Over the past couple of years, we’ve paid the Big Sur, California area a few visits, and it has quickly become one of our favorite destinations in the U.S! Each time we visit, we’ve stayed at Alila Ventana Big Sur. Having experienced the resort several times, I feel like I’m ready to give you the scoop on how to make the most of your stay!
The property itself is tucked up on a hill just off of the iconic U.S. Highway 1. The resort is comprised of 59 suites, all with massive balconies with expansive views of the surrounding redwoods. Big Sur is known as one of the most cited places of inspiration in the U.S. for artists, musicians, and creatives. It’s remote, but the journey to get there is part of the experience. It is undeniably magical.
Booking Your Stay
Ventana Big Sur is actually part of the Alila brand of hotels. Their main focus is to create beautiful resorts in remote locations with experiences that focus on health and wellness. The word “Alila” actually means “surprise” in Sanskrit! It’s fitting because each Alila property is meant to surprise guests with their unique offerings and experiences. Alila is also under the umbrella of World of Hyatt, which is great, because that means you can book them with Hyatt loyalty points.
The average cash price at Ventana ranges from $1800-$5000 per night, so we definitely opt to go the pay-with-points route. All of our stays have been for 3 nights. On our first visit, we redeemed a total of 85,000 points for the weekend. This was an off-peak time of the year and before the resort moved up a to Category 8 hotel (the tier system for points and free night redemption). Our next trip was a total of 135,000 points, but this was a peak weekend so the redemption rates weren’t as great as the time before. For our most recent trip in October 2023, we used 198,000 points for the weekend but booked the Big Sur Suite instead of a base room like we had in the past. We had some friends traveling with us that weekend and they booked the available base room on points that weekend.
There are a few options, and we have done this a couple different ways. One option is to fly into SFO. With it being a larger airport, there are more flights in and out which provides extra flexibility. Another option, and the one I prefer, is to fly into SJC. It is a smaller airport, so it’s easier to navigate. It’s also closer to the resort and cuts the drive down to about 2 hours without stops compared to 2 hours and 40 minutes from SFO.
We typically fly in and stay the night at an airport hotel, then rent a car first thing the next morning to start the drive down to the resort. Once you get to U.S. Highway 1, you’ll most likely want to savor the experience by stopping at several of the viewpoints. If you have time, I’d also recommend stopping to explore Carmel by the Sea, Monterey, and snapping a photo at Bixby Bridge
Ventana Big Sur has several unique amenities that make it stand out from resorts in the US. Whether you like to relax or burn some energy, there is something for you there!
The first place you’ll be introduced to is the Social House. Here, you’ll check in and receive a complete overview of the property. There are board games, comfy chairs, a pool table, and a drink station that serves lavender lemonade you HAVE to try. You can also find supplies to make s’mores here in the evening, and you can check out vinyl record to listen to in your room as well!
If you’re into lounging at the pool, you have got options! We really love the Japanese-style bath house which is open 24/7. My favorite time to visit is late at night because it’s a great spot to star gaze. Just across from the baths is the Mountain View pool which is secluded and quiet. Heads up, both of these places are clothing optional, so be prepared and respectful when relaxing here! The Meadow Pool is the largest pool on property. It’s a great place to have a mid-day lunch or relax after a long hike. It is near one of our other favorite spots, the infinity hot tub. We love to spend time here because of the incredible views of the redwood forest.
If lounging by the pool isn’t your thing, you can also try the fitness center. It’s got a cool, indoor-outdoor setup with two Peloton bikes, free weights, TRX bands, and tons of other equipment. It’s a fun and beautiful place to get in a workout while you’re visiting!
The spa is one place we’ve yet to visit, but it does have a secluded spot behind the Social House with a unique view of the forest. The treatments are pricey, but this is to be expected at a luxury resort of this caliber, especially where food and non-alcoholic drinks are included in the price of your stay.
As mentioned above, all the food and non-alcoholic beverages are included at Ventana Big Sur. There are a few different restaurants to choose from on property, and you better believe we tried them all.
The Sur House
The Sur House is the main area for all-day dining at Ventana Being Sur. They offer breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Breakfast and lunch do not require reservations, but dinner does. It is our favorite place to dine while on property because of the variety of dishes served there. The breakfast might be my favorite meal there. I love hiking out to the restaurant (it’s about 0.3 miles away on a gravel-lined path), and sitting down with my coffee to take in the stunning view of the Pacific coast. The lunch menu is great as well. R usually goes with he burger and I opt for either the grilled quesadilla or the enchilada soup. The Tajin fries are hands down, the best thing on the lunch menu.
For dinner, there are enough options that you can eat there 3 nights in a row and get a completely different meal each time. It’s set up like a customizable 3-course menu where you get to choose an appetizer, main, and dessert. They change the offerings every few months, so the options are perfectly suited to what’s in season.
Another lovely reason to visit the Sur House is for Sunset Hour from 4-5 p.m. where they offer up a complimentary cocktail called “The Marine Layer”. It’s a refreshing and fun take on a French 75 that comes topped with a lavender-infused smoke bubble. They also serve an abbreviated menu of discounted beer and wines by the glass, along with some fun snacks! The last time we visited, the Sur House was re-opened to guests not staying on the resort, so it’s best to make a reservation each evening to ensure you have a table.
Big Sur Smokehouse
If you’re looking to mix it up, another place to grab lunch on property is the Big Sur Smokehouse. It’s located on Highway 1 at the entrance to Ventana. It’s also open to guests not staying at the resorts, but guests get to enjoy it complimentary with their stay. Their menu includes several difference kinds of smoked meats and signature sauces, as well as sides, salads, and several drink options. My barbecue standards are high coming from Oklahoma, so it doesn’t really hit the mark for me. But I think it’s worth trying at least once during your stay!
If you’re busy lounging by the pool or relaxing on the main lawn and you can’t be bothered to move from your perfect spot, ordering from the bar at the pool is another way to grab a light lunch! You can also grab room service any time of day or night if staying cozied up in your suite is more your thing! We love grabbing fresh chocolate chip cookies or a bag full of s’mores ingredients to use with the fireplace in each room after dinner.
We love spending a long weekend at Ventana. It’s the perfect opportunity to unplug from reality, spend time in nature, and hit the refresh button. We have plans to go back later this year, so I’ll be sure update this post with anything new! Have you visited Ventana Big Sur? Do you have a trip booked already? I’d love to know your thoughts in the comments! As always, thanks for reading!