Laid-Back, Cal-Asian Fusion, $$ (from $209)
Carmel-by-the-Sea is a pretty special place — on the one hand ritzy and fancy; on the other, mellow and easy-going. If the privileged and pretty cast of Big Little Lies decided they were were tired of being back-stabbing show-offs, they would drive a half hour up the impossibly scenic California coast and settle into a quieter, hippier life in Carmel-by-the-Sea. Everyone seems happy around here: the wealthy in their gorgeous ocean-front homes on Scenic Road, the shopkeepers in their independent boutiques, the dogs who are welcome everywhere in this famously pet-friendly hamlet. For visitors, it's a great base whether your idea of a good afternoon is one spent drinking a terrific bottle of California wine, exploring the nature sites north and south of town, or biking through tree-lined streets. Since 1959, Tradewinds Carmel has been welcoming travelers to its cozy and garden-filled inn and courtyard. Japanese, Chinese, and Balinese influences abound throughout: in the Buddha statue, the waterfall, the Balinese kimono robes custom-made for the hotel, and the in-room furnishings. The hotel may be light on services (no restaurant, no gym, no business center) but it scores points for its price, ease, and location near town — all charming, one-square-mile of it.
At a Glance
The Vibe: NoCal cool meets pan-Asian style.
Standout Detail: The courtyard: the bamboo, the Buddha statue, the firepit.
This Place Is Perfect For: People who want an easy-going home base for exploring the Monterey peninsula.
Rooms: The hotel has 28 rooms in various configurations of queen, king, and double sizes, including two suites. All rooms ensure a comfy night's rest with goose down featherbeds and an easy wake-up with in-room coffee makers. Some rooms have ocean views, some have fireplaces, some have spa bathtubs, some are ADA-compliant. Here's more info about the hotel's ADA/accessibility features. Children are welcome, though the hotel cannot provide cribs, as are pets, for a $50/night fee.
On Site: The courtyard is a meditative space, with a fire pit and a Buddha statue.
Food + Drink: The hotel does not have a restaurant, nor offer room service, but is happy to make arrangements at their favorite local restaurants.
What to Do Nearby
After you've spent time on the beach a few blocks away and wandered the streets of town and seen the boutiques and galleries, it's time to explore the natural and historic sites along the Monterey peninsula. Rent a bike and make your way downhill to historic Carmel Mission Basilica Museum, which was founded in 1770 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is a National and State Historic Landmark. Then follow the Carmel Meadows trail along the beach, because you should always go to the beach when it's this close. If you're feeling up to a vigorous ride, keep going south to Point Lobos State Natural Reserve. It's gorgeous here, and it's just as gorgeous if you do it by car. Speaking of driving, why would you ever pay to drive on a scenic road? When it's 17 Mile Drive around Pebble Beach and you're up for a slow roll past the Lone Cypress and onto quiet beaches. For even more ideas, check Tradewind Carmel's terrific local suggestions.