Earlier this summer my husband and I spent 3 nights at the adults-only Alila Ventana Big Sur. This is one of those properties that gets a lot of ooohs and ahhhhs in the points and miles space due to its gorgeous location and being a one-of-a-kind redemption. So did it live up to the hype? Keep reading to find out in this Alila Ventana Big Sur review.
This is a category 8 Hyatt property (the highest category there is with Hyatt), so you’re looking at spending 35K, 40K, or 45K points per night. We went during peak pricing so the total cost was 135K points for our 3-night stay. The cash rate was around $2,300 a night, so this was a really great value for my points.
My husband and I recently racked up a lot of points by opening and referring each other to a few Chase Ink Business cards. We transferred some of those points to Hyatt to book our stay. If you want to learn more about how to earn and redeem Hyatt points get our free guide!
We flew from Salt Lake City to San Jose on Southwest Airlines. We booked the flights on my husband’s account and I flew free thanks to him having the Southwest Companion Pass. The total cost was 14,000 points + 22.40 in taxes.
We rented a car (you definitely want a car) and drove for just over two hours before arriving at the hotel.
Another option many people do is to fly into San Francisco and drive from there. You’re looking at about another 40 minutes of driving if you go this route.
Alila Ventana Big Sur is (like the name suggests) located in Big Sur, California. I had been to Monterey and Carmel before and for some reason, I was expecting Big Sur to be a little like Carmel (but smaller) and have a little town nearby. I’m not sure where I got that idea in my head because Big Sur has no town. You are essentially plopped down in the middle of the forest. And it’s not just any forest. You are plopped down in a forest of redwood trees! In addition to the stunning redwoods, you have the rugged Pacific coastline and views of the ocean from the resort as well. Seriously, it’s pretty unbelievable.
I’ve never been glamping, but I imagine the Alila Ventana Big Sur is glamping on steroids. When you roll up to the resort, you are greeted by someone who will open the gated entry for you. From there, you continue on until you reach the valet (there is self-parking available, too, which we did the other days as the self-park lot was right by our room).
Check-in is located at the Social House. At check-in, we were told that our rate (135K World of Hyatt points) included all tips and meals. Yes, you read that right! All your meals are included at the Alila Ventana Big Sur! At the Sur House, they have a nice gathering room with a fireplace, board games, a pool table, lemonade, and iced tea during the day, and s’mores and hot chocolate in the evening.
There are two pools onsite. The main pool was our favorite and had a large infinity hot tub with views of redwood trees. The pool itself has ocean views. Lunch is available to order at the pool, and seating was never an issue during our stay, but that could have been due to the fact that it was a little chilly. But I get the sense that it never gets crowded. We didn’t see very many guests during our stay.
There is also a fitness center, sauna, Japanese bath house, and spa to enjoy. The services at the spa are pricey (more than other nice resorts I’ve stayed at). We stopped by for a quick visit to check out their complimentary bath salt station. Here you can choose from a selection of scents and make your own bag of bath salts to enjoy.
We used a suite upgrade award (you earn two of these as milestone rewards when you hit 50 elite nights with Hyatt and two more when you hit 60 nights) to book the Big Sur Suite. In our room, we were welcomed with a snack of cheese, crackers, and local honey. We were also given two reusable water bottles. The room was nice and spacious with an extra large soaking tub, a wood-burning fireplace, and a record player (records are available at the Social House). There was also a minibar and everything there is included with your stay.
We had a nice spacious balcony with a seating area and a hammock. From here, we could see the ocean off in the distance.
The room had a definite cabin feel to it (but a really, really nice cabin)! Each night we enjoyed turndown service with a note and a little something…like Jade stones or a feather.
The on-property restaurant is the Sur House. It is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. You will need reservations for dinner. The food here was good but not something I would rave about. We ate here for our first two nights. The service was really great.
Just down the road from the resort is the Big Sur Smokehouse. I was really looking forward to eating here as I love BBQ, but unfortunately, it wasn’t open during our stay.
We had room service for breakfast and lunch and one of our dinners. The food was really good and came quickly. One thing I loved was they included a little button and when you are ready for them to take the dishes you just press that and they’ll come get them. You can also text in your room service order which I liked much more than having to call.
You can also request a picnic lunch, and they’ll pack it all up so you can take your lunch to go. As I mentioned above, you can also order lunch by the main pool.
There are plenty of activities to do at Alila Ventana Big Sur. Each day there are complimentary activities (Signature Experiences) as well as paid activities (Alila Experiences). Signature Experiences include morning yoga, guided hikes, star gazing, etc. Alila’s Experiences include things like axe throwing, bike tours, soap making, and more.
Just a few minutes down the road, you’ll find Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park. We hiked the Pfeiffer Falls & Valley View trails. These weren’t too long or difficult, and the views were beautiful. Parking here is $10, and they do accept credit cards.
McWay Falls is about 15-20 minutes from Ventana. You’ll need to bring $10 cash to park. From there you’ll walk for just a couple of minutes to see the waterfall. It’s pretty amazing seeing a waterfall on the beach! It was quick (like a 2-minute walk), so it won’t take long.
Garrapata State Park is also worth visiting. We stopped here on our way back to the San Jose airport. Parking is free and easy to find on the side of the road. This state park is right along the beach so you can enjoy the ocean views and all the beautiful wildflowers. We also saw sea lions out on the rocks.
Carmel-by-the-Sea is about an hour away (towards San Jose), so we also stopped there on our way back to the airport. Carmel is so cute, and if I were to do this trip over, I would stay one night there as there is so much to do in Carmel and nearby Monterey.
So would I go back to Alila Ventana? I really enjoyed my stay and have nothing bad to say about the property. But I grew up in Northern California near the beach and redwood trees. Most of our trip was chilly and overcast, and the scenery felt a lot like my hometown. I think maybe I was spoiled by growing up in that area and don’t need to vacation to places that look the same. This trip also made me realize I’m a warm-weather traveler and prefer beach destinations. I don’t think we’ll be back, but rest assured, Alila Ventana Big Sur is a special, one-of-a-kind place, and I’m glad we went!
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