For travellers embarking on a road trip in California, it can be tough to make a decision about which towns to spend the night in. Irrespective if you’re only doing a short trip from LA to San Francisco or whether you’re tackling a longer trip all the way up to Seattle or down to San Diego, staying in Monterey or Carmel is a must. Both these towns are located close to the stunning Big Sur and also have a lot to offer themselves in terms of activities and great places to eat. Unsure about where to stay in Monterey or Carmel? Let us help you find the best hotels for any budget and determine which town makes the most sense for your trip to California!
Looking for a quick answer? Monterey is best for families and budget-conscious travellers, while Carmel is best for couples, foodies and shoppers. These are some top choices for places to stay:
Monterey: Pacific Inn Monterey (Budget), The Stevenson Monterey (Mid-Range), Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa (Luxury) & Cosy Seaside Cottage (Airbnb)
Carmel: Carmel Lodge (Mid-Range), Carriage House Inn (Luxury) & Elegant Studio Apartment (Airbnb)
Should You Stay in Monterey or Carmel?
Before we delve into where to stay in Monterey or Carmel, let’s look at the difference between the two cities to help you decide which is right for you.
With the towns only about 4 miles apart, both are easily accessible from each other, however, there are a couple of reasons why you might prefer one over the other. Carmel boasts a huge selection of tasting rooms for local wineries, hip and modern restaurants and boutique shops that will certainly make it more appealing for couples looking for a romantic weekend away.
On the other hand, I think Monterey is a more suitable destination if travelling as a family. There are a lot more things to do that will appeal to kids including the world-famous Monterey Bay Aquarium and Cannery Row. I also think Monterey is a better choice if trying to reduce the amount of money you spend in California as not only is accommodation slightly cheaper but shops and restaurants cater more to a wider range of budgets.
Where to Stay in Monterey, CA
Best Budget Hostels & Hotels in Monterey
Pacific Inn Monterey – A modern motel located a few minutes drive from the local airport, this is one of the best places to stay in Monterey if you’re after a private room and on a budget. All rooms have basic modern amenities including some kitchen facilities such as a refrigerator, coffee machine and microwave. Click here to check their availability
Lone Oak Lodge – Another budget motel in Monterey that is located a few minutes drive from the famous attractions in the city. All rooms here also have basic amenities with some having additional perks like an in-room hot tub and fireplace! There is also a spa, sauna and small gym that guests can use on site. Click here to check their availability
HI Monterey Hostel – One of the few hostel options in the region, the HI Monterey Hostel is a great choice for budget and solo travellers or families. They offer a range of dorm beds and family rooms that can accommodate up to 6 people. They are located close to the Monterey Bay Aquarium and a great breakfast is included in the room rate. Click here to check their availability
Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse other budget rooms in Monterey!
Best Mid-Range Hotels in Monterey
The Stevenson Monterey – Located just off Highway 1, this is a great mid-range hotel if you’re wondering where to stay in Monterey. Rooms are modern, clean and comfortable and you are only located a few minutes drive from the coastline and Cannery Row. There is also a continental breakfast included in the room rate. Click here to check their availability
Hotel 1110 – A boutique hotel located right next to Del Monte Beach, this place is perfect if you want to include some beach time during your stay in Monterey. They offer a range of private rooms with some rooms having their own spas and heated bathroom floors. There is a large breakfast included in the room rate and you also receive a complimentary glass of beer or wine at their downstairs bar. Click here to check their availability
Hotel Abrego – Located close to the centre of Monterey, this boutique hotel offers various private rooms that can accommodate both couples and families with children. Rooms are spacious and comfortable with some deluxe rooms having a fireplace and all guests having access to an outdoor swimming pool. Click here to check their availability
Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse other mid-range rooms in Monterey!
Best Airbnbs in Monterey
Entire Place – There is no shortage of private places to rent on Airbnb in Monterey. Some of the top choices include this cosy seaside cottage and this peaceful seaside bungalow. You can also find some unique properties such as John Steinbeck’s old studio to stay in.
Private Room – If you’re travelling on a budget, you’ll be happy to know that there are also a number of private room options on Airbnb in Monterey. Options include this private room or this private room, both with their own bathrooms and private entrances.
Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse the best Airbnbs in Monterey!
Best Luxury Hotels in Monterey
InterContinental The Clement Monterey – One of the top-rated luxury hotels in Monterey, it is located on the coastline and only moments away from Monterey’s most famous attractions such as Cannery Row. All rooms are fitted with modern amenities including a bathtub and separate shower. Guests can enjoy access to a swimming pool and children’s club and there is the option to include breakfast in the daily rate. Click here to check their availability
Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa – Another one of the best luxury hotels in Monterey, guests here enjoy access to their own private beach, a rooftop gym and spa. There is an onsite restaurant and cafe as well as 24-hour room service. This is an ideal place to stay for couples looking to splurge on a getaway. Click here to check their availability
Old Monterey Inn – An elegant four-star hotel that has been around for close to 100 years, this is a great place to stay in Monterey for travellers that want to be transported back in time. All rooms have their own fireplace, comfortable beds and unique furniture and design. There is a complimentary breakfast and wine and nibbles for a couple of hours in the afternoon. Click here to check their availability
Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse other luxury rooms in Monterey!
Where to Stay in Carmel, CA
Unlike in Monterey, for travellers looking for where to stay in Carmel, there is an unfortunate lack of conventional budget options like hostels and motels. This means that if you’re after a budget place to stay, you’re better off staying in Monterey over Carmel.
Best Mid-Range Hotels in Carmel
Carmel Lodge – A basic three-star hotel located in the centre of the town and surrounded by a range of great restaurants, cafes and shops. All rooms have basic amenities and there is a light continental breakfast included daily. Free parking and 24-hour check-in is available. Click here to check their availability
Carmel Green Lantern Inn – Located a couple of minutes walk from Carmel Beach, this is a great bed and breakfast with a huge buffet breakfast served daily for guests. Rooms have their own private entrance and some rooms have their own balconies with sea views. There are a few different room options that are suitable for couples or families. Click here to check their availability
Carmel Bay View Inn – A boutique hotel that is located close to shops and restaurants and about 1 mile from the sea. Rooms are suitable for couples with each having their own fireplace making it one of the best places to stay in Carmel for a romantic getaway. A hearty buffet breakfast is included in the daily rate. Click here to check their availability
Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse other mid-range hotels in Carmel.
Best Luxury Hotels in Carmel
Carriage House Inn – An elegant bed and breakfast located in the centre of Carmel, this is a perfect place to stay for couples looking for a romantic getaway and with some money to splurge! Rooms are wonderfully designed with their own fireplace and some rooms also having their own spa. Breakfast is served daily and there is also complimentary wine and nibbles in the evening. Click here to check their availability
The Vagabond’s House Boutique Inn & Spa Studio – A boutique hotel that goes above and beyond what they offer to guests. Guests here can enjoy wine and cheese every evening, sherry in their rooms, a hearty breakfast and access to an on-site spa with massages available. All rooms are large and spacious making this an excellent luxury hotel in Carmel. Click here to check their availability
Tradewinds Carmel – Another great boutique hotel option in Carmel for the luxury traveller. All the rooms here are comfortable and spacious with premium linens and decorations. Some rooms have sea views and their own fireplace with breakfast included in the room rate. Click here to check their availability
Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse other luxury hotels in Carmel.
Best Airbnbs in Carmel
In-line with the rest of Carmel, there are limited options for private rooms on Airbnb in the town so if planning to stay in an Airbnb, you should be prepared to spend on an entire place to yourself.
Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse other Airbnbs in Carmel!
Irrespective of whether you choose to stay in Monterey or Carmel, there are a number of great accommodation options and you’ll be sure to enjoy the magnificent beauty and vibrant towns of this area of California!
Whether you are staying in Carmel or Monterey, it’s always a good idea to make sure you have a travel insurance policy so you’re covered for any unfortunate events! We like WorldNomads and always use them for our trips – click here to get a quote from WorldNomads
Are you wondering where to stay in Monterey or Carmel? Have you been recently? Let us know in the comments below!