California Road Trip | Big Sur
Big Sur was probably the most hyped place we went on our trip. I’ve heard people waxing lyrical about this spot on the Californian coast for years. Words like magical, spiritual and special were bandied around, along with the the phrase ‘like nowhere else on earth’. Needless to say I was giddy with excitement to finally make it up there while also trying to suppress a slight trepidation all the hype would lead me to be disappointed… Well, I can hand on heart say Big Sur lived up to every adjective and more and I fell head over heels for the place pretty much as soon as we crossed the boundary line of the Big Sur national park. Big Sur gets a lot of visitors from L.A, San Francisco and much further like us from London for example, and yet it’s managed to really retain it’s small-town, nature-focused, unpretentious feel while also offering some amazing places to stay and eat. That’s a rare, rare thing I’ve found, normally once the amazing hotels come, it can be hard to retain the spirit of the place but Big Sur is still a big hippy at heart which I loved.
We stayed at the amazing Ventana Big Sur, an Alila Resort, and did one night in a super-pampering suite and a second-night glamping in the hotel’s own section of the redwood forest. I loved the balance of this and would actually be really hard pushed to decide what I loved more. The suite we stayed in on our first night had everything you could possibly want and some extras you didn’t even know you needed like a hammock on the deck and a hot tub overlooking the forest. Our room was right in the thick of the resort so the Japanese baths and forest pool were a stone’s throw from our door which was great. One thing I really loved about this hotel, and it applied to both glamping and the main hotel, was the text service. You can text anything you need to a dedicated number rather than calling reception and it gets sorted super quickly. The hotel also does a private shuttle service so you text the concierge asking for a quick lift to dinner or a drink somewhere (sunsets in Big Sur are like a daily ritual) , they collect you and then you text them when you’ve finished dinner (and that bottle of wine) and they drive you home. No decisions on who isn’t drinking for two days, yay! We decided on our long drive up to Big Sur with endless stops and a succession of one night stops that were were going to take it really easy in Big Sur and soak it all in without feeling the pressure to do everything. Ventana Big Sur is the ideal place to do just that. We were treated to amazing weather while there, so much so it was strangely sunny and warm so we spent a whole morning lying poolside on our first morning before heading off for a hike in the afternoon. We had tacos served to our sunlinger and stayed in the bubbling hot tubs, both our own and the ones at the bath house, until we turned into prunes. Heaven! We took in Mcway Falls. ate dinner at Big Sur Bakery, breakfast at Deetjens (both absolute musts) and had sundowner at Nepenthe (I actually loved the unstuffy, chill vibe here but it gets mixed reviews). We didn’t even make it to Post Ranch Inn in the end, even for a drink, because we loved Ventana Big Sur so much (the food, the views, the peace and quiet) and all the other little spots, we kind of forgot we even needed to tick that one off.
Glamping on our second night was such a cool experience. I was worried it might be a bit of a hassle checking out of one room and checking into glamping but Ventana made it super easy. You can park right next to your dedicated tent so no unloading woes and each room has not one but two firepits, s’mores kits and an outdoor sink amongst lots of other well thought-out comforts. I loved the cosy, woodland setting and the A-frame tents themselves are ridiculously photogenic and warm and snug inside. I’m not going to lie, I don’t looooove not having an ensuite as typically it’s the times you don’t have one that you wake up dying for the bathroom and have to either lie awake for hours too scared to go out in the dark or drag boots, coat and torch out to go the loo. The bath houses in the glamping ground are really clean, tidy and have hairdryers, big fluffy towels etc but it’s just not quite the same as having your own space. I’d also recommend going mid-week rather than weekends if at all possible. There seems to be weddings every weekend in Big Sur and they inevitably take over certain areas or sections of the hotel and/or restaurants all over town so if you can at all avoid weekends, you’d end up having much more of a free run of the place.
Magical, spiritual and like nowhere else, are definitely the right kind of descriptions for Big Sur. I started imaging myself throwing regular life in, moving here and holing up in a cabin somewhere near the rugged, wild coastline with a piece of foraged jade stuffed in my bra for luck. But as with all great things, sometimes it’s better to leave with a memory rather than overstay with a dream. Till next time Big Sur…
All photos my own.