If you follow me on Instagram, you know that I turned 30 last year, in 2016, just three days after James was born. Needless to say, it wasn’t much of a big birthday celebration — I didn’t even have a glass of wine! I vowed that I would get a “re-do” for my 31st birthday.
After a lot of thinking, we decided a trip to Northern California — specifically Carmel & Napa would be the perfect adults-only vacation to celebrate my 31st birthday, but also to celebrate making it through the first year of parenting two kiddos. And boy did we need that vacation after the year we had! Let’s just say James doesn’t like to sleep as much as his mom and dad 😉
I had a lot of people on Instagram ask for by Carmel (and Napa!) recommendations, so I thought I’d get them all down in a post for anyone who’s interested! If you have any questions at all, please don’t hesitate to leave a comment or reach out to me directly. I’ll be doing a post on Napa as well, so keep your eyes out for that! Alright here we go…
We stayed at the Hyatt Carmel Highlands on points. Honestly, for the price we wouldn’t pay to stay there. The rooms are small and need to be renovated. We loved the property itself and the wood-burning fireplaces in the room, but we weren’t “wow-ed” by the terrace we had or the room itself.
Places to look into staying: Ventana, Post Ranch Inn, Cypress Inn, Mission Ranch
La Bicyclette – we enjoyed a delicious dinner here, they also do breakfast and lunch! We loved the romantic and quaint vibe.
Mission Ranch: A must for dinner! Absolutely gorgeous (and unique) setting and the food was fantastic. Unfortunately, they don’t take reservations, so plan to get there early and possibly get a drink or two and walk around the property while waiting for your table. Have I mentioned there are sheep? I was in heaven!
California Market at Pacific’s Edge: Great spot for lunch or dinner for INCREDIBLE views and the food was really good, too. This was on-site at the Hyatt Carmel Highlands. Great spot!
The Bench: Restaurant overlooking the 18th hole at Pebble Beach golf course. Absolutely amazing view, delicious food and perfect place to stop at the end of the 17-Mile-Drive.
Carmel Bakery: Good option for a quick pastry (they honestly didn’t blow me away, but pretty good)
Carmel Valley Coffee Roasting Company: This was our go-to for coffee in the mornings! We’re coffee snobs and we thought this stuff was good! They also have pastries and food.
Dametra: We didn’t actually make it to this restaurant, but it was recommended to us by MANY, MANY people (need reservations)
Other spots to look into (were recommended to us), but we didn’t actually try:
The Tuck Box (cute spot for breakfast)
Hog’s Breath (sit around the fire pit for drinks)
Post Ranch Inn
WOULD NOT RECOMMEND: Many people recommended Katy’s Place to us for breakfast. We found the food very mediocre and over-priced for what it was. I know that sounds harsh!! I think we’re just so spoiled with amazing brunch food in Portland, this place just didn’t hit the spot. Maybe we ordered wrong?!
Drive Highway 1 along the coast, stop at many viewpoints along the way (don’t miss Bixby Creek Bridge) if you can go to Big Sur (we couldn’t, the road was closed due to a landslide), heard great things about Nepenthe for a drink with a killer view.
Just walk up and down the streets of Carmel-By-The-Sea and look at the cutest homes and downtown area, go down to the beach
We weren’t super impressed by Monterey, we stopped in and walked around for an hour or so, but it wasn’t very charming and it was super touristy (at least what we saw of it). If we went again, I’d love the locals perspective on where to go because I’ve heard such great things, we just didn’t get a great vibe!
Point Lobos (we didn’t have time to make it here, but heard it’s great if it isn’t too crowded)
You could do a hike — there are plenty in the area, we didn’t have time!
We were only in Carmel for three nights and it was so charming and there were still a couple things left we could’ve done and stayed one more night, especially if you wanted to see the area at a more leisure pace like we did! Hope this has helped you if you’re interested in a trip to Carmel!