Carmel’s landscape is divided into two distinct parts. The adorable village of Carmel-by-the-Sea perches on the cliffs above the Pacific, surrounded to the north and the south by golf courses and beach parks. Carmel-by-the-Sea boasts the highest number of art galleries per capita in the United States.
When most Californians talk about Carmel, they mean Carmel-by-the-Sea. The streets are perfect for strolling, and if ever there was a town that feels comfortable and safe for a woman traveling alone, it’s Carmel.
Inland, the far less-traveled Carmel Valley has its share of huge estates owned by some of the wealthiest folks in the state. The narrow valley, surrounded by verdant hillsides, has recently discovered its footing as a niche wine region . Visitors can also play a few holes at the inevitable golf courses  and check out the tiny hamlets that line the lone main road through the valley.
Both Carmel by-the-Sea and Carmel Valley residents love dogs. Your pooch is welcome at many establishments, and a number of stores and restaurants offer doggie treats and keep fresh water outside for the canine set.
You’ll find the Carmel Visitors Center (San Carlos betw. 5th and 6th, 831/624-2522, www.carmelcalifornia.org , daily 10 a.m.–5 p.m.) right in the midst of downtown Carmel-by-the-Sea.
If you’ve made it to Monterey  by car, getting to Carmel is a piece of cake. The quick and free way to get to Carmel from the north or the south is via Highway 1. From Highway 1, take Ocean Avenue into the middle of downtown Carmel. A more expensive but more beautiful route is the 17-Mile Drive .
To get to the Carmel Valley, take Highway 1 to Carmel Valley Road, which is a major intersection with a stop light. Signs point the way to Carmel Valley.
As you read the addresses in Carmel-by-the-Sea and begin to explore the neighborhoods, you’ll realize something interesting. There are no street addresses. (Some years ago Carmel residents voted not to enact door-to-door mail delivery, thus there is no need for numeric addresses on buildings.) So you’ll need to pay close attention to the street names and the block you’re on.
Just to make things even more fun, street signs can be difficult to see in the mature foliage and a dearth of streetlights can make them nearly impossible to find at night. If you can, show up during the day to get the lay of the land before trying to navigate after dark.