Romance reigns in Carmel-by-the-Sea

The town is storybook pretty: narrow streets lined with quintessentially charming cottages and a main drag filled with every manner of boutique, café, coffee house, inn, and restaurant. Add to that the seaside charm of waves crashing on rocks and soft sand beaches that tempt you to linger longer, and it’s hard not to find serenity and peace around every corner. This is Carmel-by-the-Sea, a wonderful central coast village that shouts romantic retreat, arm-in-arm walks on the beach, and quiet candlelit dinners.

For a true one-of-a-kind getaway with your significant other to this gem of a town, consider booking one of the popular “packages” before offered by many of the stately old hotels in town. There are spa, golf, dining, kayaking, wine tasting, and horseback riding retreats, private whale watching charters, and special weekend offerings that encompass one of the region’s signature events, such as the Carmel Bach Festival, Monterey Jazz Festival, golf tourneys, and more. And happily, many of the Carmel hotels even allow you to create a mix-and-match vacation tailored to your exact wishes.

If you’ve never been to Carmel — or if you’ve never been there with your better half — nothing beats starting with the obvious. Dig your toes into the sand at the foot of Ocean Avenue, pop open a bottle of local vino, or snag a custom-designed picnic basket from the one of the many nearby restaurants. You can also take a walk or—if you have access to a car—a cruise along Scenic or 17-Mile Drive. Another great trek is to head down the path that weaves through the forested canyon to San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo Mission, where you can take a tour or simply wander through the beautifully restored 18th Century buildings.

Of course, nothing quite beats just window-shopping through the one square mile of downtown, especially if you’re an art lover. The village’s past and present incarnations as an artist colony imbue it with a dignified yet slightly Bohemian aura. Pop into one of the French cafes tucked unobtrusively between quaint inns of a side street, or indulge in an extraordinary wine experience by visiting any number of tasting rooms scattered around town.

For the serious romantically inclined (or romantically-challenged as the case may be), sunset brings a whole new sensibility to Carmel, and it’s impossible not to be swept up in all the possibilities. From sipping cocktails in front of the roaring outside fireplace at Mission Ranch to happy hour jazz on a patio overlooking Carmel River Beach and the surrounding meadows and towering pines, this is couple-time at its best.

Miss the days of snuggling up in front of movie? The Forest Theatre offers a great lineup of new and classic films on their outdoor screen. Grab a blanket, some snacks, and a bottle of wine and settle in amidst the hulking redwoods and cypress trees or fireside. Thankfully, the theatre is as easy walk from both downtown and the beach — just imagine a moonlit stroll through the sand post-movie time.

No matter how you choose to fill-out your romantic retreat to Carmel, you can rest assured that finding ways to make the getaway truly special is infinitely easy. You’ll fall in love over again—not just with each other, but also with Carmel itself.

Peter Rerig is a Senior Writer for Vacations.com.

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