Walking, eating and sipping during a weekend trip to Carmel-by-the-Sea

If you asked me what my favorite thing about Carmel-by-the-Sea is, I would probably say that it’s so darn quiet, yet it’s interesting. Even though the entire downtown area is one-square mile, and there are tons of boutiques, cafes, quaint hotels and people walking around on foot — it just seems like nobody is ever making any noise — but there’s plenty to do and see. Peaceful, but not boring.

This past three-day weekend, after I taught BODYPUMP early on Saturday, Dave, Rudy and I hopped in the car to make the just over two-hour drive to Carmel-by-the-Sea for our second visit to the seaside town. (We did hit a little bit of holiday traffic, which slowed us down, unfortunately, and thus we were super hungry by our lunch-time arrival.) About two years ago, we went through the area for one night (before we had Rudy), but felt like we saw so much more and really soaked up the scene during this trip. And this time, we just happened to be visiting during the town’s 100th anniversary in 2016, which is pretty cool.

Ashley in Carmel-by-the-Sea by A Lady Goes West

Even though we were only gone for two nights, this getaway seemed like a long one, and we loved the fact that nearly everywhere in Carmel is incredibly dog-friendly, so we brought Rudy with us into stores and tasting rooms and sat outside with him at a few restaurants. He loved walking around outside on the sidewalks sniffing everything, as well as being held when we were indoors. He met plenty of other dog friends and received a lot of attention — basically a grand time for him all around.

Speaking of dog-friendly, I was super excited that the folks at the family-owned Hofsas House in Carmel-by-the-Sea offered to host us in a pet-friendly room. I had seen Hofsas House before during our last visit and remarked on its unique exterior. It’s got a Bavarian theme, with pink walls, colorful murals and a very cute scene.

By the way, the busiest time to visit Carmel-by-the-Sea is late summer, and we were there during a holiday weekend, but it really never seemed crowded. The weather was absolutely perfection — with temperatures hovering in the sixties day and night. 

And for some fun facts: Carmel-by-the-Sea has been called one of America’s Best Beach Towns by “National Geographic Traveler,” and the third Best City for Romance in the World by “Travel + Leisure.” Basically, we aren’t the only ones who love it there.

Lunch with Dave in Carmel-by-the-Sea by A Lady Goes West

The highlights of Carmel-by-the-Sea

Some of the best parts about visiting Carmel-by-the-Sea?

You can walk everywhere. The streets are a grid, and because it’s just one-square mile you can get anywhere on foot in no time. Even though Dave and I didn’t have any trackers on (his was uncharged, and mine broke, so I’m currently without), we are sure we covered more than our daily allotment of steps each day and more. In fact, we only got in the car one time! And we enjoyed taking terrible photos in front of all of the cool doors and alleys.

Downtown Carmel-by-the-Sea by A Lady Goes West

The beach. You can walk to the Pacific Ocean, put your feet in the sand and soak up the sea breeze. The beach at Carmel-by-the-Sea looks out at a beautiful cliff, and you can even see the famous Pebble Beach golf course across the way (which Dave has golfed at once and thinks of it as perhaps one of his greatest memories)! However, this was Rudy’s first time at the beach, and he freaked out. He ran so fast through the sand that it got in his eyes and he panicked. It was sad and also hilarious.

Dave and Rudy on Carmel Beach by A Lady Goes West

Wine! There are tons of wine tasting rooms (also dog-friendly) within the little downtown, and although tastings usually only cost $10-15 each, you can also get a “Wine Walk” tasting pass for only $65 and experience nine of the tasting rooms. The Hofsas House provided some “Wine Walk” passes for us, so naturally — we hopped around to many different rooms. Most of the wine brands have vineyards around Carmel Valley, and they send in their best products for tasting in Carmel-by-the-Sea. (By the way, you can buy a Wine Walk pass from your hotel or from the Chamber of Commerce, and I would highly recommend it as a fun way to spend the day, with some shopping at the boutiques in between.)

Rudy and Ashley in a tasting room by A Lady Goes West

Rudy in a tasting room in Carmel-by-the-Sea by A Lady Goes West

Did I mention it’s dog-friendly? At one point, we went into a tasting room, Galante, I believe, and there were six dogs in the tiny place, including a 140-pound Saint Bernard who was bigger than his owner. Can you imagine our 9.5-pound maltipoo next to a dog of that stature?

Great food! There are tons of restaurants in downtown — some fancy, some casual — and they range from Mediterranean to Mexican to Italian and more (with a super famous cheese store and locally made chocolate, as well). We enjoyed Italian the first night at Il Tegamino and Spanish the second night at Mundaka. Mundaka had the most incredible steak tartare appetizer that nearly filled us up. Worth writing home about! Another honorable mention goes to the teriyaki salmon sandwich I had from Fifth Avenue Deli, thanks to a little gift certificate from the hotel. Salmon on a sandwich is quite pleasing.

Salmon sandwich from Fifth Avenue Deli by A Lady Goes West

No chains, no hassles, just casual chic. Carmel-by-the-Sea has a European village vibe throughout, which really makes you feel like you are far away from home. Also, everything closes early and there is no nightlife, so it’s perfectly acceptable to wander home after a big dinner and get in bed at a reasonable hour. My type of place!

As for our stay at the Hofsas House? We didn’t spend a ton of time in our cute room, but we liked it when we did. Our room had a fireplace, which was incredibly awesome — and we put that on each day and night. We also had a nice patio. While there were other amenities at the hotel like a pool, we didn’t partake in that. Hofsas House does offer some pastries and juice as a continental breakfast, as well as free WiFi in the room — a major YES!

Hofsas House room by A Lady Goes West

My favorite part about staying at Hofsas House — outside of the location — was when I spoke to the manager, who told me all about the history of the hotel. In fact, she is the granddaughter of Donna Hofsas, who started the hotel decades ago. The hotel is still family owned and every single one of the 37 rooms is decorated differently. When you walk up to Hofsas House, it’s like you’re in another world, stepping back into time, and I like that. Definitely a change from our uber-modern Las Vegas trip just two weeks ago.

Hofsas House sign by A Lady Goes West

Hofsas House exterior by A Lady Goes West

Something funny we noticed about many B&Bs and stores in Carmel-by-the-Sea is the half door — like you’d find in a preschool. We think it must have to do with the fact that a lot of places don’t have air conditioners, so they keep half of the door open for air flow.

During the weekend, we also ventured out to Carmel Valley, which is just 15 minutes from Carmel-by-the-Sea, and it was an absolutely stunning ride through the mountains and in the Valley. The vineyards were booming and the green grass was shining in the sun. The three of us made a stop at Holman Ranch Tasting Room for a full tasting and fun time with the host, Duncan. He let us try all of the delicious white and red wines, and while we were there a horse came out front just to visit, nearly putting his nose up over the half door. True story. We didn’t get to go tour the actual Holman Ranch property though, because a wedding was taking place and it wasn’t open to the pubic. Guess we’ll have to go back then!

Holman Ranch Tasting Room by A Lady Goes West

After some walking and breakfast on our last day, we packed the car and headed back to Walnut Creek, super satisfied with the adventure. Overall, it was a perfect little trip!

I’m coming back from this long weekend feeling like I went way far away, when in fact, I only drove a couple of hours. There are plenty of beautiful places to visit in California, but there’s just something different about Carmel-by-the-Sea — it’s quaint. Quiet. Unique. And just what we needed. 

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I hope you all had a wonderful weekend as well!

*We received a free room from Hofsas House, as well as complimentary Wine Walk tickets, a meal from Fifth Avenue Deli and a tasting at Holman Ranch Tasting Room. However, all thoughts and words are my own. Thanks for the hospitality, Carmel-by-the-Sea. We hope to see you again soon!

Questions of the day

How was your weekend?

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  1. This is perfect timing! Scott and I are heading there next Thursday-Sunday to celebrate our anniversary and the Ironman! We are actually staying at the place you recommended the first time you stayed in Carmel 🙂 Quick question for you– I am torn on either getting the Wine Walk Pass and bouncing around in Carmel for the day or heading out to Carmel Valley and checking out wineries out there…what do you suggest?? Thanks!

    1. Well — it depends on how long you have in Carmel-by-the-Sea. You could split ONE Wine Walk Pass between the two of you over the course of an afternoon, getting a chance to really take in the walking part. What we did was have breakfast and lunch in Carmel, do ONE Carmel Valley visit, then finish up with the Wine Walk in the afternoon before dinner back in Carmel-by-the-Sea. I think you could cover Carmel Valley by driving through and making one stop — but you DO NOT want to miss the cuteness of walking around the little downtown in CBTS. Does that help?? hahah!!

  2. I love going to those places where it feels like stepping back in time; I’m so old fashioned. 🙂 And that beach looks really really beautiful; I’ve seen very few beaches that have trees close to the beach. That’s wonderful that you got to take Rudy and walk everywhere. 🙂

    1. That’s the thing about so many California beaches, is that they are NOT warm and not good for swimming — but they are breathtaking! Glad you like the old stuff, because I sure do too! Hope your weekend was great, Emily!

    1. There are many good things to do here, that’s for sure, Jessica! Hope your long weekend was a good one, friend! Do you say to your hubs “this is our first married Labor Day weekend” like for every event? hahaha We totally did that years ago.

  3. Carmel is one of my favorite places ever! <3 I haven't been back there in ages but I really need to at some point to visit again! I love the beaches and the little shops!

  4. I love Carmel-by-the-Sea, and your post made me want to go back right away! I also did the wine walk there a couple of times and really enjoyed how walkable the town is. Your dog is adorable! My mom is actually thinking of getting one (a Maltese, actually), and I’m going to show her the photos of Rudy.

  5. Thanks for this post Ashley! My husband and I are headed to Monterey/Carmel for our 2nd wedding anniversary this weekend, I can’t wait! I’ll definitely be referencing your blog for suggestions on what to try!

  6. Carmel is so pretty isn’t it! One of our favorite spots to escape to as well. You and your hubby and cute dog are so adorable. The next time you are in Carmel you should definitely check out Casanova Restaurant. Probably one of the most delicious restaurants in Carmel and it’s so charming!!

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