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Alila Ventana Big Sur

Ventana Big Sur sits in the heart of Big Sur, just off the cliffside Highway 1. The inn’s low cedar structures, connected by beautifully landscaped pathways, blend into the surrounding acres of meadows and woodlands. As with Big Sur itself, scenery takes center stage here and guests of the resort, which sits over 1,000 feet above the ocean, are constantly drawn outdoors by the views.

An iconic hideaway for the Hollywood set since the 1970s, Ventana completed a multi-million dollar renovation in 2017 that transformed its 59 rooms and suites with modern furnishings. The redesign is both luxurious and refined, incorporating natural elements at every opportunity. The accommodations are spacious and sophisticated, offering high ceilings, fireplaces (in most rooms) and warm textures and earth tones. For more intrepid travelers, Ventana Big Sur offers a glamping experience in the Redwoods, where they have 15 platform tents with daily housekeeping service and run activities like garden tours, meditation and tai chi classes, wine and cheese hour and more.

Amenity-wise, Ventana now has an array of inviting public spaces such as the Library & Music Room, Game Room and Bar Room, each of which fosters a cozy-chic vibe. The hotel also has an Alila spa with two pools and Japanese-style (clothing optional) hot baths. Just in case the abundant opportunities for hiking, mountain biking, swimming and outdoor pursuits aren't enough, the property provides a gorgeous fitness facility as well.

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Spa Lobby at Bernardus Lodge & Spa, Carmel & Monterey, California

Bernardus Lodge & Spa

Tucked into the rolling hills of Carmel Valley, Bernardus Lodge & Spa is situated just minutes from the area’s attractions, but feels a world away. Twenty-eight acres of lavender fields, orchards and vineyards provide a pastoral backdrop to the elevated ranch-style main lodge and rooms. The lodge, which originally opened in 1999, was fully renovated and reopened in 2015 with a sleeker aesthetic and a gorgeous new spa.

The 57 guestrooms and suites are warm and inviting, featuring fireplaces, French oak floors, eclectic furnishings and lavish king-sized featherbeds. The bathrooms are fitted with deep soaking tubs and heated marble floors. Off of each room sits a spacious private patio or balcony, most of which face the croquet lawn and bocce court. The patios are not designed for privacy, but rather inspire guests to get to know each other (to assist in this socializing effort, all rooms are stocked with complimentary Bernardus wines). Those who enjoy more active pursuits will appreciate the property’s two tennis courts, the lap-length pool overlooking the mountains and fitness center.

The fabulous restaurant, Lucia, which is worth a visit even for those not staying on property, offers an acclaimed, vegetable-driven menu featuring ingredients from the onsite organic gardens. The terrace is a lovely setting for lunch or dinner, and occasionally features live music.

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Lounge at Carmel Valley Ranch, Carmel & Monterey, California

Carmel Valley Ranch

The 500-acre resort, nestled in the Santa Lucia mountains, lies two hours south of San Francisco (in its former incarnation, it was a golf and tennis resort). Today the family property has ancient oaks, fields of lavender, a vineyard, an organic kitchen garden, a great spa, multiple pools, an 18-hole Pete Dye-designed golf course and a sports center with a 25-meter pool, basketball and bocce courts and fitness and tennis centers. And while the wooden swings that dangle from ancient tree branches may evoke traditional family resorts, progressive thinking has given a modern twist to the offerings. (The gift shop sells the wooden swings that you see around the property. If you don’t see them for sale, ask to be put on the wait-list.)

Being an hour south of Silicon Valley and two from San Francisco, the property offers some cutting-edge programming and draws lots of tech geniuses looking to recharge. You can spend a day full of learning disguised as pure amusement. From honey-harvesting with the bee-keeper to attending one of Carmel’s cultural events, the activities range from the quirky to the cerebral with lots of outdoor options in between. (Among my favorite activities on a visit: honey harvesting, hiking, the Monterey Bay Aquarium and an amazing massage at the spa.)

But as action-packed as your time can be at the Ranch-part of its magic is how the place inspires you to enjoy simplicity. The swings that hang from ancient tree branches are impossible to resist as is making s’mores around the fire pit. The Lodge building itself, where sun floods through skylights and fires crackle in stone fireplaces, feels more like a home than a hotel, despite its size. It’s anti-fancy but inviting. In the main dining room the menu focuses on fresh local ingredients. Salads come straight from the Ranch organic garden; grilled artichokes from nearby Castroville; and sea bass and scallops from the fishing boats in Monterey.

In keeping with the rest of the resort, the guest rooms, like the menu, feature the right balance of California nature and sophistication. Each room feels like a cabin tucked into the woods with the comforts of a great hotel room, including a fireplace that flares at the flick of a switch and flat-screen TVs but with the laid-back vibe of summer camp with wood floors, stone fireplaces and broad porches off of the bedrooms. The bathrooms are spacious but not glitzy and the living areas not over-decorated but cosseting.

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Casa Palmero

The boutique hotel Casa Palmero at Pebble Beach Resort in Big Sur, California is housed in a lovely Spanish style former estate nestled between the first hole of the legendary course and the resort’s spa.

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Glamping at Ventana

Luxury camping, as produced by the Ventana Big Sur glamping site, offers the most comfortable way to sleep amidst the California wilderness.
 Post Ranch Inn, Big Sur, California

Post Ranch Inn

A magical hotel is suspended over the Pacific, Post Ranch Inn is bathed in light and mist and rocked to the sound of waves, bees and whales. Those seeking extreme peace and quiet will leave with refreshed souls and reinvigorated bodies.

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The Lodge at Pebble Beach

Pebble Beach is a famed resort located adjacent to the best public golf course in America is set on a bluff in Monterey. Read Indagare's review.

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