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Carmel Highlands, Monterey County Travel Guide

Carmel Highlands Summary


  • Stunning ocean views from dramatic coastline cliffs
  • A very relaxed, laid-bacik, small-town California vibe
  • Popular for outdoor activities such as kayaking, biking, hiking and scuba diving
  • Near Point Lobos State Reserve
  • Home to the Gravity Garden, a sculpture garden filled with gravity-defying balanced rock piles
  • Numerous celebrity vacation homes


  • Very little to see that's not nature related: no museums or shops
  • Almost no dining or shopping options: everything is an 10-minute drive to the north in Carmel proper

What It's Like

Carmel Highlands is an unincorporated community located south of Carmel proper and north of Big Sur. To say there's nothing to see here would be incorrect: The area is home to some of the most epic ocean views on the west coast. Eco-tourists flock to the Point Lobos State Nature Reserve and the Gravity Garden, a sculpture garden filled with balanced rock piles that use no adhesives or building materials. It's no surprise that celebrities flock to build homes right on the dramatic coastal cliffs. But there isn't much to do in in Carmel Highlands aside from kayaking through kelp beds and hiking. Getting to restaurants, shopping or golfing requires driving 10 minutes north to Carmel proper.

Where To Stay

Simply put, if you come to Carmel Highlands and don't stay on the oceanfront cliffs, you're missing the whole point. On the other hand, there are very few lodging options in the area, so there will be little (if any) debate as to which hotel to stay in.

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