Travel Guide: A day in Carmel, CA

Some of the best days of my life have taken place in Carmel. Nothing makes me happier than packing up for a day of adventure and heading south to take in its crystal clear ocean waters, the stunning landscape, the quaint cottages, an abundance of wildlife, and its light, soft sands. There is so much to see and do in Carmel and if you don’t pack a bite to eat, the downtown restaurants are over the top. Here are my top picks for things to do and see during a day trip to Carmel.

What to eat:

First things first, I promise you that my favorite days in Carmel have been the ones where we packed peanut butter and jelly and got lost for the day. If you are on a tight schedule or have just one day to explore, I recommend packing treats and focusing on the “play” part of your trip. If you only have one day in Carmel, pack a little PB&J for lunch so you can get the most out of your time.

That being said, if you are ready for a relaxing dinner at the end of the night, go with Nico Restaurant. Nico Restaurant is a little European restaurant in downtown Carmel. Nico has the most romantic, cozy ambiance. Picture wine racks, a crackling fireplace, low lighting, delightful service, and an outdoor terrace. It’s such a beautiful scene. The owners motto is “Life is beautiful, live it to the fullest.” and this sentiment is evoked throughout their charming restaurant.

The menu contains everything from seafood to pizza, pasta, and there are plenty of greens if that’s more your style. My plate of choice is the Crab Ravioli topped with champagne sauce, scallops, and sun-dried tomato. The sauce is rich and decadent and the scallops and crab are prepared to perfection.

Where to explore:

Point Lobos State Natural Reserve: Point Lobos is one of the most stunning sights I have ever seen. Really. Famously named “the greatest meeting of land and water in the world.” by the painter Francis McComas, Point Lobos lives up to every bit of its reputation. The landscapes here are dramatic. Imagine clear blue waters, tall cliffs, waves crashing against the coastline, tide pools, a multitude of beaches, sea lions, whales, seals, otters, blue herons, pelicans, cypress trees, spring blooms, and even forest. Point Lobos has it all, and it will take your breath away. To top it off, the trails are pristinely maintained and the restroom facilities are always within reach and top notch.

Carmel Beach City Park: This is one of my favorite beaches in Central California. Carmel Beach City Park has very light-colored, soft, clean sands and clear ocean waters. The view is beautiful and the whole scene is absolutely relaxing. If you are looking for the perfect way to relax in the sun or wind down after a day of exploring, this is the place to do it.

If you are a golf fan, you might be happy to know that you can actually see right onto the Pebble Beach golf course from Carmel Beach. There really is something for everyone here.

How to prepare:

Pack plenty of treats before heading to Point Lobos. There is so much to explore that you won’t want to have to worry about rushing through it all. Wear layers. The mornings and evenings can be cool, but afternoons can get warm and sunny.

Looking for more? Here are some previous Carmel posts for you to enjoy:

A place to relax in Point Lobos: Gibson Beach, Carmel, CA

Point Lobos State Natural Reserve at Sunset: Carmel, CA

The tides are turning… (video post)

Carmel, CA Travel Guide
What: One day in Carmel, CA
Where: Point Lobos State Natural Reserve, Carmel Beach City Park, and Nico Restaurant
Why this itinerary: To spend the day exploring the beautiful Central California coastline, to see sea lions, sea otters, and wild birds, the stunning rock formations and crystal clear ocean waters of Point Lobos, relax on the beach after a day of adventure, and close the night with a romantic dinner at a cozy European restaurant.

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