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The Central Coast's Best Luxury Hotels

Spectacular views and extreme creature comforts play a starring role at these upscale properties

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Fess Parker Wine Country Inn

There’s a bit of the Wild West at this luxurious wine country inn. Vintner Fess Parker, of Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone TV fame, opened the inn in 1998. Today it’s still run by his family, and you can wade in the nostalgia by visiting the gallery off the lobby, which displays black-and-white images of Parker from his Hollywood days. Each of the 19 spacious rooms and suites is slightly different. Grand Garden rooms have cozy gas fireplaces and views of Los Olivos, while suites with living rooms are expansive enough to spread out and relax. At the Bear and Star restaurant, ingredients for the “refined ranch cuisine” are sourced from the Fess Parker Home Ranch, just seven miles from the inn. Wagyu specialties abound—from carpaccio to burgers, meatloaf to steaks—while the Fess Parker Winery supplies the restaurant with estate-grown Rhône varietals. Lounge by the pool, or drop in at the spa for a massage or facial (a highlight: the Heaven on Earth package, which blends the Unwind massage with a customized Elemis facial). Pro tip: End the evening on a nostalgic note, borrowing a Fess Parker movie from the library for guests.

Alisal Guest Ranch & Resort

This elegantly rustic 10,000-acre ranch tucked into the Santa Ynez Valley encourages you to get unplugged and get outdoors. In fact, there are no TVs or phones in the guest rooms. Instead, guests head to the barn to choose a noble steed and enjoy the 50 miles of riding trails that wind through canyons, past shaded hillsides, refreshing streams, and grazing cattle. Saddle up for the popular morning ride to enjoy a hearty cowboy breakfast featuring gigantic flapjacks at the historic Adobe Camp, which sits among giant sycamores in the nearby hills. If riding horses isn’t for you, you can fish in a spring-fed lake, hike through Deer Canyon, cycle the trails, play tennis, practice your swing at two championship golf courses, or unwind at the spa. Executive chef Anthony Endy expertly blends seasonal California cuisine with Western ranch cooking, whether guests are dining in the Ranch Room or having a meal by the pool. When you sit back in the evening with the distant sounds of the barnyard as the sun sets over the oak-studded hills, you might realize you haven’t checked your cell phone all day.

Belmond El Encanto

There’s a reason this hotel is named after the Spanish word for “charmed.” An oasis for old-Hollywood stars since the 1920s, this upscale resort offers guests an away-from-it-all feel, even though it’s just minutes from downtown. Sitting on a seven-acre hillside property overlooking the city, the central building and several craftsman-style and Spanish colonial bungalows were recently restored, offering elegant spaces to relax. At the two restaurants—called simply the Dining Room and Terrace—chefs showcase the region’s ingredients in coastal-inspired dishes, which can include herbs from the on-site garden and cheese from the milk of the property’s resident Holstein cow, Ellie. Indulge at the spa with massage therapies, facial and body treatments, oxygen treatments, and skin care products from Beverly Hills facialist Linda Ross. Use the fitness studio for a workout on the Technogym treadmills, exercise bikes, and ellipticals, or take a cardio class. Or just soak in the California lifestyle at the zero-edge swimming pool, with a drink and an unparalleled view of the Santa Barbara coast.

Ojai Valley Inn

Spread across 220 acres of coastal valley, the Ojai Valley Inn opened in 1923, originally commissioned by an early 20th-century glass tycoon. With white stucco and terra-cotta buildings, the mission-style retreat looks like a dreamy California village wedged between the Pacific Ocean and the Topatopa Mountains. Luxurious spa penthouses are ultra-private, and their location in the Spa Ojai building gives guests an easy route to their warm Himalayan salt stone massage or sound energy therapy treatment. The Hacienda Penthouse, atop a hillside villa, brings an air of Morocco to the California landscape. Wallace Neff Historic Rooms, built in the early days of the property, offer the relaxed glamour of that era. Days can be as peaceful or as action-packed as you like and may include golfing at the Ojai Country Club, blending essential oils in the on-site apothecary, lounging next to one of the property’s several pools, hiking, horseback riding, or indulging in retail therapy at two on-site boutiques. Olivella serves traditional and modern interpretations of Italian cuisine, while The Oak’s dishes highlight the resort’s herb garden. Pro tip: Order the signature lavender lemonade.

Post Ranch Inn

Described by devotees as the most luxurious, one-of-a-kind lodging experience in all of California, the Post Ranch Inn was purpose-built to blend in with the Santa Lucia Mountains. Opened in 1992, and designed by famed Big Sur architect Mickey Muennig, the modern dwellings here resemble sophisticated tree houses—at one with the earth, sky, and water. Each of the 39 buildings is built from recycled redwood and paneled glass, and each was designed with complete seclusion in mind. Choose ocean-view accommodations, like the Cliff House with a deck suspended over the cliffs, to feel as if you’re soaring with the red-tailed hawks. Or if you get your inspiration from the mountains, book the Peak House, which faces the top of the ridge. The Post Ranch Spa offers soothing body and facial treatments, private yoga and meditation practices, and even shaman healing sessions, while two pools on the cliffs have views that blend sea and sky. Other activities—morning yoga, guided nature walks, tours of the chef’s garden, and stargazing—keep guests immersed in nature. This is the place to go off the grid, commune with loved ones (or reconnect with yourself), and enjoy total privacy.

Ventana Big Sur

Ventana is Spanish for “window,” and this hotel in a redwood forest takes advantage of its spectacular coast-meets-mountain setting. Many of the hotel’s 59 rooms, which are outfitted with fireplaces and soaking tubs, look onto the ocean or the mountains from private patios or balconies. For guests who want to get even closer to the trees, the resort, which underwent a renovation in 2017, offers new glamping accommodations: 15 safari tents that feel refined and private are set into a 20-acre wooded canyon and outfitted with plush beds, lighting, and fire pits (and include daily housekeeping and nightly turn-down service). Visit Spa Alila for relaxation and rejuvenation through massage, energy work, bodywork, skin care, and astrology readings. Soak in the Japanese hot baths, swim in two heated outdoor pools, explore the property on daily guided hikes, or visit the Glass House Gallery to view work by local artists. At the Sur House restaurant, ingredients from the nearby farms and sea are the stars—along with dramatic views.

Carmel Valley Ranch

Those who have only dipped a toe into the Carmel region may think it’s all about the charming coastal community, Carmel-by-the-Sea. But there’s an entire area of Carmel that’s missing from that experience: Carmel Valley. There, the 500-acre Carmel Valley Ranch is like a sophisticated summer camp for all ages—a place where you can fill your day with workshops, hilltop yoga, and golf (on an 18-hole course designed by Pete Dye). Nights are for stargazing and making s’mores. The 181 spacious ranch suites are scattered across three neighborhoods, each with its own distinct personality—guests can choose views of the valley, the golf course, or small courtyards that attract local wildlife. The ranch grows 7,000 lavender plants, which make their way into treatments at the Spa Aiyana. And because Carmel Valley Ranch is in the heart of one of California’s most fertile growing regions, the area’s wealth of wine and sustainable, organic food is the highlight of the menu at Valley Kitchen. Pro tip: Reserve far in advance for the Wine Dinner Series, hosted by the hotel’s executive chef and sommelier, who match the wines and spirits of Monterey County with locally sourced ingredients.

Hyatt Carmel Highlands

Located four miles south of Carmel on a coastal stretch known as the Gateway to Big Sur, the Hyatt Carmel Highlands feels like a true retreat, one that’s in easy reach of both civilization and wilderness. The 48 rooms (including 11 suites) all have wood-burning fireplaces and views of either the property’s gardens or the craggy coastline. Known since its beginnings in 1917 as the Highlands Inn, the boutique hideaway has been a repeat destination for generations of Californians, as well as legendary celebrities like Ansel Adams, Elizabeth Taylor, Marlon Brando, Julia Child, and Robert Redford. California Market at Pacific’s Edge sits overlooking the ocean (locals prefer the outdoor seating for lunch, especially after a hike at nearby Point Lobos), and its local, seasonal ingredients are featured in dishes like ceviche, fish tacos, and Dungeness crab cakes. Take one of the complimentary mountain bikes on a local adventure or relax at the heated outdoor swimming pool. In-room spa services and a fitness center keep wellness top of mind, although a workout may be the furthest thing from your mind when you’re enjoying a cocktail at the Sunset Lounge as the sun sinks into the Pacific Ocean.

Quail Lodge

You don’t have to be a golfer to enjoy spending time at Carmel’s Quail Lodge—but if you are, you may never want to leave. The 18-hole championship golf course—designed by Robert Muir Graves in 1964 and later refined by Todd Eckenrode—features short grass areas that surround the greens for more shot options, as well as grass swales that come into play on seven holes. There’s also an on-site academy for those duffers who want to polish their skills with the aid of a pro. The stylish 93-room lodge is inspired by historic California ranches and Spanish colonial design, with guest room balconies and patios opening up to the grounds. Off the golf course, take advantage of the heated outdoor swimming pool, bocce ball courts, and tennis courts (with a pro on hand for lessons), or rev up at the Off-Road Land Rover Experience Driving School. Reward all that activity at the Waypoint Bar & Deck, with signature cocktails and casual dishes, or at Edgar’s restaurant, with ingredients from nearby organic farms. Pro tip: Friday nights are Cioppino Night at Edgar’s—a local favorite.

Casa Palmero at Pebble Beach

With its red roof tiles, bougainvillea vines, and verdant gardens, Casa Palmero feels like a luxurious Mediterranean villa. The new hotel also overlooks the first and second fairways of the famed Pebble Beach Golf Links. The 24 rooms all have fireplaces, oversized soaking tubs, and beds that invite deep rest, whether or not you spend the day on the golf course. Indulge in that villa guest feeling by relaxing in the living room, library, billiard room, or heated outdoor pool. Personalized services at Casa Palmero include fresh breakfast baskets every morning, complimentary cocktails each evening, and access to such private clubs as the Spanish Bay Club and the Beach & Tennis Club. All Casa Palmero guests can also access the Lodge at Pebble Beach, and its myriad fine dining restaurants, bars, cafés, shops, and spa. (The Pebble Massage is the most popular treatment, incorporating the heat of warmed, sculpted stones.) After sipping your evening cocktail at Casa Palmero, wander over to Stillwater Bar & Grill for local fresh hamachi crudo and Monterey Bay red abalone.

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