Carmel River State Beach, as the crow flies, is only a third of a mile south of the southern end of Carmel Beach. By taking Scenic Road, beach-goers at Carmel need only drive about a mile to arrive at the state beach. Note that Scenic Road is one-way heading south.
There is a small parking lot with restrooms at Carmel River State Beach. The park includes a long sandy beach and a wetland area along the Carmel River. Less than a mile inland is Mission San Carlos.
Carmel Beach is a favorite of locals and tourists alike. Visitors enjoy picnicking on the sand, strolling along the shore, and playing in the surf. It's one of the few beaches in the area that permits dogs to romp freely and allows beach-goers to build fires on the sand up until 10:00 PM.
The beach is located in Carmel Cove, protected from the north by the Monterey Peninsula and the south by Point Lobos. The beach slopes off more gradually than neighboring beaches, making it a good place for enjoying the water, but beach-goers should be alert for rip currents and sudden drop-offs.
The town of Carmel-by-the-Sea is immediately east of the beach, making it easy for visitors to stroll into the business district to buy a meal or pick up beach supplies. Parking in much of Carmel is free, but there are hourly limits in some areas. Parking along Scenic Drive, a one-way road going south and paralleling the beach, is free until midnight.
Campfires are allowed on Carmel Beach south of 10th Avenue. Fires must be limited to a size no greater than 3 feet (diameter and height). They must be set at least 25 feet away from the slopes. No wood with nails or sharp objects and no trash should be burned. Fires must be extinguished by 10:00 PM. Extinguish fires with water - not sand - and leave the ashes/coals exposed so pedestrians will not accidentally step on them.
Dogs are allowed off-leash on Carmel Beach, a rarity around the Monterey Peninsula. Even though off-leash, dogs must be under the voice control of their owners. Bags for collecting dog poop are strategically located near the beach and owners, for the most part, are good about picking up after their pets. Even for non-dog-owners, the canine visitors at Carmel Beach provide joyful entertainment as they frolic along the surf line and romp with one another on the sand.
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