Carmel, offically called Carmel-by-the-Sea, is a charming little town along the California coast just off of the scenic Highway 1. The town is nestled in between rocky coastal cliffs and tall pine trees; when it was constructed in the early 1900s, it was built around trees to preserve the area's natural beauty. Today, the trees still stand, and walking through the downtown area feels like stepping into a coastal fairytale land. In keeping things low-key, the buildings are even devoid of street numbers. Unique boutiques, restaurants, and bars line the streets, making this area highly accessible by foot. Carmel has long been an artists' hub, and numerous art galleries can be found here. Plus, Carmel is Clint Eastwood's hometown -- he even served a term as Mayor -- which doesn't hurt its prestige.
There's plenty to do and see in the surrounding area, including the Carmel Mission (founded in 1770), Point Lobos State Natural Reserve, the Gravity Garden, wine tasting in Carmel Valley (inland from Carmel), and golfing at legendary Pebble Beach.
Many of the area's hotels are small inns in and around the downtown area, especially along tree-lined Ocean Ave. This puts guests within walking distance of shops, restaurants and in many cases, the beach.