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Carmel Valley
Photograph: Courtesy Bernardus Lodge & Spa

The best hotels in Carmel

Cozy up in a plush bed at one of the best hotels in Carmel-by-the-Sea and its inland sister, Carmel Valley

Written by
Garrick Ramirez
&
Clara Hogan
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Enchanting Carmel-by-the-Sea exudes romance, from its cobblestone streets to its storybook architecture. Already a beneficiary of the Monterey Peninsula’s dramatic coastal scenery, the forest-set village doubles down with secret gardens and window boxes brimming with picture-perfect blooms. It is so exceedingly charming. Cozy inns are the lodging of choice, with warming fireplaces and filling breakfasts. Thankfully, innkeepers have recently begun modernizing interiors, upping thread counts, and assembling a quality spread worth getting out of bed for in the morning.

Head east, further inland, and you'll find Carmel-by-the-Sea's rural cousin, Carmel Valley: think large ranches, sweeping vineyards, a row of independent businesses — and not to mention some of the most luxurious hotels in the area. We've compiled the best places to stay in Carmel-by-the-Sea and Carmel Valley.

Best hotels in Carmel

If this is what the Carmel inn of the future looks like, consider us enthused. A lobby with vintage furnishings, kilim throw pillows, and a tape deck backed by a wall cassettes—is your first hint that this isn’t your grandparent’s Carmel. While some rooms advertise private balconies, we are happier hanging on the trellised courtyard with an outdoor fireplace, comfy lounge seating, and a hot tub awash in vivid Spanish tile. Grab craft beers and burgers at the onsite Brophy's Tavern, a hip take on an English pub whose walls are lined with vintage beer cans. Come morning, the inn eschews the cutesy Carmel breakfast for a convivial, self-serve bagel bar.

Tucked away in the foothills of the Santa Lucia mountains in the heart of Carmel Valley, the sophisticated and sprawling Carmel Valley Ranch is set on 500 acres, comprised of 181 spacious guest suites, the treetop Spa Aiyana, Valley Kitchen restaurant and bar, three swimming pools, and an 18-hole Pete Dye-designed golf course. One of the hotel's best features is its River Ranch activity center, which offers countless activities for adults and kids alike, from guided off-road excursions to bird watching, to beekeeping and beeswax candle making, to making lavender flower crows. 

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Carmel is famously dog-friendly, and this 1929 Spanish boutique hotel is proof. Owned by Hollywood legend and animal activist Doris Day—who turns 96 in 2018!—the Cypress Inn extends a special welcome to four-legged guests. Here, people-watching is secondary to dog-watching as mastiffs and maltipoos parade through the lobby and sit down for meals at the Moorish-style restaurant screening technicolor Doris Day flicks. You can nurse a classic cocktail in the cozy, fireside living room, but we’re partial to the atmospheric outdoor courtyard strung with twinkling lights and warmed by a blazing fireplace.

Bernardus Lodge has long been considered one of the finest hotels in the region, and after a multimillion-dollar facelift, it's even more luxurious than ever. The hotel merges earthy elements with sophisticated details to blend into Carmel Valley's natural chic vibes, from Italian linens to marble tubs to limestone fireplaces in every room. Situated among vineyards, guests can enjoy onsite restaurant Lucia, a stunning pool, and an indoor-outdoor spa offering treatments infused with wine grapes and herbs grown on the property. 

 

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It’s Gatsby-style vibes and luxury at this historic charmer situated a few blocks from the shore. The 1905 grande dame underwent a recent renovation that brought it back to its original grandeur with coastal cottage-like rooms and the type of garden that usually charges admission. Sip cocktails at the clubby, Clue-worthy bar, and wake to a complimentary, champagne-fueled breakfast buffet with pastries, cheeses, and made-to-order omelettes and waffles. The building was originally built as a private mansion for a family member of the Ghirardelli chocolatiers. Why should you care? Warm chocolate chip cookies and milk served every evening, that’s why. 

The Relais & Châteaux placard tells you everything you need to know about this upscale European-style inn. Newly renovated rooms feature custom fabrics, original antiques, and hand-carved canopied beds. Yep, we know you love your views, but we’ll take the ground floor’s custom-made hardwood floors over second-floor carpeting any day. The inn’s restaurant, Aubergine, is a destination dining room that’s racked up critical and diner-based awards for its innovative tasting menu that taps regional ingredients such as locally harvested seaweed. A 2,500-bottle strong wine cellar doesn’t hurt, either. No surprise, then, that the complimentary breakfast is a highlight with local coffee, housemade pastries, and eggs prepared to your fancy.

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This stylish 24-room property offers a notable upgrade to the tried-and-true Carmel inn formula of a cozy room, fireplace, and breakfast spread. The upscale Plumpjack Group stripped an older property down to its studs and gave it the same luxury treatment bestowed to its other well-regarded properties (such as The Carneros Inn in Napa). The rooms are easy on the eyes, but most Instagram pics will be of the dazzling bathroom lined with vibrant Moroccan tiles. There’s complimentary wine and cheese in the evening, but save room for the morning feast. Even in a breakfast town like Carmel, The Hideaway’s morning spread stands out with mini frittatas, quality charcuterie, and weekend mimosas.

This charming English Tudor-style inn has the best of both worlds: a quaint, Hansel-and-Gretel exterior and freshly renovated, modern interiors. Handmade leather furnishings, plush beds, and fireplaces outfit cozy, contemporary rooms. Giant barn doors slide open to reveal spa-like bathrooms with deep soaking tubs and heated tile floors. In the evenings, guests gather around a fire pit in the light-strung stone courtyard for complimentary wine and cheese. The inn is one of few to offer “breakfast in bed” with a tray of quality breakfast goods—soft-boiled eggs, pastries, and fruit from the local farmers’ market—delivered to your room each morning.

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