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Nestled about halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco, Big Sur is famous for its scenic views along the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) and iconic Bixby Bridge (any Big Little Lies fans out there?!). Driving through this small town you would never know anyone lived in the area, let alone the beautiful all-inclusive Ventana Big Sur resort brought to you by Hyatt!
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Alila Ventana is a newly all-inclusive resort hidden in Big Sur, giving a truly secluded feel to the property. While Ventana has only been all-inclusive since June of this year, the hotel has been around since the 1970’s! Ventana Big Sur joined the Hyatt portfolio in 2018 through an acquisition of a smaller international hotel management company.
Let’s get to the best part of this property – the points redemption value! Although Ventana is now an all-inclusive, Hyatt has not raised the points redemption for this property, for now at least. That makes this property a very valuable deal. For our one night, we only redeemed 22,000 Hyatt points, a stay that would have cost $2,400 out of pocket.
The normal redemption for one night starts at 30,000 points, but we were able to get 8,000 points back with Hyatt’s current promotion of 25% points back for redemptions through 2/28/2021. Even at the full point cost of 30,000, this is a great value considering the dollar cost per night.
During our stay, news broke that availability has opened up for most of 2021, so now is the time to jump! As Big Sur is a popular PCH destination, points availability could go pretty fast. The breakdown on points redemptions for rooms is below:
- Standard King for 30,000 points
- Standard Suite for 48,000 points
- Premium Suite for 60,000 points
Next year is a great time to try to stay as well if you are shooting to get Globalist status with Hyatt’s current elite status requirements. Having Globalist status for a stay at this hotel will give you greater odds of a suite upgrade! We are only Explorists, so received an upgrade to a slightly larger room, but believe being Globalists could have given us a boost to the Standard Suite.
Don’t think you’ll be able to get enough nights in by the February deadline for Globalist status? If you don’t already have the Chase Hyatt credit card, now is a good time to sign up to help give you a boost! The credit card gives you 10 eligible nights towards your status if you apply by 12/31/2020. You’ll also receive 50,000 points that can get you to almost 2 nights at Alila Ventana. 😉
Hyatt Ventana Booking and Check-In
Alila Ventana is able to be booked through Hyatt’s website as you would normally book any hotel. No need to call separately to make your reservation like you had to at Miraval. A representative from the hotel will check-in with you via email with more details a few weeks before your stay.
Driving into the property was a little confusing, as there are a few parking lots outside. One parking lot including the only Tesla Supercharger station in the area. We had to ask one of the maintenance staff where hotel guests should park. They told us to drive through these large gates and let the front reception know we are checking in through the intercom. It was a pretty cool experience, just not labeled very well.
There is an option for free valet or self-parking and we chose to self-park. We were met by a very nice gentleman with a little golf cart that took all our bags. We hitched a ride up to the front reception and had our short orientation of the property and our stay. Our rooms weren’t quite ready for us, so we were able to get lunch and received a text when we could check-in. We had to go back to reception to get our key, but our bags were already in our room.
As previously mentioned, Hyatt Ventana Big Sur has been around since the ’70s, so the property is older but the rooms received a nice refresh in 2017. We felt like we were in our very own rustic cabin in the woods! You would never know you have neighbors but can hear footsteps on the walkway outside of the room. Our room overlooked the redwoods and didn’t have too much sunlight, but felt very private.
The room is very well thought out, with bags of wood for your fireplace and a retractable screen door to let fresh air in. There are doors over the jacuzzi tub in the bathroom that open up to views out your window. The bathroom products are also top-notched and locally sourced from a small business. A touch I absolutely love and respect!
The grounds are impeccably designed and have the most beautiful landscaping. There is something breathtaking to look at around every corner on this property.
The main pool has a vista view of the Pacific Ocean and a small green with Adirondack chairs for lounging. Unfortunately, the Japanese baths were closed due to COVID so we couldn’t take a look, but I imagine they are amazing during normal times! This also applies to the infinity hot tub at the main pool overlooking the redwoods (pools are open). The second pool offers as good of views as the first, as well as a server stationed there during lunch hours for food/drink orders.
We did not make it into the gym either but saw they had a couple of stationary bikes sitting outside. The views of the ocean will definitely keep you motivated during your vacation workout! Additionally, Ventana offers 2 short hiking trails through the redwoods that are very peaceful and have very little foot traffic.
The Food at Hyatt Ventana
As we were hoping, the food was fantastic! All meals required reservation, likely due to restaurant capacity requirements at this time, but may always be required.
The options for lunch are to eat at the poolside restaurant, or have a picnic at the “Redwood Cathedral”. Both options offer different, but absolutely beautiful views.
Hyatt Ventana has 2 pools, one on each side of the property, and you are free to eat at either. Front reception gave us the tip that the pool on the Northside of the property has faster delivery times due to closer proximity to the kitchen. It was also closer to the main reception building, and our hotel room. We took her advice to eat there.
The Redwood Cathedral picnic was very intimate and a picnic basket was waiting on a table for us. There were only 2 other couples eating at that time, so it felt almost like we had the whole forest to ourselves! There is a very small menu to choose from, so we both went with charcuterie plates. This was the afternoon of our checkout, so we decided to eat one and save the other for the road. We recommend having one lunch in the Redwood Cathedral during your stay!
Dinner was at the stunning Sur House, with views of the ocean and all outdoor seating. The Sur House is normally open to the public as well, but due to COVID, the restaurant is currently guests only. This made for a more intimate setting under the stars, heat lamps, and cuddled up with a blanket. The weather was in the 50’s, so the restaurant went above and beyond to ensure guests were warm during their meals.
We enjoyed a 3-course meal and decided to splurge on a glass of bubbly and wine, making our only spend at the resort around $40. We left a tip on the drinks because it was not clear if alcohol should be, or if it’s included. During our stay at Miraval, it was made very clear at check-in that no tips should be left, and would not be accepted. Our tip was definitely accepted at Ventana, but we did not mind because the service was top notch.
Breakfast was the best meal to us, we love a good start to our day! Everything was fresh and sourced locally, or produced on property. The chicken sausage was the best I have ever had and highly recommend you get if you find yourself at Ventana. Sebastian always recommends the avocado toast as well! The morning views of The Sur House also painted a whole new picture compared to our dinner the previous night. It felt like a completely new venue!
Overall, the food was delicious and of high quality. We would have liked more options on their menus, but we have zero complaints about what we ate.
Note: The Sur House is a little ways away from the main property. You can walk .5 mile from your room through a trail, or call a golf cart at reception to take you to the restaurant. Golf carts can also be called to drive you back to your room.
Other Hyatt Ventana Experiences
Ventana does a great job of making you feel at home with some of their daily activities! Each evening there is a happy hour with a non-alcoholic beverage of the day that’s served right around sunset. Our drink of the day was a delightfully warm cup of apple cider, perfect for a chilly sunset in November.
Another great program offered is s’mores by the fire every night at 8 pm! There is a fire pit in front of the main building and every night a s’mores station is set up for guests. What better way to spend a night on the California coast than roasting marshmallows over a fire?! The kitchen does also prepare pre-made s’mores if making them isn’t your thing. You also have the option to take a kit back to your room and make them over your fireplace! We were tempted but didn’t want to make our room too warm with a fire going. Plus, it’s fun to have the whole outdoor fire and s’mores experience.
Each day there is usually one activity in the morning that is available, ranging from yoga to a guided hike. We were happy to hear that our morning offered a guided hike. We love to learn about the ecosystems we visit and our guide was an expert. Luck was on our side because we were the only guests to show up. It turned into a private tour of the property and the nature living within it. I recommend making it to the hike while you are there if it is offered. It is only about an hour and a mile or so of walking, very doable for anyone.
Ventana is also incredibly dog-friendly! We are big dog people, so loved seeing how many there were running around the property. While the property is dog-friendly, it is adults only so no family vacations at this property.
All-Inclusive Growing Pains
As you know by this point, Ventana is newly all-inclusive, which comes with some growing pains. The main critique I have is that the property is still working through those and it shows.
We booked the second we learned Ventana became all-inclusive back in June, so they were still working out all the details at that time. However, all our communications with the resort leading up to, and including, our stay came with different responses depending on who you spoke with.
The main confusion stemmed from the food aspect of the all-inclusive package. An employee we spoke to before our stay let us know that we would be able to have lunch the day of our arrival, as well as before checkout. When a concierge emailed us with a form to fill out about our stay, we asked again about the ability to have lunch upon our arrival. We were told that lunch upon check-in would not be included in our stay because our night started with dinner. Although a little disappointed, we accepted that answer and went into our check-in with that expectation. Fast forward to check-in, we were told that we could have lunch by the pool until 5 pm with no problem! Good news for us, because we were starving!
The menu online also had confusing wording that led us to believe we could each only have one entree and either one appetizer or dessert each. We thought that anything over may be subject to charges. To clear up the confusion, and avoid unexpected charges, we asked the front desk at check-in what the parameters of our meals were. She didn’t exactly know how to answer the question “so how much food are we able to order?”. She passed the question on to her colleague, who said he believed that they designed the all-inclusive to be up to $800 in meals per day, per person. Basically, we had nothing to worry about unless we order “like 10 steaks.”
Overall, the staff was very accommodating and friendly, but we had to ask a lot of questions to know what we were doing. This didn’t take away from our stay, we just had to figure some things out on the fly.
Takeaway of Hyatt Ventana Big Sur
Book yourself 2 nights at this property! I am not sure that you need more since there are not many activities to do throughout the day. If you are planning to explore the Big Sur area more and leave the property, I am sure you could stay for 4+ days and never get bored!
We had driven nearly 1,000 miles at this point in our road trip and were happy to have one night to stay put and relax. By checkout, we agreed that we could have done another night but may have been a little bored with a third. We aren’t very good at the whole sit still and relax thing on our vacations, so 2 days at this property would have been the perfect balance for us.
While there are some kinks to workout with the all-inclusive aspect, Hyatt Ventana is 1,000% worth the value for a property of this caliber! Every employee was so friendly and accommodating, the property was beautiful, the food was delicious, and the room was cozy.
The best part about Hyatt Alila Ventana Big Sur? There’s not a bad season to enjoy it’s majesty!
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