Soaring 1200 feet above a gentle stretch of the sweeping North Pacific ocean lies the ultimate meeting of man and mountain. A steel skeleton is fused with the granite cliffs, clad with wood for organs and glass for skin; the Post Ranch Inn is this eponymous structure, and coincidentally the scene of an epic wellness escape on a recent trip to America. Many believe that it claims the most tranquil, unspoiled and awe-inspiring landscapes in the country, and whilst I’ve got quite a bit of the country still to explore, I can’t disagree yet. The Sunsets trump Santorini; the vista rivals the Amalfi coast, and the service is as attentive and well judged as any world class American institution can be. The whole place has an ecologically sustainable skew, and I had the most magical visit. This post is a little insight into a precious Californian treasure which, quite rightly, has earned the accolade of ‘best hotel in America’ from more sources than I can recall…
You arrive at this woodland paradise via the heart-rendingly dramatic and perilously rugged Route 1, aka the Pacific Coast Highway, affectionately dubbed the PCH. It’s a demanding 1000km drive, especially the sections in the dark, as you’re pitching left and right, winding around Big Sur’ mountains, whilst dipping and peaking every other moment, able to see very little beyond the mountain firs in your headlights field of illumination. There are literally more than 1 million vehicular deer strikes on US roads each year, and in the dark, that’s another factor of which to be extremely wary. It requires intense concentration, but my goodness, it’s worth the effort.
The accommodation is a small collection of standalone eco cabins rather than classic hotel rooms, which are cautiously built (in a sustainable way) into the forest environment which surrounds them. All 39 rooms are comfortably appointed – but not excessively lavish – and each boasts the delicious touch of a roaring log fire; it gets cold at night here, and the warmth of the fire’s hearth is a spot of genius.
There are countless ways to occupy yourself here, but they’ll all leave you feeling a wholesome warm sensation. The rooms have no televisions or alarm clocks, as there’s an unspoken attempt to make you reconnect with everything else; those around you, the nature around you, yourself etc. They also minimise plastic waste by providing you with their own aluminium bottles to fill with filtered water whilst on site – and then offer the bottles as a gratis little keepsake. Whilst I didn’t self-impose a digital detox, I did find myself naturally wanting to check in less frequently – there’s just so much phenomenal external stimulus here, it’s hard to think of anything else.
“What can I do?” you ask… Well, quite a lot! Much is included, often at no additional expense;
- Guided culinary tours of the hotel’s vast green spaces, led by the Executive Chef Elizabeth Murry
- Star Gazing, using the hotel’s powerful telescope (incredible, given the the total lack of ambient light pollution!)
- Fine Art talks at their Gallery exhibition space.
- Morning walks around the stunning acreage of what we’d grant SSSI status were it located in this country! Keep an eye out for the 9-foot Californian Condors soaring about, though
- Hydrotherapy sessions in their two infinity pools, which are each heated to a very specific 104 degrees, the effect of which is an invigorating blend of hot/cold.
- Training sessions in the glass-and-copper gym overlooking the grazing mountain deer.
- Guided nature walks
- Sunrise Yoga group sessions with an exquisite view – there’s also private yoga and meditation.
- An edible tour of their organic gardens led by the gardener
- Spa suites for the usual array of treatment options.
- Visiting professionals in the healing / spiritual spheres, though these tend to be at additional expense.
The food is absolutely to be celebrated. In my experience, I’ve not had my most distinguished culinary experiences in the USA – not that I’d characterize them as bad, but the likes of France and Italy just set the bar too high for others to compete! The Sierra Mar restaurant is certainly the most accomplished I’ve encountered in America, perhaps lifted by the stunning romance of the sunset and its orange hues, along with that 300m-high seat!
In essence, despite it being quite pricey, I can honestly say that The Post Ranch Inn has left a valuable mark on me. I don’t resent it for its price, but rather I find myself thinking back with gratitude that I was able to visit. There are some visions etched in my mind in 4K clarity; condors soaring by as the sun bade good night, the morning mist dissolving into the unending horizon, baby deer grazing just a few feet away, the tranquility of the Jade Pool as it surveys the miniaturized foam of the velvety ocean crashing into the cliffs below… Some places survive on their popular repute, but this place has earned every cent of it. I struggle to recommend it highly enough if you’re in the state.