Destination: California: Carmel
Pacific Heights: Post Ranch Inn
There is a secret place suspended over the Pacific, bathed in light and mist, rocked to the sound of waves, bees and whales. You can’t see it from the road—you’ve been curving and twisting and holding your breath at the breathtaking beauty of Highway 1 south of Monterey. Some forty-five minutes north of Lucia (or thirty miles south of Carmel), though, you’ll see a very discreet building with a wooden porch across the road from the Ventana Inn. That will be your sole indicator. Turn onto the lane, drive a mile and change past meadows and lakes and eucalyptus groves, up the hill and there you are: the Post Ranch Inn.
But you still won’t see the heart of it. That’s by design; all of the inn’s buildings follow architect—and Big Sur resident—Mickey Muennig’s rigorous and elegant plan for maximal comfort with minimal impact on the environment. Mountain-facing rooms are perched on canopies, an adult version of a tree house. Moss-and-wildflower-covered rooftops seem to extend the rustic lawns over the ocean-facing suites. It’s a different way of being “one with nature”: enormous windows give a feeling of floating over the Pacific, fireplaces glow both toward the plush bedrooms and the sumptuous bathrooms, complete with sunken spa baths and lavender-scented toiletries.
Just being at the Post Ranch Inn is the real treat—reveling in the gorgeous forest-covered cliffs rolling down to the water, trekking miles of trails that wave around orchards, groves and the occasional meditation spot, soaking in the warm infinity pool. But more can always be arranged: the inn features a full spa menu of facials and massages, complimentary yoga and meditation classes every morning, nature walks every Friday and shamanic journeys every Saturday.
And then there’s the food. Chef Craig von Foerster, taking advantage of the bounty of California’s central coast and valley, serves superb, ultrafresh Pacific-fusion cuisine at the Sierra Mar. Try the oysters and a bottle of sparkling California wine at sunset, when the restaurant’s huge glass windows turn to honeyed gold. The next morning, enjoy the inn’s vast complimentary breakfast buffet.
The inn—whose ninety-eight acres were once part of the storied Post Ranch, one of the earliest settlements in Big Sur—recently opened new accommodations on the south end of the property: the mountain-facing Peak House and closer-to-the-ocean-than-ever-before Cliff and California Suite houses. A perfect excuse to find your secret place within this secret place. Rooms from $550.
Who Should (and Should Not) Go: Couples will find the Post Ranch Inn an unforgettable romantic experience. Those seeking extreme peace and quiet will leave with refreshed souls and reinvigorated bodies. The setting and accommodations can be awkward for families with small children—the stand-alone houses will solve some of these problems, but the landscape can still be challenging for little ones. And to protect its fragile and complex ecosystem, Post Ranch does not allow pets.
Ideal Length of Stay: Three days is heaven, though more frayed souls, or passionate lovers, could easily spend a week here and still not want to leave.
Rooms to Get: The stunning cliffside rooms at the Coast houses provide the fullest Big Sur experience. The same feeling, with even more privacy and luxury, can be had at the Ocean houses, freestanding round buildings, each with its own bedroom/bath/deck. For bigger groups, the ocean-facing Post and South Coast houses can each accommodate up to six people in two- and three-bedroom settings with private baths. For the ultimate Big Sur immersion, Post Ranch offers a luxury rental property, Terra Mar, an exquisite house designed by Mickey Muennig ($2,800, with a minimum stay of 30 days).
Indagare Tip: Don’t miss the inn’s Mercantile shop (www.postranchmercantile.com), located in a secluded little valley. The walk there is a pleasure in itself, and the merchandise goes way beyond the usual gift-store banalities, featuring works by local sculptors, potters and other artists.
Read a member postcard on spending a romantic weekend at the Post Ranch Inn
Read an Indagare member’s report on Post Ranch Inn
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