Carmel by the Sea, just south of Monterey and Pacific Grove, California, is a quiet, bucolic city on the shores. Without streetlights and street numbers, it’s a unique place with narrow streets, parks tucked into odd places and full of people who appreciate the small-town feel. Residents mix with tourists in upscale boutiques, souvenir shops and restaurants. Then there are the wineries. With most accommodations including pools, where else will you get the travel opportunity to park your car, have full vacation of events and fun, and not have to touch it again until you leave?
This was a media trip, so our stay at Hofsas House, and many of the places we visited on our trip, were complimentary to us as part of this review. The opinions, stories and photos are our own.
When we arrived in Carmel by the Sea, we were unfamiliar with the terrain. We drove slowly into town, remarking on how cute it was and how we felt we had turned a corner and landed in a new world. A few minutes later and we were at our destination, Hofsas House, a 38-room Bavarian-inspired hotel that was started in the late 1940s by Donna Hofsas and family.
Hofsas House started with only four of the cottages/rooms it now includes, and it grew throughout the years as management passed down through the family. The current General Manager/Owner is Donna’s granddaughter, Carrie Theis, a sweet woman with an obvious interest in the comfort of her guests and continuing the family focus of the hotel while keeping it all within the needs and feel of the city of Carmel by the Sea.
After parking in the main lot, easily accessible to the office, we quickly registered and went to our room. Not knowing what to expect, we opened the door to our spacious room, complete with dining nook, large bathroom and dressing area, and brick fireplace and were immediately comfortable.
This was the start of a four-day trip and we had a good amount of luggage; I did have several pairs of shoes, outfits for day and night and everything in between packed, so it took a few minutes to get it stowed in the ample space. We opened the sliding doors to our private balcony, enjoying the ocean view and clean air. Other than the squawks of seagulls, the only noise we heard was the enjoyable laughter from kids playing in the pool, directly visible below our balcony. Peace!
Hofsas House graciously stocked our room with a plate of gourmet cheeses paired with a bottle of Chardonnay. No plastic cups here, we found wine glasses engraved with the Hofsas House seal, poured the wine, and sat on the balcony to soak it all in. We had a flexible schedule for Sunday, but our Saturday night was our own. We were excited to find a we’d been provided a Wine Walk passport, a set of tickets that allow us 9 complimentary tastings at the various wineries around Carmel by the Sea. We eventually pulled ourselves out of the comfy chairs on the balcony, freshened up and headed out to explore. It wasn’t long before we located the first of the wineries we’d chosen to visit from the map in the Wine Walk package. De Tierra isn’t far from Hofsas House, located on xx, and had a casual vibe that called to us after a long day in the car.
With shutters opened onto the street and no glass or screen to obstruct the views, we chose a table by the window and sat down to experience the wines. I was inspired by the table, thinking that I just might have enough corks soon to do the same on my own back patio!
By the time we finished our tastings, we were hungry. Without knowing the city well, and without the time to wander and choose, we headed for Casanova’s, recommended by the hostess at De Tierra. I wish we could go back and thank her, as Casanova’s was amazing! It’s an old style authentic Italian restaurant just around the corner from both the winery and Hofsas House. It reminded me a bit of an old movie where people discreetly met in the back to discuss activities that may or may not have been legit, and I was hooked. They seated us in the back, in a perfect people-watching location and where we could see the entire restaurant. It’s on the small side but don’t let that deter you. The food was delicious, flavorful and as close to old world Italian as you’re going to get. Not only were our meals fantastic, but the choice of wine matched perfectly. And then there was the tiramisu, a favorite of ours. This one rocked it with consistency and flavor and I could have eaten twice as much…had I not cleaned my cioppino plate thoroughly.
I even got my photo with the chef and our hosts. Due to the lighting, and not wanting to interrupt other diners with any flash, the coloring is off but I think you get a pretty good feel for the ambiance.
Then it was time to head to the beach. Keep in mind, there are no street lights in Carmel by the Sea, so you need to know where you’re going and keep a cellphone on you for a flashlight in a pinch. Up to bed, which was an amazing night’s sleep with the soft but firm mattress and feather pillows.
We had the opportunity to speak with Carrie Theis (GM/owner) in-depth on Saturday morning, sitting in the cozy office with others from the press/media.
What a joy she is to speak with! Her love for her business shows in all that she does and it translates into a sense of hospitality not found in a lot of other hotels. Then we spent the day exploring pathways and hidden walkways, gardens and taking photos with surprising shocks of color by way of trees, bushes and flowers. We ate lunch at a table on the corner of a small intersection, food we’d gotten via a gift certificate from Carrie for the 5th Street Deli. Customized sandwiches, homemade salads and chips and we were set to go back to the wine walk. The Vino Napoli Winery was a favorite, and its restaurant, Chef Pepe, will be featured on Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives on August 1. We’ll be watching! (Their pinot. Yum.)
Dinner that evening was courtesy of Hofsas House as well, a lovely meal overlooking the bay at The Beach House in Pacific Grove.
A lively restaurant right on the coast, we watched people swimming while the colors in the sky changed as the sun set. We finished our meal just in time to sea the sun officially set over the water from Lover’s Point and 17-mile drive. What a treat to see the sun in a way we don’t at home!
Before we left on Monday morning, we took a tour of the many styles of rooms available at Hofsas House, including the conference center with fireplace, kitchen, restrooms and sauna. Accommodations include a continental breakfast of fresh fruit or cheese pastries, yogurts and fruit and delicious carafes of coffee to take back to the room. Parking is free and readily available all over the site so you’re always close to your room, and the rooms all include a mini-refrigerator to keep your wine chilled while you’re out touring the town. Hofsas House has all the little details covered, including the fantastic soaps and hygiene items.
Hofsas House really appears to keep all your needs in mind, even if you don’t know you need them! Massages, picnic baskets, champagne and treats — whatever it is, they have a package available to complete your retreat perfectly. Free wi-fi is available should you need to touch base with the outside world, but I never used mine. No need to break out of the comfort zone until I had to!
As you wander the grounds, you’ll see unique touches of Bavaria, including the mural out front.
It was painted in 1957 to enhance the Bavarian theme and definitely sets the hotel apart from the rest. (The artist also painted a headboard in Room 47.) The rooms all have the two-part Dutch doors, which allow you to block the entrance to your room but enjoy a breeze and the sounds of Carmel by the Sea. The rooms are all non-smoking and decorated differently than the rest; no chain feel at Hofsas House.
And you can’t have a hotel review without a gratuitous shot of the bathroom with the photographer in the mirror!
Next time you’re planning a trip up the coast, keep Hofsas House in mind. Casanovas, De Tierra, Napoli, The Beach House and the Wine Walk are other recommendations that I wholeheartedly stand behind.
Part 3, the final part of our trip up the coast, to come in a few days! Thank you for reading about our latest travel escapades!