01/23/2013 07:11 am ET Updated Mar 25, 2013

A Dreamy Destination In Big Sur

I'd been reading about and wanting to visit Post Ranch Inn for at least 10 years. For whatever reason, a stay there never fell into place until our last trip over New Year's. Suffice it to say, it is for very good reason that this property is known to be one of the very best in the world. It certainly is. Period. If your finances allow, stay for minimum of three days. If you are on a tighter budget, go for one night as part of a Carmel or Monterey-area stay. It is one of the U.S.'s most expensive places to stay, but it's worth every penny.

Words can't really describe the spectacular setting -- with its casual, outdoorsy-meets-ultra-luxe attributes, it is an experience like none other. The minimal, chic property takes full advantage of its natural surroundings. The whole place seems to float above the Pacific, providing the most stunning coastline views I've seen (and I've been around). The deck outside our room quickly became one of my favorite reading spots, and evenings were spent watching the sun go down from the outdoor hot tub at the edge of the cliff, watching whales breeching were simply magnificent and deeply relaxing. Two nights in a row, we stayed basking in the heat, in the cooling air, for two hours after sundown. Morning yoga classes in the yurt were a great start to the day, and counter to all of the hiking; followed by a remarkable breakfast buffet at Sierra Mar -- the most delicious baked goods and fresh fruits outside of your own home. We've already planned a spring trip here to hike amongst the wild flowers.

What You Need to Know

Great for:
A retreat into nature that will awaken your mind, relax your body and lighten your soul. Privacy and peace are at the core of this hotel, and there is as much or as little activity as one desires with top hiking trails and easy walking trail variety.

With whom:
Your love. This is not a place you'll want to bring the whole family -- no guests under the age of 18. If I were really tired and needed a solo retreat, I'd be quite content here with a few books and my hiking gear.

Memorable moment:
A real standout was the night I spent stargazing with my boyfriend. There is a resident astronomer on site who pointed out the magic while we sat wrapped up in cashmere, a glass of California cabernet in hand. It was so magical -- the closest night sky I've seen to the Omani desert and African bush.

Best time to go:
April through October for the warmest weather and guaranteed prettiest days; winter months can be foggy or rainy, but we had bright blue skies and warm sun our whole stay and loved the chilly nights for deep sleep. If you prefer to be in the area and on property with less people around, I would recommend a February or March trip and to avoid July and August. Big Sur is a micro-climate that changes daily -- you'll very likely hit the sunny, blue skies for at least part of your stay.

Be aware:
There are not small towns nor many restaurants to drive to. There are no movie theaters or shops nearby. Think about just staying on property and going off on hikes to Pfeiffer beach and to a nearby restaurant one night. Carmel is 30 minutes away, but if you are at the property under three days you won't want to leave!


Room options:
The Inn's unique, modern cabins are all about the vistas. Choose an ocean view or mountain view when booking a room. All are made of glass, slate, marble and wood, specifically designed to blend in with the environment. From the platform bed to the fireplace, each room exudes natural comfort and supreme luxe without being obvious. For views of the ocean, I recommend the Cliff House. For outstanding mountain views, try the Tree House, where the steps float mid-air.

Service and vibe:
There is impeccable service -- the staff is always respectful and available to assist in any way possible, yet are not obtrusive nor overt. The vibe is quiet and serene, marked by rustic elegance.

Sierra Mar, the Inn's ranch-style restaurant, is not to be missed. The menu changes daily and always featuring the freshest of California fare made with grass-fed meats, wild or organic fish and organic produce. Cliff-top ocean-view dining doesn't get much better than this, but do note that a) it is very expensive and b) the food is a bit more "chi-chi" than some would expect in the setting (and more so than I would personally like). Their award-winning wine cellar has over 14,000 bottles and 2,600 selections. It was recently honored by Wine Spectator with its prestigious Grand Award, one of only three new recipients in 2012 to receive the honor.

Price per night:
Rates range from $595 (November through April) all the way up to $2,485 for the highest-end room during high season.

Experience it

To do and see
Visit the community's many art galleries -- Coast Gallery and Hawthorne Gallery are among my picks. Stop by the Henry Miller Library, which is far from what you'd expect from a typical library and is complete with screening area, performing arts stage, museum, reading area, and, of course, written works by local authors.

Sport and activity:
There is so much outdoor sport in which to take part -- try complimentary morning yoga or meditation, or go on one of the many stellar area hikes for the full Big Sur experience (guided nature hikes are also complimentary). In addition, the Inn has a full fitness center on site where you can easily fit in a morning workout, as well as a heated lap pool for swimming (side note: there are also two beautiful cliff-top basking pools, for a post-workout soak). The activities director will give you all the info you need to navigate the area and arrange you are driven to trail heads.

Spa and grooming:
The spa is a small, simple pleasure -- redwood serenity infused with the scent of lavender. The expansive menu of services offers anything you could ever want. Try the Wildflower Facial or deep tissue massage. Treatments are also available in your room (indoors or outside on the deck).

Local insights

To eat:
A casual, romantic dinner out (a driver from PRI will drive you, five minutes away) is at the very charming and old-fashioned Americana road stop inn Deetjens. Each small room has its candlelit charm; the food is very good, not great.

To buy:
Visit the Phoenix Shop whilst having a post hike drink or lunch at Nepenthe (great views, decent food), and don't miss the Post Ranch Mercantile shop, which is far more than a typical gift shop -- plus the walk there is just lovely.

Itinerary idea
Have Sierra Mar pack you a lunch and take one of the complimentary Lexus vehicles down the Pacific Coast Highway for a beachside picnic on Pfeiffer beach -- simply stunning.


Post Ranch Inn
47900 Highway 1
Big Sur, CA 93920

Getting there:
About 45 minutes away from Monterey Peninsula Airport. If driving from San Francisco or Los Angeles, check out the site's convenient directions page (and don't miss Seal Beach if driving up from the south).

Tel: +1 831 667 2200
General Manager: Daniel Priano