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Golf course at Carmel Valley Ranch
Photograph: Courtesy Carmel Valley RanchGolf course at Carmel Valley Ranch

The best things to do in Carmel Valley

From intimate wine tastings to breathtaking hikes, the best things to do in Carmel include endless ways to soak in the central coast.

Written by
Clara Hogan

While the charming coastal city of Carmel-by-the-Sea gets most of the touristic attention, its rural-chic cousin, Carmel Valley, is more than worthy of a visit. Tucked in the foothills of the Santa Lucia Mountains, Carmel Valley is home to large working ranches and estates, luxurious hotels and spas, sprawling land reserves full of hiking trails, dozens of wineries and tasting rooms, and an eclectic dining scene.

Overall, the region offers travelers a place to experience understated, earthy luxury — the kind that is unstuffy yet helps you completely relax and recharge. We've rounded up the best ways to explore Carmel Valley, whether you're looking to sip wine all day, get out in nature, or just rest by the pool. And don't miss our guides to the best places to stay and the best restaurants in Carmel. 

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Best things to do in Carmel Valley

One of the best wine-growing regions in California, it's easy to explore many different wineries in Carmel Valley because most of the best local vineyards have tasting rooms within walking distance along the main downtown road. The experience is usually more relaxed and affordable than in Napa and Sonoma. The region is well-known for Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, which make up 70% of the region's wine, but you'll be able to try many varietals across each winery. Some of our favorite tasting rooms include Bernardus Winery, Joyce Wine Company, and Cowgirl Winery.

Carmel Valley is full of ways to unwind, with spas that infuse California bounties and the region's natural beauty. Spa Aiyana at Carmel Valley Ranch offers customized rituals and treatments using herbs and botanicals grown and harvested on-site, rotating by the season. Similarly, the Spa at Bernardus embraces a "garden-to-soul" philosophy where guests can enjoy a eucalyptus steam room, dry sauna, and warming pool. At Refuge visitors can take part in the "Refuge Thermal Cycle," meaning you at first heat up (steam room, sauna, hot pools with thermal waterfalls), then cool down (in plunge pools), and finally, relax in silent outdoor areas with seating to take in the views of the Santa Lucia Preserve.


Stroll Carmel Valley Village
Photograph: Courtesy of Quail and Olive

3. Stroll Carmel Valley Village

In addition to the wineries and tasting rooms that line the main street of Carmel Valley Village, visitors will also find a slew of boutiques, galleries, and storefronts. Spend an afternoon strolling the quaint street, popping into stores like Olivia & Daisy (a book boutique), Quail & Olive, which sells a variety of olive oil and balsamic vinegar (tastings offered). Another highlight is the Carmel Valley Art Association's art gallery. While shopping, you may notice live music or special events that often pop up in the Village throughout the year. 

This park is the most popular and central spot for hiking in Carmel Valley, with trails ranging from beginner to advanced and offering breathtaking views throughout. The grounds offer everything from trails along the Carmel River to maple-filled canyons, dense oak woodlands, a waterfall, and historic buildings. One of the most popular hikes is via the Lupine Loop Train to see the Garland Ranch Waterfall and Siesta Point overlook. Many trails are dog-friendly; make sure to double-check before you head out. 


You'll recognize the "Earthbound" name and logo from your local grocery store — this brand is one of the most popular organic companies in stores today. The company started in 1984 as a humble two-and-a-half-acre farm in Carmel Valley by founders Drew and Myra Goodman focused on heirloom raspberries. The company merged with Taylor Farms in Salinas alley in 2019, growing to what it is today, with 10,000 employees. You can visit the company's farm stand just down the road from the original farm to pick up some organic produce of your own. 

While nearby Carmel-by-the-Sea is home to the Pebble Beach golf course, arguably one of the most famous golf courses in the US, the options for golf lovers aren't lacking in Carmel Valley. The most popular option is the Pete Dye-designed golf course at Carmel Valley Ranch, ranked among the top resort courses in the country by Travel + Leisure. Two signature holes (11 and 13) boast breathtaking drops into the valleys, while other holes wind past the property's vineyards, lavender fields, and ponds. The post-game clubhouse offers golfers a chance to have a post-game drink by a fire pit, taking in sweeping views to wind down the day.

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