By Greg Aragon
There is nothing like being at the beach, watching the sun fall into the ocean. It is a beautiful, almost spiritual sight. And nowhere is this daily event more beautiful than in Carmel-by-the-Sea, where there is a built-in amphitheater of sand overlooking the water, with plenty of natural seats for visitors to watch the nightly spectacle.
I recently returned to Carmel to visit the beach and relax in the little postcard village of tree-lined streets, charming hotels and inns, unique shops and gourmet restaurants.
My getaway began when a friend and I checked into Hotel Carmel, a cozy, boutique hotel with 30 spacious and inviting guest rooms and suites designed in traditional cottage-style architecture, all with a modern seaside feel. Our second-story suite overlooked the lobby, the garden courtyard and the Pacific Ocean. It boasted a brick fireplace, comfy king bed, mini-fridge, spacious bathroom, big screen TV, an office desk with WiFi, and two chairs outside our door overlooking the ocean through the pine trees.
The hotel is located at 4th and San Carlos, just steps from renowned shops, galleries and restaurants. Set among a forest of tree’s that surround town, the property is within in a short walk of all the local attractions.
When not sitting on our balcony, gazing at the sea twinkling through the trees, we were exploring town. Our favorite spot was Carmel Beach, located at the end of Ocean Avenue, a few blocks from the hotel.
Carmel Beach welcomes visitors with giant Monterey pine and cypress trees, and gorgeous, rolling sand dunes leading to the ocean. On the day we were there, it was about 70 degrees, with a refreshing sea breeze. The sand was speckled with walkers, joggers and a few playful dogs. The beach allows well-behaved dogs to be off the leash.
Just offshore, the beach was teaming with lazy sea otters, floating and rolling on the surf. And beyond these cute creatures, were incredible views of Point Lobos to the south and Pebble Beach to the north. For a better view of these landmarks, there is a nearby Scenic Bluff Path that meanders through shady Monterey cypress and landscaped gardens to Carmel Point.
One of the best times to visit Carmel Beach is at dusk, when people come from all over to sit on the sloping sand and watch the sun fall into the Pacific Ocean. It is an unforgettable nightly experience, similar to a concert in the park. But the stars of this show are the sun and ocean.
Besides the beach, Carmel offers tons of small village allure, with gift shops, art galleries, quaint inns and bed and breakfasts, restaurants, and even an historic California mission. Known as Mission San Carlos Borromeo del Río Carmelo, or simply Mission Carmel, the structure was originally built in nearby Monterey in 1770 and relocated to present day Carmel a year later. It is on the National Register of Historic Places and a U.S. National Historic Landmark. It is the only California Mission to still have its original bell tower dome.
After a day of exploring town, we headed back to Hotel Carmel for wine hour in the Lobby living room. This daily, complimentary wine hour features Northern California varietals, along with a wall full of retro cassette tapes and a player to listen to them with.
After wine hour, we walked through the lobby to Brophy’s Pub, the hotel’s signature restaurant/bar/meeting spot/sports hangout. Here, we had a couple beers and enjoyed fresh halibut fish and chips; and a braised pork and goat cheese quesadilla, with fig jam, tomatoes and caramelized onions.
For dessert, we walked a couple blocks to Cottage of Sweets, a fairy tale store of fudge and licorice, with a traditional British-styled atmosphere. They began making their own fudge in the shop in 1981 and use fresh butter, cream, and nuts to produce the finest quality and variety. Their other specialty is licorice from around the world, including Australia, Finland, Germany, Holland, England, Italy, and of course, the U.S.A. They include soft, hard, chewy, sweet, bitter, salty, and numerous different mixes.