How To Master A 3-Day Trip To Big Sur

First image...
Nearly-unrivaled ocean beauty...

Yes, Sur

Don Draper's final moments with us happened there. Can you find the same serenity? (Yes.)

... Ventana's Japanese hot baths ...
... and a Pacific House room at the hotel.

By Anita Carmin
Originally appeared in August 2015 issue of Virtuoso Traveler.

Long a sanctuary for authors, artists, and Zen-seekers, Big Sur – a utopia of redwood forests, grasslands, and streams bordered by the Pacific Ocean and rugged Santa Lucia Mountains –possesses all the elements for a restorative weekend.

“The area’s natural beauty and solitude are unparalleled,” says Virtuoso travel advisor Suzanne Bouldoukian. “It’s the ideal place for a short, get-away-from-it-all escape.” Bouldoukian, who’s based in Palo Alto, adds that Big Sur also has a special appeal for those looking for a meditative, get-your-life-back-on-track experience. (Witness Don Draper’s aha moment at Big Sur retreat Esalen during the Mad Men finale.)

Epiphany-inducing or not, revitalizing long weekends are a must, says Bouldoukian, who works with clients to craft personalized itineraries – both inward- and outward-focused. Everyone, she maintains, can benefit from a stay at adults-only Ventana Inn & Spa: “If you like peace and quiet, dramatic ocean views, an amazing spa, and great food, you’ll be in heaven.” Here, how to spend three divine days in Big Sur.

Day One
From Monterey, cruise down Highway 1, a twist-and-turn ribbon of road offering OMG views of the Pacific Ocean.  Allow time for lunch along with gallery browsing in art colony Carmel-by-the-Sea or a picnic in wildlife-rich Point Lobos State Natural Reserve. Check into Ventana Inn & Spa in time for the daily wine and cheese reception that includes a complimentary neck massage. End the day with dinner at The Restaurant at Ventana (preferably on the expansive terrace, watching the sun sink into the Pacific) and a soak in one of the property’s Japanese hot baths.
Day Two
After a morning yoga class, join one of  Ventana’s guides for an easy trek on a portion of the resort’s 243 acres. With any luck, you’ll spot a California condor, the largest bird in North America. Spend the afternoon in the spa (consider the organic facial, a seaweed body wrap, or the nearly two-hour signature hot stone massage). Take a nap in your hammock, order room service for dinner, and curl up by the fire with a book or DVD.

Day Three
Head out to Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, located nine miles south of  Ventana, and walk the short McWay Waterfall Trail, where an 80-foot falls plunges into a deserted cove that would look right at home in the South Pacific. For lunch, drink in the views from the outdoor patio at Nepenthe, a popular cliffside restaurant. (It’s touristy, but well worth the visit for vistas that go on forever.) What to order: its signature Ambrosia Burger paired with  a local Firestone Walker DBA. Back at the resort, sunbathe by one of the two outdoor pools. (If you prefer to bask and swim au naturel, choose the clothing-optional pool area.) For dinner, take Ventana’s shuttle to Post Ranch Inn, Big Sur’s other upscale property.

More About Ventana Inn and Spa

The Digs
Perched 1,200 feet above the sea and housed in weathered-cedar buildings, most of the 60 sophisticated-rustic rooms and suites offer fireplaces; all feature private balconies or patios (some with hot tubs).

Pleasant Surprises
Guests find walking sticks and binoculars in their rooms, along with terry-cloth robes and sandals that they’re invited to wear throughout the property, with the sole exception of dinner in the resort’s restaurant.

Destination Dining
The Restaurant at Ventana is a celebration of Central Coast cuisine and wine. Monterey Bay sardines, California king salmon, Humboldt Fog cheese, and seasonal produce from local farms and Ventana’s organic gardens inspire executive chef Paul Corsentino’s imaginative menus.

At the Spa
You’ll find a full menu of facials, body treatments, massages, energy work – and, yes, even astrology readings.

Do It
Doubles from $565; Virtuoso amenities include breakfast daily and a $100 resort credit.

Advisor Tip On The Area

“Ventana’s housemade granola is incredible. Buy a bag or two to take home – some guests love it so much, they have it delivered throughout the year. Additionally, the inn’s recently renovated Pacific House Rooms are its most contemporary and feature an open floor plan. At a minimum, book a room with a fireplace and balcony; that way, you can enjoy both the indoors and outdoors.” – Virtuoso travel advisor Suzanne Bouldoukian  

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