Best Luxury Hotels in Carmel

Best Luxury Hotels in Carmel

On California’s Monterey Peninsula, luxury means something a little bit different — upscale amenities and attentive service, for sure, but also a sense of serenity, relaxation and retreat. With its chiseled rocks, towering bluffs, thundering waves and quirky beach towns, the stretch of coast from Monterey through rugged Big Sur is all about nature, whether hiking through redwood groves or picnicking in an isolated cove. Luxury goes even farther in Carmel, and these luxe getaways will treat you to a wealth of natural beauty along with a heaping dose of pampering. Here are our picks for Carmel’s luxury hotels.

Featured photo courtesy of La Playa Carmel. 

Four poster bed in the L'Auberge hotel in Carmel, California.
Photo: Courtesy of L'Auberge Carmel

L'Auberge Carmel

Right in the center of quaint Carmel, boutique L’Auberge Carmel was built in 1929 as an elegant chateau blended with a cozy cottage. Today modern amenities like heated bathroom floors and walk-in showers complement antique furnishings (some 18th century), wrought-iron canopy beds and deep standing bathtubs. With only 20 rooms, guests receive plenty of individual attention, including the perks of valet parking, made-to-order hot breakfast and room service (from Michelin-starred Aubergine), twice-daily housekeeping and in-town Volvo car service — hence it also makes our list of top luxury hotels in the area.

HIGHLIGHT: Culinary packages include overnight stays  and classes with Justin Cogley, Aubergine’s award-winning executive chef, or talented pastry chef Yulanda Santos. Many rooms offer a peek of an ocean view, with Carmel Beach just a few blocks downhill.

Bernardus Lodge-Monterey Peninsula-Luxury-800x450-credit Bernardus Lodge
Photo: Courtesy of Bernardus Lodge

Bernardus Lodge

The sun-kissed resort is barely two decades old, but like a swath of European countryside, feels like it’s been there for centuries. More than 70 villas, suites and guest rooms echo that style but provide state-of-the-art technology and creature comforts ranging from couples’ soaking tubs to fireplaces to king-size feather beds with goose down comforters and Italian linens. Its Lucia restaurant is considered one of the best between Santa Cruz and Santa Barbara, with an emphasis on hyper-local cuisine. All told, it’s a poetic expression of Carmel Valley, with the special event and meeting space to host traditional gatherings and more playful meetings — think bocce ball or cooking classes — alike. It also makes our list for best spa and wellness hotels in Carmel. 

HIGHLIGHT:  Active vineyards cultivated for cousin wine label Bernardus cover much of the area surrounding Bernardus. So do thousands of lavender bushes and a working chef’s garden. Chef Cal Stamenov ranks among the most celebrated food minds in the state. Gorgeous patio areas and lawns integrate seamlessly with the indoor-outdoor bar area. A welcoming pool and grid of tennis courts help balance the irresistible eating opportunities. Comprehensive spa services deepen the relaxation.

Balcony with lounge chairs at the Carmel Valley Ranch
Photo: Courtesy of Carmel Valley Ranch

Carmel Valley Ranch

Want to try your hand at archery? Falconry? Beekeeping? Or maybe you just want to play a round of golf on a par-70 Pete Dye-designed course? Spread across 500 acres in the foothills of the Santa Lucia Mountains, Carmel Valley Ranch has space for it all — including three different swimming pools. The almost overwhelming activity menu also might include cooking classes, foraging hikes, or yoga in a hilltop pavilion. The extensive fitness program includes barre, circuit training and water yoga while the menu at Spa Aiyana features ten different types of massage. Among the resort’s 181 rooms are a variety of accommodation styles and levels, many featuring fireplaces, private decks or both for a true hideaway vibe. Carmel Valley Ranch also makes our lists for best Carmel hotels for group getaways and spa and wellness

HIGHLIGHT: The ranch became a true ranch in years years with the arrival of five horses and the introduction of “equine experiences” which involve interacting with horses as a form of relaxation and learning. Therapist Robert Magnelli, who calls himself The Horseman, developed the programs, which include the adult-oriented Growing Awareness and the family-friendly Getting to Know the Herd.

Outdoor view of La Playa Carmel in Carmel, California
Photo: Courtesy of La Playa Carmel

La Playa Carmel

Designed by noted landscape painter Chris Jorgenson for his wife, a member of the noted Ghirardelli family, La Playa Carmel melds the Spanish colonial style of the California missions with European old-world elegance. Growing from its 1905 origins to a sprawling complex set amidst colorful gardens, La Playa perches above Carmels village streets and sparkling white beach like the Grande Dame she is. Choose an ocean room to gaze out at the deep blue waters or a garden room with a sunny tiled patio. Best of all are the poolside casitas with their carved wooden fireplaces. A $3.5-million restoration completed in 2012 buffed the historic hotel to a high shine and it has continued to modernize, becoming a favorite of those seeking a romantic getaway with easy access to Carmels walkable downtown and its 90-plus galleries. 

HIGHLIGHT:  One of the best places in town to chat up a local, dark-paneled Buds has been the hangout of choice since Jack London entertained his fellow drinkers with ribald tall tales. The lounge continues its historic tradition of  dime time,” an impromptu mini happy hour announced daily at random that costs only ten cents.

Photo: Courtesy of Quail Lodge

Quail Lodge & Golf Club

Picture 93 ranch-style bungalows set amidst 850 acres of verdant valley that was once a working dairy and you’ll have a sense of Quail Lodge & Golf Club, a Carmel classic since 1964. Closed in 2009 after 45 years of operation, Quail Lodge reopened in 2013 following a ground-up renovation and redesign by Barry Design Associates, the design team behind the Beverly Wilshire and Mauna Kea Beach Hotel. Vaulted ceilings and tall windows nod to Eichler, framing spacious rooms with plenty of living space ranging in size from 395 to 650 feet. Although it’s luxurious, its rates are among the more moderate.
HIGHLIGHTS: In addition to the 18-hole golf course (updated in 2015) that put Quail Lodge on the map the grounds incorporate three tennis courts, pickleball, bocce ball and a nine-hole putting green. The on-site restaurant, Edgar’s, celebrates sustainable seafood and locally grown produce serving up grilled octopus and shrimp, Monterey Bay sand dabs, and farmers market salad.
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