This California Luxury Resort Is One of the Best Hotels in the World — With Sweeping Ocean Views, Incredible Stargazing, and Redwood Forest Glamping

Alila Ventana Big Sur offers a stress-free escape surrounded by nature, landing it a spot on this year's T+L 500 list.

Aerial view of Alila Ventana Big Sur

Courtesy of Alila Ventana Big Sur

There's serenity, and then there's Big Sur. The Central California enclave has long been luring those seeking the type of reset that can only be achieved up in the clouds between rugged coastline and misty redwood forest. Still, when Hyatt took over Ventana Big Sur (once the 1975-built Ventana Inn) in 2021 and, with a multimillion-dollar renovation, turned it into Alila Ventana Big Sur, a new level of West Coast–style rejuvenation was unlocked.

The best thing a resort nestled on this magical, 90-mile stretch of Highway 1 can do is let its surroundings take the lead, and Alila did just that. Ventana's reopening marked the Asia-based brand's entry into the U.S., and for a hospitality brand focused on tapping into the healing properties of nature, there may have been no better place to start.

"It's easy to find a quiet room with a great view in a place like this," Mark Ley, director of sales and marketing at Alila Ventana Big Sur, told Travel + Leisure. "We want to help our guests have a stay that creates lifelong memories through ensuring we also add to their personal well-being."

The hammock on the Big Sur Forest Shower Suite terrace at Alila Ventana Big Sur

Courtesy of Alila Ventana Big Sur

Guests' well-being is actively tended to through programming that includes meditation, Vinyasa yoga, guided hikes, and spa treatments — likely one of the reasons Alila Ventana was voted one of the best resorts in California in the 2022 World's Best Awards and made the latest T+L 500 best hotels of the year list.

But relaxation is also inherent in this space: rooms, suites, and villas are tucked inside unassuming structures made of weathered cedar that blend into the landscape. With private patios, fireplaces, and soaking tubs, they offer a quiet form of luxury that encourages getting out into nature — or at least into a nature-view hammock or Jacuzzi.

Interior of a Vista Hot Tub Suite at Alila Ventana Big Sur

Courtesy of Alila Ventana Big Sur

A tub in a treatment room at Alila Ventana Big Sur

Courtesy of Alila Ventana Big Sur

Truly, the only dramatic thing here is the view. When you have 160 acres to play with and just 59 rooms, it's easy to mind your own business. On any given day, you might decide that "business" is going for a swim — there are two pools, one of them clothing-optional, plus communal Japanese baths, open all night and ideal for stargazing — or sipping local wines by a fire pit before heading to the ‘60s lodge-style Library & Music Room to throw something on the record player.

Even booking logistics fit into the stress-free experience: all meals and signature activities are included in the rate, and because this is a World of Hyatt property, rewards members can use points instead of cash.

The mountain pool at Alila Ventana Big Sur

Courtesy of Alila Ventana Big Sur

The Sur House restaurant is perched on a panoramic patio, where the most coveted tables are along the cliff's ocean-view edge by day and beside the toasty fire by night. I'm admittedly not a big fan of dining out solo, but on my visit, the remarkable setting and hot bowl of campanelle pasta with Big Sur-foraged mushrooms were company enough.

Outdoor tables and dining at Alila Ventana Big Sur

Courtesy of Alila Ventana Big Sur

"All food and beverage experiences at Alila are rooted in wellness and discovery, utilizing fresh and seasonal ingredients grown locally, sustainably, and in many cases, in Alila’s own organic gardens," Crystal Vinisse Thomas, vice president and global brand leader, lifestyle and luxury brands at Hyatt, told T+L.

Organic, local, and foraged ingredients can be found on the Sur House breakfast, lunch, and dinner menus, and as an add-on to the inclusive meals, Central Coast–crafted wines, beers, and cocktails are served.

Spa deck chairs at Alila Ventana Big Sur

Courtesy of Alila Ventana Big Sur

Glamping is also an option at Alila Ventana Big Sur, and one I instantly added to my to-do list while wandering through the resort's 20-acre forest. Canvas, safari-style tents beneath the redwood canopies include premium linens on custom-designed mattresses and decks with fire pits and Adirondack chairs.

Although I love an outdoor activity on vacation, I'm typically just as excited to end the day inside, submerged in a warm bath or wrapped in blankets in a cozy bed, far from any insects or inclement weather. So as I felt myself drawn to spending a night in the depths of the forest, I realized Big Sur had left its mark on me, too. As Ley so eloquently put it: "Big Sur and Alila Ventana are a place where you can see the world, and even yourself, a little bit differently."

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