Cypress tree along the drive outside of Carmel, California (Richard Nowitz/Nat Geo/Getty)

Sunset over beach in Carmel, California (Monterey County CVB)


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What to do in Carmel

A charming escape for couples, Carmel is special in its approach to romance: You don’t come here for heart-shaped chocolates and rose petals, but for the adventure of exploring history and natural wonder. Ocean Avenue, which runs from the top of a hilly pine forest down to the white-sand beach, is an easy start for wandering boutiques, galleries, and storybook inns. Farther south sits the Carmel Mission Basilica—a restored mission, museum, and Spanish-Moorish church from 1771—surrounded by rustic gardens. The town is packed with alfresco restaurants, including Casanova, where guests sip local wines under a giant tree strung with lights or dine indoors at a table once belonging to Van Gogh. At the beach, where surfers paddle out and bonfires blaze, couples walk arm in arm as they take in views of Carmel Bay and Point Lobos under the sunset.