Arts & Culture Beach

4 Unexpected Ways to Explore Carmel-by-the-Sea

Carmel-by-the-Sea is pedestrian-friendly and features a compact downtown core. But this seaside hamlet holds fascinating stories, secrets, and sights that are best accessed with a little help. From tours to transportation and simply a shift in your thinking, here are four unexpected ways to explore Carmel-by-the-Sea:

Take an Art Tour

Gallery exterior in carmel-by-the-sea

Carmel’s one-square-mile central business district has about 70 art galleries featuring celebrated artists from around the world. If you’re interested in art but not sure where to start, try an art walk with Carmel Art Tours. On a 90-minute walking tour, you’ll get a curated look at five or six of the best exhibits and artists in town each day. You can also get personalized recommendations for where else to visit after your tour.

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Explore Local History

House in carmel-by-the-sea

From Comstock cottages to lace lichen, you’ll get an in-depth look at all that makes Carmel-by-the-Sea unique on the Carmel Walk from Gael Gallagher’s Monterey Tours. Gallagher leads small groups through the hidden corners of Carmel, weaving in both fascinating local history and practical tips. You’ll finish the two-hour walking tour inspired to continue your explorations, because, as Gallagher says, “Never go out the way you came in, and don’t worry about getting lost. If you end up too far west, you’ll just be in Hawaii.”

Rent an Electric Bike

Mad dogs & englishmen bike shop

Carmel-by-the-Sea is perched on a steep hill above the ocean. This means that, while the town’s compact layout seems like it’s perfect for exploration by bike, unless you’ve got calves the size of fire extinguishers, a casual spin down to the beach and back will not be as easy as it seems. Unless … you’re on an electric bike. In which case, you will return refreshed, inspired, and surprisingly confident in your “ability” as a cyclist. Choose from among a wide selection of electric bikes available to rent at Mad Dogs & Englishmen in downtown Carmel-by-the-Sea.

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Really Experience Nature

Beach meditation in carmel-by-the-sea

Monterey Bay Meditation Studio offers visitors the chance to spend a totally present hour experiencing the beauty of Carmel. From April through September, the studio offers Qigong and guided meditation on the beach. From March through September there’s also a monthly nature meditation session at Palo Corona Regional Park. Even if you’ve never participated in a similar activity before, it’s a great way to take a break from sightseeing and spend a little time just truly being in Carmel.

More from SmarterTravel:

[viator_tour destination=”5250″ type=”3-mod” tours=”5973FOOD,7116P4,2402MONTCAR”]

Christine Sarkis visited Carmel-by-the-Sea as a guest of Visit Carmel. Follow her on Twitter @ChristineSarkis and Instagram @postcartography for more advice about making every vacation the best vacation.


By Christine Sarkis

There's a 95 percent chance Senior Editor Christine Sarkis is thinking about travel right now. Follow her on Instagram @postcartography and Twitter @ChristineSarkis.

Christine Sarkis is an SATW-award-winning journalist and executive editor at SmarterTravel. Her stories have also appeared on USA Today, Conde Nast Traveler, Huffington Post, and Business Insider. Her advice has been featured in dozens of print and online publications including The New York Times, Conde Nast Traveler, and People magazine. She has also shared travel tips on television and radio shows including Good Morning America, Marketplace, and Here & Now. Her work has been published in the anthologies Spain from a Backpack and The Best Women's Travel Writing 2008. She is currently working on a travel memoir.

The Handy Item I Always Pack: The Trtl Pillow. It's easy to pack and comfortable, and makes it so I can actually sleep on flights.

Ultimate Bucket List Experience: Seeing the Aurora Borealis from the comfort of somewhere warm, like a glass igloo or hot spring.

Travel Motto: Curiosity is an amazing compass.

Aisle, Window, or Middle Seat: Aisle all the way.

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