We just got back from a week-long vacation to Carmel-By-The-Sea. Carmel Beach might just be one of my favorite places on earth. I’m having a rough time accepting that we’re back and I won’t see the ocean for the foreseeable future, so I’m reminiscing by going through all our pictures and reliving all the delicious coffees and treats we had.
I’m not sure if you’ve ever been to Carmel, but if you haven’t – put it on your list of places to go. It’s the sweetest little beachside town with tons of unique shops, local restaurants, killer views of the mile-long stretch of sandy beach and, of course, plenty of coffee.
While most restaurants have a variety of coffee options, making it easy to stay caffeinated, there are a few coffee-dedicated shops that are definitely worth the stop. So, I thought I would put together a round-up of the best places to get your cup of joe, including what to order and the best snacks you won’t want to miss.
What Makes Carmel Special:
If you haven’t been, Carmel has a really unique history. Just a few minutes from the more well-known town of Monterey, Carmel began attracting various artists, teachers, writers and other creatives who were inspired and entranced by the beautiful blue waters and soft, white sand beach. Leading down to the beach is Ocean Ave, the downtown street lined with all kinds of shops, restaurants, and little pieces of history which stops just steps before the sand starts.
I love that many women owned land in Carmel almost from the beginning and the little cottage we stayed in is on a piece of property that two female doctors had bought over a hundred years ago. They had great taste – because the cottages are just one block away from the steps down to the mile-long stretch known as Carmel Beach.
The houses are each one-of-a-kind and many of them will just stop you in your tracks. And, you might also stop and notice that each house has a unique name instead of an obvious street address. This tradition dates back to when the village began to grow and the locals rejected the practice of mail delivery to each address, preferring a central post office where people would go get their mail and catch up with their neighbors. To this day, the houses do not have obvious house addresses, but you can still see the name of each house/cottage prominently displayed.
We rented a cottage that is on a property with 4 other historic cottages. The grounds are like a secret garden. Here’s a video I posted to my Instagram with just some of the grounds:
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Other fun facts about Carmel is that you will also never see parking meters, street lights or sidewalks outside of Carmel’s downtown commercial area.
If you visit, wear comfy shoes. The downtown area is on one heckuva slope and it’s a rather steep incline/decline depending on the way you are going. The sidewalks are also quite uneven and adds to the charm of the town.
The Best Coffeeshops in Carmel:
I know what you’re here for! Let’s talk coffee (and treats). You should know that I prefer my drinks on the sweeter side and love drinks like the Starbucks Vanilla Sweet Cream Cold Brew and Dutch Bros Golden Eagle. I’ve also really gotten into making my own syrups and coffees, like the Iced Brown Sugar Cinnamon Latte, which is delicious. All of my recommendations come from this preference.
If you prefer less sweet drinks, you could also ask for less sweeteners in your drinks or order something simpler. If you’re easier to please, you would probably like all of these stops equally – in which case – just make your decision based on the treats.
1. Carmel Bakery:
You have to stop in the sweet Carmel Bakery, not just for the coffee, which is good, but because they have the best coconut, chocolate dipped macaroons I’ve ever had in my life. Seriously, I don’t even really like coconut – so if I’m telling you these will melt in your mouth, you know they are good. They are also generously sized – just look at how big this thing is! It’s got to be the size of my hand!
We are so obsessed with these, we went every single day. Thank goodness these are a staple and they always had them fresh and ready to go. My only regret is not picking up some to take home. What was I thinking?
As for coffee, we tried quite a few and found that the caramel macchiato, white mocha and hot chocolate are the best drinks here. All three are very good. The white mocha is the one featured in these pictures.
2. Carmel Valley Coffee Roasting Company:
The best coffee shop in town is the Carmel Valley Coffee Roasting Club. They have an iced drink called the Fogbreaker that I had almost every day; it was so good. Made with honey, cinnamon, oatmilk and espresso, it’s absolutely delicious and very refreshing. I did ask for extra ice, because I felt it needed it.
I took a video of my last Fogbreaker before we left and shared it on Instagram. Take a peek here:
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As for snacks, the chocolate chip cookie is delicious. My kids are obsessed with chocolate chip cookies and they were big fans of these ones (but not happy with the ones we got at other places). So, if you’re a chocolate chip cookie person, pick that up at Carmel Valley Coffee Roasting
3. Cafe Carmel:
You’ll know this one because the sign has a little Mona Lisa on it. The inside of this shop is a bit less exciting, but they have the most options for dessert and food. A full menu of pastries, desserts, sandwiches, salads and coffees are here and they are all good.
As for coffee, the caramel macchiato was our favorite here and we appreciated that they are generous with the whip (gotta have the whip, people!).
For treats, the tiramisu is some of the best we’ve ever had, but the chocolate covered cheesecake was also a big hit. I think pretty much anything from here is going to be delicious, so if they change up the menu before you get there, just order what’s calling to you and I feel pretty confident you won’t regret it.
4. Cafe Luna:
This one is tucked inside Carmel Plaza which can be tough to find if you don’t know where it is. Start by finding Rise + Roam (which has fresh, tasty pizza – but the coffees are not good) and then walk towards Ocean Avenue and there’s a walkway to the right that you’ll go down and it’ll take you right into Carmel Plaza, a small open-air, three story plaza with shops like Lula’s Chocolates, Arhaus, Anthropologie, some restaurants and Cafe Luna.
At first glance, Cafe Luna seems to have an identity crisis. They have a really strange menu with everything from ramen dishes to desserts. But, don’t be discouraged, there’s some delicious drinks and treats here you won’t want to miss.
For us, the cookies & creme frappuccino was the best. The caramel frappuccino was also good. We also all really loved the chocolate mousse cake and I’m wishing I had some right now while I write this (and a macaroon, too – always a macaroon).
Yes, There is a Starbucks:
Here’s the thing: sometimes when you’re traveling, you just need some comforts from home. Once upon a time, I got a lot of flack for racing down the street in Paris to get to a Starbucks as fast as my legs would carry me.
If that’s you, I am also adding Starbucks to this list, because there is one in Carmel… with a small caveat. You’ll have to leave Carmel-by-the-Sea and drive about 5 minutes into Carmel to find it. But, once you’re there, it’s a really large, beautifully designed Starbucks and you’ll be able to happily order to your heart’s content.
It’s also positioned right on the side of one of the best plazas in the area for things you might need, including a grocery store, CVS (this place saved us several times – they have a great selection of products), more restaurants, more shops, and a gas station.
Also, great news, it is FLAT and very easy to walk around! So, if you start to get tired of the hills (and you probably will), this can be a nice place to go to give your calves a break.
If you’re looking for recommendations on your next Starbucks drinks to try, head to any of these posts:
- 9 tasty, low calorie coffees at Starbucks
- 17 TikTok Inspired Starbucks Secret Menu Drinks
- 14 Best Starbucks Iced Coffee Drinks
- 18 Delicious Starbucks Drinks for Kids
- 15 Best Starbucks Cold Brew & Nitro Cold Brew Drinks
I hope this gives you some ideas of which coffee shops in Carmel you don’t want to miss. Have you been to Carmel? I’d love to hear your recommendations, too.