I spent a day at the beach in Carmel last week.  There were the usual crowds walking along the boutique storefronts and across Ocean Street.  The pedestrian traffic subsided quickly once away from the commercial district of Carmel and the beach was a quiet place on a sunny December weekday.

Carmel was voted #6 city in the 2008 Condé Nast Readers poll.  Condé Nast Traveler has a guide to the California Central Coast.  According to the guide the best months to visit this area are listed as April, May, September, and October. 

These are the months when the temperature may be warmest, but winter season is the Central Coast locals’ best kept secret.

Every year there is some gorgeous day in the 70s during the winter months when K and I drive down the coast and say, WOW!  Winter in California sure is tough.”

Big Sur coast in winter

Big Sur Coast in Winter

It wasn’t in the 70s last weekend, however, we did hit a dry spell between rain storms.  The forecast was for rain on Saturday and the tourists stayed away.  Monterey-Carmel-Big Sur is a weekend getaway destination for many California residents. 

The Los Angeles Times newspaper today stated California has just surpassed 38 million residents.  That is a lot of California homegrown tourist potential. 

The more interesting statistic to me was the fact that 69% of California-born natives 18 years or older have remained in California and this is the 4th highest percentage in the United States behind Texas, North Carolina, and Georgia.  For our immediate families, my wife and I maintain our native born numbers at just 2 of 5 Californians still remaining in California .  We just love the beauty of the Monterey County coast too much to seek out more lucrative opportunities.

California actually has more people leaving the state than moving here from other states.  Foreign immigration and births keep the population growing.

Big Sur and Coast 1 Views

The weather looked great and we jumped in the car to drive south.  I looked for whales on the water and didn’t see any.  The water was calm without white caps, but not quite smooth.  The basic indicator for whales is seeing a blow water spray from the blowhole just above the ocean surface and following it as the whale remains near the surface for a few minutes.  Often you can’t see the whale from the shoreline, but you can follow the blow as the whale swims along the coast.  Any white water waves make it quite difficult to detect whale blow. 

Highway 1 Bixby Bridge Big Sur

Big Sur Highway 1 Bixby Bridge

We made it to Nepenthe Restaurant on the cliffs of Big Sur to drink Samuel Smith Nut Brown Ale and eat a basket of French fries.  This is a childhood tradition for my wife, the French fries that is, the beer was an adult acquired taste, although I think the prices these days for French fries and soda would be beyond the resources of most poor people ($5 for a soda and $10 for fries after tax and tip).

Big Sur Nepenthe Restaurant view from patio

Big Sur view from Nepenthe Restaurant

Monterey Hotel Deal – Monterey Plaza Hotel, Cannery Row, Monterey

as low as $99 for reservations made by December 24 for stays through March 31, 2009

 

Like many other locations around the US and the globe, there are good hotel deals locally with some upscale hotels offering the lowest rates in several years for winter 2009 stays.

 

Monterey Plaza Hotel Cannery Row Monterey

Monterey Plaza Hotel, Cannery Row, Monterey

 

Monterey Plaza Hotel has been the premier Monterey hotel for the past decade.  This bad economy has dropped rates down to $99 per night for a room at the Monterey Plaza during Sunday through Thursday nights for reservations made by December 24, 2008 for dates through March 31, 2009.  Not all weekday dates are still available.  Make sure you change the calendar to 2009 since the default is 2008 and you will receive a message stating “Package not available for selected dates, please click OK and try alternative dates again.”

The hotel has buildings on both sides of the street at the entrance to Cannery Row.  The Cannery Row, non-ocean-view rooms are $99. 

Paradise with an Ocean View – Monterey Plaza Hotel, Deluxe Ocean View $199

The real deal for the Monterey Plaza Hotel is the Deluxe Ocean View room with balcony for $199 per night.  This rate requires the special link to the discount offer.  The regular Monterey Plaza Hotel reservations page is charging $350 for these ocean-view rooms.  The special offer rate drops the after tax rate to $220 per night.

January 3 has an Ocean View room without balcony for $149 per night.

There are several luxury properties in the Monterey area such as Post Ranch Inn Big Sur ($500+); Pebble Beach Lodge ($400+), and Bernardus Lodge in Carmel Valley ($350+), however, I think the Monterey Plaza has one of the best locations for a tourist to the Monterey area.  Watch sea otters from your room.  I can’t think of another hotel location in the area besides Cannery Row’s other two waterfront hotels the  InterContinental Clement and the Spindrift Inn, and a couple of Pacific Grove B&Bs with an ocean view room combined with the feature of overlooking sea otter habitat.  A good ocean view room at the Monterey Plaza ranks up there with the best hotels in Monterey County.

Big Sur – Post Ranch Inn Spa Package for a truly luxury discount price of $1,440 for Tree House

I always feel hypocritical when I comment on the Post Ranch Inn.  This property is so out of my price range and that of most travelers with an average price tag starting at $600 per night and upwards of  $1,000 per night. 

I have planned for two years to take a tour of the hotel.  Post Ranch Inn invites prospective guests and visitors to tour the hotel on weekdays in the slow seasons and if you are willing to splurge $50 to $100 there is the opportunity to eat lunch.  I think I will get to the Post Ranch Inn in winter 2009 on one of those sunny clear days when digital photographs sparkle. 

Post Ranch Inn is working the Value-Added marketing strategy with room and spa treatments at Winter 2009 discounts.  The best value, if you can afford it, is the Winter Big Sur Spa Package for a Tree House or Mountain House room at $1,440 for two nights and two one-hour spa treatments.  These room categories normally go for $855 to $895 per night.  The special offer includes two hours of spa treatment and for this area generally costs $300+.  This is a 25% to 30% reduction in rates. 

Big Sur Coast 1 Highway, north of Point Sur

Looking south on Highway 1 to Point Sur

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Starwood Lurker, the Starwood Hotels/SPG corporate representative on FlyerTalk, posted a link yesterday for the initial 2009 Starwood Preferred Guest promotion called Night after Night, and located at SPG.com/nights.  This promotion will award a 500 points per night bonus beginning with hotel nights on January 7 through April 30, 2009.  An additional 5,000 points will be earned for every 10 nights stayed during the promotion period.

 

Promotion:  Night After Night 

SPG promo link

 

Registration is required. 

Registration link will go live on January 7, 2009 5:00pm Eastern time and SPG members have until March 31, 2009 to register. Promotion will apply retroactively for eligible hotel nights during promotion period.

 

Offer:  500 bonus points per night.  Earn an additional 5,000 bonus points for every 10 nights for a combined bonus of 1000 points per night.  In other words, 10 nights earns 10,000 points.

 

Promotion Dates: January 7 – April 30, 2009

 

Terms and Conditions link: http://www.spgpromos.com/nights/tc.cfm

 

Good features of this promotion are hotel stays do not need to be booked in advance to earn the bonus points and promotion registration will apply retroactively to eligible hotel nights.  Any hotel night from January 7 to April 30 qualifies.

 

114 nights = 110 nights + 4 nights = 110,000 points + 2,000 points = 112,000 bonus points possible from the Night After Night promotion.

 

There is no provision in the SPG Nights Terms and Conditions stating this promotion is not combinable with other offers which could justify the promotion statement “There will be no limits on bonus earnings during this period.”  Combinable promotions for the next few months would be a rewarding benefit for SPG members. 

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