This eternally popular post is all about what to wear- and pack for a getaway to the Carmel/ Monterey area. It can be tricky as it’s a California coastal area, but more often than not can be cool, though sunny. As we are very casual in California and your key word for this trip – laid back luxe!
The original post on this was written in 2012, after a little getaway to Carmel to celebrate my husband’s birthday. It has become so popular I update it quarterly. As a Bay Area and Northern Cal gal we get there a lot, so I feel qualified to advise.
You’re going to love this area and if you pack the right things, enjoy it too. This updated post has some newer links and photos to help you plan a trip in 2023 and beyond.. Lots of inspiring looks for you to copy here too.
Carmel is one of the most gorgeous places on the planet and I am continually thrilled by its beauty on each trip. I am so fortunate to live here in Northern California and be nearby. When I say Carmel, I also mean the whole Monterey Peninsula area, which encompasses Carmel by the Sea, Monterey, Pacific Grove and Carmel Valley in the hills to the East.
You could be staying in the warm and sunny Carmel Valley, but will most likely end up at some point in the foggier and cooler town of Carmel, too. For this reason you need to pack for two climates! I kid you not If you don’t believe me try spending a day in town here and you will see how many Carmel sweatshirts are sold to tourists. It’s not unusual to see winter coats and sweaters worn here especially during summer time. Carmel Valley, up the road about 20 minutes from Carmel is a warm wine region and not unlike Napa and Sonoma. So you really have to think before packing.
Most of my visits to Carmel I have wandered around like Jennifer Aniston above, with sandals, yet burrowed up in a big sweater!
Carmel is a cosmopolitan place where people dress very well, but casual. Carmel Valley tends to be a horsier set where as Carmel by the Sea, is a little more luxe. Monterey where the aquarium and Cannery Row are, is super casual.
Bottom line…This is the capital of casual chic. People dress well, even though they are dressed down.
What to pack for a weekend in Carmel and Monterey. . .
Even in winter. They look great with heavy sweaters and pea coats.
Two I like.. this thicker white cropped pair, these very nice mid-rise jeans and these vintage straight ones
I love this look of Linda Wright and her daughter- both making white denim look chic in cool temps..Look at Linda’a Instagram for a lot of inspirational looks with white denim..
Other white denim looks that could work for Carmel…Dressier here like below..
Alternatively, khaki or black jeans ..
Black jeans are versatile -with sandals or boots and you can dress them up for dinner..And these classic straight legs from Frame are a versatile choice that will feel great too.
Blue jeans of course…
I love this relaxed version and this one .
I love the mix of straw bag and sweater – and sweater plus sandals..A little summer and winter together works by the sea.
A Woven or Straw Tote..
I love this classic straw bag with a leather handle by J. Crew – the perfect tote to pair with your sweater and for travel.
I also love this medium market tote by Mersea ( also comes in a small) ..
This woven leather bag is another casual tote that’s luxe looking.
Button down shirt in white or denim for day.
Great for layering with chunky sweaters. Can also double a a cover-up by the pool if it’s longer.
A great shirt here and this classic white button down here.
I always have a pair of ballet flats and a cute pair of tennis shoes.
Ballet flats are another good thing to have on hand and a good a sneaker alternative. Love the look and shape of these Sam Edelmans, and also here which come in a few colors..and also these classics by Tory Burch and these are a modern update on the ballet flat with many pretty shades
I love a good white sneaker
Vejas are so California classic and neutral in all their variations. Perfect for up and down the hills of Carmel and a day of walking. Also more Vejas here and many styles of them here.
And these New Balance are quite popular..and also a neutral.
Flip flops for the pool or beach.
I have this pair of black rubber Tory Burch that have lasted years. They make everything look California casual chic and upgraded. Great to wear to the spa or breakfast as well.
I also like this new style Tory Burch has a take on the rainbow flip-flop of the 70’s she has in many colors and the soft pink is pretty..
I also have bought two pairs of her Cloud Miller Sandals that feel great on..
If you want to go a little more luxe this Gucci pair is very Carmel…
I would pass on heeled sandals for evenings. Streets are hilly in Carmel by the Sea. Heels will look ridiculous during the day and are impractical with the hills here and the beach.
Cozy cardigan or wrap
You need this for cool days and around the room as a robe over your night clothes. Any cashmere wrap is also perfect for that and layering! A wrap similar to below..
Even warmer light quilted or puffer jacket, moto jacket, blazer or trench to layer. These Herno puffers are gorgeous and very popular in Carmel. If you need something less pricey J. Crew has these cute quilted puffer jackets too.
Here I am a few years ago with my son wearing a scarf and my trench coat in late summer! A few trench options here at J Crew, and a cute look here at Anthro.
I always prefer a tankini or a bikini with a rash guard to layer. This is a flattering tank I love and another by Tory is a classic and beautifully made suit and this is universally flattering and and so is this from J.Crew – so cute.
Cute cover-up & hat
I love this shirt style coverup for the pool or spa if there is one, or the beach. I take a felt rancher hat I always take to Carmel and this is a similar and comes in a lot of colors.
For dinners dress warmly.
Almost all evenings are cool in Carmel, once the fog rolls in. A pretty blouse paired or soft sweater with nice denim is the norm. I’ve never felt warm enough to wear a dress to dinner, but if you do, bring a wrap or light trench or coat.
I think you can’t go wrong with a black pant/ sweater combo for dinners – chic and warm.
A chunky cable-knit or similar sweater. Cute with shorts- or jeans, depending on the day.
A casual skirt or shorts
If should the weather turn warm. One of my favorite looks on a warm day in Carmel is denim shorts and a long-sleeved T or sweater. Perfect for places by the coast where the weather is sunny yet cool.
Cozy pants and soft T-shirt
Great for lounging around the room. PJs could also work. I do like to have something cute and warm with me to wear to breakfast without getting dressed for the day yet.
Yoga pants or leggings and a wrap sweater could work with a soft T for breakfast. Add boots to your leggings and a swingy sweater or poncho and you have an outfit…
A nice travel layering piece, especially for Carmel is a cardigan like this cute option or a this cashmere poncho