Northern California -
November 13, 2005
by John Mariani
"Someone once said about Ava Gardner, "When God made Ava Gardner, he lingered over the job." Which is exactly the way I feel about California's Big Sur, the coastline that wriggles south of Carmel with all four natural elements in glorious play in every season. Few vistas in the world offer the drama, the power, and the ever-changing light and color of this unique stretch of the Pacific Coast, and poets, painters and photographers have found its beauty as terrifying as it is sublime.
...one might have to stay somewhere after having one's breath taken away by the thrill of driving along the serpentine Highway One, and in that regard I would certainly recommend pulling off the road and checking into the breathtaking VENTANA INN' & SPA situated on 243 acres, 1,200 feet above the ocean. It's said you can see for about 50 miles of the Pacific from one's vantage point here, surrounded by meadows and woods of redwood and bay laurel. Fog rolls in in the mornings, the sun breaks and hides throughout the day, and hawks arc the moonlit skies.
Ventana, built by producer Lawrence Spector and designed by artist Kipp Stewart, opened in 1975, has 60 rooms and suites spread through a dozen one- and two-story cedar buildings, most with fireplaces that are an enchantment when the nights drop to a lovely low of 50 degrees, rarely lower. Some rooms have a grand Pacific view.
The facilities here are all first rate, fitted into the Northern California style of connecting to Nature rather than molding it, from the famous The Spa at Ventana to a library with more than 1,200 books. This being California, free yoga or pilates and Tai Chi classes are offered daily, and there are assorted Japanese hot tubs and saunas, two lap pools, and holistic services. I, more hedonistic holistic, availed myself of a standard deep massage that sent me back to my room walking on air and straight to the couch for a nap.
The big, angular, open-kitchen restaurant here, Cielo has the same expansive views of the territory as all else at Ventana, and its finely wrought interiors of stone and cedar, redwood and western artifacts fit impeccably into the region as exemplary, good design. Much of the kitchen's provender is from Ventana's own gardens, and all food is organic. The wine list here, now with 600 labels, has been awarded a Wine Spectator Award of Excellence.
Cielo's menu is described as "Mediterranean", although it is Med Lite, in keeping with the Spa theme at Ventana (several dishes are tagged as "The Spa at Ventana Cuisine").
For those eschewing spa food, however, there is seared Sonoma foie gras on brioche with huckleberry syrup, a 16-ounce sirloin with Gorgonzola sauce, and tarragon-scented chicken breast with Dungeness crabmeat and crayfish napped with a chardonnay butter sauce."
Ventana Inn and Spa: Thirty Years of Heaven - Epicurus.com -
by Diane Worthington
What do you do for your 30th wedding anniversary? It was an easy answer for my husband and myself: return to Ventana Inn & Spa where we fell in love 30 years ago. We had a surprise to discover that Ventana is celebrating its 30th anniversary as well. Ventana Inn is located off Highway One in Big Sur, one of the most beautiful stretches of California’s coastline. Tucked into the hills, Ventana has honored the environment with cabins built with indiginous wood which might sound rustic until you take a peek inside the “cabins”. Fireplaces with flat screen televisions in the wall, a state of the art sound system with CDs by local artists and a bathroom that allows you to shower with views to die for.
We wanted a relaxed getaway and that is exactly what we enjoyed. We had let the staff know it was our big anniversary and when we went to dinner the table was subtlety decorated with glitter and a cold bottle of Veuve Cliquot. We enjoyed a wonderful meal that the chef had created...loved the Hawaiian sweet shrimp accented with a tomato fava bean sauce, the duo of tartars, tuna and salmon were as fresh as could be with a citrusy sauce that brought out their inherent marine flavors. Dessert was an assortment ...I particularly enjoyed his clever basil granita topped with a very creamy lemon ice cream and a sprinkling of candied lemon peel. We arrived back to our spacious room to a Japanese tray of fresh rose petals set on the ledge of the deep soaking tub along with a beautiful platter of chocolate dipped strawberries--- the perfect ending to our celebratory day.
Ventana is the place to come if you want to unwind, slow down and appreciate the extraordinary natural beauty of tall ancient redwoods...Bring along a good pair of walking shoes to explore the grounds all around the property. Whether you come to celebrate a special occasion or just because you need a break, Ventana Inn & Spa will not disappoint.
Jagged Little Thrill - American Way magazine - August 2005
by James Mayfield
Celebrated Weekend - Alanis Morissette has been visiting the Montery Bay area for a decade, so she oughta know where to go to get away from (most of) it all.
“...Ventana Inn & Spa...it’s high up, so it has this reallly expansive view. They have really great, unusual spa treatments. They’ll bring in people who will do color-therapy readings-you know, a little bit unconventional...I have to say that I think, hands down, one of the best restaurants on the planet is Cielo, the restaurant at Ventana...you walk to the restaurant, there’s a really long path through the woods that you take that is lit by little lamps along the way. So half of the experience is getting to and from the restaurant. But I’d say some of the best meals I’ve had in my life were at Cielo. No question.”
Nature Deluxe - Robb Report Motorcycling - July/August 2005
A welcome oasis for easy riders on California's Central Coast
by Jessica Taylor July/August 2005
"While California's winding Highway 1 unquestionably offers one of the best motorcycle rides in the West, you won't want to cruise this stretch of dramatic coastline in a single day. Stop along the way and enjoy the bounty of sea, sun and wilderness at Ventana Inn & Spa...
Using proceeds from the cult motorcycle classic Easy Rider, film producer Larry Spector originally opened this rustic inn as a retreat for Hollywood friends...
Relatively undeveloped and pristine, Ventana's 243 acres act as a natural refuge for wildlife—quail, wild turkeys and deer can be seen from the outdoor hot tubs on many of Ventana's private balconies. If you are on a return visit, you will notice much more space in recently renovated suites adorned with cedar and offering oversized granite showers, 110-gallon soak tubs built for two, and wood-burning fireplaces. For dinner, Cielo restaurant, overlooking the Pacific from its wooded site, offers California wine and cuisine. Before getting back on the road, visit the spa and get a massage or take a dip in the Japanese baths. Or lounge by the inn's swimming pools—one of which does not require bathing suits."
To Big Sur with Love - Valley magazine - April 2005
"...the long beloved Ventana Inn & Spa is set on 243 mountainous acres, its grounds can also be ethereal—especially from the property’s Cielo restaurant, which affords panoramic coastal views 1,200 feet above sea level.
...Ventana’s rooms integrate some of yesteryear’s woodsy country charm with contemporary conveniences such as flat-screen TV (in new rooms), high-speed internet access and WiFi in the lobby.
Fireplaces and warm fluffy beds encourage lolling—especially in winter—but there are equally decadent ways to enjoy the resort. Massages are excellent at the full-service The Spa at Ventana, complimentary yoga, pilates or tai chi and guided walks are offered daily, and two outdoor swimming pools, one of which honors Big Sur’s back-to-nature essence with clothing-optional status, are prime tanning territory. However, the best way to experience Ventana is by lingering in one of the two maze-like Japanese hot baths..."
Into Big Sur - Southwest Airlines Spirit - April 2005
"...ten years ago, in one of the early chapters of Charles Kuralt's America, the beloved traveler mentioned just one place in Big Sur: "I had it all figured out," Kuralt wrote. "I was going to drive up the coast road and park myself in a hideaway room at the Ventana Inn with a fireplace and a balcony and a 50-mile view of the mountains and the ocean, and stay there until my money ran out, which, at Ventana, wouldn't have taken long..."
...I like to think Kuralt would still choose Ventana Inn & Spa, a hillside fixture of 60 rooms and suites so naturally fused into the lofty, wooded landscape they're almost not there at all. My experience...was enhanced by a crackling fire, hi-fi system with classical guitar CD thoughtfully pre-loaded, private patio with hammock swinging beside a wooded slope and, just down the trail from my cedar-walled suite, a steaming set of Japanese baths...
Highway One A Coastal Drive to Remember - Vis.A.Vis - April 2005
“With cottages perched on some of the most dramatic coastline in the country, Ventana Inn & Spa is a low-key summer camp for grownups, but with oak-grilled filet mignon...Most people come to hike, to doze in the plentiful hammocks, to soak in the sunken hot tub on their terrace and watch for deer, prairie falcons and gray fox, and especially, to be dazzled by Big Sur's fiery sky as the sun sets over the indigo sea... ”
Where Nature Meets Nurture - 7x7 Magazine - March 2005
Heather Luplow Hartle
Ventana Inn & Spa has long been on my must-visit list...It's always seemed the place for the perfect California weekend; the splendor of Big Sur coupled with the inn's own rich past...the newly updated ocean-view suite, it's beyond my expectations. I don't know what's more impressive, the king-size four-poster bed or the oversized bathtub. Both look out onto a private deck, which features a sunken hot tub and huge hammock—each calling my name...
Conde Nast Traveler - March 2005
“..Ventana Inn & Spa, the first luxury resort in Big Sur, and still fabulous. Cielo, its restaurant is really the best choice in the area...the dining room is big and open with lots of beautiful wood, a huge fireplace, and a terrace facing the sea...”
Los Angeles Confidential magazine - January/February 2005
Big Sur’s Ventana Inn & Spa may have been overshadowed in recent years by its flashier neighbor, but spa snobs are rediscovering the charms of an old favorite. by Sara Bliss
When you arrive at the Ventana Inn & Spa in Big Sur, you’ll immediately notice couples in fluffy white robes sipping cocktails as they stroll the lawns beneath the property’s towering redwoods. After only a few hours’ shay, it’s impossible not to succumb to the Zen-like qualities of the inn. Soon, you too will be walking around in a plush robe, heading to the Japanese baths for a hot soak, or taking a dip in the clothing-optional pool before going to a Tai Chi class.
In recent years, some travelers have overlooked Ventana’s charms, temporarily distracted by the hippie chick Post Ranch Inn across the road. But Ventana remains a California gem that offers visitors a chance to enjoy the beauty of the Central Coast while indulging in a little luxe pampering. Each room has a spectacular view—whether it takes in the mountains or a Pacific vista, for which Big Sur is famous. Even better, catch the scenery from one of the deck-side hot tubs. Rooms have recently been renovated to include softer linens, deeper soaking tubs, king-size four poster beds, Bose surround-sound stereos, and flat-screen tvs. And because the resort focuses on relaxation, you won’t find a list of activities in your room. Instead, it’s up to you to investigate the lay of the land; choose from a five-hour hike with local tour guide legend Stephen Copeland, deep-sea fishing, or creating your own masterpiece with the help of a professional landscape photographer. It’s all available.
The highlight, however, is the The Spa at Ventana. You’ll find plenty of New Age treatments, such as personal aura and astrological readings, an organic sea-enzyme body mask, a chai soy clay wrap, and ocean salt and pine forest body polishes to satisfy the appetite of the most jaded spa snob. Make sure to request a corner treatment room for a sweeping view of the Pacific while you indulge in cranial sacral and reflexology treatments.
Travel & Leisure, World's Best 500 - January 2005
“...Contemporary retreat of weathered cedar lodges on 243 acres
bordering the ocean and the Ventana wilderness. A summer camp for
grown-ups with unexpected nature excursions, a clothing-optional pool
and a New-Age spa...Don't miss Cielo's inventive cuisine.”
Angelo– December/January, 2005
The Dish Weekender by Jenn Smith
“Northern Exposures: A weekend photo safari focuses on Big Sur
Big Sur is what we like to call photo-friendly. Its foggy peaks and scenic visits have lured and inspired countless seekers of beauty, from Jack Kerouac to Edward Weston and Ansel Adams... Photographer David Gubernick runs Rainbow Spirit Nature Photography in Carmel, but he routinely travels south to Big Sur to host a digital photo “safari” at Ventana Inn. The hotel provides a loaner 6.3 mega pixel camera, which Gubernick will show you how to operate during the exclusive two-hour excursion along the coast...The photo ops are limitless: crashing waves and majestic waterfalls, setting sun and tufts of French broom, condors and vultures and hawks.
Picture-Perfect Lodging: Ventana offers 50 romantic rooms and suites, each with all the latest luxuries and technologies such as plasma-screen tv’s, DVD players and Bose surround-sound systems, not to mention elegant cedar floors, wood-burning fireplaces and oversized beds. Most rooms overlook the magnificent Ventana wilderness...”