I've given a honorable mention to Carmel in my post on Big Sur 1-California, but it's time this place deserves it's own page. Recently, we got to spend a day in Carmel and I wanted to highlight some of the best sights this town and nearby places offer.
First up, we arrived early to Carmel around 9 am. We went straight down to the parking lot at the beach and parked our car there. This was because it's a little hard to find parking spots close to the beach later on in the day. We didn't head into the beach immediately though. We walked all the way back uphill to Carmel downtown and stopped for coffee and breakfast at Carmel Bakery. The food wasn't particularly memorable, but wasn't bad either. Next up, we walked around the downtown spending time window shopping and exploring the cute little boutique shops around. If you want a one-of-a-kind unique piece of art – Carmel downtown is the place for you!
We moved on, and around 10.30 am, we went back downhill and this time into the Carmel beach. We packed a beach bag, with beach towels, books and snacks – and for the next couple of hours spent time on the beach. The water was too cold for a swim, but it was the perfect temperature to lounge back and relax listening to the waves on the shore. We didn't have an umbrella or a tent, but the sun didn't feel too harsh – so it was OK. I'd recommend carrying these of you're sensitive to the sun. Of course, we used sunscreen – as should you!
Around 1 pm, it was time for lunch. We walked uphill instead of taking the car out, choosing to burn some calories before we eat. Among the restaurants in Carmel downtown, we chose to go to Flaherty's Seafood Grill because we wanted to eat seafood since we were in a beach town. The food was excellent – we had oysters, fish bowl and tuna melt. I can easily recommend this place. 😋
After lunch, we headed down back to the beach and popped in to see how it felt. This time, however, the winds had picked up and made it much harder to enjoy – especially without anything obstructing the wind like a tent or an umbrella (hint, don't make the same mistake as us and pack these things if you want to spend the entire day at the beach). So, we packed up and moved to our next destination – Point Lobos State Natural Preserve. This California State Park is an oceanfront preserve filled with beautiful coves and ocean views – along with the chance to see some marine wildlife. After paying the 10$ entrance fee for the vehicle, we got a map of the area and went to the following areas within the park:
Whaler's Cove: This is a popular dive and snorkel spot in Point Lobos. We could see that a lot of marine life was underneath just from looking at it on the surface. It was also the perfect bluish-green color making it a sight to see. I only wish we'd known about it so we could've packed some snorkel gear. We also explored the trail nearby and walked up to Cannery Point where we could see both the Whaler's Cove and the nearby Bluefish Cove from a high viewpoint. This view reminded me of the sights I'd seen along the 1-California route – ragged and scenic, just the way you'd expect views along this coastline to be.
Cypress Grove Trail: This loop was unique because of the California Cypress trees on the loop. There is a beautiful path of the Cypress trees, which thrive in this harsh climate along the coast – which makes this trail very scenic. There was also fog rolling in when we were on this trail, giving it an earthly feeling. It's the perfect spot for some pictures too! As you would expect, there's also the standard ocean and cove views of Pinnacle Cove on this trail.
Sea Lion Point Trail: To change up the scenery a little, we next went to Sea Lion Point Trail to watch some marine wildlife. While this trail was small, and we did see some Sea Lions – they were too far away and too familiar (having seen Sea Lions much closer at Pier 39 in San Francisco multiple times before) to have too much of an impact. It's a nice view though!
Bird Island Trail: Our last stop in Point Lobos was Bird Island Trail, and it did not disappoint. There are tons (and I literally mean tons) of birds visible from Bird Island Lookout. Imagine every inch of available real estate on top of the island being occupied by a bird – that's exactly how it was. Most of the birds were Black Oystercatchers – which are the most popular birds at Point Lobos.
On the way back, there is a small detour to China Cove, where there a huge colony of seals present in the tiny beach. The day was made. Hurray for marine wildlife viewing!
We wrapped up our time at Point Lobos after this trail – we were done with all the top highlights we wanted to see and it was also time for dinner. There are a lot of other trails in Point Lobos, with the Perimeter Trail covering the most distance. Here's a link outlining all the trails here.
To change the scenery up a bit, we went up to Fisherman's Wharf at Monterey. It was my first time in this area of Monterey and it looked very cute, reminding me once again of Pier 39 in San Francisco. I didn't have a chance to explore it much though – we were super hungry and headed to Old Fishermen's Grotto for dinner. We had salmon and cioppino, and both of them were tasty!
That was the end of our day in Carmel, with the last dinner in Monterey. I hope you have a fun time visiting these coastal towns.