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The Perfect Weekend in Carmel California 🌊

Updated: Aug 15, 2022

When I was a little girl, my big sister and I watched The Parent Trap a zillion times. Not the cool updated Lindsey Lohan version either, the 1961 version with Hayley Mills. It’s about identical twins separated at birth who reconnect at summer camp. Their father lived on the most gorgeous, sprawling ranch in Carmel. That image of Carmel stuck in my mind. When I first visited almost 15 years ago, it was just as dreamy as I imagined. Filled with stunning coastal views, great restaurants, art galleries, and cool weather, Carmel is the perfect destination, especially for tennis players.

Here is the perfect itinerary for a weekend in Carmel.


Wrap up the workweek and hop on a flight into Monterey Regional Airport. I’ve flown into San Jose before and drove to Carmel, but unless you’re making a stop in San Francisco, you can’t beat the convenience of flying into Monterey.

How to get around: If your plans include a drive to Big Sur or the 17 Mile Drive to Pebble Beach, renting a car is your best bet.

Check into Carmel Valley Ranch. We loved our recent stay at Carmel Valley Ranch! For tennis players, and active families, it has everything! Hiking, golf, tennis, pickle ball, fitness center, pools, organic garden, and equestrian center. It's especially kid friendly with activities that quite frankly, left me enviable of the little guys. Kids can pick from Archery, A Bee's Life (beekeeping experience), Grazing with Goats, Falconry, Nocturnal Nature Walk, Scavenger Hunts and more! The rooms are like private suites complete with an outdoor balcony to enjoy the lovely valley views, ours even had a modern outdoor bathtub.

After getting settled in, head down to the River Ranch Tennis Courts for some fun tennis. Ben Gottenberg is Director of Tennis at the ranch and he was nice enough to sit down and chat with me. He recommends contacting him a few weeks before your visit and he can customize tennis to fit into your weekend. For example, he has a group of women from the bay area who come down on occasion. They start with a tennis mixer on Friday, followed by instruction and play on Saturday and Sunday mornings, leaving the afternoons open for other activities. Ben is young and fun and has lots of great recommendations for fun places to visit in the area. You can reach him at for more details.

Grab dinner and drinks at Baja Cantina and Grill. It's a short drive from the Ranch and it's very casual, you can go in your tennis clothes. They have great margaritas and fish tacos, a fun atmosphere, an outdoor patio, and it's a great place to watch tennis if you happen to be visiting during a major tournament. We visited during NFL playoffs, so we watched a game there and it was super fun!

*Tacos & Margs from Baja Cantina



Breakfast at Valley Kitchen and Tennis at CVR. Then get cleaned up and head to Carmel-by-the-Sea for an afternoon of exploring the quaint seaside town. Boutique shopping, art galleries, chic bistros and over 40 picture worthy courtyards and secret passageways make up this adorable town. It's highly walkable and you can easily spend a day, shopping, eating, wine tasting or watching the waves at Carmel Beach. Customize your day by visiting for a complete guide to events in the village. From Carmel Art Walk, to the Bach Festival, there's always something fun to do. Here are some of my favorites.

*Breakfast at Valley Kitchen


A.W. Shucks This was closed during our visit, but friends say they have great oysters, clams, bourbon, scotch, and bloody marys!

Stationaery This local restaurant has great seasonal dishes in a very quaint setting. We shared the loveliest bottle of Rosé and talked over a long lunch. Walking in will probably require a wait, so make a reservation ahead of time.

Brophy's Tavern A great spot for burgers, beer, and sports. What else does anyone need?

Katy's Place Great for breakfast, popular homey spot that's worth the wait.

Mulligan Public House Fun Irish Pub with great service, drinks, and atmosphere.

Enzo This Italian restaurant came highly recommended; although I personally haven't been.

*Lunch at Stationaery (sorry, I was so hungry I cut into my burger before taking a pic, it was delish)


Tejido Collective This lovely shop is full of sustainable, artisan pieces, sourced from local artists as well as items for mind and body. Their in house brand of cotton and alpaca knitwear is handmade by Peruvian artists.

Carmel Plaza You'll find uniquely Carmel shops alongside national specialty stores like Anthropologie, Bottega Veneta, and Tiffany & Co.

If you're feeling adventurous, drive the famous 17-mile drive through Pebble Beach. Have a fancy dinner at Peppoli at the Inn at Spanish Bay or drive up to Monterey for a more casual dinner at Alvarado Street Brewery and Grill.



Breakfast at Valley Kitchen and Tennis at CVR. Take the breathtaking drive south to Big Sur and make sure to stop at the various pull out areas to take photos of the incredible coastal views. You can stop at Big Sur Taphouse, Big Sur Bakery, or Big Sur Smokehouse for a little treat and support the small businesses along the drive. Make sure to visit the Phoenix Shop, full of magical books, gifts, and trinkets unique to the drive.

*the Phoenix Shop in Big Sur

Wine tasting at Folktale Winery & Vineyards. This vineyard is a short drive from Carmel Valley Ranch, and we wish we made time to visit it. The property is beautiful and the reviews all rave about the experience. It's on my list for the next time we visit!



Start the morning with a hike on one of the trails at Carmel Valley Ranch, or unwind by the pool. Wrap up any last minute shopping and start planning your next trip to Carmel!

Questions? Send me a message on Instagram @tenniscityguide

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