I sit in the center of a circle of towering ancient redwood trees and write in my journal. It’s shady and damp. There’s a gossamer fog clinging to the eucalyptus-scented air like a shimmering gown, and the silence in this quietude actually buzzes. Though just steps down a trail from my rustically swank room and the rest of the 160-acre resort’s many activity nooks, I feel pleasantly alone. It’s just me and a fox in the forest. In my journal, I write words with the most wonderful pen — it has been crafted from a fallen tree branch and connects me further to this outstanding nature. That pen somehow symbolizes the majesty of this profound hotel, located just off iconic Highway 1, which was founded by film executive Larry Spector (of “Easy Rider” fame) in the 1970s as a seeker’s getaway for his friends. Today, the hotel, managed by Hyatt, retains that hippie vibe, relishing its mission to bring guests enlightenment. Redefining luxury, its opulence stems from its profusion of unseen, upscale, inclusive amenities, from gastronomic fare to discovery activities, including yoga, guided hikes and meditation. As intimate as a summer camp with just 59 commodious suites, it encourages guests to delve into Big Sur’s famous, untarnished terrain, a sweep of jagged seaside cliffs, redwood forests and hilly hideaways.
The unique lodging is among the draws to Alila Ventana Big Sur in Big Sur, California. Contributed by Alila Ventana Big Sur
What we love:
- The weathered cedar cabin-like rooms, their leather furnishings, fireplaces and characteristic amenities, including those rough-hewn pens, walking sticks, and leather desk mats engraved with quotes by writers, poets and philosophers.
- The two pools, one of which is clothing optional. Also, the onsen soaking tub chamber, a zen space for watery contemplation.
- The food. Have as much as you want. It’s healthy, regional, creative and uber gastronomic. Think squash Frittata (with roasted and pickled squash, garden greens and cider mustard vinaigrette) for breakfast.
- The activities. From hiking tours in search of the mighty condor to vintage car driving jaunts on Highway 1 to all-day biking adventures, the hotel offers something for every sort of traveler. Sign up for some inner adventures as well, such as meditation, astrology readings, watercolor classes and journaling.
- The Spa, which combines Eastern and Western Techniques. Enjoy a couples massage in the poolside glamping tents, complete with a copper bath tub and views to the forest.
- Further paying homage to its nature-ensconced site, this eco-friendly hotel has thoughtful green initiatives including organic gardens and complimentary water bottles to be filled at stations located throughout the property.
Need to know:
- This is an adults-only hotel. But, while romantic, it does not over do the couple-y vibe.
- Dogs are beloved here.
- Alcohol is not included.
- Though one of the United States’ priciest hotels, the resort property, like most in Big Sur, also holds camping sites and glamping tents in an adjunct, separate part of the resort. Due to COVID protocols, camping guests are not allowed into the hotel portion of Ventana Big Sur and not allowed to enjoy its amenities.
- Big Sur itself is a 90 mile stretch of sea-cliff-edged terrain. Highway 1 wriggles through it, about leading to Los Angeles to the south and San Francisco to the north.
Room to book:
- Each room is unique. I chose the Big Sur Villa, a bi-level chamber with a fireplace on each floor and multiple terraces.
- Be sure to have a spa treatment in the gorgeous tented suites near the swimming pool. An open wall faces the forest and enhances your experience. Save time each day to meditate amid the Circle of Life, where a group of ancient redwood trees enclose a round, natural sanctum.