Since it was first inaugurated as an artist colony on the West Coast in the 1880s, Carmel – as it's tersely known to locals – has sprouted over 100 independent picture galleries, countless writers' and painters' retreats, and all sorts of boho cafés and bistros. Jutting out on a low mesa above the sloshing Pacific Ocean, it's a fine place to escape to for a fix of culture, while Carmel-by-the-Sea bed and breakfasts have their own charms – whether that's a luxury suite overlooking the cliffs or a fairy-tale twist of vernacular architecture.

Unique character in Carmel-by-the-Sea bed and breakfasts

If you're trundling up the iconic Cabrillo Highway looking for somewhere truly unique to stay, be sure to pencil in a pit stop in Carmel-by-the-Sea. A good number of the vacation rentals here ooze intriguing design – just as you might expect from such an art-mad resort by the wild Pacific.

Alice in Wonderland vibes

Forgive the cliché but Carmel-by-the-Sea B&Bs really are lifted from a fairy tale. Tall chimney stacks, slate-topped roofs that gable steeper than a ski slope, and bulbous bay windows – these are the sorts of flurries of creative architecture that you're bound to encounter. Search for a stay in a classic Hugh Comstock cottage if you want to totally immerse yourself in all that.

Something overlooking the sloshing waves

Breakaway from the town center and viola – the craggy cliffs of the Californian shore take over instantly. It's a place where pines scramble over moss-caked boulders, gnarled cypress trees cap off headlands, and wide scythes of shimmering sand curve between promontories. You could even make that your morning view, because a few Carmel B&Bs sit perched along the dramatic coast.

Pet-friendly bed and breakfasts in Carmel-by-the-Sea

You should never worry about whether that tail-wagging family member will be accepted in the B&Bs of Carmel. This town is nothing short of fervent in its dedication to four-legged guests. In fact, there are pooch-welcoming packages in some rentals that mean they might even be pampered more than the person paying the bill.

Neighborhoods of Carmel with great B&B rentals

Will you choose the pretty downtown core, a place of gabled rooftops and towering chimneys? Will you opt for the wave-slashed coast and its pine woods? Or will it be somewhere further afield?

Be enchanted along Ocean Ave

The most characterful bed and breakfasts in Carmel-by-the-Sea coalesce along this vena cava of the downtown. This is where the independent art galleries brim with curious sculptures and moody portraits of the Big Sur. It's where you'll find the famous Comstock cottages, some of which are now guest houses with quaint and compact rooms.

Leave footprints in the sands by Carmel Beach

Carmel-by-the-Sea is blessed with a wide arc of gold-tinted sand. The district where that rolls out between two headlands is known as Carmel Beach, and there are rental options there with balconies that gaze across the frothing waves – talk about a romantic spot.

Venturing down to Carmel Valley

When the thick ocean mists drift in off the Pacific, you can set the GPS for the Carmel Valley and emerge into verdant lands of rolling farm fields and ranches. Deep in the Santa Lucia Mountains, this is the inland twin of Carmel-by-the-Sea, with bed and breakfasts that offer a rural escape to Californian peaks dotted with acclaimed wineries.

Scoring cheap B&Bs in Carmel

California's coastal art colony might not be the most budget-friendly destination in the country, but that doesn't mean trips here have to break the bank. You can cut the cost of jaunts to local B&Bs considerably, just by following the tried-and-tested recommendations below…

Everyone desires a Carmel stay in summertime

It's hardly a surprise that a bed and breakfast in Carmel, CA, typically costs a whole load more between June and August. This is the time of year that Carmel Beach shimmers the brightest and the art festivals are in full swing. For wild coastal walks, January can be a doozy. For wine tasting, fall is prime. Both are also much easier on the wallet.

Beat the crowds to it

The fairy-tale looks and sumptuous suites of romantic Carmel-by-the-Sea B&Bs means they are in demand throughout the four seasons. So, to ensure you get the pick of the deals before others tag them, it's worth booking as early as possible.