hotel room. The menu includes a range of delicious sandwiches, salads, and fresh-made soups.
Carmel Wine Walk
The Carmel Wine Walk is a self-paced, self-guided, dog and family-friendly, walking tour to 13 premier tasting rooms in Carmel by the Sea. Now with a fully interactive map. Open daily from 11:00am to 6:00pm.
Dawn’s Dream Winery
Dawn’s Dream Winery offers a flight of five Dawn’s Dream award-winning wines and a fun photo opportunity in the bathtub similar to their logo!
Galante Vineyards is Carmel’s first “Wine Tasting Room” and is known for their Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Petite Sirah, and Sauvignon Blanc.
Picadilly Park is a courtyard park with an old-world charm. It’s also where you can find restrooms near Galante Vineyards.
Dinner: Dametra Cafe
Dametra Cafe offers a true feel of the Mediterranean food experience including live music. Reservations are recommended.
Day 4: Departure
Every great trip must come to an end. We packed up and headed to the Monterey Regional Airport. Don’t miss out on enjoying a meal at Woody’s while waiting on your flight to board.
More Fun Things to Do in Carmel and Monterey
- Carmel Mission Basilica Museum – This local landmark has been in existence for 60 years. Learn the history by visiting its museum.
- Monterrey Bay Aquarium – From sea otters to seaweeds, the unique oceanfront location and timeless galleries bring the wonders of the ocean to life. Proof of full vaccination or negative COVID-19 test is required to visit.
- Check out all the real life set locations that were featured in HBO’s drama Big Little Lies
- Point Sur Lighthouse – Take a tour during your Big Sur road trip, but make sure to book in advance. Stand atop a dramatic volcanic rock just off-shore in Big Sur. Fees apply.
How to dress in Carmel and Monterey
The keyword here is layers! Lots of layers including shirts, jackets and sweaters. You will experience warm and cooler weather throughout the course of the day. Make sure you wear comfortable shoes for lots of walking.
Where to stay in Carmel and Monterey
- Hotels and Inns in Carmel – you will find no chains or franchises in this area which adds to the charm.
- Hotels and Lodging in Monterey County – Choose from hundreds of lodging options including charming bed and breakfast cottages and beachfront resorts.
Where to eat in Carmel and Monterey
One thing you will not want to miss out on is enjoying delicious and unique food found throughout the area.
- Restaurants and Bars in Carmel by the Sea – Carmel restaurants have a hallmark blend of Old World elegance and modern charm, all with an artistic flair.
- Monterey Ocean View restaurants – 10 restaurants to view the crashing waves and soak up the sun.
- Monterey Restaurants – All of Monterey’s restaurants in one place.
Taking a trip to Carmel and Monterey is an unforgettable experience. The breathtaking views provide a much-needed escape from the busy cities we are accustomed to. A community rich in history blended with unmatched dining and entertainment is something to be celebrated. Cookie-cutter hotels and big-box retailers are a dime a dozen. It’s nearly impossible to be unhappy being surrounded by its pure beauty. Chances are you won’t find a miserable soul in sight and if you do there’s simply nothing that will ever make that person happy. It’s worth the hype. Get your camera ready and get ready to let nature take over. Make sure you share these moments with those who match the culture: adventurous, stunning, and full of life.