Headlining Best Of travel lists for decades, Carmel-by-the-Sea is renowned globally for its white sand beaches, acclaimed food and wine experiences, eclectic shopping, and proximity to iconic locations along California’s Central Coast: Pebble Beach Golf Course, 17-Mile Drive, the majesty of Big Sur, and the Monterey Bay Aquarium to name a few. Vastly different from California’s southern coastline, Carmel exudes chic bohemian vibes that date back to the turn of the last century. Today, that artistic spirit can be found around every corner—not just at the amazing selection of art galleries and gift shops, but from the quaint courtyards and storybook architecture. Plan to stay four nights and immerse yourself in the cultural fabric, history and personalities that make Carmel unlike any other seaside destination.

Getting There: Fly direct from Dallas-Fort Worth to the Carmel-Monterey Airport

Where to Stay: Carmel hotels and inns are noteworthy for what they are not. You won’t be inundated by neon, national chain hotels, or noisy conventioneers. Set amid flower beds and towering Cypress trees, Carmel’s lodging properties provide a landing place for a wholly unique vacation. Book direct through Carmel’s official travel website at CarmelCalifornia.com.

Photo courtesy of Visit Carmel-by-the-Sea

Where to Eat: Local chefs extend the vibrant art culture of Carmel into thoughtful culinary experiences. This small seaside village boasts more restaurants per capita than any other small city in the U.S. More than 60 coffeehouses, bakeries, pubs, bistros, and restaurants serve a bounty of international and regional cuisines. Find a full list of restaurants here.

Photo courtesy of Visit Carmel-by-the-Sea

Day 1

The best way to discover the one-square-mile village of Carmel is by foot. On day one, put on your best walking shoes and meet the shop owners, artists and restaurateurs who embody the charm and character of Carmel. For the independent explorer, Visit Carmel’s official website offers a self-guided historic walking tour. For the more serious history buff, Gael Gallagher’s Carmel Walks provides a two-hour guided tour through some of Carmel’s 42 hidden pathways and courtyards and by storybook gardens and cottages. Carmel Food Tours offers a guided gastronomic experience with three glorious hours of food, drink, history, and camaraderie. And Monterey County’s finest winemakers offer their vintages at numerous boutique tasting rooms all within walking distance. Download the Carmel-by-the-Sea Wine Walk app, a free, mobile guide that will take you on a walkable wine tasting journey to tasting rooms throughout Carmel-by-the-Sea.

Photo courtesy of Visit Carmel-by-the-Sea

Day 2

On day two, connect with the inspiring natural beauty of the destination through two published guides, available exclusively for guests at Carmel hotels. The Beginner’s Guide to Mindful-by-the-Sea encourages visitors to relax and be in the moment for a more rewarding getaway. The Locals Guide to Scenic Runs, Hikes & Walks In & Around Carmel-by-the-Sea shares tips and locations to scenic paths and trails. Options include everything from a quick jog or walk to the 18-mile recreational trail along the majestic Monterey Bay and directions to the Scenic Pathway, which meanders above the bluff overlooking Carmel Beach. Spend the afternoon at Point Lobos State Natural Reserve and head back to Carmel’s famous white sand beach in time for sunset.

Photo courtesy of Visit Carmel-by-the-Sea

Day 3

Day three is all about the unexpected. Check out the 250-year old Carmel Mission, where the centerpiece is a restored Basilica Church. The Mission features flowering gardens, courtyards with fountains, a restored bell tower and a museum. As it is still an active parish, check the website to be sure it is open to visitors before you go.

Two hidden gems in the performing arts world include Sunset Center and Forest Theater. The Sunset Center boasts over 700 seats and remarkable acoustics, with a range of world-class performances each calendar year. The Forest Theater presents stage plays, musicals and “Films in the Forest.” Built in 1910, the 540-seat amphitheater is one of the oldest outdoor theaters west of the Rockies. Consult their event calendars ahead of planning your trip.

Day 4

From folk art textiles to sculptures, Plein Air canvases to outdoor murals, more than 100 art studios, galleries, and antique stores represent the works of master artists, both local and from around the world. On your fourth and final day in Carmel, discover the artist mecca at the heart of the village’s identity. Visitors will find artists busily working in their galleries – from renowned sculptor Ashley Bennett Stoddard to abstract painter Mary Titus. The Carmel Shell mural, created by Carmel-based folk artist, Marie-Clare Treseder Gorham, pays homage to the historic and artistic points from around the village. Interested in meeting the artists? The popular Carmel Art Walk offers an exploration of Carmel’s 21 local artist-owned art galleries.

Video courtesy of Visit Carmel-by-the-Sea

From the awe-inspiring scenic beauty to the whimsical village, Carmel-by-the-Sea is a work of art all on its own. Come immerse yourself in the amazing scenery, restaurants, wine tasting, art galleries, boutique shops, and charming hotels and inns. Learn more at CarmelCalifornia.com.