Fishing permitted along the bluffs above the beach; fishing license required to take fish
Off-leash pets are permitted
Fishing, Surfing, Shelling, Sunbathing, Volleyball, Dog-Walking
Restrooms, Fire Pits, Volleyball Courts
Free to access
Small parking lot and street parking near the beach
El Matador Beach
Located on California's sunny Central Coast, Carmel Beach is one of the best beaches in the Golden State. It's situated on Carmel Bay and offers excellent surfing, stunning scenery, and beautiful white sands. In this guide, we'll tell you all about this iconic beach, including its history, activities, where to stay, and answers to common questions.
Families, solo beachgoers, couples, and even pets love visiting Carmel Beach. Relax, surf, and enjoy the sunshine just about all year long!
Carmel Beach all started when Spanish explorer Juan Rodriquez Cabrillo set eyes on the white sand beach, and Carmel's pine forest soon after America was discovered. Then, in 1602, Juan and other explorers found a River Valley they named El Rio Carmelo.
In 1771, Father Junipero Serra founded Carmel Mission Basilica, which exists to this day as a place of worship, education, history, and art. The small village of Carmel-by-the-Sea was officially incorporated in 1926 and named after the religious order.
Carmel's original inhabitants emphasized maintaining the area's natural beauty, including the ocean and beachfront.
A law forbidding anyone to cut down the famed Carmel pines went into effect in 1917, helping preserve the beach and pine forest. That law has allowed the beach to remain as pristine today as it was back then.
Locals from many years ago were also passionate about an appreciation for art, drama, and literature. This is still reflected in Carmel's culture today.
Fun historical fact: American actor Clint Eastwood was the mayor of Carmel from 1986 to 1988.
Carmel-by-the-Sea is a popular, charming beach town known for its gorgeous coastline and the start of the Santa Lucia mountains. The beach itself is a stunning slice of paradise at the end of Ocean Avenue that welcomes all kinds of beachgoers. It's lined with cypress trees and bluffs topped with whimsical cottages that offer breathtaking views.
The beach is most known as an excellent destination for surfers, sunset chasers, and beach-loving pets. It's an easy destination to spend the day relaxing and enjoying the ocean.
Certain sections of the Central Coast tend to be cool, and a bit overcast, and Carmel Beach is no exception. It has an average high of 72 degrees Fahrenheit in the warmest months. Its cooler weather results in fewer crowds, and it's usually pretty easy to have a large spot to yourself.
One of the most unique features of the beach is its gorgeous architecture. Many visitors appreciate taking a stroll down Scenic Road, the main waterfront drive, which takes you along the bluffs overlooking the beach, giving you a great view of the ocean. Have your camera ready!
Attractions & Activities
Carmel Beach is a fun place to hang out because of its fun attractions. These include the beach and nearby activities.
This approximately 1-mile crescent-shaped beach is the main attraction! It boasts pristine white sand and offers fun for everyone, including pets. Visitors especially enjoy surfing, swimming, and sunbathing. It's also an excellent destination for building sandcastles above the surf line. Anglers enjoy catching fish, too.
Some of the most popular activities at Carmel Beach include sunbathing, dog-walking, fishing, and surfing. The beach has bathrooms nearby, so you won't have to worry about trekking too far if you need a quick break.
Note: If you plan to fish, you must have a fishing license to take any fish. You can check fishing zones and updated rules and regulations at wildlife.ca.gov.
Carmel Beach is also a fun place to go whale watching. From late April to early December, there's a good chance you'll see humpback whales in the water. July and August is the peak season.
Unleashed pets are also welcome on the beach as long as they're under the voice control of their owners.
If you're interested in beach hopping, we definitely recommend heading a mile south to Carmel River Beach. This mile-long area attracts scuba divers and birdwatchers.
Scenic Road is the main beachfront drive in Carmel-by-the-Sea. This scenic drive also has a 3.5-mile walking path that follows the bluff behind the beach. You can find several stairways at the beach to take you to the path.
The pathway along the scenic road starts at the northern end of the beach and winds along the ocean around Carmel Point to Carmel River State Beach.
Locals and visitors enjoy taking the scenic pathway to appreciate ocean views to the west and gorgeous houses to the east. It's also a great place to watch the sunset.
Leashed canine visitors are also welcome on the path.
Not only do beach lovers enjoy Carmel-by-the-Sea, but so do history buffs. There are various historical landmarks in the area well worth checking out. These include:
- Clinton Walker House: a unique private property within walking distance of the beach and seen from the scenic road.
- Carmel Heritage Society: a preserved house with historical exhibits and a library of local history objects.
- Carmel Mission Basilica Museum: a 1771 church with 5 on-site museums, a tranquil courtyard, and tours.
Mission Trail Park
Another popular activity close to Carmel Beach is visiting Mission Trail Park. This 33-acre nature preserve features 5 miles of hiking trails through a pine and redwood forest. You can also appreciate a native plant garden and a coastal prairie. Pets are welcome here, too!
Getting to Carmel Beach
It's easy to get to Carmel Beach. Take Highway 1 and turn west onto Ocean Avenue. Pass through downtown Carmel-by-the-Sea and drive until the road dead-ends at the beach.
Once you get to the end of the street, you'll see a small parking lot that has stairs leading to the main beach. There's free parking, but availability is limited. There's also some street parking on Ocean Avenue and Scenic Road.
If you venture north or south away from the main beach, you can usually find more spaces available.
The north end leads to Pebble Beach Golf Course, while the south end leads to City Beach.
Where to Stay
Carmel Beach is an excellent place to spend the night because you can find various accommodations, including hotels, inns, and vacation rentals. There are many options to fit your needs, most of which are close to the beach and near unique shops, seafood restaurants, and galleries. Here are a few of our favorites:
- The Hideaway: a stylish inn with elegant rooms and a courtyard.
- The Normandy Inn: a charming 1921 European-style hotel with a pool.
- La Playa Carmel: a 1905 mansion offering a mix of beachy and luxurious vibes.
Carmel Beach Review
Carmel Beach is a reasonably quiet, dog-friendly beach that allows visitors to relax. Although it can get busy in the summer, you can usually find plenty of space to spread out and enjoy a beach day. It's an excellent destination for couples on a getaway, solo beachgoers, and pet owners.
Summers are almost always sunny and warm. Even on colder days, Carmel Beach is worth the trip. The view of the Pacific from the Scenic Path is unbeatable, and if you look out past the crashing waves, you might catch a glimpse of a dolphin or two.
Pet owners enjoy walking along the scenic path and allowing their dogs off-leash on the beach.
We think the most stunning scenery at Carmel Beach is during sunset. You get a perfect view of the sun setting from the bluffs above the water. The incredible views make it an excellent spot for photographers. It's also a great place for an intimate wedding.
One of the best parts about Carmel Beach is that it follows California's overall laid-back vibe. We find it to be one of the best spots in the area for hanging out around a fire with friends. You're even welcome to enjoy alcoholic beverages on the beach. Check out the rules for fire pits and drinks here!
The main downside to a day at Carmel Beach is that there aren't any lifeguards on duty. So, this is something to keep in mind for families with children and anyone who may not be a strong swimmer.