Ventana Big Sur, an Alila Resort is one of the most exclusive hotels in the world thanks to its luxurious and rustic accommodations coupled with its awe-inspiring scenery that can’t be replicated anywhere else.
And with the property joining forces with Hyatt, it represents a massive points opportunity for an opulent stay without having to venture too far from home.
I luxuriated at this adults-only resort in early August 2020 for my birthday — along the way I enjoyed top-notch service, an all-inclusive meal plan, and easy access to some of the most picturesque hiking trails I’d ever had the privilege of walking on. Best of all, however, I was able to take advantage of redeeming World of Hyatt points for a secluded stay on this 243-acre property in northern California.
So, what was it like to stay at this all-inclusive Californian resort for free during the COVID-19 pandemic? One word: breathtaking.
Table of contents
Table of Contents
Ventana Big Sur, an Alila Resort, also referred to as Alila Ventana Big Sur or just Ventana Big Sur, was inherited by Hyatt in 2018 after the Chicago-based hospitality company acquired Two Roads Hospitality and its collection of luxury hotels.
Since Alila fell under the Two Roads Hospitality contract, Alila properties joined Hyatt’s loyalty program, World of Hyatt. And in the blink of an eye, Hyatt gained access to one of the truest aspirational hotel brands in the world.
Fast forward to today and you can earn and redeem points at Alila properties, use suite upgrade certificates, and much more!
Recently, Ventana Big Sur, an Alila Resort changed its rates to all-inclusive only, so guests can enjoy:
- 3 full meals (excluding alcohol)
- Snacks and complimentary keepsake reusable water bottles
- Access to Signature Experiences, such as yoga, meditation, Tai Chi, and daily hikes
- Ventana Big Sur picnic program
- Access to indoor and outdoor fitness studios
- Volvo house cars for use within a 3-mile radius
- Access to private reservation-only indoor and outdoor wellness studios
- The Excursion Outpost, featuring complimentary items for use during hikes, picnics, adventures, and more
- New outdoor lounging nooks across the grounds, perfect for couples
This was an incredible addition because the rates catapulted overnight 2 to 3 times — today, cash rates start at $1,600 and go all the way to $2,000 for a standard room. On the flip side, points rates didn’t change in the slightest!
Ventana Big Sur offers lavish, rustic rooms in a 5-star luxury hotel setting, which is extremely rare in the heart of Big Sur.
Truly, we were in for a treat when we arrived at Ventana Big Sur.
Ventana Big Sur is located at 48123 CA-1, Big Sur, CA 93920, just off of the Pacific Coast Highway (Highway 1).
Most of the accommodations in Big Sur are no-frills 2- or 3-star lodges with few options for luxe stays. And on top of this, many of these lodges don’t enjoy a favorable location; you have to drive at least 30 minutes to access the state parks.
Enter Ventana Big Sur.
Sure, Ventana Big Sur boasts some of the most incredible rooms and facilities in all of the U.S., but it also enjoys a superb location nestled half a mile from Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park a short drive from Andrew Molera State Park!
Ventana Big Sur’s biggest competitor is Post Ranch Inn (located just next door), but we are definitely partial to Ventana Big Sur, thanks to its partnership with World of Hyatt.
There are several ways to get to the hotel:
- Fly into Monterey (MRY) and drive 1 hour to the property
- Fly into San José (SJC) and drive 2 hours to the property
- Fly into San Francisco (SFO) and drive 2.5 to 3 hours to the property
- Fly into Oakland (OAK) and drive 2.5 to 3 hours to the property
Booking Ventana Big Sur with Hyatt Points
As mentioned earlier, cash rates at Ventana Big Sur were around $800 to $1,000 before the all-inclusive offering. Now, paid rates start at $1,600 and can go up to $2,000 for standard room rates.
If you redeem World of Hyatt points, you can book standard rooms for 30,000 points per night or premium suites for up to 60,000 points per night! Here is the breakdown of room types and their corresponding points rates:
- 1 King Bed — 30,000 points per night
- 1 King Bed with ADA Tub — 30,000 points per night
- 1 King Bed with Fireplace and ADA Tub — 30,000 points per night
- Big Sur Suite — 48,000 points per night
- Big Sur Forest Shower Suite — 60,000 points per night
- Big Sur Spa Suite — 60,000 points per night
- Vista Hot Tub Suite — 60,000 points per night
Booking standard rooms at Ventana Big Sur using points is incredibly challenging, but booking standard or premium suites is much easier, though those will inevitably be more expensive.
Also, Ventana Big Sur has a minimum stay of 2 nights if you want to redeem points, so keep that in mind.
To book this room, we waited until less than a week before our stay. Luckily, availability showed up in the system, and we immediately capitalized on it.
As a reminder, you can transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points to World of Hyatt at a 1:1 ratio. And since Chase has some phenomenal rewards credit cards, it’s easy to rack up points for your stay here.
Recommended Chase Cards (Personal)
|Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card - This is our favorite beginners travel rewards card, which is currently offering a 60,000 point bonus after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.|
The card earns 5x points on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards, 3x points on dining and 2x points on all other travel purchases, plus more. Enjoy a $50 annual Ultimate Rewards Hotel Credit, and other travel benefits such as excellent travel insurance coverage, including car rental insurance and no foreign transaction fees, this card is a very rewarding card.
|Chase Sapphire Reserve® - This premium card will get you access to 1,300+ airport lounges. as well as a number of other card benefits. The current sign up bonus is 50,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. You'll also get a $300 travel credit per year which wipes away a big chunk of the $550 annual fee. As an extra bonus, until 12/31/21, gas station & grocery store purchases will also count towards earning your Travel Credit.|
Earn big with this card, earn 5X total points on air travel and 10X total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3X points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases.
|Chase Freedom Unlimited® - A solid, no-annual-fee card that earns you a $200 bonus after you spend $500 in your first 3 months. Earn 5% cash-back on grocery store purchases (not including Target or Walmart purchases) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year, and 5% on travel purchases through Chase Ultimate Rewards. Plus, earn 3% cash-back at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery services, and drugstore purchases, and 1.5% cash-back on all other purchases.|
Recommended Chase Cards (Business)
|Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card - this is our #1 recommended business card and right now comes with a 100,000 sign up bonus after you spend $15,000 on purchases in the first 3 months after account opening. This bonus is worth $1,000 cash back or $1,250 toward travel when redeemed through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. Pay your cell phone bill with this card to receive up to $600 in cell phone insurance coverage per year; as well as a number of other benefits.|
Earn 3x on the first $150,000 spent on travel and select business categories each account anniversary year, plus 1x on all other purchases — with no limit to the amount you can earn. All for an annual fee of $95.
|Ink Business Cash® Credit Card - Earn $750 bonus cash back after you spend $7,500 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening|
This no annual fee business card earns up to 5% cash-back on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases at office supply stores and on internet, cable and phone services each account anniversary year, plus 2% cash-back on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases at gas stations and restaurants each account anniversary.
|Ink Business Unlimited® Credit Card - Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back rewards on every purchase made for your business.|
Earn $750 bonus cash back after you spend $7,500 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. There's no annual fee.
After a long, scenic drive from Los Angeles to Big Sur, we were excited to step out of the car, stretch our legs, and explore the glorious property.
Ventana Big Sur, an Alila Resort is a securely guarded compound — you can’t even drive up to the reception without providing your name and your stay details to an intercom system. After the reception agent confirms your stay, the gate is opened, at which point you can either utilize valet or self-parking, both of which are complimentary.
We opted for the complimentary valet and then walked up the stairs to the reception.
Due to COVID-19, Ventana Big Sur took a litany of measures to make sure our stay was flawless and executed perfectly.
Our check-in process was at the Social House area.
Social House is where the front desk manager and concierge are located, and the space was decorated beautifully.
There was a simple game room in the space next door, complete with chess boards and literature.
Just outside the Social House was an outdoor deck for relaxation.
There’s a lot to keep track of at this property since there are so many activities, amenities, and facilities. During our seamless check-in, we were introduced to the hotel and provided with a property map, as well as a list of popular hiking trails and their descriptions.
The staff at the property did an incredible job with guest orientation, and before we knew it, we had dinner reservations all taken care of and our itinerary built out!
We finished our efficient check-in process and were offered lunch at the sun deck while waiting for our room to be ready.
Ventana Big Sur has about 60 rooms, though due to the coronavirus, its occupancy was intentionally limited, despite massive demand.
As regular guests using points without any top-tier elite status, we were upgraded to the 1 King Bed with Fireplace room. We were assigned room 24, on the second story of the Meadow House complex.
Our room was just sanitized, and there was a sanitization sticker attached.
Our gorgeous room featured muted wooden tones, a vaulted ceiling, and rustic accommodations.
The design was reflective of the local area, and we felt continually in tune with the surrounding nature. It truly felt like we were staying in a luxurious cabin!
The room featured an eastern king bed — oh-so-comfortable and spacious.
Just to the right of the bed were a desk and a chair.
Power outlets and a reading light could be found on each side of the bed.
On the desk were an old-school rotary phone and an in-room tablet for dining service, housekeeping, extra amenities, and virtually anything else you might need!
There was also a dining table with a chair and a welcome amenity.
Just next to the dining table was a window seat, complete with cushions, blinds, and a lamp.
Every room had a private deck, and ours faced the forest.
Our private deck had a pair of chairs and a side table. Smoking, including e-cigarettes, is strictly prohibited everywhere on the property except on your private deck. The surrounding area is extremely fire-prone, so remember to exercise extra caution when extinguishing your cigarettes.
As we explored the rest of our room, we saw a dry bar with a Nespresso machine, a water boiler, a snack drawer, and a complimentary minibar.
Just to the right of the dry bar was an ice bucket, 2 complimentary keepsake reusable water bottles, and a bottle opener/corkscrew, all of which were all placed on top of a storage drawer.
Above the storage drawer was a DirecTV box.
Arguably, the centerpiece of the room was the fireplace setup that was located just below the wall-mounted HDTV.
There was a woven basket with single-use log packs. All you have to do is toss one of the packs into the fireplace, light a match, and you’ll enjoy a lovely evening fire.
Lastly, there was a double-door closet that housed a safe, 2 comfy robes, and iron, a stool, hangers, and more.
Since we were located in Meadow House, we were within easy walking distance to the Social House, as well as the front section of the property.
The drawback, however, was that other guests could see you if they were walking to the Social House and you were standing on the private deck.
Our room was the left-most room on the second floor.
The bathroom was spacious, welcoming, and resembled a campestral setting. The bathroom also had a set of folding doors that opened up the bathroom to the bedroom for a more open-air feel.
First, there was a single vanity with a bright pair of lights, a spotless mirror, and a vessel sink. There was also a separate toilet — a huge perk.
Additionally, the deep soaking tub was gigantic!
We were provided with bath salts and a loofah sponge pad.
There was a separate walk-in shower with a seating area at the back, as well as branded Body Bliss bath amenities.
In addition to shampoo, conditioner, and body wash, there was a delightful spearmint rosemary body soap, also exclusively from Body Bliss.
Part of the holistic experience at Ventana Big Sur is curating wellness and peace as purely as possible. Ventana Big Sur’s food and beverage program is all-inclusive, so you’ll definitely have an opportunity to savor inspired culinary delights.
There are 5 main dining options you can enjoy:
- The Sur House (full-service restaurant)
- In-Room dining (a full dining menu delivered via complimentary room service)
- Poolside/sun deck dining (Small bites and cocktails)
- Picnic kits (Gourmet meals prepared for the excursionist or nature junkie)
- Glass House (private dining room overlooking the Pacific Ocean)
The Sur House
As the hotel’s only full-service restaurant, The Sur House is reserved only for overnight guests during breakfast and dinner. And the property is perched so beautifully above the Pacific Ocean that you ought to savor the ambiance every moment you’re dining there.
The seasonal menus focus on delivering contemporary modern American cuisine and feature ingredients grown at the on-site organic garden (more on that later)!
The Sur House offers some of the most elegant food we’ve ever had at a hotel in California. As major foodies, The Sur House wowed us with most, if not all of its creations.
There’s a beautiful Japanese onsen/hot bath decoration at the entrance.
As soon as you enter the restaurant, you’ll notice a massive, 10,000 bottle cellar of small-production Central Coast wines, carefully assembled at the leadership of The Sur House sommelier.
The indoor dining space isn’t open due to COVID-19, but you can begin to grasp how awe-inspiring the design and architecture of this space are.
The restaurant now features a more exclusive and spacious seating plan in line with COVID-19 regulations. There’s tons of outdoor seating if you’re waiting for your table.
As mentioned, the all-inclusive plan offers 1 appetizer, 1 main course, and 1 dessert. Alcohol is extra, but you can order still/sparkling water or other non-alcoholic drinks free of charge.
We enjoyed the best Aperol Spritz we’ve ever had, as well as the Bridge & Tonic.
We also ordered a classic raspberry mojito.
To start, we ordered the California halibut ceviche, complete with sweet potato, hominy, and shiso.
We also ordered the roasted beets with strawberry, fennel, dukkah, hyssop, and pistachio seed oil. It was wonderfully flavorful and refreshing.
We then ordered the Fogline Farm chicken with Ayocote Blanco beans, nasturtium salsa verde, Hakurei turnip, and arugula. The exterior crispiness of the chicken complemented the paradoxical moisture of the inner white meat.
We also ordered the Flannery beef NY striploin, garnished with cauliflower, pinot juice, cabbage, Tropea onion agrodolce, and carrot confit.
We were so blessed to have been stuffed to the brim with top-quality food, but we simply couldn’t resist a slice of carrot cake to enjoy in our room, and we definitely didn’t regret the decision.
The carrot cake was moist, flavorful, and just the right amount of subtle sweetness.
We also had the opportunity to savor breakfast at The Sur House, and the view of the ocean and forest was spectacular.
First, I ordered a cup of coffee, served with brown sugar cubes and fresh milk.
We started off our breakfast with a lovely pastry basket.
We ordered the mashed avocado — an open-faced avocado toast served with arugula, sunflower, tomato, cucumber, lemon, and egg atop an Ad Astra seeded loaf.
We ordered a Ventana breakfast, as well, that was phenomenal. With 2 farm eggs, herb roasted potatoes, charred tomato, grilled bread, and a choice of bacon, sausage, chicken sausage, or a Smokehouse hot link (pictured), it’ll fill you up in no time.
We took our time to enjoy our hefty breakfast, the amazing scenery, and a warm cup of coffee.
Our second dinner reservation featured a table at the edge of the restaurant, with sweeping panoramic views to die for.
To start, I ordered a Paloma, Mexico’s most beloved cocktail.
We also ordered Jasmine green tea, offered by Rishi teas.
We were served a small plate of warm, complimentary bread with strawberry whipped butter.
To change things up, we opted for the Dungeness crab cocktail, impeccably presented and unbelievably delightful.
We simply had to have the California halibut ceviche again, so we did. The freshness of the citrus and the sweetness of the halibut was to die for.
For our main course, we ordered the Skuna Bay salmon that was served upon a bed of mashed Yukon gold potatoes and garnished with cucumber, buttermilk, watercress, Ikura, and borage.
We also ordered the durum wheat spaghetti adorned with green chile, almond pesto, tomato, and Grana Padano. The dish as a whole was delicious, but the pasta, in particular, was perfectly al dente.
As we continued stuffing ourselves, the time for dessert rapidly came.
We ordered the stonefruit galette topped with crème fraîche ice cream. So delicious and artisanal.
To top off our experience at The Sur House, we ordered the raspberry ripple raw milk sundae, featuring a Guanaja cake, ganache, and dried raspberries.
In-room dining/room service is also complimentary at this hotel. One morning, we decided to enjoy breakfast in-room, and we were glad we did.
We ordered our breakfast from the in-room tablet, and the food actually arrived just a bit earlier than the estimated time.
Remember that the in-suite dining menu is different from other menus — sure, there are shared dishes here and there, but about 60% to 70% of the menu is unique.
But, because we actually missed breakfast narrowly by waking up too late, the tablet had automatically removed any breakfast items. We dialed up the front desk and asked if they could make an exception for us, and the executive chef himself prepared our meal. This is just a taste of Ventana Big Sur’s incredible service offering.
Our breakfast spread was comprehensive, as pictured below.
Firstly, I ordered a delicious latte. We also ordered an iced latte that came separately with cold milk and espresso.
I couldn’t resist ordering a Ventana breakfast again, which, of course, comes with 2 farm eggs, herb roasted potatoes, charred tomato, grilled bread, and a choice of bacon, sausage, chicken sausage, or a Smokehouse hot link (pictured).
It was just as tasty the second time around!
We also ordered the bagels and lox — the bagels were accompanied by smoked Scottish salmon, everything spice, sprouts, cucumber, tomato, capers, and cream cheese.
The smoked salmon was wonderfully rich and smooth, while the cream cheese and bagel provided luxurious textures and a subtle sourness.
We also ordered the mashed avocado open-faced sandwich again, with arugula, sunflower, tomato, cucumber lemon, and an Ad Astra seeded loaf.
The mashed avocado came with farm eggs any style — in our case, scrambled.
Poolside Dining/Sun Deck Dining
If you’re interested in having a meal by the pool or on the sun deck, you’re more than welcome to take your lunch here.
The poolside dining is only available at the Meadow Pool.
We went to the sun deck to enjoy lunch while our room was being prepared for check-in. We were famished after a long drive, so the dining options came in very handy.
We kicked off our sun deck meal with a strawberry frosé and a watermelon mojito.
We began with a small plate of chips and guacamole that was made with Brokaw avocados and cilantro.
We also ordered the salmon poke that came with coconut, Opal apple, chili, coriander, and jicama.
For our main course, we ordered the plant-based variant of the Big Sur Smash Burger topped with smokehouse sauce, griddled onions, lettuce, tomato, pickles, and smoked cheddar with fries on the side.
We also ordered the daily catch fish tacos.
We topped off our lunch with chocolate chip cookies, sprinkled with Big Sur sea salt.
The facilities at Ventana Big Sur are breathtaking. And while we couldn’t enjoy all of the amenities due to COVID-19 closures, we were able to snap pictures of a few facilities that were closed.
As we showed above, the Meadow Pool is located just next to the Social House, and there was also an area with couples loungers, perfectly socially distanced.
This area is called the Ocean Meadow, and it boasts sweeping views of the forestry and the Pacific Ocean.
In addition to the Meadow Pool, there was the Mountain Pool, located on the east side of the property.
Additionally, Ventana Big Sur has an organic garden on the premises that the chefs use for their produce.
In front of Social House is a fire pit with large, comfortable chairs.
Along the east side of the property, there is also an area called the Redwood Cathedral that is used for activities like s’mores and falconry.
Spa Alila was closed at the time of staying, but the building itself is beautiful.
There was also an outdoor fitness area with exercise bikes.
Ventana Big Sur also offers Japanese baths that were unfortunately closed, though we were allowed to snap pictures of the baths.
Upon entering, you’ll first see a gender-specific changing room.
After exiting out the back, you’ll see the Japanese baths, which seem relaxing.
Ventana Big Sur also has an infinity pool, though it was closed at the time.
The service at Ventana Big Sur is really one of the crown jewels of the property. While not everything we experienced was perfect from the get-go, the staff were incredibly accommodating with almost every request we had.
The property does a lot of the selling for Ventana Big Sur, but I personally believe that service can make or break your stay, regardless of how opulent your room is.
Every single person we interacted with at Ventana Big Sur was friendly, happy, and extremely helpful. In fact, many of the staff actually are proud to be working there instead of Post Ranch Inn, a similar hotel located next door.
Overall, the service was consistent, excellent, and memorable.
Big Sur is a stunning place, complete with beautiful nature, unique scenery, and splendid views of the Pacific Ocean.
Let’s put it plainly: Ventana Big Sur is heaven for anyone who enjoys hikes, the outdoors, and serenity.
The 2 main attractions in Big Sur for active travelers are Andrew Molera State Park and Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park. The former is located a short 15-minute drive from the hotel, while the latter is less than 5-minutes by car.
If you feel like staying close to the hotel on your first day, there’s even a walking trail we explored called the Coast Road Trail. It’s certainly not scenic in the same way, but it’s peaceful and private.
We headed to Andrew Molera State Park and hiked the Bluffs Trail, the Creamery Meadow Trail, the Panorama Trail, the Beach Trail, and the Ridge Trail. Overall, the hikes totaled more than 8 miles, but the views were so worth it.
We spent an entire day at Andrew Molera State Park, and the next day we spent half of the day at Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park. The hikes were perfect and serene.
Ventana Big Sur is my favorite hotel in the U.S. Full stop.
Between the ability to actually stay at this property without paying anything out of pocket thanks to points, the thoughtfully-designed hotel, the top-notch food and beverage, and the second-to-none location in Big Sur, Ventana Big Sur has officially become a property that I visit every single year, at a minimum.
The property is exclusive, unique, and close to access while feeling like a completely different universe than anything around it.
What an unforgettable experience!