The Monterey Peninsula Airport (MRY) is approximately 10 miles from Carmel, making it a convenient option for those who want to fly in. The airport has direct service to a handful of major cities in the western United States, such as San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, Las Vegas, Phoenix and Denver. The closest major, international airport outside of the Carmel area is San Francisco International Airport (SFO)—a behemoth compared to the small municipal airport. There are non-stop connecting flights from SFO to Monterey, but they’re expensive. Unless you love to drive (SFO is 100 miles, or about 2.5 hours, from Carmel) or are fitting Carmel into a larger car trip, the convenience of flying into MRY may be the winning formula.
Amtrak’s Coast Starlight route runs between Seattle and Los Angeles, with jaw-dropping views of the Pacific coast, sleeping cars, a dining car and an arcade room (www.amtrak.com). The closest stop to Carmel on the route is 17 miles east in Salinas. Bus service is available to Carmel from the Salinas station at $10 each way; however, the bus makes various stops in nearby Monterey first. If you’d rather cut to the chase without the wait time, opt instead for a taxi from the train station, for approximately $45.
The major long-distance bus line serving the Monterey Peninsula is Greyhound, with a station in Salinas. Local bus operator Monterey-Salinas Transit (MST) has a central Salinas Transit Center right across the street (110 Salinas St., Salinas, Calif. 93901, 831-424-7695). Take Routes 20 or 21 to the Monterey Transit Plaza before continuing on to your Carmel location. Bus travel within the Monterey Peninsula is one zone, so only a single fare of $2.50 one way is necessary. For transfers, however, a 25-cent fee is charged. You can use cash, tickets or transfer passes on MST buses, but if using cash, be sure to have exact change. The MST website is helpful in planning routes and trip times. As transferring to Carmel from Salinas can be a little time-consuming, taxi service from the Greyhound station is a speedy option.
Carmel’s transportation options are but a handful, as this is far from a bustling metropolis. Local bus provider Monterey-Salinas Transit (MST) serves the Monterey Peninsula from two major hubs—one in Monterey, and the other in Salinas. One-way fares are $2.50, with a 25-cent charge for transfers. Transit within Carmel, from Carmel to Monterey, or Carmel to Big Sur, is relatively simple. If connecting to Salinas from Carmel, however, the connection must be made through the Monterey Transit Plaza
(150 Del Monte Ave., Monterey, 93940, 831-899-2555). There are no direct buses from Carmel to Salinas.
It’s nearly impossible to hail a cab in Carmel. The best bet is to have your hotel or restaurant call one for you. If traveling outside Carmel, ask your hotel to give you a route suggestion, just in case. Ultimately, cabbies here are the same as they are in other cities—some will be friendly, others not. Even though it’s against the law to use a cell phone while driving in California, there are still some cabbies who seem to have difficulty conforming to a hands-free device.
Driving in the Monterey Peninsula makes it much easier to get between widespread popular attractions. If you know that you’re only staying within one small area of Carmel, like Carmel-by-the-Sea (where everything is walk-able), the only time you may see your car is at the beginning and end of your trip. Most street parking in Carmel is free, but there’s a two-hour limit. The best unlimited-time street parking is on the central median curb spaces on Junipero Avenue between Third and Fifth avenues, as well as on most residential streets outside the central business district.