I have been searching for a good place for my boyfriend and I to take a vacation in late June/early July. We want to go somewhere relaxing with a beach setting, but also want to have the option to explore a new town and do more than just sit at the beach. From what I've read, Carmel seems like a pretty good mix, with beautiful beaches, local wineries, plenty of restaurants, art galleries, shopping, etc. This sounds like everything I want in a vacation, but I've also read it is a very upscale area. We haven't decided on a budget yet, but I found some hotels that are in the $100-$200 range, so I thought we would be able to make this an affordable vacation, but I am starting to wonder if we might end up spending much more than we planned to if everything is very upscale.
I'm from Texas, and have never been to California, so I was just hoping to get some opinions on whether this is a good vacation spot for us. There are quite a few other places in California that I want to visit at some point, but for now, we are just searching for somewhere that we can relax at the beach, and also experience some new things and a explore a new place with no stress. Also, if Carmel is a good vacation spot, are there places to stay or things to do that you can recommend?