With cottage-style buildings, glowing seaside sunsets and art galleries galore, Carmel-by-the-Sea is a town straight out of a beachy dream. While it’s not the place to go if you want a vibrant nightlife, it has plenty to offer groups looking rest and relaxation.
Settle in the northwest part of town at the Tradewinds Carmel, a small boutique property with plenty of character. A California beach town doesn’t sound like the place for an Asian-inspired hotel, but us SoCal girls soaked up the zen.
Finding Your Zen
East meets west flawlessly within the Tradewinds. From the moment you set foot on the property, it feels more like a spa than a hotel. In the lobby, we were greeted by a purring black cat and a woman with a friendly smile.
The bellhop (the one thing that looked a little out of place in the relaxed atmosphere) led us up the stairs to our room, where we were met with the sound of trickling water. Just inside the door, a small stream of water slipped out of a bamboo shoot into a bowl filled with smooth rocks. It was clear right away: we had found the perfect place to unwind.
The hotel’s custom-designed furniture, straight from Bali and China, was beautiful, made from dark wood, but the real appeal in the aesthetic was the décor. Sketches of elephants and Eastern temples graced the walls alongside a hanging scroll featuring a bamboo-leaf design.
A glass-covered fireplace and live orchids added a little something extra, as did the pretzels and chocolate covered strawberries sitting by the sliding door. We opened it up and stepped out onto the patio, only to be surrounded by greenery—a rare treat on most California coasts—and bamboo-shoot paneling.
Before dinner that night, we returned to the patio, red patterned robes on and glasses of wine in hand, to sit in the teak wooden chairs and enjoy the ocean view. The hotel lies about a mile from the beach, but the sunset—overlooking the sloping streets—was filled with color.
Outside, the property maintains its Zen atmosphere, with sweeping ferns, mini waterfalls and tropical plants all around. Although there are a few different buildings to house the rooms, they’re close together with a nature-filled courtyard in the middle—if you’re on the property, you’re bound to feel isolated from the rest of the world and at peace no matter where you venture.
The variety of flora is astounding. Many of the plants I’d never seen before—granted, I’ve never been east of Europe. From fuchsia-tipped flower buds to plants with purple and red leaves, the inner section of the Tradewinds is a flowering Eden.
Chairs are placed throughout and a fireplace warms the area at night, but the best spot to relax outdoors is near the fountain. Hidden back behind a pathway covered by a wooden structure, you’ll find a Buddhist statue atop a three-tiered fountain.
While the property was stunning and definitely provided space to relax, we did wish for a pool or a hot tub—which the hotel lacks—to lounge by during the day.
A Special Touch
The décor and atmosphere were expertly perfected, but the hotel provided one extra special touch that you won’t likely find elsewhere.
A notecard in the room told the story of the “Temple Bamboo,” the bamboo that surrounds temples in Asia—as well as the fountain downstairs. An old tradition, the card said, is to rip off a piece of the papyrus sheath surrounding the bamboo, write a wish on it and offer it to the gods.
The Tradewinds put their own spin on the tradition, providing a piece of dried papyrus in each room for guests to write their own wish on. The card invites them to then drop it into the fountain within the meditation garden, ending with the words “May your stay at the Tradewinds sooth your soul.”
Our wish may or may not have come true, but sooth our soul, a trip to Carmel—and more specifically, the Tradewinds—did.