Carmel Mission Inn: New and improved,
and it's all about the kids
By Kathy Chin Leong
It is one of the coolest innovations in the industry where aging motels become swanky lodges, stripping away the icky motel memories of my childhood. Gone are the little paper strips across the toilet bowls that read “Sanitized for your Safety.” Now in the 21st century, these miraculous makeover motels are destinations in themselves. Thanks to a team of architects and interior designer and landscape fairy godmothers, Carmel Mission Inn has been transformed from blah to beautiful. Since April of 2022 the165-room showstopper boasts welcoming patio spaces, fire bowls, a revamped swimming pool and hot whirlpool, and a cozy lobby living room with board and card games you can borrow.
Much thought has been put into the outdoor living space. You’ll find decorative couch groupings, square tables for working, eating, or reading, fire tables, and beanbag games also known as "Corn Hole." Fresh flowers and plantings line the premises, so a tropical garden ambiance pervades.
Life-sized ceramic cows anchor the patio and the pool area. Why? As the story goes, the first owners more than 50 years ago simply liked cows. When the new investors took over, they hired a local artist to paint flowers and designs on the two hotel mascots. The hotel’s main attraction is the beautifully decorated heated pool and hot tub area with plenty of outdoor lounges. Oh yes, and there's the ecology factor as purified filtered water stations appear throughout the property.
Turquoise cushions with pops of orange pillows and snow-white lounge chairs are stylish and complement the scene amid lush foliage. There’s a Palm Springs/Hawaii vibe here, and no one would ever guess that there are two shopping centers across the street.
Of the variety of rooms available, on this staycation with my 82-year-old mother, I opted for the ADA unit, which features first level access so she would not have to walk far, go up a flight of stairs, or tackle the elevator. The room had more ADA features to suit her than I expected.
The ADA closet features a hanger bar at only about three or four feet high so folks in wheelchairs will have no problem reaching for a hanger. In the shower is a fold down seat, hand grips, a handheld shower wand, and low water temperature controls. The restroom footprint is extra deep and wide compared to regular guestrooms, so mom did not have to worry that it was too cramped for her to move around. What I find impressive is that no design elements are sacrificed because it is an ADA room.
Touches such as the black and white artwork, white bedding, and hardwood floors all coordinate well and is consistant from room to room. Ours featured an attractive gray plaid window seat, large enough for a third guest (preferably a child). I love the fact there is a mini-fridge hidden under the worktable.
Given the remodel, rooms are up to date with technology. A large screen flat screen TV is what I have come to expect these days, and this one with an abundance of cable channels did not disappoint.
The lights on the side tables as well as the clock radio come with outlets and plugs for phones and chargers.Comfortable room amenities include a laptop tray with a wrist rest which is absolutely useful as many of us carry our computers with us when we travel. Another is the remote control shade which is a surprising touch.
And in-room coffee maker with teas and coffees can be a game changer if you wake up grumpy without coffee in the morning. Extra blanket and pillows is another bonus that we took advantage of. A few of the bottom floor units have their own private patio with artificial turf and furnishings. Nab one of these if you have the chance!
The hotel features a new restaurant called Sweetwater Tavern. The knockout design is commendable with its handsome black and white tile floors, banquet seating, and wood tables and cushioned chairs. Clear globe chandeliers, open wood beam ceilings, and views of the pool provide a cheerful ambiance.And the real test is the quality of the food. The California cuisine-styled restaurant is open for breakfast, happy hour, and dinner.
Prices for breakfast are more than fair, about $11 to $18. If your faves include avocado toast or pancakes and fruit, then this place is for you.
Found off the freeway, away from European-styled, Carmel-by-the-Sea shopping district, the inn sits behind a Chevron gas station and can be easy to miss. The place is convenient to everything you need. So in case your child gets a fever or your baby has run out of diapers, you will find Safeway right across the street. Also across the street is the Barnyard multi-level garden plaza that is festooned with art galleries, boutiques, and restaurants. And next to that is Crossroads Carmel, a larger shopping enclave with wine rooms, a classic stationary store, home decor boutiques, and more.
Bottom line? The inn is perfect for a multi-generational stay. You’ve got the back-of-the-house swimming pool and many areas for relaxing and enjoying the little ones. For moms and dads, the Shearwater Tavern features an excellent happy hour menu and periodically invites vintners to wax poetic about their wines. In the front of the hotel, you’ve got an irresistible patio with corn-hole games and fire pits for intimate conversation.
It ideal for families or groups of friends as the property features adjoining rooms. The ADA-compliant spaces are well thought out for those who need that extra support. As a result of this renovation, the Carmel Mission Inn has truly accomplished its mission and has done it well.
Carmel Mission Inn
3665 Rio Rd.