The Best Luxury Hotels in Big Sur

The Pacific Ocean from Hyatt Carmel Highlands
The Pacific Ocean from Hyatt Carmel Highlands | Courtesy of Hyatt Carmel Highlands / Expedia
Tim Rowland

Big Sur is one of the greatest natural treasures in the USA – a rugged stretch of the California Central Coast, where the Santa Lucia Mountains rise up from the Pacific Ocean. You can traverse the coast on storied Highway 1, or venture inland to the serene Carmel Valley. Stay at luxurious Big Sur hotels, visit the wineries, galleries and restaurants of Carmel-by-the-Sea – or head to popular surf spot Carmel Beach.

1. Bernardus Lodge & Spa

Hotel, Luxury

Exterior view of the outdoor pool at Bernardus Lodge & Spa, lined with sun loungers with a mountain backdrop.
Courtesy of Bernardus Lodge & Spa / Expedia

Imagine you were lucky enough to have a very wealthy friend welcoming you to stay at their ranch estate in the Carmel Valley and that’s the feel Bernardus Lodge & Spa goes for. The Big Sur boutique hotel has 28 acres (11ha) of gardens and vineyards in one of the most impressive parts of Big Sur, with even the premium guest rooms including a fireplace, complimentary wine bar, king featherbed, Italian linens, goose down comforters and a soaking tub big enough for two. Many of the ingredients used in the Lucia Restaurant & Bar are sourced from the organic herb and vegetable garden on the property and there’s also an apiary of 180,000 Italian bees making honey for many of the lodge’s cocktails and spa treatments.

2. Carmel Valley Ranch

Chain Hotel, Resort

An outdoor bathtub on the deck of a guest suite at sunset, Carmel Valley Ranch, Carmel, California.
Courtesy of Carmel Valley Ranch / Expedia

There’ll be no reason ever to leave the reservation while staying at this Big Sur resort – such is the variety of things to do at Carmel Valley Ranch – or indeed not do, if you’d rather just rest beside one of the two pools in the Central California sun. Eucalyptus steam rises in the locker rooms of Spa Aiyana, which also has an infinity hot tub, saltwater pool and 11 treatment rooms. The resort’s 500 acres include an 18-hole par-70 golf course, with patio, firepits and a bar at the clubhouse. All the rooms are suites, with their own outdoor deck, fireplace and aromatherapy bath. The seafood served at one of the four eateries is caught on the Monterey Coast by Carmel Valley Resort’s own fisherman, Jerry.

3. Quail Lodge & Golf Club

Hotel, Luxury

A seating area is trimmed with wild grass and overlooks a lake with a fountain display at the Quail Lodge & Golf Club.
Courtesy of Quail Lodge & Golf Club / Expedia

Another large luxury resort in Big Sur and sitting along the Carmel Valley Road, Quail Lodge & Golf Club has a Golf Academy at its 18-hole course run by PGA Director of Golf Instruction Katherine Marren. There’s also a nine-hole putting course, pickleball and tennis courts and sand bocce ball pits. Dine on fresh dishes made from local organic farm produce at Edgar’s Restaurant – the Monterey Bay Sand Dabs, with potato puree, brussels sprouts and beurre blanc, are especially delicious. Choose from a range of suites and guest rooms, but for large parties opt for the Two-Bedroom Villa Suite, which has a living room, powder room, dining table for eight, a patio and gas fireplaces.

4. Hyatt Carmel Highlands

Hotel, Luxury

The pool area and guest suites look out over the Pacific Ocean at the Hyatt Carmel Highlands, Carmel, California.
Courtesy of Hyatt Carmel Highlands / Expedia

If it’s Pacific Ocean views you want, you’ll find them at this retreat on the hillside overlooking the beach in the small community of Carmel Highlands off Highway 1. Many of the suites and rooms also have views of Point Lobos State Park to the north, and patios and balconies from which to enjoy them. The California Market at Pacific’s Edge has a 1,200-square-foot deck, with glass-panel walls and a louvered roof. There’s also an outdoor pool and any number of activities that can be booked from the hotel. Try a sailing and scuba diving trip on a 70-foot yacht cruising around Monterey Bay for an afternoon or evening, including a gourmet lunch or dinner.

5. The Hideaway

Hotel, Luxury

The stone-walled courtyard area at The Hideaway features comfortable seating areas and a fire pit.
Courtesy of The Hideaway / Expedia

This 24-room boutique inn showcases warm, craftsman-style architecture, all gabled roofs, exposed wood and cobblestone fireplaces. It’s located in the small beach city of Carmel-by-the-Sea and is a few blocks from Carmel Bay beach and Carmel Mission Museum, a venerable 18th-century Spanish church. Guests of this Big Sur bed and breakfast can use complimentary cruiser bikes for exploring the area. The rooms feature luxury Denver Mattress Company beds and there are fire pits on the communal patio for those who enjoy an outdoor evening glass of wine. In the mornings you can have breakfast in bed with a breakfast basket delivered to your door.

6. Coachman's Inn

Hotel, Luxury

A fireplace and comfortable seating fill the breakfast room at the Coachmans Inn, Big Sur, California.
Courtesy of Coachman's Inn / Expedia

Just round the corner from The Hideaway is another boutique Carmel-by-the-Sea gem, Coachman’s Inn. You’ll certainly never go hungry thanks to the complimentary buffet breakfasts, wine and hors d’oeuvres, plus homemade cookies in the Coach Room every afternoon. The breakfast features a signature chef’s entree, which could be French toast, artichoke quiche or blueberry pancakes, plus fresh fruit, granola, yogurt, and a baked good such as blueberry sour cream scones or muffins of the pumpkin or honey and buttermilk variety. There’s a hot tub and dry sauna and some of the rooms have jetted spa tubs or fireplaces. The premier arts venue in Monterey, The Sunset Center, is just a block away.

7. Wayside Inn

Hotel, Luxury

Hanging baskets and walkway planters are filled with flowers and foliage in the courtyard of the red-brick Wayside Inn, Big Sur, California.
Courtesy of Wayside Inn / Expedia

The rooms at the Wayside Inn are equipped with warm leather armchairs, dark oak furniture and French linens, while many have fireplaces and air-tubs. This Big Sur luxury hotel arranges some great activities in the area, including a Dali17 Museum package, showcasing work by Salvador Dalí at the Custom House Plaza in Monterey, and visits to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. The beach at Carmel Bay is a 10-minute walk away and the Sunset Center for performing arts, and the Center for Photographic Art, are both just round the corner.

8. La Playa Carmel

Hotel, Luxury

An oversized chess set can be seen next to the retro-inspired pool area at La Playa Carmel, Carmel, California.
Courtesy of La Playa Carmel / Expedia

A 75-room Big Sur boutique hotel just yards from the beach in a restored mansion built in 1905, La Playa Carmel was first constructed by artist Christian Jorgensen as a gift for his wife and had the first swimming pool in Carmel-by-the-Sea. The beach cottage-style rooms have views of either the garden, estate or ocean, and some have patios or, in the case of the Poolside Casita, direct access to the pool. Bud’s Bar, named after former owner Howard ‘Bud’ Allan, is known for its cocktails – the jade hunter is a delicious way to celebrate the popular local pastime of searching for gems and is made from absinthe, rye, cognac, bitters and lemon.

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