5 miles S of Monterey; 121 miles S of San Francisco; 33 miles N of Big Sur

Carmel began as a seaside artists' colony that attracted luminaries such as Sinclair Lewis, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Ansel Adams. Residents resisted assigned street numbers and lighting and carried lanterns, which they considered more romantic. The town is still intimate enough that addresses remain unnumbered -- Carmel's inns, restaurants, boutiques, and galleries identify their locations by cross streets -- but that ragtag bohemian village is a thing of yesteryear. Carmel is now a tourist hot spot, weekend traffic can be intolerable, and lodging rates are grossly inflated. But thousands of annual visitors are taken nonetheless with its eclectic dwellings, quaint cafes, majestic cypresses, and silky white beaches.