The Best Beaches in Carmel: A Hidden Gem on the California Coast

Are you planning a trip to California’s Central Coast? If you’re a lover of the seaside, then you need to carve out some time to experience the best beaches in Carmel. Located on the Central Coast of California, Carmel-by-the-Sea is a hidden gem that is often overlooked by tourists in favor of its more famous neighbors, Big Sur and Santa Cruz. But Carmel has its own unique charm with beautiful beaches that are just as stunning. Let’s explore the top-rated Carmel beaches and discover why this coastal town should be on your vacation itinerary.

Carmel Beach: Where Beauty Meets Adventure

Carmel Beach is not just the name of the town; it’s also the name of one of the most picturesque stretches of coastline in the United States. This beach is a favorite among surfers, sunbathers, and nature lovers alike. With its long white sand beach, you can easily find your own spot to relax and take in the breathtaking views. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can even try surfing for yourself, but make sure to check the surf conditions and wear a wetsuit. Just remember to be cautious of the cold water and strong currents. And the best part? Carmel Beach is dog-friendly, so you can bring your furry friends along for some fun in the sun!

Carmel River State Beach: Nature’s Playground

For those who want to immerse themselves in nature and observe wildlife, Carmel River State Beach is the place to be. Located near Carmel Bay, this beach offers sandy stretches and rugged rocks that create a stunning backdrop. Take a walk along the shoreline and witness the beauty of the Monterey Bay and the National Marine Sanctuary. Keep your eyes peeled for the diverse bird species that call this area home. Although swimming is not recommended due to rough surf and strong riptides, you can still enjoy a leisurely stroll while appreciating the wonders of nature.

Monastery Beach: A Serene Retreat

If you’re looking for tranquility and sunshine, head to Monastery Beach in Carmel. This beach, also known as San Jose Creek Beach, is a popular spot for sunbathing and beach walking. It is named after the nearby Carmelite Monastery Mission and offers a serene atmosphere with its sandy shore and picturesque surroundings. However, please be aware that swimming is not safe due to strong undercurrents. So, instead, take a peaceful walk along the coastline and soak in the beauty of this hidden gem.

Asilomar State Beach: A Coastal Wonderland

Just a short drive away in Pacific Grove, you’ll find Asilomar State Beach, which is a favorite among locals. With its towering coastal cliffs, rocky coves, and picturesque hiking trails, Asilomar State Beach is a must-visit for nature enthusiasts. Take a leisurely walk on the beach or explore the nearby Asilomar Coast Trail for breathtaking views of the coastline and the chance to exercise amidst nature. What’s more, both the trail and the beach are dog-friendly, so you can bring your furry pals along for an adventurous day out.

Garrapata State Park: Where Nature Thrives

About six miles from Carmel, Garrapata State Park is a natural haven with two beautiful beaches: Garrapata Beach and Soberanes Point Beach. Both beaches offer stunning panoramic views and the opportunity to spot sea otters, harbor seals, and sea lions lounging on the rocks. If you’re up for a challenge, you can tackle one of the park’s incredible hikes, like the Soberanes Canyon Trail. Immersing yourself in the beauty of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary is an experience you won’t want to miss.

Monterey State Beach: A Water Sports Paradise

For those who love water sports, Monterey State Beach is the perfect destination. With its location within the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, this beach offers fantastic opportunities for scuba diving, kayaking, paddleboarding, and surfing. Lifeguards are on duty, ensuring a safe environment for those who want to splash in the waves. If you prefer a more relaxed day on the water, you can explore the tidal pools, sunbathe on the large white sand beach, or take a leisurely stroll along the flat shoreline. There’s something for everyone at Monterey State Beach.

Carmel Meadows Beach: A Serene Escape

If you’re looking for a quiet and peaceful beach experience away from the crowds, Carmel Meadows Beach is the perfect spot. This beach, which is part of Carmel River State Beach, features a mix of rocky and sandy sections and offers stunning views of rocky cliffs. Take a walk along the coastal trail and enjoy the spectacular vistas. However, it’s important to note that strong and dangerous undercurrents make swimming unsafe in this area. So, instead, immerse yourself in the beauty of the surroundings and enjoy a serene escape.

Sand Dollar Beach: A Day of Sun and Fun

For a fun-filled day of sand, sea, and relaxation, Sand Dollar Beach is the place to be. This popular beach, located in Big Sur, is a favorite among locals and tourists alike. With its large sandy beach and plenty of space to spread out, you’ll have no problem finding your perfect spot. If you visit during low tide, keep an eye out for sand dollars and beautiful jade stones. Pack a picnic, soak up the sun, and let the refreshing ocean breeze wash your worries away.

Gibson Beach: A Quiet Retreat

For those seeking solitude and peace, Gibson Beach is a hidden gem within Point Lobos State Natural Reserve. With its small sandy cove and protected waters, Gibson Beach offers a quiet and relaxing escape from the hustle and bustle. Nestled between rugged boulders, this beach provides a serene environment to enjoy the California sunshine and soak up the natural beauty of the coastline.

Discover Hidden Beach: A Treasure Amongst Nature

For an adventure off the beaten path, take a drive to Hidden Beach located within the Redwood National Forest. This secluded spot offers a unique and breathtaking experience. Explore the rocky enclaves, encounter gigantic driftwood piles, and wander along the dark grey sands. Hidden Beach resembles the stunning beauty of the Oregon Coast and will transport you to a dreamlike paradise. A visit to this hidden treasure is like unearthing a long-forgotten pirate’s buried treasure.

San Carlos Beach: The Perfect Day Trip

If you have a little extra time to spare, head to nearby Monterey and spend a day at San Carlos Beach. This popular beach offers a variety of relaxation spots, including sandy beach areas, grassy lawns, and picnic facilities. Whether you want to sunbathe, go for a swim, or take a leisurely bike ride along the paved trail, San Carlos Beach has something for everyone. Be prepared for crowds, as this beach is a favorite among locals. But don’t let that deter you from enjoying a fantastic day by the water.

Pfeiffer Beach: A Hidden Paradise

Just a short drive from Carmel towards Big Sur, you’ll discover Pfeiffer Beach, a hidden paradise waiting to be explored. This beach offers more than just sand and waves. During low tide, a lagoon forms, allowing you to explore tidal pools and witness the waves crashing against the picturesque rocks. Don’t forget to capture the arch formation that adds a touch of magic to this stunning beach. To make your visit even more memorable, explore the nearby Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, where you can hike among majestic redwoods and along the river.

Marina State Beach: A Serene Getaway

Within the Marina Dune Natural Preserves, you’ll find Marina State Beach, a hidden oasis for beach walkers and nature lovers. This vast stretch of white sand beach offers breathtaking panoramic views and the opportunity to spot hang gliders soaring through the sky. Whether you want to relax in the sand or take a leisurely stroll, Marina State Beach provides a peaceful environment away from the crowds. However, it’s important to note that the currents and rip tides in this area are very strong, making swimming unsafe.

China Cove: A Secluded Paradise

For those seeking seclusion and an escape from the crowds, China Cove is the perfect choice. Located in Newport Beach, this small and secluded beach offers a peaceful retreat. With posts for volleyball and a secretive location, this beach is ideal for travelers who want to avoid the hustle and bustle. To access China Cove, park in the Corona Del Mar neighborhood and descend the stairs to the beach. Although there is no designated beach parking, the lack of crowds adds to the private and serene experience.

Pescadero Point: Nature’s Playground

Nature lovers and wildlife enthusiasts cannot miss a visit to Pescadero Point. This mile-long stretch of pristine coastline offers sandy coves, cliffs, and tidal pools waiting to be explored. Bird watchers will delight in the opportunity to observe a variety of unique bird species. Across the street from Pescadero Point, you can visit the Pescadero Marsh Natural Preserve and learn about the importance of preserving the local ecosystem. Don’t forget to indulge in a round of golf at the nearby Pebble Beach Golf Links.

Little Sur River Beach: A Picturesque Paradise

For a truly picturesque beach experience, head to Little Sur River Beach nestled between Big Sur and Carmel-by-the-Sea. This stunning spot features sandy beaches scattered with driftwood and surrounded by rugged cliffs. The Little Sur River creates a lagoon near the ocean, providing a sanctuary for various bird species. Explore the rocky enclaves and marvel at the breathtaking rock arch just offshore. Although the land around the river is privately owned and inaccessible, the beauty of this beach is still worth the visit.

Fort Ord Dunes State Park: Nature’s Wonderland

With over four miles of coastline, Fort Ord Dunes State Park offers a diverse and awe-inspiring natural landscape. Take a walk through the sand dunes, hike one of the many trails, and immerse yourself in the park’s natural beauty. The boardwalk provides epic views of the bluffs, and educational signage offers insights into the area’s cultural and natural significance. Fort Ord Dunes State Park is also dog-friendly, so you can bring your furry companions along for a day of adventure and exploration.


The beaches of Carmel are a hidden gem on the California coast that offer something for everyone. From the picturesque Carmel Beach to the tranquil Gibson Beach, there are endless opportunities to relax, explore, and immerse yourself in the beauty of nature. So pack your bags, put on your sunscreen, and get ready for an unforgettable beach adventure in Carmel, California.

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