Carmel is among the country’s most popular small-city destinations. Quaint restaurants, art galleries, boutique shops, unique homes and famous golf courses are all backdropped by the Pacific Ocean.
As such, Carmel has a steady influx of constant visitors who often fill the city’s nearly 1,000 guest rooms, particularly during popular global sporting events, festivals and conferences.
More than 60 properties are located within a one-mile radius of downtown Carmel. So, while a visit to is always good choice, it presents a dilemma: What’s available and where’s the best place to stay in Carmel?
During the past 25 years, I’ve traveled to Carmel dozens of times — golf tournaments to bicycle races, international food conferences to art shows. I’ve stayed in rooms with room prices beginning at $99 in the off-season to ocean view properties with high-season room rates of more than $400.
Carmel is never inexpensive, but here are four accommodations choices — budget and family oriented properties to upscale, boutique locales.
Carmel Lodge — Formerly Carmel Sands Lodge, the 42-room property was family owned for several decades. About one year ago, a syndicate led by Fornine Investment Company of Pacific Grove purchased it.
Within a few months, the motor lodge had undergone an exterior facelift, a name adjustment and interior renovations steadily progressed.
Located two blocks from Ocean Ave. (the city’s main east-to-west artery) Carmel Lodge has four room types, some featuring classic retro-looking furniture and decor and varying accouterments, microwave ovens to refrigerators. Six rooms have wood-burning fireplaces.
I stayed in an upstairs, corner deluxe room in the back building. My room had been remodeled, a mixture of modern styling but with pleasing reminders of the past. The bathroom had clean but old tile and fixtures. The room was spacious and included an upscale audio system and flat screen television. Since my stay, all rooms have new carpet and new mattresses.
(Carmel Lodge, 5th Ave. & San Carlos. Mailing address: P.O. Box 951, Carmel, Ca, 93921. Handicap accessible rooms. No pets. Off-street parking $10 per day. Free WiFi. Reservations: Tel. 866-339-1552 E-mail: email@example.com. Web site: www.carmelsandslodge.com.)
Hofsas House — It’s a good sign, at least to me, when the owner and manager of a property lives on the premisse.
Carrie Theis is owner and manager of the Hofsas House, a family owned property since its debut in the late 1940s. Theis’ grandmother was married to the property’s founder and Theis moved back to Carmel more than a decade ago to run the place.
Nestled among matured trees and several blocks off the main street, Hofsas House is among Carmel’s most reasonably priced small inns. It has 37 rooms, including three two-bedroom family suites.
The inn is billed as family friendly and its brochure follows the same theme “A family tradition.” There’s also a Bavarian theme immediately noticeable via a large driveway mural painted on the steep driveway entrance. Other Bavarian-style paintings, crests and room décor abound.
I stayed in a spacious third-floor room with a balcony view of Carmel and the Pacific Ocean. Like many older Carmel properties, Hofsas House has some renovated room and others waiting their turns for upgrading.
The Hofsas House is not upscale, but it’s clean, the staff is friendly and there’s the charm of the neighborhood. A simple continental breakfast with locally made baked goods is ser
ved in the lobby or can be brought to guests’ rooms. Hofsas House also has a large, heated pool and something unique to Carmel — a business meeting room.
(Hofsas House, 4th & San Carlos. Mailing address: P.O. Box 1195 Carmel, Ca., 93921. All non-smoking rooms. Free off-street parking. Free WiFi. Reservations: 831-624-2745. E-mail: Carrie@hofsashouse.com. Web site: www.hofsashouse.com.)
Tally Ho Inn — Twelve recently renovated rooms replete with modern conveniences while maintaining the inn’s tradition highlight this small inn’s charms. Unlike other area properties with lavish entrances, the Tally Ho Inn welcomes guests via a simple, small white brick entry with limited signage.
The inn dates to 1964 when it began as a series of cottages used as an extension of the popular Pine Inn, Carmel’s oldest inn (It was built in 1889.)
The Pine Inn, located across the street and with a main entrance on Ocean Ave. and the Tally Ho Inn have the same owner, Richard Gunner. During the week, guests at the Tally Ho are given coupons for complimentary breakfast served at Il Fornaio, the Pine Inn’s Italian restaurant, bar and bakery.
On weekends, breakfast for Tally Ho guests is served buffet style in the inn’s small reception area. Fresh fruit, pastries, oatmeal, fresh-squeezed juice as well as coffee and tea are offered with a pleasant and efficient approach.
My room was a superior king suite, just through the reception area and to the right down a small new brick walkway. All rooms are centrally located around an interior English style garden and original white adobe fireplace.
The renovated superior king suites offer ocean views, fireplace, Jacuzzi tub, 42-inch plasma television (and a smaller TV in the bathroom), Bose radio/CD system, refrigerator and heated marble bathroom floors. The rooms are a tasteful mix of modern fixtures, marble and tile with remembrances of the inn’s English traditions. Complimentary brandy is available self-serve in the lobby during late afternoons.
(Tally Ho Inn — Monte Verde and Sixth Sts., Carmel-By-The-Sea, California, 93921. Mailing address: P.O. Box 250, Carmel, Ca., 93921. Tel. 831-624-2232; Web site: www.tallyho-inn.com.)
Tradewinds Inn — Through the years several Carmel establishments located off-the-beaten path, like Tradewinds Inn, have enticed a loyal following by offering a simple but important formula: quality rooms and service, plentiful parking and serenity.
Nonetheless, after reaching middle age, the Tradewinds Inn needed a makeover. The result was $4 million renovation (completed in 2004) that transformed the facility into an Asian-influenced inn and place of peace. Susan Stilwell, daughter of original 1959 owners, Richard and Patricia Catlin, collaborated on the renovation.
Flowing fountains, bamboo screens and tropical plants dominate the centerpiece meditation garden. Custom-designed furniture, multicolored slate floors and accents from Bali and China are prevalent in each of the 28 rooms.
I stayed in a second-floor deluxe king room with an ocean view during my visit. While not extraordinarily large, the arrangement of the furniture, sitting area, vanity and wetbar was ideal, the color scheme well-planned and amenities plentiful.
Bed pillows, sheets and comforter are all top-of-the-line and towels, bathrobe and slippers were likewise of superior quality. The bathroom was well appointed (hair dryer and magnified vanity mirror) and the walk-in shower had strong water pressure.
The Tradewinds’ continental breakfast offering resembles a small, neat restaurant Fresh-squeezed orange juice, coffee and various teas, bagels, fresh fruit, pastries, muffins and waffles.
(Tradewinds Inn — Mission Street & Third Ave., Carmel, Ca., Mailing address: P.O. Box 3403, Carmel, Ca., 93921. Tel. 831-624-2776. Web site: www.tradewindsinn.com.)