Hotel review: Post Ranch Inn (Big Sur, California, USA)

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Wednesday newsletters always feature a luxury hotel and/or flight review.

Today (June 11, 2014): Review of the Post Ranch Inn, a Big Sur legend (California, USA).

The Post Ranch Inn, a resort built into the cliffs of incredibly scenic Big Sur, might be the ultimate destination for a luxurious escape. The 39-room resort is one of the most beautiful hotels in the United States and offers an intimate stay amid gorgeous natural surroundings, ideal for romance, relaxation or rejuvenation. The organic architecture is breathtaking, seeming to grow out of the ground beside the hotel’s surrounding redwoods.

The Post Ranch Inn features in my top 10 lists of the world’s most spectacular cliff-side resorts, the best luxury resorts in the USA, and restaurants with views that match the food.

In this review (more info below my Youtube clip & the slideshow):

  • Pros & things I like
  • Cons & things to know
  • My verdict
  • Tips for future guests & save money
  • Best time to visit
  • How to get there

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PROS & THINGS I LIKE
  • It has been written and said many times before by other guests, but the setting of the resort is spectacular beyond words, high atop the cliffs of Big Sur, 1200 feet (400 meters) above the Pacific Ocean. The breathtaking views over the blue waters, with the foggy cloud layer in the distance, will keep you mesmerized no matter what time of the day.
  • With natural architecture embracing the coast’s dramatic beauty, the 39 rooms blend rustic elegance, comfort and privacy with panoramic ocean or mountain views. Rooms come in 8 categories and are all located in separate “houses” located along the pedestrian walkway atop the clip: Butterfly, Mountain House, Tree House, and Peak House rooms all face the mountain side (some of them with open views, some of them with a view through the forest). Coast House, Ocean House, Pacific House, and Cliff House rooms all enjoy stunning views of the ocean. I stayed at an Ocean House room and an Upper Butterfly Room, and I loved them both, although the views from the Ocean House were hard to beat.
  • Rooms are cozily decorated in a warm Pacific design with lots of wooden touches. All rooms feature a heavenly soft King bed (with organic mattress), a wood-burning fireplace, large windows to take in the splendid views, a private deck, and a spacious bathrooms with an indoor – or outdoor (in the most expensive room categories) – spa tub for 2 (only the Lower Butterfly Room does not have a spa tub).
  • The minibar is well stocked with lots of complimentary snacks (cheeses, fruit juices, wines, soft drinks, chips, fresh-baked cookies).
  • WiFi is complimentary.
  • Valet parking is complimentary.
  • The Post Ranch Inn offers two cliff-top hot basking spas and one swimming pool. The two infinity Jade and Meditation Spas offer expansive views that meld sea and sky. Kept at a constant 104 degrees Fahrenheit (41°C), they provide a rejuvenating place where the panoramic natural beauty of Big Sur warms body and soul. Located on a serene and sunny knoll down the hill, the heated lap pool is perfect for a refreshing swim or a relaxing poolside sun bath.
  • The Wine Spectator Grand-Award winning Sierra Mar restaurant offers exquisite dining with endless ocean views (and when you time it right, gorgeous sunset views). The dining menu changes daily with the choice between a four or nine course tasting menu, priced at $120 or $160 per person respectively. Each morning, until 10.30 am, complimentary gourmet breakfast buffet (with cold and hot food stations) is offered and this truly is one of the highlights of the day. I especially liked the selection of fruits and the salmon bagels.
  • The resort has many complimentary activities on offer: morning yoga, guided hikes or saunters, stargazing with a celestial telescope, and whale watching (from the resort terraces in the right season).
  • I did not try it, but the Post Ranch Inn has a Spa on site (which is supposed to be excellent, according to many reviews).
  • The staff is as friendly as they can be, and they offer excellent service.
  • The resort is eco-friendly (guests can even borrow a Lexus Hybrid).
  • The Post Ranch Inn is an adults-only property (so perfect for those in need of romance and tranquility).
  • Lots of little touches make you feel very spoilt, from the glass of local champagne on arrival to the flasks of cold water when you leave. A lot of thought and care has clearly gone into making guest’s visit very special.

CONS & THINGS TO KNOW

The Post Ranch Inn is as perfect as it can be. Nevertheless, there are some things I want to share with you that you need to beware of when booking a room at the property:

  • Room rates (starting at $750 for a mountain view room and more than $1000 for an ocean view room) and food (fixed dining menu starting at $120, excluding wine) are very high, but you should know before getting in. The resort does have some promotions from time to time, especially in low season (December-February, excluding the Holidays).
  • The Post Ranch Inn is high above the sea and does not have access to a beach. However, it is only a 10-minute drive to the stunningly beautiful, wild Pfeiffer Beach.
  • The rooms have no TVs or alarm clocks. But I considered this to be an advantage, not a disadvantage (why would you bother watching tv in this spectacular environment, with all the utterly romantic amenities on offer?).
  • Hot tubs and swimming pool are located at a distance from each other (15 minutes by foot), so it is not an option to swim and revitalize in the hot tub immediately afterwards. In addition, in the blistering heat of a hot summer day (when there is no fog), a hot tub temperature of 104 degrees Fahrenheit (41°C) is simply too hot, and there is no possibility to cool down the tubs a little (most of the year however, on the colder days, they must be heaven).
  • WiFi at the swimming pool was working, but not near the two hot tubs, where I spent most of my time (because of the killer views). I missed it to surf the internet on my tablet while enjoying the view there.
  • I found the setting of the dining room and its views to be more impressive than the dinner itself, which I thought was a little underwhelming for the price and did not fully met my high expectations. But … les goûts et les couleurs ne se discutent pas.
  • Sunset views are only possible from the restaurant and the adjacent relaxation garden, but not from most ocean facing accommodations, at least not in spring & summer.
  • The views are outstanding on a clear day. However, if you get a foggy day, your experience might be slightly disappointing.
  • While views over the Ocean are terrific, you cannot really see the cliffs very well. I missed the presence of some paths, small hiking trails or benches down the hills below the Inn (without compromising the privacy of the guest rooms) to soak up the spectacular views and surroundings.
  • The decor of some rooms feels a little dated and tired, and they could use a refurbishment, to make guests feel a little more accepting of the very high room rates (which come with high expectations).
  • All rooms feature one King-sized bed, so, unfortunately, this is not the best resort for a friends getaway. Only 4 rooms do have a window seating area that has a twin day-bed, hence allowing separate beds for friends (Ocean House North, Ocean House South, Upper Butterfly room, and Middle Butterfly room).
  • The old-fashioned blinds were really hard to use and kind of annoyed me (they were not closed by the staff during the turn down service). In addition, the room could not be completely darkened and the sunrise light woke me up each morning.

MY VERDICT
  • Location: 9/10
  • Design: 9/10
  • Rooms: 8/10
  • Food: 8/10
  • Service: 9/10
  • Overall experience: excellent: 8,6/10

TIPS FOR FUTURE GUESTS & SAVE MONEY
  • Save money: read my tips for getting the best deal at a luxury resort like the Post Ranch Inn (or receive many free perks).
  • Save money: I recommend to book your stay at the Post Ranch Inn via Virtuoso, since this has the added benefit of free and exclusive VIP amenities (e.g. upgrade, daily breakfast, early check in, late check out, and $100 USD resort credit).
  • Book an ocean-view room as they have more updated interiors and will give you a far superior experience because of the views.
  • The resort Lexus Hybrid cars can bring you to local restaurants in the Big Sur area (complimentary). Make use of this service.
  • The most scenic parts of the famous coastal Highway 1 are located 10 miles to the north and south of the resort (they are far less impressive on other parts). I added some photos below.
  • Read my tips for preparing your trip in time.

BEST TIME TO VISIT

The views from the Post Ranch Inn are sometimes obstructed by the pervasive fog that the area is known for, so you want to know what’s the best time of the year to plan your stay. Big Sur weather is best in spring and fall, with warm and clear days, and comfortably cool nights. The coast is often shrouded in fog during mid-summer (June to September). Winter can bring storms and rains. So the best months, that usually come with brilliant sunshine and clear views, are October, November, April and May.


HOW TO GET THERE

Big Sur is located along the scenic coastal Highway 1 and thus can only be reached by car. It is 140 miles from San Francisco (2 hour drive), 100 miles from San Jose, 218 miles from Sacramento, 310 miles from Los Angeles (6 hour drive), and 212 miles from Bakersfield.  From time to time, winter rains precipitate mudslides that can close California Hwy 1 near Big Sur.


VIEW FROM RESORT OVER PACIFIC OCEAN
VIEW FROM RESORT OVER PACIFIC OCEAN
OCEAN VIEWS EVERYWHERE
OCEAN VIEWS EVERYWHERE
MEDITATION HOT TUB
MEDITATION HOT TUB

MEDITATION HOT TUB
MEDITATION HOT TUB
MEDITATION HOT TUB
MEDITATION HOT TUB
QUIET AREA
RESORT GROUNDS
QUIET AREA
QUIET AREA
QUIET AREA
QUIET AREA
SWIMMING POOL
SWIMMING POOL
SWIMMING POOL
SWIMMING POOL
LOBBY ENTRANCE
LOBBY ENTRANCE
LOBBY & RECEPTION
LOBBY & RECEPTION
LOBBY & RECEPTION
LOBBY & RECEPTION
LIBRARY
LIBRARY
RESORT GROUNDS
RESORT GROUNDS
MOUNTAIN VIEWS
MOUNTAIN VIEWS
RESORT GROUNDS
RESORT GROUNDS
JADE HOT TUB
JADE HOT TUB
JADE HOT TUB
JADE HOT TUB
SUNSET VIEW
SUNSET VIEW
TREE HOUSE
TREE HOUSE
TREE HOUSE
TREE HOUSE
OCEAN HOUSES
OCEAN HOUSES
OCEAN HOUSE - BEDROOM
OCEAN HOUSE – BEDROOM
OCEAN HOUSE - BATH
OCEAN HOUSE – BATH TUB
OCEAN HOUSE - BATHROOM
OCEAN HOUSE – BATHROOM
OCEAN HOUSE - BEDROOM
OCEAN HOUSE – BEDROOM
OCEAN HOUSE - FIREPLACE
OCEAN HOUSE – FIREPLACE
OCEAN HOUSE - TERRACE
OCEAN HOUSE – TERRACE
OCEAN HOUSE - TERRACE VIEW
OCEAN HOUSE – TERRACE VIEW
OCEAN HOUSES ON TOP OF THE HILL
OCEAN HOUSES ON TOP OF THE HILL
BUTTERFLY HOUSE
BUTTERFLY HOUSE
UPPER BUTTERFLY ROOM
UPPER BUTTERFLY ROOM
UPPER BUTTERFLY ROOM
UPPER BUTTERFLY ROOM
UPPER BUTTERFLY ROOM
UPPER BUTTERFLY ROOM
UPPER BUTTERFLY ROOM - TERRACE
UPPER BUTTERFLY ROOM – TERRACE
RESORT MAP
RESORT MAP
SIERRA MAR RESTAURANT
SIERRA MAR RESTAURANT
SIERRA MAR RESTAURANT - ENTRANCE
SIERRA MAR RESTAURANT – ENTRANCE
SIERRA MAR RESTAURANT - TERRACE
SIERRA MAR RESTAURANT – TERRACE
SIERRA MAR RESTAURANT
SIERRA MAR RESTAURANT
BREAKFAST BUFFET
BREAKFAST BUFFET
BREAKFAST BUFFET
BREAKFAST BUFFET
BREAKFAST BUFFET
BREAKFAST BUFFET
BREAKFAST BUFFET
BREAKFAST BUFFET
BREAKFAST BUFFET
BREAKFAST BUFFET
SIERRA MAR RESTAURANT
SIERRA MAR RESTAURANT
SIERRA MAR RESTAURANT
SIERRA MAR RESTAURANT
SIERRA MAR RESTAURANT
SIERRA MAR RESTAURANT
SIERRA MAR RESTAURANT AT NIGHT
SIERRA MAR RESTAURANT AT NIGHT
SIERRA MAR RESTAURANT AT DUSK
SIERRA MAR RESTAURANT AT DUSK
BIG SUR - BIXBY CREEK BRIDGE
BIG SUR – BIXBY CREEK BRIDGE
BIG SUR - PFEIFFER BEACH
BIG SUR – PFEIFFER BEACH
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
BIG SUR COAST
BIG SUR
BIG SUR
BIG SUR
BIG SUR
BIG SUR - MCWAY FALLS
BIG SUR – MCWAY FALLS
BIG SUR - SAND DOLLAR BEACH
BIG SUR – SAND DOLLAR BEACH

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