Carmel by the Sea, on the central California coast, is one of those towns where visitors experience “love at first sight.” It’s quaint charm immediately draws you in, and no matter how much time you’ve allowed, you’ll wind up wishing for just one more day. Here are some favorite picks to make the most of a visit to Carmel by the Sea.

Carmel Mission, Carmel by the Sea

Mission Carmel in Carmel by the Sea, California. Photo credit: Kymri Wilt / Photo TravelingMom

DisclosureTMOMCarmel by the Sea is more than just a quaint seaside town in central California. It is extremely family-friendly, romance-friendly, and dog-friendly, too! It’s the kind of place where a one day visit just isn’t enough. From beautiful beaches and coast, to historic architecture and gorgeous vineyards, there are so many reasons to stay longer. The phrase “if only I had just one more day” is not uncommon in Carmel. With that in mind, I’ve compiled a few favorites for spending any number of days in Carmel by the Sea.

Carmel Beach, Carmel by the Sea, California. Photo credit: Kymri Wilt / Photo TravelingMom

Carmel Beach, Carmel by the Sea, California. Photo credit: Kymri Wilt / Photo TravelingMom

Favorite Pick for Family Fun

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Dog on the beach in Carmel. Photo credit: Kymri Wilt / Photo TravelingMom.

Bonfire on the Beach in Carmel

Bonfire on the Beach in Carmel. Photo credit: Kymri Wilt / Photo TravelingMom.

Families have several options for accommodations.  The Hofsa House is a favorite choice.  The rooms are spacious and include amenities like kitchens, fireplaces, balconies, and fabulous views.  Hofsa House offers various packages with special treats like a “Beach Fire and S’mores” kit including wood, blankets, and S’mores supplies; or a “Tail Wagging” package which includes a dog bed, Frisbee, travel bowl and treats. The property hosts a year-round heated pool and free wifi as well. Hofsa House offers an attractive package for family reunions too.

Favorite Pick for Reunions, Weddings, Events

Holman Ranch in Carmel Valley, California

Holman Ranch in Carmel Valley, California. Photo credit: Kymri Wilt / Photo TravelingMom.

Family reunions sometimes require stepping things up a bit.  This is where Holman Ranch really shines. Situated on over 400 acres in the Carmel Valley, it offers guests a unique private setting for a truly memorable event.  Holman Ranch is actually a working vineyard and olive grove with only 10 guest rooms. They host only one event at a time, so the grounds are exclusively yours.

A popular wedding venue, the property hosts a variety of outdoor and indoor spaces, including courtyards, a rose patio, a game room, a chapel, and a carriage house.  On-site activities include billiards, darts, bocca ball, horseshoes, a pool, hiking trails and winery tours.  The scenery is breathtaking – rolling hills dotted with oak trees, vineyards, and olive groves.  There is no end to photographic opportunities in this gorgeous setting for a family reunion, wedding anniversary, or special event.

Favorite Pick for Romantic Getaway

"Twisted Roots" Suite at Vendange Inn

“Twisted Roots” Suite at Vendange Inn. Photo credit: Kymri Wilt / Photo TravelingMom.

If wine appreciation is the main purpose of your visit, then you’ll love spending your nights at the Vendange Inn, a truly unique and well thought out hotel make-over. The new owner had a brilliant idea – invite the local wineries to decorate a room with their brand, and name the room accordingly.  Each of the 18 rooms is tastefully furnished with the basics including memory-foam beds and a high-definition flat screen television. Then the partnered winery comes in and has creative freedom to decorate the walls and surfaces as they wish.  For example, my “Twisted Roots” themed suite included canvas prints of their vineyards, an antique bottle opener and serving tray, and a custom coffee table photo book. No two wineries did the same thing, each room’s décor is unique, and all honor the local wine-growing heritage of the Monterey Peninsula.

There is no denying an obvious appeal for Carmel as a romantic couples getaway. But as a solo traveler in Carmel, I never sat, or drank, alone. I found the locals surprisingly welcome, and it was great to see that they populate the tasting rooms and restaurants as much as visitors do.

Favorite Activities

Sheid Tasting Room

Sheid Tasting Room. Photo credit: Kymri Wilt / Photo TravelingMom.

Wrath Winery Tasting Room

Wrath Winery Tasting Room. Photo credit: Kymri Wilt / Photo TravelingMom.

Obviously, Carmel is situated in a thriving region of grape growing…and where grapes grow, wine pours. The Carmel Chamber of Commerce offers a Wine Walk by the Sea Passportfor $65, a self-guided, self-paced tour in which you can visit up to nine tasting rooms within one square mile of downtown Carmel, on foot. The passport entitles you to a $10 tasting flight of 4-5 wines at each tasting room, a great way to sample the local estate-grown wines.

As I discovered, it’s also a great way to meet the locals, who are more than happy to share restaurant recommendations and insider favorite hot spots, such as Mundaka. This Spanish style tapas restaurant is a vibrant scene with music, laughter, art and culture accompanying the food and drink. As with many restaurants in Carmel, ingredients are locally sourced, and the dishes are creative and tasty.

Favorite Explorations Around Carmel by the Sea

Carmel by the Sea Trees

Coastal Trees of Carmel by the Sea. Photo credit: Kymri Wilt / Photo TravelingMom

There are many delightful options for venturing out around the Monterey Peninsula.  A scenic tour of the 17 Mile Drive could include stopping in Pacific Grove to see the monarch butterflies. Families will enjoy a day out at the Monterey Aquarium. Various golf courses, nature reserves, art galleries and sites of California heritage are all within reach.

Whether it be a family road trip, reunion, or romantic escape, when your travel plans include Carmel by the Sea, definitely leave some flexibility in your planning to stay  “just one more day.” You’ll be glad you did.