Carmel Mission Inn, a Polished Gem of Central California

By Emma Krasov. Photography by Yuri Krasov

No matter how many times you travel to California’s Central Coast, the magnetic pull of this gorgeously rugged stretch of the Pacific, framed with ancient rocks, lined with Monterey pines and cypresses, covered in wild flowers, and teeming with animal life, never lets you out of its command.

Returning time after time to the Monterey Peninsula for whale watching, wine tasting, art gallery tours, fine dining, or just relaxing by the ocean, watching dogs play on a long sandy beach, or walking the tree root-warped sidewalks of Carmel-by-the-Sea, past colorful fairy-tale cottages and toy courtyards, you always wonder how this place never fails to surprise you, to show itself from a different angle, to excite, fascinate, and delight you again and again.

Next time, make your visit to the magical Monterey-Carmel area complete with the utmost comfort in accommodations, and try to book a room at the elegantly renovated Carmel Mission Inn, located across the Carmel River State Beach off the Pacific Coast Highway, between the Barnyard Shopping Village and the Crossroads Carmel shopping and dining mall, with a view of Palo Corona Hills.  

Fully revamped and beautifully updated facilities of the Inn, its outdoor sitting areas with fire pits and a large swimming pool, its tastefully appointed guestrooms, and even hallways, adorned with full-wall murals depicting the area landmarks, reflect a current trend in leisure travel: a modernized, revitalized, greatly improved in way of conveniences, and decorated with contemporary art, an attractively priced historical inn or motor lodge offers so much more comfort and simple enjoyment, that it often takes precedence in travelers’ choice over posh 5-star giants, or whimsical, precious little boutique establishments. 

As you pull into a large parking lot, adorned with trees and flowering shrubs, you’re greeted by a painted cow peacefully grazing by the entrance to the registration lobby. Another one pensively stares at you under a banana tree by the swimming pool. Painted by a local artist, these playful sculptures hint at the abundance of thoughtfully collected art pieces you’ll enjoy throughout the property. Besides a large oil painting depicting Carmel with the Inn at its center, the art salon-style display in the lobby, and the enormous photo murals on each floor elevator landing, there are truly artful black and white photographs mounted on aluminum plates in every guestroom, and an entire separate art show going on inside the new restaurant, Shearwater Tavern, a so-called California pub, serving fresh, seasonal dishes made of locally sourced ingredients.

Executive Chef Wayne Brooks and his kitchen team support super-local purveyors by serving produce from Schoch Family Farmstead, coffee from Carmel Valley Coffee Roasting Company, honey from Carmel Honey Company, and Revival Ice Cream, made in Monterey. 

For a filling breakfast at the main dining room with tiled floor and cozy furniture, pick a Classic with two eggs any style, bacon, and smashed potatoes, or if you long for healthy yet delicious California fare, ask for Avocado Toast, enhanced with hot smoked salmon, six-minute egg, celery leaf salad, lime salt, and served on grilled seeded local bread.

Named after a long-winged seabird, common in cold marine waters, including Pacific, Shearwater Tavern dutifully displays a namesake bird logo at the front desk and above the bar, where you can get Carmel, Monterey, and larger California-brewed artisanal beer, regional wines, classic cocktails, or better yet, Signature Cocktails, that include Lavender Fields with Bombay Sapphire Gin, lemon, lavender, and honey; and Fifth Tally with Maker’s Mark Bourbon, Plantation Rum, Cynar Amaro, and Cointreau. 

For a no-frills satisfying dinner, start with warm from the oven Parker House Rolls with honey spiced butter, Short Rib French Onion Soup with sourdough crouton and Gruyere, or Housemade Shearwater Tots with shaved parmesan and truffle oil on a bed of frisee salad with sherry vinaigrette.

On the Large Plates menu you can’t go wrong with the scrumptious Roasted Half Petaluma Chicken with crispy potatoes, seasonal vegetables and chermoula sauce, or Classic Steak Frites, with a prime flat iron and herb garlic butter.

Chocolate pot de crème for dessert is a symphony of exquisite taste and subtle silky texture…

The new coastal-Inspired design, interspersed with the characteristic mid-century modern elements, was implemented by Arcsine, an award-winning Oakland-based architecture and design firm with a focus on hospitality. The multi-million-dollar renovation followed the last year revitalization of all 165 guestrooms and suites, and covered 7,000 square feet of flexible meeting and events space, all common areas, including the lobby, pool and courtyard, and the new Shearwater Tavern.

Throughout the property, Arcsine widely used natural local and artisanal materials, like reclaimed wood, hand-crafted tiles, custom made furniture and pottery.    

“Materials play off the elements while rich textiles and one-of-a-kind objects will be discovered through vintage doors, local artwork, and distinct motifs that encourage the guest to look, then look again,” said Elizabeth Dillon, Director of Interiors. “Unexpected yet memorable moments are crafted and will remain with guests for years to come.”

Carmel Mission Inn is managed by Evolution Hospitality.

Carmel Mission Inn is located at 3665 Rio Rd., Carmel, California 93923.  For more information or to book a stay, call 800-348-9090, or visit