Ventana Big Sur, an Alila Resort in Big Sur, California – Review

Ventana Big Sur an Alila Resort reception interior

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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.

Located in Big Sur, California, Ventana Big Sur is located atop a hill overlooking the beautiful Pacific coastline, just off of the famous Pacific Coast Highway.

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.

Overview

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.

Hotel Location

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® - This is our favorite beginners travel rewards card which currently has a limited time offer of 80,000 point bonus (highest ever) after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.

Plus, the Chase Sapphire Preferred earns 2x points per $1 on travel and dining worldwide, eligible delivery services, take out and dining out, 5x points per $1 on Lyft rides, a 12-month subscription for DoorDash DashPass, other travel benefits such as excellent travel insurance coverage and no foreign transaction fees.

The sign up bonus is worth $1,000 in travel purchases (flights, hotels, car rentals etc) when you redeem your points through Chase's travel portal, which works like Expedia. The bonus alone could get you multiple round-trip flights or hotel stays.
Chase Sapphire Reserve® - This premium card will get you access to 1,200+ 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.
Chase Freedom Unlimited® - A fantastic, no annual fee card that earns you a $200 bonus after you spend $500 in your first 3 months. Earn 5% cash-back on travel purchases through Chase Ultimate Rewards, 3% cash-back on dining and drugstore purchases, and 1.5% cash-back on all other purchases, but you won't get any travel benefits with this card.

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 $1,250 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards for travel purchases (flights, hotels etc). 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 $500 bonus cash back after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months after 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 $500 bonus cash back after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months after account opening. There's no annual fee.

Checking In

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.

Ventana Big Sur an Alila Resort valet
Ventana Big Sur, an Alila Resort valet stand

We opted for the complimentary valet and then walked up the stairs to the reception.

Ventana Big Sur an Alila Resort reception entrance
Ventana Big Sur, an Alila Resort reception entrance

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.

Ventana Big Sur an Alila Resort reception exterior
Ventana Big Sur, an Alila Resort reception exterior

Social House is where the front desk manager and concierge are located, and the space was decorated beautifully.

Ventana Big Sur an Alila Resort reception interior
Ventana Big Sur, an Alila Resort reception interior

There was a simple game room in the space next door, complete with chess boards and literature.

Ventana Big Sur an Alila Resort Social House
Ventana Big Sur, an Alila Resort Social House

Just outside the Social House was an outdoor deck for relaxation.

Ventana Big Sur an Alila Resort Social House outdoor deck
Ventana Big Sur, an Alila Resort Social House outdoor deck

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.

Elite Benefits

We didn’t have any special elite status — I used my Discoverist status as a holder of the World of Hyatt Credit Card to get upgraded from a 1 King Bed room to a 1 King Bed with Fireplace room.

The Room

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.

Ventana Big Sur an Alila Resort Ventana fireplace guestroom exterior door
Ventana Big Sur, an Alila Resort Ventana fireplace guestroom exterior door

Our room was just sanitized, and there was a sanitization sticker attached.

Ventana Big Sur an Alila Resort room sanitzation sticker
Ventana Big Sur, an Alila Resort Ventana fireplace guestroom room sanitization sticker

Our gorgeous room featured muted wooden tones, a vaulted ceiling, and rustic accommodations.

Ventana Big Sur an Alila Resort Ventana fireplace guestroom entryway
Ventana Big Sur, an Alila Resort Ventana fireplace guestroom entryway

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.

Ventana Big Sur, an Alila Resort Ventana fireplace guestroom bed side view
Ventana Big Sur, an Alila Resort Ventana fireplace guestroom bedside view

Just to the right of the bed were a desk and a chair.

Ventana Big Sur an Alila Resort Ventana fireplace guestroom bed
Ventana Big Sur, an Alila Resort Ventana fireplace guestroom bed
Ventana Big Sur an Alila Resort Ventana fireplace guestroom perspective
Ventana Big Sur, an Alila Resort Ventana fireplace guestroom perspective

Power outlets and a reading light could be found on each side of the bed.

Ventana Big Sur an Alila Resort Ventana fireplace guestroom outlets
Ventana Big Sur, an Alila Resort Ventana fireplace guestroom outlets
Ventana Big Sur an Alila Resort Ventana fireplace guestroom bedside reading light
Ventana Big Sur, an Alila Resort Ventana fireplace guestroom bedside reading light

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!

Ventana Big Sur an Alila Resort Ventana fireplace guestroom telephone and desk
Ventana Big Sur, an Alila Resort Ventana fireplace guestroom telephone and desk
Ventana Big Sur an Alila Resort Ventana fireplace guestroom in room tablet
Ventana Big Sur, an Alila Resort Ventana fireplace guestroom in-room tablet
Ventana Big Sur an Alila Resort Ventana fireplace guestroom in room tablet continued
Ventana Big Sur, an Alila Resort Ventana fireplace guestroom in-room tablet

There was also a dining table with a chair and a welcome amenity.

Ventana Big Sur an Alila Resort Ventana fireplace guestroom dining table
Ventana Big Sur, an Alila Resort Ventana fireplace guestroom dining table
Ventana Big Sur an Alila Resort Ventana fireplace guestroom welcome amenity close up
Ventana Big Sur an Alila Resort Ventana fireplace guestroom welcome amenity, close up

Just next to the dining table was a window seat, complete with cushions, blinds, and a lamp.

Ventana Big Sur an Alila Resort Ventana fireplace guestroom window nook seat
Ventana Big Sur, an Alila Resort Ventana fireplace guestroom window nook seat

Every room had a private deck, and ours faced the forest.

Ventana Big Sur an Alila Resort Ventana fireplace guestroom private outdoor deck continued
Ventana Big Sur, an Alila Resort Ventana fireplace guestroom private outdoor deck

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.

Ventana Big Sur an Alila Resort Ventana fireplace guestroom private outdoor deck seats
Ventana Big Sur, an Alila Resort Ventana fireplace guestroom private outdoor deck seats

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.

Ventana Big Sur an Alila Resort Ventana fireplace guestroom minibar and coffee nook
Ventana Big Sur, an Alila Resort Ventana fireplace guestroom minibar and dry bar
Ventana Big Sur an Alila Resort Ventana fireplace guestroom Nespresso machine
Ventana Big Sur, an Alila Resort Ventana fireplace guestroom Nespresso machine
Ventana Big Sur an Alila Resort Ventana fireplace guestroom complimentary snacks
Ventana Big Sur, an Alila Resort Ventana fireplace guestroom complimentary snacks
Ventana Big Sur an Alila Resort Ventana fireplace guestroom minibar contents
Ventana Big Sur, an Alila Resort Ventana fireplace guestroom minibar contents

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.

Ventana Big Sur an Alila Resort Ventana fireplace guestroom complimentary water bottles
Ventana Big Sur, an Alila Resort Ventana fireplace guestroom complimentary water bottles

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.

Ventana Big Sur an Alila Resort Ventana fireplace guestroom fireplace and TV
Ventana Big Sur, an Alila Resort Ventana fireplace guestroom fireplace and TV

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.

Ventana Big Sur an Alila Resort Ventana fireplace guestroom log basket
Ventana Big Sur, an Alila Resort Ventana fireplace guestroom log basket

Lastly, there was a double-door closet that housed a safe, 2 comfy robes, and iron, a stool, hangers, and more.

Ventana Big Sur an Alila Resort Ventana fireplace guestroom closet
Ventana Big Sur, an Alila Resort Ventana fireplace guestroom closet

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.

Ventana Big Sur an Alila Resort Ventana fireplace guestroom exterior
Ventana Big Sur, an Alila Resort Ventana fireplace guestroom exterior

Bathroom

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.

Ventana Big Sur an Alila Resort Ventana fireplace guestroom bathroom
Ventana Big Sur, an Alila Resort Ventana fireplace guestroom bathroom

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.

Ventana Big Sur an Alila Resort Ventana fireplace guestroom vanity and toilet
Ventana Big Sur, an Alila Resort Ventana fireplace guestroom vanity and toilet
Ventana Big Sur an Alila Resort Ventana fireplace guestroom separate toilet
Ventana Big Sur, an Alila Resort Ventana fireplace guestroom separate toilet

Additionally, the deep soaking tub was gigantic!

Ventana Big Sur an Alila Resort Ventana fireplace guestroom soaking tub
Ventana Big Sur, an Alila Resort Ventana fireplace guestroom soaking tub
Ventana Big Sur an Alila Resort Ventana fireplace guestroom deep soaking tub
Ventana Big Sur, an Alila Resort Ventana fireplace guestroom deep soaking tub

We were provided with bath salts and a loofah sponge pad.

Ventana Big Sur an Alila Resort Ventana fireplace guestroom deep soaking tub amenities
Ventana Big Sur, an Alila Resort Ventana fireplace guestroom deep soaking tub amenities

There was a separate walk-in shower with a seating area at the back, as well as branded Body Bliss bath amenities.

Ventana Big Sur an Alila Resort Ventana fireplace guestroom shower
Ventana Big Sur, an Alila Resort Ventana fireplace guestroom shower

In addition to shampoo, conditioner, and body wash, there was a delightful spearmint rosemary body soap, also exclusively from Body Bliss.

Ventana Big Sur an Alila Resort Ventana fireplace guestroom Body Bliss bath amenities
Ventana Big Sur, an Alila Resort Ventana fireplace guestroom Body Bliss bath amenities

Bottom Line: Even the standard rooms at Ventana Big Sur are spacious — with 480 square feet of space to relax in with a cloud-like king bed, forest canyon views, a private deck, a fireplace, and a fabulously-appointed bathroom, there’s a lot to love about the room itself.

Dining

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.

Ventana Big Sur an Alila Resort Sur House Exterior
Ventana Big Sur, an Alila Resort Sur House Exterior

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.

Ventana Big Sur an Alila Resort Sur House Wine Cellar
Ventana Big Sur, an Alila Resort Sur House Wine Cellar

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.

Ventana Big Sur an Alila Resort Sur House Interior
Ventana Big Sur, an Alila Resort Sur House Interior
Ventana Big Sur an Alila Resort Sur House indoor dining room area
Ventana Big Sur, an Alila Resort Sur House indoor dining room area

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.

Ventana Big Sur an Alila Resort Sur House Outdoor Seating
Ventana Big Sur, an Alila Resort Sur House Outdoor Seating

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.

Ventana Big Sur an Alila Resort cocktails
Ventana Big Sur, an Alila Resort Sur House cocktails

We also ordered a classic raspberry mojito.

Ventana Big Sur an Alila Resort Sur House raspberry mojito
Ventana Big Sur, an Alila Resort Sur House raspberry mojito

To start, we ordered the California halibut ceviche, complete with sweet potato, hominy, and shiso.

Ventana Big Sur an Alila Resort Sur House halibut ceviche
Ventana Big Sur, an Alila Resort Sur House halibut ceviche

We also ordered the roasted beets with strawberry, fennel, dukkah, hyssop, and pistachio seed oil. It was wonderfully flavorful and refreshing.

Ventana Big Sur an Alila Resort roasted beets
Ventana Big Sur, an Alila Resort roasted beets

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.

Ventana Big Sur an Alila Resort Sur House Fogline Farm chicken
Ventana Big Sur, an Alila Resort Sur House Fogline Farm chicken

We also ordered the Flannery beef NY striploin, garnished with cauliflower, pinot juice, cabbage, Tropea onion agrodolce, and carrot confit.

Ventana Big Sur an Alila Resort Sur House Flannery Beef New York Striploin
Ventana Big Sur, an Alila Resort Sur House Flannery Beef New York Striploin

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.

Ventana Big Sur an Alila Resort Sur House carrot cake
Ventana Big Sur, an Alila Resort Sur House carrot cake

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.

Ventana Big Sur an Alila Resort Sur House breakfast coffee
Ventana Big Sur, an Alila Resort Sur House breakfast coffee

We started off our breakfast with a lovely pastry basket.

Ventana Big Sur an Alila Resort Sur House pastry basket
Ventana Big Sur, an Alila Resort Sur House 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.

Ventana Big Sur an Alila Resort Sur House mashed avocado
Ventana Big Sur, an Alila Resort Sur House mashed avocado

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.

Ventana Big Sur an Alila Resort Sur House Ventana breakfast with Smokehouse hot link
Ventana Big Sur, an Alila Resort Sur House Ventana breakfast with Smokehouse hot link

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.

Ventana Big Sur an Alila Resort Sur House cocktail continued
Ventana Big Sur, an Alila Resort Sur House cocktail

We also ordered Jasmine green tea, offered by Rishi teas.

Ventana Big Sur an Alila Resort Sur House Jasmine green tea
Ventana Big Sur, an Alila Resort Sur House Jasmine green tea

We were served a small plate of warm, complimentary bread with strawberry whipped butter.

Ventana Big Sur an Alila Resort Sur House warm bread
Ventana Big Sur, an Alila Resort Sur House warm bread

To change things up, we opted for the Dungeness crab cocktail, impeccably presented and unbelievably delightful.

Ventana Big Sur an Alila Resort Sur House dungeness crab cocktail
Ventana Big Sur, an Alila Resort Sur House Dungeness crab cocktail

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.

Ventana Big Sur an Alila Resort Sur House halibut ceviche 2
Ventana Big Sur, an Alila Resort Sur House halibut ceviche

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.

Ventana Big Sur an Alila Resort Sur House Skuna Bay Salmon
Ventana Big Sur, an Alila Resort Sur House Skuna Bay salmon

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.

Ventana Big Sur an Alila Resort Sur House durum wheat spaghetti
Ventana Big Sur, an Alila Resort Sur House durum wheat spaghetti

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.

Ventana Big Sur an Alila Resort Sur House stonefruit galette
Ventana Big Sur, an Alila Resort Sur House stonefruit galette

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.

Ventana Big Sur an Alila Resort Sur House raspberry ripple raw milk sundae
Ventana Big Sur, an Alila Resort Sur House raspberry ripple raw milk sundae

Bottom Line: The food at The Sur House blew me away. I had lofty expectations for a hotel of this caliber and reputation, but I was surprised to find that we were being served fine dining-level food and beverage at The Sur House. Well done!

In-Room Dining

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.

Ventana Big Sur an Alila Resort in room dining
Ventana Big Sur, an Alila Resort in-room dining

Firstly, I ordered a delicious latte. We also ordered an iced latte that came separately with cold milk and espresso.

Ventana Big Sur an Alila Resort in room dining latte
Ventana Big Sur, an Alila Resort in-room dining latte

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!

Ventana Big Sur an Alila Resort in room dining Ventana breakfast with Smokehouse hot link
Ventana Big Sur, an Alila Resort in-room dining Ventana breakfast with Smokehouse hot link

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.

Ventana Big Sur an Alila Resort in room dining Lox Bagels
Ventana Big Sur, an Alila Resort in-room dining Lox & Bagels

We also ordered the mashed avocado open-faced sandwich again, with arugula, sunflower, tomato, cucumber lemon, and an Ad Astra seeded loaf.

Ventana Big Sur an Alila Resort in room dining avocado toast
Ventana Big Sur, an Alila Resort in-room dining avocado toast

The mashed avocado came with farm eggs any style — in our case, scrambled.

Ventana Big Sur an Alila Resort in room dining breakfast spread
Ventana Big Sur, an Alila Resort in-room dining breakfast spread

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.

Ventana Big Sur an Alila Resort sun deck lunch
Ventana Big Sur, an Alila Resort sun deck lunch

The poolside dining is only available at the Meadow Pool.

Ventana Big Sur an Alila Resort Meadow Pool
Ventana Big Sur, an Alila Resort 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.

Ventana Big Sur an Alila Resort sun deck poolside dining menu
Ventana Big Sur, an Alila Resort sun deck poolside dining menu
Ventana Big Sur an Alila Resort sun deck poolside dining menu continued
Ventana Big Sur an Alila Resort sun deck poolside beverage menu

We kicked off our sun deck meal with a strawberry frosé and a watermelon mojito.

Ventana Big Sur an Alila Resort strawberry frosé
Ventana Big Sur, an Alila Resort strawberry frosé
Ventana Big Sur an Alila Resort watermelon mojito
Ventana Big Sur, an Alila Resort watermelon mojito

We began with a small plate of chips and guacamole that was made with Brokaw avocados and cilantro.

Ventana Big Sur an Alila Resort guacamole and chips
Ventana Big Sur, an Alila Resort guacamole and chips

We also ordered the salmon poke that came with coconut, Opal apple, chili, coriander, and jicama.

Ventana Big Sur an Alila Resort salmon poke
Ventana Big Sur, an Alila Resort salmon poke

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.

Ventana Big Sur an Alila Resort Big Sur smash burger
Ventana Big Sur an Alila Resort Big Sur Smash Burger

We also ordered the daily catch fish tacos.

Ventana Big Sur an Alila Resort sun deck daily catch fish taco
Ventana Big Sur, an Alila Resort daily catch fish tacos

We topped off our lunch with chocolate chip cookies, sprinkled with Big Sur sea salt.

Ventana Big Sur an Alila Resort chocolate chip cookies
Ventana Big Sur, an Alila Resort chocolate chip cookies

Bottom Line: The food and beverage program at Ventana Big Sur, an Alila Resort is stellar. The culinary masterpieces that executive chef Keith Potter and pastry chef Lauren Browner concoct are such a unique take on modern American cuisine with incredible attention to detail. 

Facilities

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.

Ventana Big Sur an Alila Resort Ocean Meadow
Ventana Big Sur, an Alila Resort Ocean Meadow
Ventana Big Sur an Alila Resort Ocean Meadow perspective
Ventana Big Sur, an Alila Resort Ocean Meadow perspective

In addition to the Meadow Pool, there was the Mountain Pool, located on the east side of the property.

Ventana Big Sur an Alila Resort Mountain Pool
Ventana Big Sur, an Alila Resort Mountain Pool
Ventana Big Sur an Alila Resort Mountain Pool interior
Ventana Big Sur, an Alila Resort Mountain Pool
Ventana Big Sur an Alila Resort Mountain Pool continued
Ventana Big Sur, an Alila Resort Mountain Pool

Additionally, Ventana Big Sur has an organic garden on the premises that the chefs use for their produce.

Ventana Big Sur an Alila Resort Organic Garden
Ventana Big Sur, an Alila Resort Organic Garden
Ventana Big Sur an Alila Resort Organic Garden continued
Ventana Big Sur, an Alila Resort Organic Garden

In front of Social House is a fire pit with large, comfortable chairs.

Ventana Big Sur an Alila Resort outdoor fire pit
Ventana Big Sur, an Alila Resort outdoor fire pit

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.

Ventana Big Sur an Alila Resort Redwood Cathedral
Ventana Big Sur, an Alila Resort Redwood Cathedral seats and fire pits
Ventana Big Sur an Alila Resort Redwood Cathedral seats and fire pits
Ventana Big Sur, an Alila Resort Redwood Cathedral seats and fire pits

Spa Alila was closed at the time of staying, but the building itself is beautiful.

Ventana Big Sur an Alila Resort Spa Alila exterior
Ventana Big Sur, an Alila Resort Spa Alila exterior

There was also an outdoor fitness area with exercise bikes.

Ventana Big Sur an Alila Resort fitness center
Ventana Big Sur, an Alila Resort fitness center

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.

Ventana Big Sur an Alila Resort Japanese baths changing rooms continued
Ventana Big Sur, an Alila Resort Japanese baths changing rooms
Ventana Big Sur an Alila Resort Japanese baths changing rooms
Ventana Big Sur, an Alila Resort Japanese baths changing rooms

After exiting out the back, you’ll see the Japanese baths, which seem relaxing.

Ventana Big Sur an Alila Resort Japanese baths
Ventana Big Sur, an Alila Resort Japanese baths

Ventana Big Sur also has an infinity pool, though it was closed at the time.

Ventana Big Sur an Alila Resort infinity pool
Ventana Big Sur, an Alila Resort infinity pool. Image Credit: Ventana Big Sur, an Alila Resort

Service

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.

Local Area

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.

Ventana Big Sur an Alila Resort Coast Road Trail
Ventana Big Sur, an Alila Resort Coast Road Trail

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.

Andrew Molera State Park Bluffs Trail
Andrew Molera State Park Bluffs Trail
Andrew Molera State Park Beach Trail
Andrew Molera State Park Beach Trail

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.

Pfeiffer State Park Buzzards Roost Trail
Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park Buzzards Roost Trail
Ventana Big Sur Hiking
Ventana Big Sur hiking

Final Thoughts

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!


Frequently asked questions

Is Ventana Big Sur for adults only?

Yes. All of the guests must be age 18 or older.

What is there to do at Ventana Big Sur?

There’s tons to do! Within the property, you can pick from a huge list of Alila Experiences in addition to the complimentary Signature Activities included in your stay.

These activities include yoga, meditation, tai chi, s’mores, property hiking, social [distancing] hour, and much more.

Plus, Big Sur is one of the most beautiful places to explore and hike around with 2 gigantic state parks nearby!

How much is glamping at Ventana?

Glamping is another offering at Ventana Big Sur. Different from staying in one of the rooms, glamping guests enjoy a different style of safari-esque accommodations.

Currently, glamping tents are around $250 per night.

Where is Big Sur, California?

Big Sur is about 25 miles south of Carmel, located on the central California coast along the Pacific Coast Highway.

How do I get to Ventana Big Sur?

You can get to Ventana Big Sur by taking Highway 1 (Pacific Coast Highway) all the way to Big Sur. Here are the directions. The hotel is just off of Highway 1, around 28 miles south of Carmel.

Stephen Au

About Stephen Au

Born and raised in Los Angeles, Stephen has been privileged to enjoy many premium cabin products and 5-star hotels. A petroleum engineer by trade, Stephen caught the travel bug in college when he traveled to Asia several times. After 2 years of continual promotions, Stephen quit his safe and secure career path in favor of entrepreneurship.

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