Valentine’s Day weekend in Carmel, CA

Hello friends! Joe and I are back from our weekend trip to Carmel. It was a triple holiday with Chinese New Year, Valentine’s Day, and Presidents Day, and we wanted to take advantage of the long weekend and get away from our usual routine in SF.

Carmel is a cute coastal town and only a two hour drive from SF. The town is pretty bougie with fancy shops and wineries attracting tourists, but it’s also a close drive to amazing nature sights like Big Sur which is what Joe and I love – overall it was the perfect choice for our romantic getaway. ❀

Saturday: Point Lobos State Reserve + exploring downtown Carmel

We drove in Friday evening and settled straight into our Airbnb which was on the scenic 17-mile drive in Carmel. On Saturday morning, it was raining and we didn’t want to force getting soaked in the rain, so we decided to have a chill morning indoors and see where the weather took us. We first drove 10 minutes to downtown Carmel and picked up breakfast take-out and enjoyed it in our cozy Airbnb.

Breakfast at home from Carmel Cafe

We chilled on the couch while watching tv and even took a mid-morning nap.

Couple chilling on the couch on a rainy day

Luckily the rain stopped late-morning and the sun came out. We felt so grateful since we fully expected to be rained in on Saturday. We strapped on our hiking boots and immediately got outside for some fresh air. A short 20 minutes later, we made it to Point Lobos State Reserve, a beautiful park that kind of feels like a mini-Big Sur with gorgeous views of the coast and a network of easy hiking trails.

Hiking Point Lobos trails

We hiked a short mile from the parking lot to the coast, and the beautiful views hit us right in the face. I’ve driven through Carmel/Point Lobos/Big Sur in passing on California’s Highway 1 a few times, and in my opinion, this stretch is hands down the most beautiful part of California. The water was so vibrantly blue and the rocks/forestry make it simply the most remarkable sight.

coastal view at Point Lobos
Winter hiking on California coast
View between trees at Point Lobos State Reserve
Couple selfie at Point Lobos State Reserve

We took our time walking around and exploring every inch of the coastal trail.

Charlotte posing on hiking trail

We spotted seals sitting on some faraway rocks. I love that Joe is a tech-geek and had these binoculars πŸ˜›

Looking at seals through binoculars

Being cheesy for Valentine’s Day πŸ™‚

Couple kissing on hiking trail on Valentine's Day

We left the park feeling so energized and refreshed. The rain in the morning made us feel extra grateful that we were able to get out! It also generated excitement for the next day when we would tackle Big Sur, which is basically a more epic version of Point Lobos.

After our hike, Joe and I headed into town and had a late lunch at a seafood spot. I had lobster gnocchi and it so hit the spot.

Seafood lunch after hiking

After lunch, we explored downtown Carmel. Carmel feels upscale with Danish-style cottage buildings, bougie boutique shops, designer clothing stores, etc…we walked around a little but to be honest Joe and I prefer being out in nature. We did indulge in one bougie activity and made an appointment for a couples massage. Joe and I agreed it was literally the best massage we’ve ever gotten – the perfect treat for Valentine’s Day πŸ™‚

By the time our massage was over, the sun was setting and we headed to Carmel Beach to soak in the sunset views. Perfect last bit of outdoors-time on a day we thought we wouldn’t see the sun!

Sunset selfie on Carmel Beach
Girl posing on Carmel beach at sunset

Since we ate outside for lunch, we decided to get food delivered to our Aribnb for dinner. We had a relaxing rest of the evening watching tv and resting up for the next day.

Sunday: Big Sur + picnic on Molera Beach + Valentine’s Day date

Sunday started off on the early side again. We got our hiking gear and day-packs ready for the day as we were heading to Big Sur. But first, we headed into town to pick up breakfast + sandwiches for lunch from Camel Bakery.

A short 40 minute drive later, we were in the heart of Big Sur. Big Sur is a huge mass of land with the most breathtaking views of the California coast. It’s one of my favorite places in the world. Joe and I stopped through Big Sur last year en route to San Diego, and I was excited to dedicate a whole day to exploring it.

There are many parks comprising Big Sur, and we decided to explore Andrew Molera State Park since it was the closest one to Carmel and pretty popular. We started off on a trail that took us inland up a mountain. We started trekking up and after about .5 miles, we decided to turn around, ha. It was completely uphill and super strenuous with no rewarding viewpoint in sight…sometimes you gotta know when to call it quits. πŸ™‚

Hiking up inland mountain in Andrew Molera State Park

At least we got one pic on the mountain πŸ˜›

Couple selfie at Andrew Molera State Park

I’m so glad we called it when we did, because there was another even more amazing trail waiting for us. We decided to go on a more popular trail in the park, which was an easy, flat trail leading to the beach. One fun portion was crossing a river, which had our knees deep in water! We took off our shoes, rolled up our pants, and powered through it. The water was ice cold, but it was worth it. Thank god Joe had a roll of paper towels in his backpack. It felt like we were carrying a cheese burger in a desert, as others were super envious of us πŸ˜›

River crossing on hiking trail

The hike brought us through a wooded portion and eventually led to Molera Beach, a secluded beach and a lovely reward for our hike. There were even some surfers who hike with their surfboards to get to the waves. For being a popular hike, I was surprised how few people there were – it truly felt like our private beach that was our little secret.

View of secluded Molera Beach in winter
Charlotte on Big Sur beach

It was SUPER windy and Joe and I found a wooden teepee that someone built on the beach. It was the perfect structure for blocking the wind and gave us shelter for our picnic lunch.

Wooden teepee on beach

We took our time picnicking on the beach. This was one of my favorite moments of the weekend. I love how Joe and I are always on the same page in seeking adventure, and it really felt like we stumbled on this wonderful spot after an ice-cold river crossing.

Picnic under a teepee on Molera Beach Big Sur

The wooden logs surprisingly made a comfortable place to lie down.

Napping in wooden teepee

After lunch, we hiked back the way we came and drove back to our Airbnb. We were completely pooped and relaxed the rest of the afternoon. Joe surprised me with his Valentine’s Day gift to me which were a pair of diamond earrings. I was completely surprised and so happy! I never owned jewelry more than $20 before and I felt like such a princess!! Joe is the most thoughtful, giving person and I am so lucky to be with him. What a thoughtful surprise and cherry on top of an already amazing Valentine’s Day. ❀

Mejuri earrings for Valentine's Day gift

After our restful afternoon, we headed into town for our Valentine’s date. Joe got reservations at the nicest Italian restaurant in town – Porta Bella. We had a cozy table by a heat lamp and shared wine and yummy food. I have such good memories of this dinner because it felt so special to eat a fancy meal and have a special date, especially during a pandemic when date nights are harder to come by.

Porta Bella dinner in downtown Carmel
Couple selfie for Valentine's Day diner

We stayed Sunday night and headed back to SF early on Monday. This was hands down the most special and memorable Valentine’s Day ever. Joe and I just wanted to spend time together and do what we love which is being active in nature, and the whole weekend ended up exceeding our expectations and being filled with amazing memories.

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