A Winter Visit to Hofsas House Hotel & Carmel-by-the-Sea

All I ever heard before I had a child was that it’s the best to re-discover the world through their eyes. Little did I realize how true this would be when we headed back to the Hofsas House Hotel in Carmel-by-the-Sea. Mike and I began going to the Hofsas House when we’d only been dating a few months. Fun fact? They were my very first media stay on behalf of Along Comes Mary. Fast forward and we’ve since visited numerous times. Even with the dogs! We were anxious for Mabel to see one of our favorite places and we think it was a success.

Hitting the Road

Road trips with Mabel are getting inherently easier. We’re past the bottle feedings so there’s no reason to stop unless she fusses or we need a diaper change. We’re fortunate she’s good in the car and is usually asleep.

We made a quick pit stop in Buellton as we headed up Highway 101 and decided on lunch in San Luis Obispo. Y’all know how much I love Big Sky Cafe so I had to convert some new foodies. Although pasta and marinara sauce wasn’t the best choice for a messy Mabel, I devoured my gluten-free grilled cheese. Big Sky hasn’t changed much since my last visit and continues to be a vibrant atmosphere to enjoy a terrific farm-to-kitchen meal.

Arriving at Hofsas House Hotel

We ended up getting to town late (well, when you’re a toddler) so we decided to stay in. Since we’ve stayed in room 36 a few times, it truly felt like we were coming “home.” The Hofsas make our dogs feel so welcome that I knew Mabel would have the same experience. Our suite had a fireplace, a private patio with an ocean view, wine and cheese awaiting us, and a Pack ‘n Play with blankets. Ideal for a sleepy Mabel.

I’ll admit, it’s been a bit hit and miss with getting Mabel down for the night at hotels. We’ve survived, but there’s usually a lot of tears and confusion on where her usual room is. The suite had an ample-sized vanity room that I moved the Pack ‘n Play to. She had much more privacy and we could easily keep it dark for her. Easy bedtime meant mom and dad could kick back by the fireplace with some local wine and cheese.

The Hofsas House Hotel. (c) Mary Farah
View from our patio. (c) Mary Farah
Continental breakfast. (c) Mary Farah

A Morning by the Sea

We slept like babies and enjoyed our morning Hofsas “ritual.” Grabbing some breakfast and snacks in the lobby. Their continental breakfast includes pastries, yogurt, fruit, tea, and Carmel Valley Roasting coffee. I always love my time on the porch as I sip tea and snuggle with one of the dogs. This trip was no exception and I loved snuggling with Mabel and pointing out the ocean to her. The fruit and yogurt were great to pack for our hike at Point Lobos State Natural Reserve.

The gorgeous Point Lobos sits along Highway 1. Many trails wind hikers through the redwoods before ending at the ocean. The views and hikes are stunning. We planned to begin at the entrance’s end to see the trees and take in some ocean air. While parking spaces are throughout the park, they’re all located on the coastal end. This made it difficult to take the trail as planned. It’s $10 for a day parking pass but we have a new plan for next time. Parking along the highway was doable right at their nine AM opening. It’s a small walk from the street into the reserve. Not only is it free, but we feel that’s the better starting point for one of the beautiful hikes.

Instead, we ended up starting at the ocean and hiked through a few trails including the Cypress Grove trail. We covered around three miles and lucked out with glorious weather. I can’t wait to explore more of Point Lobos next time.

Stunning views from Point Lobos. (c) Mary Farah
Cypress Grove Trail. (c) Mary Farah
Views from the beach (and a rainbow). (c) Mary Farah

An Afternoon by the Sea

As we piled back into the car we knew it was time for some food and the beach. For the first time, we packed a fold-up tent to enjoy on the sand. We grabbed takeout from one of our favorites, 5th Avenue Deli, and checked out Cafe Carmel for the first time. The deli offers visitors the chance to feel like a local. They have a taco bar, a large variety of grab-and-go items for breakfast and lunch, wine, and plenty of snacks. I always love their tamales and the staff is the sweetest.

Cafe Carmel is a laid-back coffee house with breakfast and lunch picks like sandwiches and baked goods. Their gluten-free and vegan brownies were delicious. An honest highlight of the trip for me and if only they were local!

We set up on Carmel River State Beach. Given it’s an off-leash dog beach, Mabel had a ball. There are a plethora of things to do around Monterey County but I must say I look forward to seeing this beach the most when we visit.

Wine Tasting in Carmel Village

We may have had a toddler in tow, but we were still excited to wine taste. Carmel is a stone’s throw from Napa Valley so of course, there’s some good vino around these parts. Minors are not allowed in bars and the like, but wine tasting rooms are acceptable. Even so, we wanted to be very respectful and one peep out of Mabel, we would leave.

We began at Dawn’s Dream. Having tasted at Dawn’s before, we found it such a welcoming environment. We had the same experience once again. Dawn’s is known for Pinot Noirs with three signature bottles named after her daughters. I could kick myself for not snapping a shot of Mabel in their famous bathtub!

Next up we headed over to Carmel Plaza and stumbled into Blair Winery. We liked that it was tucked away in the corner and the lone couple inside enjoying some glasses smiled and waved to Mabel. Since they didn’t seem to mind a babbly kid, we pulled up a chair. We instantly took to the gentleman pouring and he turned out to be one of the owners, Jeffrey Blair himself.

Blair is an engaging storyteller. He’s got a quick, dry wit and tells the wine facts how it is. We learned so much about the growing process, harvest, and even got to FaceTime with his grandson who is Mabel’s age. We joked that we can have a wine tasting room love story. Blair’s wines were our top favorites from this trip and we’re happy to have another “spot” to add to our future visits.

Jeffrey Blair. (c) Mary Farah
Throwback. Carrie Theis and me in 2014. (c) Mary Farah

Quiet Evening at the Hofsas House

After some vino, we were ready to call it a day. We decided on pizza to go from La Bicyclette and an Amy’s mac ‘n cheese from Nielsen Brothers Market for Mabel. Despite I’ve walked by it for years, I’d never been inside this cute and cozy market. Ideal for a grab-and-go especially with a kiddo in tow. Worked out great with a fridge and microwave in our room.

I thoroughly enjoyed my Champignons pizza from La Bicyclette. The mozzarella was rich and the mushrooms fresh. The crust was not bad given it was the usual thin gluten-free crust. I miss a thick crust or deep-dish pizza.

Before we settled in for the night, our landline phone rang. Were we being too noisy? Nope. Turns out it was Carrie Theis, owner of the Hofsas House, hoping to catch up. We made a beeline to the lobby and were thrilled to introduce her to Mabel. Carrie’s grandmother, Donna Hofsas, founded the hotel in the 1940s. Carrie spent many summers working at the front desk as a child and teenager with her grandma. Now as the hotelier, she is often who welcomes you upon arrival.

Sunday Morning in Carmel-by-the-Sea

After non-stop walking on Saturday we planned for minimal excursions on Sunday. I wanted to get another brownie at Cafe Carmel and window shop. Following that, we ended up on a long loop-around trek to find a park. Uphill, mind you. The park is right by the Hofsas and a great option for little ones. There’s a small playground and grass area.

Mabel’s first time in Carmel-by-the-Sea was a huge success. Book your stay with Hofsas House HERE.

(*Disclosure: A very special thanks to Hofsas House Hotel for hosting this visit for story purposes. All opinions are my own.)