Memorial Weekend marks the beginning of the summer vacation season. Time to get out your white capris, strappy sandals, and plan your get-a-ways. May I make a vacation suggestion? Take those you love and escape to the ever-charming, Carmel-by-the-Sea.
Note: The Hofsas House, in Carmel-by-the-Sea, recently hosted my husband and I for a weekend stay at their hotel as well as provided two dinners at local restaurants. The opinions shared of this trip are my own.
Carmel-by-the Sea, a”village in the forest by the sea,” is located in Monterey County in Central California. You can get there by flying into Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport and renting a car for a 1-1/2 hour drive or you can take the north-south scenic Highway 1 along the California coast. Carmel-by-the-Sea is minutes away from Monterey, Pebble Beach, Big Sur and Pacific Grove. With a population of 3,900 (only about 50% live there full time), this pedestrian and dog friendly small town, once claimed Clint Eastwood as its mayor (you just might run in to him). There is no pollution, no congestion, just down-home, family hospitality surrounded by serene beauty.
Home to the Monterey Jazz Festival for the past 52 years, Carmel-by-the-Sea is one of the top 10 wine destinations of the world. Its Wine Walk – 12-14 wine tasting rooms, each with their own unique way of blending their wine with grapes grown in the region — is an intimate experience where each owner/producer pours the wine they feature.
Carmel-by-the-Sea provides a boutique experience for its visitors. There are no big box hotels or stores. What you will find in Carmel-by-the-Sea are 45, European-style inns, most with less than 20 rooms. The building code doesn’t allow for more than two stories above the street to preserve the natural beauty of the trees.
Our weekend began with a flight into San Jose Airport. We had rented a convertible Chevy Camaro and headed to Carmel-by-the-Sea. It was a beautiful drive through the Salinas Valley where 60% of the produce for the United States is grown. We also caught glimpses of the Pacific Ocean as we neared the town, arriving in the late afternoon.
It was a little tricky to find our hotel, even with GPS. The town is so small; there are no addresses – just street locations. That right there won me over to Carmel-by-the-Sea’s community feel. We stayed at the Hofsas House, a very quaint, very pink, very Bavarian, family run inn for the past six decades.
The Hofsas House has 38 spacious, one-of-a-kind rooms that offer lovely views as well as special amenities. Our room was a king suite, complete with a fireplace and a private balcony with an ocean view – very quaint and very comfortable.
That night, we walked a few blocks to the heart of town and ate at Mundaka, an authentic Spanish tapas restaurant. The staff was extremely friendly and the menu was very robust and flavorful.
The next morning, the sun was shining and we knew we were in for a wonderful day in Carmel-by-theSea. We went to the lobby and chose from the hotel’s array of fruit, yogurts, and French pastries, baked at a local bakery. We put our breakfast fare on a tray and took it back to our room to eat on our balcony. Later, we met with the current general manager, Carrie Theis. She is the granddaughter of the original owner and serves on the City Council, so she was very helpful in helping us plan our day. We told her we wanted to get a good mix of the area and she provided excellent suggestions.
First, we took a self-guided tour at the Carmel Mission.
Next, we drove along the Big Sur Highway, a majestic and historic scenic drive along the coast. We lunched at the Rocky Point Restaurant, an establishment since 1947 located on a cliff. What a delight. Remarkably, it wasn’t crowded. We enjoyed the magnificent view and the delicious food.
After lunch, we hiked at Point Lobos State Natural Reserve. The hiking trails are well marked and there are guided nature walks throughout the day. There were lots of families there enjoying the reserve and I couldn’t help but think what a great place it would be to bring my grandchildren. I know they would love it!!
After our hike, we went into the town of Carmel-by-the-Sea and leisurely discovered the shops. That night, our dinner reservations were made at The Beach House in Pacific Grove. We drove the 17 Mile Drive, stopping at Pebble Beach to look around before getting to our restaurant. We were seated at an oceanfront table, overlooking Lover’s Point at sunset. So romantic.
The food was wonderful and the service divine. The perfect end to a perfect day.
We returned home the next afternoon, so sad to leave Carmel-by-the-Sea. It truly was a place of refreshment for the mind and soul. I can’t say enough about this wonderful place. Whether for a weekend or a week, Carmel-by-the-Sea is the ideal location to get unplugged, experience natural beauty, and enjoy time spent with those you love. We can’t wait to return.
Have you ever visited Carmel-by-the-Sea? When will you be going?