Alila Ventana Big Sur: Living the Lux Life

TLDR: Alila Ventana is a worth a stay if you have $$$ or Hyatt points to spare and want to live the lux life in Big Sur without crowds. This "food-inclusive" experience doesn't include all you can drink or eat (you have to pay for alcohol), but the experience is essentially glamping to a much higher level. I would not recommend if you don't like hiking or are very afraid of bees.

I stayed at the Alila Ventana in Big Sur for my "Dirty 30"/"Golden" B-day on the 30th-
it felt indulgent, and at times it was very relaxing,
as some moments were the most peaceful I've ever had in my life.
Social distancing in serenity.

How to book:
Originally, I saw an article on TPG and had tried calling Hyatt to book with points, but they said there was no availability for a year and a half. I checked availability on the Hyatt app every other day or so, and was able to book a Big Sur Suite about 5 days before for 48,000 Hyatt points (transferred 1:1 from Chase Ultimate Rewards). Booking is fairly stressful since the hotel only has 60 rooms, and a Hyatt rep on the phone told me the standard 30,000 point rooms apparently now require a minimum 3 night stay (90,000 points total).
Update: My total stay was actually 40,800 points for a suite, since Hyatt has a promo to get points back if you register as a Hyatt member and stay by October 8, 2020. Generally, I wish I got the Hyatt credit card a while ago before I starteed travelling.

Once I booked, I emailed to see what activities and options were available and also called the "leisure concierge."

Driving to Big Sur:
I drove from Sac through Monterey, stopping for a few small hikes and lunch at Nepenthe before checking in around 3:30 PM. There's a small, unassuming sign on the east side of the 1, and there was no clear way to the hotel. I parked by the Tesla superchargers before I asked for help from some employees, who directed me to a gate. I then proceeded through a winding road and opted to self-park instead of valet.

After parking, an employee was waiting in a golf cart, and took luggage and drove us to the check in.

At check in, there were masks available for guests (but every employee I had greeted so far had masks anyways.) Check in was smooth - the receptionist showed a map and explained where the room would be and the layout of the property. 

The receptionist also informed me that I had been upgraded from the Big Sur Suite to a Vista Hot Tub Suite. I was holding in my excitement as I said thanks, because I knew that this room was valued at up to $4,200 a night.

The receptionist then informed us the mask policy (required in all public indoor areas and outside when social distancing is not possible), and that the Japanese baths and outdoor hot tubs were also closed (fortunately the suite had a private hot tub). The room would also have a seal to indicate that it was sanitized and COVID-free. After checking in, I was driven to the suite, where my luggage was waiting outside and there was a seal indicating that it was sanitized. 

The suite looked exactly as advertised:

Complimentary reusable water bottles

Private hot tub

Vista with the ocean

Healthy snacks

Some rose- but corkage fee at dinner would have been $50 so I decided to chill and drink ASAP.

After checking out the suite - it was time to drink in the hot tub. 

Next on the agenda was "social" (distance) hour, and checking out more of the grounds. 

The infinity hot tub had a nice view, but was closed.

Sauna also closed.

Meadow view pool.

Post-swim relaxing.

The gym had outdoor bikes, but these lavender bushes had tons of bees. 

Next was dinner at Sur House, which required a .3 mile hike along a hill.

Halfway there was a redwood "cathedral." We stopped here for a minute just to enjoy the peace and quiet- it was absolute serenity.

The Sur House featured outdoor dining with a view of the Coast

The meal is NOT all you can eat, but you get an appetizer, entree, and dessert. 
Here is the gazpacho and ceviche.



Raw milk ice cream with raspberries and ganache.

Strawberry shortcake with basil creme fraiche- the worst dish.

One table away from the best corner.

Social distance view during sunset.

Bubbly and a bath.

They also gave firewood to burn- you can make smores but they ran out of materials so we just got cookies which were delicious. 

The next morning, the air was mystical with the fog among the trees.

They are environmentally friendly with refillable water bottles.

I also opted for breakfast delivered- and enjoyed it from the private hot tub.

Breakfast was the best meal: the hash was amazing, the avocado toast was refreshing, and the chia bowl was a nice way to finish the meal.

The clothing optional mountain pool:

Lavender was everywhere- it smelled great, but it meant bees were everywhere also.

After checking out at 11, I opted for a picnic lunch and to hike and explore the grounds before leaving.
Visiting the circle of redwoods was definitely amazing and worth the short half mile hike. 

Picnic lunch to go included: tri tip sandwich, chicken wrap, trail mix, and evian water.

After walking around one last loop, I decided to chill and take in the view before heading down the rest of Big Sur. 

While my stay was nice- I feel like it's difficult to justify spending $4,200 cash. For a points redemption in light of COVID- it was nice to have separate space from other guests and all the employees wore masks and I felt safe from COVID. It would have been nice to stay another night or two to have an even more relaxed experienced and not feel stressed about trying everything on the property. Also, I was bummed about not being able to use the Japanese baths or the infinity hot tubs. 

If you are willing to stay here on points - I'd recommend doing a standard room during the week- where you might be able to get two nights for 60,000 points- but a Hyatt representative on the phone also told me that rooms aren't available til April next year and that there is a new minimum 3 night policy for a standard room. The other advantage of points is that there are no taxes and fees. I'd also recommend getting the Hyatt credit card before- it's probably the easiest way to get Hyatt points.

For those in California looking for a lux staycation - Ventana is a viable option during COVID. If you want an all you can eat, all you can drink true all-inclusive at a beach- Mexico or Dominican Republic are probably a better value. But for those who like the camping experience or are more outdoorsy- this is the hotel for you. While some moments felt mystical and there were times I felt truly at peace, I'm not sure if I would pay the cash value.


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