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Carmel Beaches Activities

Carmel Beach and Carmel River State Beach

Caution: Check with rangers or lifeguards that conditions are safe for your planned activities.

Carmel Beach

Visitors to Carmel Beach enjoy playing in the surf, skim boarding, beach combing, playing with their dogs, sitting around campfires at night, and all the other familiar beach activities. Expect to see a pick-up volleyball game, kites flying overhead, and kayakers paddling up the coast.

Carmel Beach webcam: Carmel ClamCam


The waves at Carmel Beach attract surfers from around the area. Those looking for easier waves usually head to the south end of the beach around 13th Avenue, but staying away from the point. More experienced surfers like the waves at the north end of the beach. Conditions at Carmel Beach can change rapidly. As with most beaches, winter waves are bigger and summer waves a little more forgiving.

Every June the Sunshine Freestyle Surfabout is held at Carmel Beach. The two-day competition includes a variety of water sport categories from bodyboarding and skimboarding to surfing and longboarding. The Surfabout is held in early June. The event is sponsored by Sunshine Freestyle, a long standing and popular surf shop at 443 Lighthouse Ave. in Monterey.

Skimboarders have the best time when the tide is out a plenty of beach is exposed.

Sand Castle Contest

Every year the American Institute of Architects-Monterey Bay Chapter and the City of Carmel-by-the-Sea have co-sponsored a sand castle contest on Carmel Beach in September. The family-oriented event is free to anyone who wants to participate. Registration is on the beach and judging begins at noon. The 2012 theme was Bohemians & Beatniks, although entries do not have to follow the theme. Dates for the contest are not announced until soon before the event.

Carmel River State Beach

Visitors to the state beach enjoy hiking the Beach Trail or scanning the wetlands with binoculars. A bird sanctuary there offers great birding. Despite its inviting appearance, dangerous surf makes Carmel River State Beach a better place for a stroll than a swim. A steep drop off and strong currents are especially hazardous. Experienced surfers familiar with the currents, however, can be seen nearly every day lined up for waves.

Carmel River State Beach, CA

Carmel River State Beach

Carmel River Beach Trail

The trail begins at the north end of Carmel River State Beach and follows the shoreline south to Monastery Beach. During the summer and fall a sandy berm blocks the diminished flow of the Carmel River, providing an easy pathway south. In winter and spring months, the trail is best approached from the south since the rushing flow of the river cuts off the trail.

Hikers can walk the beach or use the service road/trail slightly inland from the beach. On a low bluff near the lagoon is a cross that was erected by the Mission San Carlos in 1944. It is similar to the original cross erected by the Portola expedition in 1769.

Carmel River State Beach Natural Preserve, CA

Carmel River Lagoon and Wetlands

Birding at Carmel River State Beach

Bird watchers will have plenty of sightings around the Carmel River Lagoon and Wetlands Natural Reserve where over 300 species of birds have been recorded. Waterfowl are found in abundance here, including coots and mallards. Gulls, terns and brown pelicans are common. Sightings of grebes, cormorants, sandpipers, and plovers have been made around the lagoon. Egrets and herons are often sighted among the reeds. Overhead watch for red-tailed hawks.

Nearby Activities and Events

Run in the Name of Love

The 3rd Annual Father's Day Run in the Name of Love will be held on June 17, 2018. The race features a 5K run and a 2k walk. Racers and runners start at Carmel's Sunset Center at the corner of San Carlos St. and 9th Ave. The event concludes along Scenic Road at Carmel Beach.
Run in the Name of Love

Carmel Art Festival

May 19-21, 2017
Devendorf Park & Mission St.
Juried art show, silent auction
Sculpture-in-the-Park with live music and Kids Art Day
Carmel Art Festival

Big Sur International Marathon

April 30, 2017
26135 Carmel Rancho Blvd.
Carmel, CA
The course extends from Big Sur to Carmel.
Big Sur Marathon Events

Carmel-by-the-Sea Concours on the Avenue

August 15, 2017
Ocean Avenue, Carmel, CA
10:00 AM - 5:00 PM
Over 175 legendary vehicles on display from luxury cars to muscle cars, hot rods to sporting cars
Concours on the Avenue

Garland Ranch Regional Park

700 W. Carmel Valley Rd.
Hiking, photography, horseback riding, jogging, walking, bird watching, and limited mountain biking.
Garland Ranch Regional Park

Books of Local Interest

Ocean Safety

California State Parks and Recreation cautions that "large surf, cold water temperatures, backwash, sudden drop-offs, pounding shorebreak, and dangerous rip currents can turn what seem like safe activities such as playing near the surf line, wading, or climbing on rock outcroppings, deadly." Learn more about ocean safety at
CA State Parks: Ocean Safety

California's Best Beaches

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