Which Is Better, Carmel By The Sea Or Monterey?

Are you planning a getaway somewhere in Monterey County and unsure where and what to do? You might be stuck between Monterey and Carmel by the Sea. Which one is better for you?

Monterey has a busier city life vibe with a wide variety of things to do. Carmel by the Sea is a favorite if you are looking for a family getaway to leave the hustle of everyday life and get out of the city. Carmel by the Sea offers fairy-tale-like views and places to stay and has plenty of things to do.

Carmel by the Sea can be the perfect destination for you, but what if you are more of a city life kind of person? Let’s look at what each can offer you, then you can decide for yourself.

Is Carmel By The Sea Better Than Monterey?

It depends on what your vibe is. Carmel by the Sea (also called Carmel) is a better choice for a holiday destination. A holiday is usually for winding down and getting out of everyday life business, and this is the perfect location to give you that feel.

These two towns are pretty close, with a short 4-mile drive. You would think the two towns are so close that the difference cannot be much. The truth is, they certainly are.

Carmel is a small village on the coast of the Monterey Peninsula and offers a perfect getaway out of town. There are endless things to do in Carmel that differ from those in Monterey. You will feel like you are in a movie with the historic buildings and streets.

Monterey is a luxurious coastal town with endless activities and places to visit. This town can become quite busy, and traffic can become a problem. The city implemented an awareness campaign to lead people to rather walk than use cars.

What Does Carmel And Monterey Offer?

Each town offers its unique activities and sights, which make them exceptional in their way.

Attractions To Carmel By The Sea

This historic little town has so much to offer, with a peaceful vibe accompanying it. It feels like something out of a movie with no street lights or street addresses (the houses are named and not the streets). There is a beautiful beach to enjoy, grand hotels or Inns for overnight stays, and you can participate in significant activities.

  1. Carmel Beach – Named one of America’s best beaches, and rightfully so. Here visitors can surf, swim, enjoy long walks on the white beaches with their dogs, or walk the scenic routes along the beautiful coastline.
  2. Restaurants – An abundance of restaurants and eateries are available in Carmel. From international cuisine to more local style food, all presented in old-world elegance and an artistic vibe.
  3. Runs and walks – Carmel offers great scenic paths for hiking, runs, and walks. A guide is available with all the routes to explore, or you can join a fitness coach for a fitness retreat in and around Carmel.
  4. Shopping – Enjoy a unique shopping experience with Carmel’s Curly-rooftop shops. You will find local boutiques and outdoor malls, but there is enough to keep you busy for an entire day.
  5. Caramel shell – take a selfie at the iconic Carmel shell that a local artist painted to show the village’s heritage and give visitors a souvenir of their stay.
  6. Carmel wine walk – A unique way to do a wine tasting. You download a mobile application that guides you on a walk through the village to discover the region’s best wines.
  7. Point Lobos nature reserve – A beautiful outdoor experience for hikers or certified divers. The offshore part of the reserve offers divers the opportunity to see some of the rarest sea life in one place: sea lions, seals, sea otters, and grey whales (migrating season).
  8. The Cheese Shop – If you are a cheese lover, visit this shop. You will find a great assortment of cheeses from all over the world that you can pair with wine to make it an unforgettable outing.
  9. 17-mile drive – It is a private route you have to pay to enter, but worth it. You get a map with 17 landmarks you can stop to view at the entrance.

Attractions To Monterey

There are endless activities to pursue and places to see with the city life portrayed in Monterey. You will never have a monotonous time in this town.

  1. Aquarium – In Monterey Bay is a famous aquarium most people visit. Here, you will see a vast amount of sea life and the aquarium’s approaches to keep them safe.
  2. Beach – Many beach activities are available, from body surfing to picnicking on the beach. One of the beaches close to Cannery Row offers diving lessons.
  3. Veteran’s Park – a beautiful park in the forest hills where visitors can camp and hike while enjoying nature, a little out of the hustle and bustle in town.
  4. Museums – many art and history museums are available to visit by those interested in knowing more about Monterey’s history.
  5. Wine tasting – they have a “wine trolley” that takes you on a wine tour from one place to another, so no driving is necessary.
  6. Whale watching – is one of the only places where you can find whales all year round. They are close enough to be seen with the naked eye from the shore. Visitors can see different species of whales here as they pass by Monterey during seasonal migration.
  7. Golfing – Pebble beach and Spyglass Hill have fantastic golf courses that will be any golfer’s dream.
  8. Monterey Wax museum – for those who are into the weird and wonderful of life. 100’s of figures with stories to each of them and something different to experience.
  9. Cannery Row – was once a sardine factory, now a big attraction for people coming from afar. After restoration and re-development, the town transformed Cannery Row into an all-in-one experience. Overnight hotels and lodging, shopping, exquisite dining experiences, and outdoor activities like cycling the coastline or kayaking to see the beautiful sea life.

What If You Want To Discover Both Carmel And Monterey?

Because each of these towns offers a unique experience, you might want to consider visiting both. It isn’t impossible. They have some similarities where you can pick which town you will do them in and then visit each town’s unique places. 

The towns are so close, so combining the two isn’t impossible. You can book a guided tour to visit both cities over a two or three-day visit. You might not be able to choose one better town, but you can experience both cities with their unique offerings at once.

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You might lean towards Carmel by the Sea for a different, quieter scenic experience from a getaway perspective. Monterey bay might be busier but has a few unique aspects that you won’t find in Carmel by the Sea. The choice is up to you.