On California’s Monterey Peninsula, luxury means something a little bit different — upscale amenities and attentive service, for sure, but also a sense of serenity, relaxation and retreat. With its chiseled rocks, towering bluffs, thundering waves and quirky beach towns, the stretch of coast from Monterey through rugged Big Sur is all about nature, whether hiking through redwood groves or picnicking in an isolated cove. These 6 high-luxe getaways that will treat you to a wealth of natural beauty along with a heaping dose of pampering are our Monterey Peninsula Luxury Hotel winners for 2022, selected by our editors — look for our readers’ choice winner, selected by our audience.
Featured Photo: Carmel Valley Ranch
The sun-kissed resort is barely two decades old, but like a swath of European countryside, feels like it’s been there for centuries. More than 70 villas, suites and guest rooms echo that style but provide state-of-the-art technology and creature comforts ranging from couples’ soaking tubs to fireplaces to king-size feather beds with goose down comforters and Italian linens. Its Lucia restaurant is considered one of the best between Santa Cruz and Santa Barbara, with an emphasis on hyper-local cuisine. All told, it’s a poetic expression of Carmel Valley, with the special event and meeting space to host traditional gatherings and more playful meetings — think bocce ball or cooking classes — alike.
HIGHLIGHT: Active vineyards cultivated for cousin wine label Bernardus cover much of the area surrounding Bernardus. So do thousands of lavender bushes and a working chef’s garden. Chef Cal Stamenov ranks among the most celebrated food minds in the state. Gorgeous patio areas and lawns integrate seamlessly with the indoor-outdoor bar area. A welcoming pool and grid of tennis courts help balance the irresistible eating opportunities. Comprehensive spa services deepen the relaxation.
Carmel Valley Ranch
Want to try your hand at archery? Falconry? Beekeeping? Or maybe you just want to play a round of golf on a par-70 Pete Dye-designed course? Spread across 500 acres in the foothills of the Santa Lucia Mountains, Carmel Valley Ranch has space for it all — including three different swimming pools. The almost overwhelming activity menu also might include cooking classes, foraging hikes, or yoga in a hilltop pavilion. The extensive fitness program includes barre, circuit training and water yoga while the menu at Spa Aiyana features ten different types of massage. Among the resort’s 181 rooms are a variety of accommodation styles and levels, many featuring fireplaces, private decks or both for a true hideaway vibe.
HIGHLIGHT: The ranch became a true ranch in years years with the arrival of five horses and the introduction of “equine experiences” which involve interacting with horses as a form of relaxation and learning. Therapist Robert Magnelli, who calls himself The Horseman, developed the programs, which include the adult-oriented Growing Awareness and the family-friendly Getting to Know the Herd.
Like the nearby Lodge at Pebble Beach, this more intimate, Mediterranean-style oasis gives guests preferred access to Pebble Beach tee times and a pass to use Pebble Beach’s exclusive Beach and Tennis Club. But the vibe is more sensual, thanks to the highly lauded Spa at Pebble Beach, yoga and other wellness classes; the sunny pool where sunbathers receive spa water, sunscreen and amuse-bouches; and gas fireplaces and soaking tubs in the 24 rooms.
HIGHLIGHT: The breakfast basket delivered to your door provides a good reason to cocoon in the morning. Even if you don’t have golf plans to get you out of bed later, you’ll want to take advantage of the divine spa, pool and Lexus sedan car service waiting to take you to Carmel.
La Playa Carmel
Designed by noted landscape painter Chris Jorgenson for his wife, a member of the noted Ghirardelli family, Carmel melds the Spanish colonial style of the California missions with European old-world elegance. Growing from its 1905 origins to a sprawling complex set amidst colorful gardens, La Playa perches above Carmel’s village streets and sparkling white beach like the Grande Dame she is. Choose an ocean room to gaze out at the deep blue waters or a garden room with a sunny tiled patio. Best of all are the poolside casitas with their carved wooden fireplaces. A $3.5-million restoration completed in 2012 buffed the historic hotel to a high shine and it has continued to modernize, becoming a favorite of those seeking a romantic getaway with easy access to Carmel’s walkable downtown and its 90-plus galleries.
HIGHLIGHT: One of the best places in town to chat up a local, dark-paneled has been the hangout of choice since Jack London entertained his fellow drinkers with ribald tall tales. The lounge continues its historic tradition of “dime time,” an impromptu mini happy hour announced daily at random that costs only ten cents.
Right in the center of quaint Carmel, this full-service boutique hotel was built in 1929 as an elegant chateau blended with a cozy cottage. Today modern amenities like heated bathroom floors and walk-in showers complement antique furnishings (some 18th century), wrought-iron canopy beds and deep standing bathtubs. With only 20 rooms, guests receive plenty of individual attention, including the perks of valet parking, made-to-order hot breakfast and room service (from Michelin-starred Aubergine), twice-daily housekeeping and in-town Volvo car service.
HIGHLIGHT: Culinary packages include overnight stays and classes with Justin Cogley, Aubergine’s award-winning executive chef, or talented pastry chef Yulanda Santos. Many rooms offer a peek of an ocean view, with Carmel Beach just a few blocks downhill.
Post Ranch Inn
Perched on a cliff 1,200 feet above the sea, can make a strong case for Big Sur’s best views as well as its most eye-catching architecture. It also occupies an unusual niche between rustic retreat and Amangiri-level indulgence, its elegance both understated and up to the standards of A-list celebs like George Clooney and Anne Hathaway, who hide away in its stand-alone cabins.
Like a summer camp for jet-setters, Post Ranch Inn offers a full menu of nature-themed and wellness activities, including yoga, meditation, nature walks and stargazing. The spa even offers “spiritual exploration” guided by a bona-fide shaman. Some of the accommodations have a camp-like feel as well; among the 40 rooms are treehouses on stilts tucked into the forest and bird watching-themed rooms outfitted with binoculars. Two full-size houses, Post House and South Coast House, are perfect for those bringing an entourage or ducking the paparazzi.
HIGHLIGHT: The all-inclusive rate includes a well-stocked mini-bar and an over-the-top breakfast spread — whether you prefer eggs and bacon or tropical fruit and house-made granola, it’s on the table. Dinner at the inn’s restaurant is a four-course prix-fixe menu showcasing local seafood. Dishes might include diver scallop crudo, Monterey squid served in a tortilla, and Big Sur Bouillabaisse flavored with local kelp.
The Inn at Spanish Bay
**Readers’ choice 2023 winner
Hidden coves and beaches lie just below the boardwalk outside this third jewel in the Pebble Beach Resorts crown, where a bagpiper plays daily as the setting sun illuminates the Scottish-style Links at Spanish Bay. As with the Lodge at Pebble Beach and Casa Palmero, guests of the 269 rooms and suites here get advance tee time reservations and country club access, including the nearby private Spanish Bay Club and Tennis Pavilion as well as the Beach and Tennis Club some 5 miles south.
All of the roomy lodgings include fireplaces and most have balconies or patios. Foodies won’t have to walk far for fun:. After listening to the bagpiper outside Sticks restaurant, check out Stave Wine Cellar for small bites, cheese and charcuterie paired with some of the 50 wines or eight craft beers by the glass. Then head to Peppoli at Pebble Beach for some of Monterey’s best Italian fare, or Roy’s at Pebble Beach for Hawaiian-fusion cuisine.
The Lodge at Pebble Beach
Home to world-renowned 17-Mile Drive and Pebble Beach Golf Links, the gated enclave of Pebble Beach also boasts several resorts that capitalize on the stunning ocean and fairway views. The oldest and most renowned, the Lodge at Pebble Beach, opened in 1919, the same year as the eponymous golf course, but it’s been expanded and modernized several times since then, including the 2017 addition of the modern Fairway One cottages. Spacious rooms and suites feature patios and balconies to bring the views even closer, with contemporary decor that has a classic, clubby feel; many offer gas-burning fireplaces, perfect for foggy days.
Besides the stunning ocean views, it’s all about access: Guests staying in a Pebble Beach resort can book a tee time at Pebble Beach Golf Links — often hailed as the top public golf course in the country — up to 18 months in advance, compared with 24 hours in advance for everyone else. You gain admission to the equally impressive but private Beach and Tennis Club, with its heated 25-meter lap pool perched just above the chilly Pacific.
Ventana Big Sur
Imagine a day that starts with a swim in a mountaintop pool seemingly suspended over the Pacific, reaches a peak with dinner illuminated by one of Big Sur’s most spectacular sunset settings, and finishes with stargazing from a mountaintop pool open 24 hours and featuring a traditional Japanese bath. That’s a day in the life of 160-acre , where the 59 ultra-private rooms, suites and villas are tucked into an oak-shaded woodland and your high-ceilinged driftwood-inspired room could potentially include both a Jacuzzi bath and a private hot.
A menu of daily activities includes yoga, Tai Chi, meditation, and guided nature walks that take you deep into the redwood canyon below for true forest bathing. In addition to a variety of massage options, the resort’s offers astrology readings, reflexology, and cranial-sacral massage, and couples can partake in private cabanas near the pool. For an even more immersive nature experience, there’s the popular deep in the redwood canyon below, which now features comfy “glamping” tent cabins, each complete with Adirondack chairs on a spacious deck, fire pit, and even a hammock or two suspended between the trees.
HIGHLIGHT: With its new membership in the Hyatt family and an “all-inclusive” approach to restoration that features dinner and breakfast in the resort’s renowned , Ventana takes the idea of hideaway to a whole new level.