At a Glance
The 500-acre property, in the Santa Lucia mountains two hours south of San Francisco, is a family-friendly retreat with lots of activities.
- The terrific gift shop, which has a fantastic selection of organic beauty products
- The long list of activities, from the quirky to the cerebral with lots of outdoor options
- A treatment at the excellent spa
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.
Use the Ranch as a base camp to indulge in hiking, biking, kayaking, beach-going, wine tasting, the best produce in America, the best golf in the world, Monterey Aquarium, Bach Festival Concourse d’ Elegance and more.
Who Should Stay
The Ranch is great for sporty types who want golf and tennis facilities and families.
Written by Melissa Biggs Bradley