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Carmel Neighborhoods

Carmel’s neighborhoods are varied, and all are worth checking out, but most visitors spend their time in Carmel-by-the-Sea, a quaint seaside village of fanciful cottages, art galleries, boutiques and restaurants. Inland from sometimes-overcast Carmel-by-the-Sea is Carmel Valley, where the sun shines on rolling hills, vineyards and redwood canyons. If there’s sun breaking through anywhere on the Monterey Peninsula, it’s here, which certainly helps the local vineyards produce top wines. Between the valley and the village is Carmel, home to 18th-century Mission San Carlos Borroméo de Carmelo and Mission Ranch. South of Carmel, on the way to Big Sur, is the Carmel Highlands neighborhood, which is primarily a residential area, but close to the Point Lobos State Natural Reserve and with two ocean-view hotels. If you’re staying in Carmel-by-the-Sea, it’s easy to walk from place to place, but if you’re exploring other Carmel neighborhoods, it’s best to do so by car.


This picturesque seaside village has been an artists’ community for over a century. Today tourists come to see the storybook cottages (which, thanks to Carmel’s bohemian past, have names, but no numbered street addresses), browse the art galleries and enjoy good food.  Carmel-by-the-Sea is still home to musicians, painters, poets, writers and photographers, as well as the internationally-known Carmel Bach Festival. Former mayor Clint Eastwood can often be seen around town. Another longtime movie star, Doris Day, is one of the owners of the Cypress Inn. Carmel-by-the-Sea is an extremely dog-friendly town, and many of its shops, restaurants and hotels allow dogs—even cater to them. In the absence of street numbers, locations are usually noted by street and the nearest intersection, or where they are in relation to Ocean Avenue. Remember, west is always toward the beach. That beach is Carmel City Beach, a haven for dogs and their people. Weather here is influenced by the proximity of the ocean, so it can sometimes be quite foggy. For some, the appeal of the quirky, artsy architecture quickly wears thin. But for others, cottages that look like they just fell out of “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves” are endlessly enchanting.

Carmel Valley

Extending 12 miles inland from Carmel, Carmel Valley has been relatively untouched since the days of Spanish land grants. The Carmel River carves an artery through the area’s secluded redwood canyons and chaparral-covered slopes, leaving deep pools for steelhead trout and waterfowl. The rolling hills are home to open space, ranches and wineries. Visitors can hike the trails in Garland Ranch Regional Park or indulge in a tasting at Château Julien Wine Estate. A handful of restaurants, like Café Rustica and the Wagon Wheel Coffee Shop, serve ranch hands and visitors alike. Temperatures here are warmer than they are in Carmel-by-the-Sea, and in summer, the valley can be a relief from the often-foggy coastal region.


The area near Mission San Carlos Borroméo de Carmelo and the Mission Ranch hotel is known simply as Carmel. This neighborhood occupies a swath of land between Carmel-by-the-Sea and Carmel Valley, and includes two shopping centers: The Crossroads Shopping Village and the Barnyard Shopping Village. Folks visiting the Carmel area often prefer to stay in a hotel here, where there’s easy access to both Carmel Valley and Carmel-by-the-Sea. Weather here varies from the misty seaside area, around Point Lobos State Natural Reserve and Carmel River State Beach, to the sunnier side neighboring Carmel Valley.

Carmel Highlands

Carmel Highlands isn’t marked, but if you’re headed south on your way to Big Sur, just before the road hits the open ocean, it winds through the Carmel Highlands. Primarily a residential area, this neighborhood is near the Point Lobos State Natural Reserve. The area is also home to the Highlands Inn and Tickle Pink Inn, two hotels with dramatic coastal views. Weather here, due to the proximity of the ocean, is similar to Carmel-by-the-Sea and subject to fog more often than the inland areas of Carmel.