Carmel is the northern gateway to the Big Sur coast.  While there are no exact boundaries, many consider the Big Sur coast to run 89 miles south to Hearst Castle at San Simeon.  Big Sur may be the most dramatic meeting of sea and shore in all the world.  The 72 miles of Highway 1 south of Carmel have been designated as a National Scenic Byway and are likely to be choked with sightseers during the summer months.  For good reason.  The mountains of the Saint Lucia range plunge precipitously into the sea, as the narrow ribbon of undulating asphalt gracefully embraces its hillsides.  Dramatic off shore rocks froth the foamy waters of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, the largest marine sanctuary in the U.S., and 2nd largest in the world. 

This area also houses several spiritual centers:  a non-speaking Benedictine monastery (yes, you can stay there); the Esalen Institute; and Tassajara Zen Center.

Super-luxury accomodations can be found at the Post Ranch Inn and Ventana.

http://www.postranchinn.com/

http://www.ventanainn.com/

For more lodging possibilities in Big Sur, visit the Big Sur Chamber of Commerce.

http://www.bigsurcalifornia.org/