Set on 240 acres in the 240,000-acre Ventana Wilderness of the Los Padres National Forest in Big Sur, California, the Ventana Inn and Spa, knows how to play to its strengths -- specifically, its spectacular position along one of the most beautiful stretches of the California coast. Tucked into the hills of Big Sur and perched 1,200 feet above the Pacific Ocean and scenic Highway 1, it’s surrounded by old-growth redwood and madrone trees, which are home to deer, turkey, foxes, and even a few cougars and mountain lions.
Despite -- or rather, in harmony with -- its beautiful natural setting, the property offers plenty of little luxuries. Each room has its own private patio or balcony with hammock built for two; some rooms also have private outdoor Jacuzzis. Inside, there are wood-burning fireplaces, deep soaking tubs, and king-sized four-poster beds. Onsite, there’s a small fitness room with daily classes, a spa, and two pools with adjoining Japanese baths (one pool is clothing optional). The onsite restaurant serves lunch, dinner, and complimentary breakfast, and there’s a library stocked with movies, books, and games. An onsite naturalist takes guests on one-hour hikes around the property, and when you can finally tear yourself away from the resort, a complimentary shuttle ferries guests within four miles of the property. We checked in and here's what we loved most:
Best Feature: The labyrinthine Japanese Baths provide a private space to soak your cares away. The steamy pool is completely enclosed by wood-paneled walls that segment the space into several cozy nooks, but it’s open to the sky above, making it the perfect place to stargaze. As an added bonus: the baths are open until 2 a.m.
The Rooms: Rooms at the Ventana Inn and Spa are spread throughout several buildings and come in various configurations. The smallest rooms are 414 square feet, while the largest -- the Cottage House -- is 722 square feet and has a dining alcove, wet bar, and a 600-square foot deck with a private hot tub. All rooms have king beds, sitting areas, soaking tubs, fireplaces, and outdoor space. Larger rooms have oversized bathrooms with double vanities and French doors that open to the bedrooms. The décor nods to the surroundings, with elements of wood, slate, and stone balanced out with plush fabrics like suede and cotton.
The Food: The onsite restaurant is a short walk (about 10 minutes) from the rooms along a well-marked woodland path. For those who’d rather not hoof it, the resort offers transport in the house van or in a golf cart. The complimentary breakfast buffet includes coffee, tea, juice, scrambled eggs, quiche, pastries, hard-boiled eggs, granola, fruit, yogurt, toast, bagels, and English muffins as well as made-to order entrees like omelettes and eggs Benedict for an additional cost. Lunch and dinner are also served, and there’s a full bar inside and a lovely patio bar -- particularly popular at sunset. Lunch and dinner is served a la carte; for dinner there’s also a $75, four-course tasting menu with seasonally changing items like mushroom gnocchi, seared foie gras, California halibut, and pork tenderloin.
Who Will Love It: The Ventana Inn and Spa is the kind of place you don’t want to leave -- and you really don’t have to. For those who want a laid-back, indulgent and relaxing trip to Big Sur, with just a bit of local color, the Ventana Inn is a perfect refuge. It’s easy to spend several days taking nature walks on the property, lazing by one of the pools, soaking in the Japanese baths, reading a book in a hammock or by the fire, indulging in the evening wine and cheese hour, or toasting to sunset on the expansive restaurant deck, and taking a moonlight stroll through the woods back to your room after dinner in the onsite restaurant (the hotel provides flashlights). The resort has it all covered -- and when you do want to leave, there’s always the complimentary shuttle to nearby restaurants, beaches, and hiking trails.
Who Will Not: Budget travelers. Rooms at the Ventana Inn and Spa don’t come cheap, at around $700 per night (and up, plus a $35 per night resort fee). For those who would rather spend their time exploring the beauty of Big Sur, it’s a splurge that’s likely not worth it.
Deals and Special Offers: Through June 2015, save 15 percent on stays Sunday through Thursday (blackout dates apply).
Getting There: The Ventana Inn and Spa is located on Highway 1 in Big Sur, about three hours south of San Francisco via US-101); two hours away from San Jose; and an hour south of Monterey and Carmel. From Los Angeles, it’s about five hours by car.