Jan052009

In the heart of the Hyatt Carmel Highlands Inn

Two weeks ago there was snow in Seattle, snow in Las Vegas, snow in New York, and an arctic ice blast in Denver.

hyatt-highlands-inn-fireplace

Hyatt Highlands Inn room fireplace is prepared and just requires a match to start

Two weeks ago Friday was a lovely day to hang out at the Hyatt Highlands Inn in the small town of Carmel Highlands, population 822, surrounded by Monterey Pines and the rare Monterey Cypress trees only found in this small area along coastal Monterey County. 

Hyatt Highlands Inn view from room 505

Hyatt Highlands Inn, Room 505 View, Carmel Highlands, California

My wife has always said she would live in Pebble Beach if we had the money.  Pebble Beach is too third world for me.  Pebble Beach is a beautiful location, privatized and exclusive — up to the fee for nonresidents entering the gates to the Del Monte pine forest.  Pebble Beach even claims some kind of legal trademark copyright over the photographic image of the Lone Cypress tree. 

My heart has always been in the Carmel Highlands.  Driving coast Highway 1 south of Carmel, the Highlands are the last residential community before Big Sur, another 25 miles down the Pacific coast range.  The beautiful homes perched above the Pacific Ocean where the mountains meet the sea in coastal Monterey County is the setting for a Hyatt Highlands Inn stay.  This historic hotel property originally opened in 1917.

Hyatt Highlands Inn pool

Hyatt Highlands Inn pool, Rooms 501-508 townhouse suites. Tickle Pink Inn right background.

The Highlands Inn frequently gets bad reviews in traveler sources like TripAdvisor.com and FlyerTalk.com.  Up to this past year the Highlands Inn was branded a Park Hyatt, the top-tier luxury brand for the Hyatt Hotels corporation.  The Highlands Inn hotel is currently listed as a Hyatt Regency brand on the Hyatt.com main reservations page.  The Vacation Club Highlands Inn factsheet still claims the property is a Park Hyatt.  The timeshare portion of the Highlands Inn is one of 14 Hyatt Vacation Club properties in the USA.

The 10am official check-out time for the hotel seems absurdly early. 

Hyatt Highlands Inn Townhouse Room 505 entry way

Hyatt Highlands Inn, Room 505 townhouse entry

TripAdvisor Reviews of the Highlands Inn

I want to believe the truth is out there.

TripAdvisor displays the Hyatt Highlands Inn as a 4-star hotel with 448 rooms.  I saw that number of rooms and thought that seemed rather high.  The Hyatt Highlands Inn hotel actually only has 48 rooms.  There are 11 suites, 32 Ocean View King rooms and 5 Garden View Rooms.  The Highlands Inn buildings area is relatively compact on the hillside and limited to about a dozen two- and three-story buildings.  All the amenities are centrally located around the hotel lobby and pool.

hyatt-highlands-inn-townhouse-living-room

Hyatt Highlands Inn Townhouse 505 living room

TripAdvisor has 152 guest reviews of the Highlands Inn as of Jan. 5, 2009. 

The hotel has a popularity index of #10 of 17 hotels in Carmel.

·         47% rate the hotel as a 5 circle experience.  71/152 = 5 circles.

·         18% rated the hotel 4 circles.  65% of the guest reviews are in the 4 to 5 star range.

·         The average rating was 3.5 for the 152 reviews.

·         17% of reviewers gave the hotel a 1-circle rating.

·         The average room rate listed on TripAdvisor is $592 per night.  I believe this price tag accounts for the high number of 1-star ratings by guests.  Guests should expect an exceptional experience when paying $600+ per night for a hotel stay.

My hotel stay experience at the Hyatt Highlands Inn was exceptional.  I had booked the room two weeks earlier using a free night credit.  My check-out bill was $43 for breakfast at the California Market restaurant.

Hyatt Highlands Inn porch with seagull visitor

Hyatt Highlands Inn, porch view 505

During 2008 I physically surveyed all 160 or so hotels in the Carmel, Pacific Grove, Monterey area.  I know what the Hyatt Highlands Inn offers relative to other hotels in this location.  Some hotels on the Peninsula offer exceptional service, some hotels have exceptional views, some hotels have both and charge sky high prices, some hotels have neither and charge what the market will bear.  The natural beauty of the Monterey Peninsula and Big Sur coast generally maintains a high cost for available hotel rooms in the premier oceanfront locations.

The Hyatt Highlands Inn offers one of the top five ocean views on the Monterey County coast, in my opinion.  I was born here on the Monterey Peninsula and I have had years to travel the coastline. Rival views may be found at Tickle Pink Inn, directly adjacent to the Highlands Inn, Pebble Beach Lodge, Spanish Bay at Pebble Beach, or Post Ranch Inn, Big Sur.  There are also a couple of Pacific Grove B&Bs with oceanfront locations. 

Hyatt Highlands Inn lobby

Hyatt Highlands Inn lobby

Hyatt Highlands Inn or Tickle Pink Inn have more rooms with great ocean views than the other oceanfront hotel locations.  Being up on the hillside of Carmel Highlands allows more guests to receive premium view rooms than at the Pebble Beach hotels.  A good pair of binoculars were in the room and this item is also found on the outdoor tables at the California market restaurant.  No whales to be seen that day, but plenty of great bird viewing across the water’s surface. 

Many of the complaints I read on TripAdvisor are based on a sense of unfair exchange in hotel value received for money spent.  Nobody disputes the incredible setting for the hotel. People tend to complain there is not much additional value in the hotel aside from the view to justify the price.

As a Monterey Peninsula local I just have to say, “That’s it folks.  Highlands Inn is the view.”

The location is the view and the view commands the price.  The price you pay is for the privilege to sit beside an outdoor pool on the hillside overlooking the Pacific Ocean in a wooded setting with clean ocean breezes and sunshine, and just ten minutes away from fine dining in central Carmel. 

Central Coast California has two natural attributes you don’t find in Southern California – clean air and coastal trees.  This is a Hollywood-priced getaway because there are people with money who can afford to getaway to this secluded location, not too far off the restaurant path and only a 6-hour drive from Hollywood, or just two hours from the Silicon Valley.

Hyatt Highlands Inn spa tub

Hyatt Highlands Inn spa tub, room 505

Let the $700 per night travelers complain about an overpriced resort.  Well, yeah $700 is a bit pricey!  I wouldn’t pay $700 per night to stay at the Highlands Inn hotel.  $700 is outside my economic bracket for a hotel night, however, I do know of a few hotels around the world where I would consider $700 for the hotel experience.

hyatt-highlands-inn-bathroom

Hyatt Highlands Inn bathroom

As it was for my Highlands Inn hotel stay, I had a relaxing visit in a free $700 per night oceanview hotel-townhouse and a $43 discretionary splurge for an expensive breakfast at the California Market. 

This is what Faster Free Nights was all about.  Luxury on the cheap.

For the lucky few who truly find vacation magic, the Hyatt Carmel Highlands Inn is an old style lodge environment in a remarkably serene oceanfront setting in a unique and natural California community.

I am a local and I loved the hotel room.  I would move in if I could afford it.

 Hyatt Highlands Inn bed

Hyatt Highlands Inn bed

TripAdvisor reviews of Hyatt Highlands Inn

Dec 27, 2008 review by LPF rating hotel 2 stars (LT: Yes, I know they are technically circles on the TripAdvisor website.)

“It’s a Hyatt Hotel with a great view.  If the view is the only thing important to you, you’ll love it.”

Actually, the view was the most important thing to me.  I loved it.  The oversized spa tub was certainly another feature of the Highlands Inn not found at hotels all around.

“If you expect good service and accommodations for $595 + tax you’ll be sorely disappointed as well.”

As a top-tier Hyatt Diamond level member, I was surprised to find the hotel had an address from 2001, or three addresses old and long before I became a Hyatt Diamond member.  I did not receive any Diamond recognition in terms of an amenity for this stay.  I received a great room upgrade and that was what mattered most to me.  My other Hyatt free stay in Phoenix this year since being Gold Passport Diamond included an amenity offer of 1,000 points.

Hyatt Highlands Inn kitchen

I cooked dinner from home in the townhouse kitchen.  We splurged for a restaurant breakfast.

Another critique mentioned in a TripAdvisor review is the isolation of the hotel.  Well, that is the innate charm of the Carmel Highlands.  This stretch of coast land is separated from Carmel by three miles, an active Monastery and Point Lobos State Park.

One traveler complained about not seeing anything due to fog for three days.  The fog is part of life on the Central Coast of California.  I am looking out my living room window now and see blue sky overhead and some fog over Monterey Bay a mile away. 

The best set of rooms is the building with rooms 501-508, according to the FlyerTalk reviews of the Highlands Inn.  I stayed in room 505.  Great views, K made the firelight, a cool breeze on a clear night over a dark ocean, and the tub was big enough for two.  A luxurious start to our two week winter break.

Hyatt Highlands Inn – Hyatt web site

About Ric Garrido

Ric Garrido of Monterey, California started Loyalty Traveler in 2006 for traveler education on hotel and air travel, primarily using frequent flyer and frequent guest loyalty programs for bargain travel. Loyalty Traveler joined BoardingArea.com in 2008.

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Comments

  1. @the weekly flyer – I have about 1,000 pictures of the Highlands Inn. The hotel is 8 miles south of my home.

    I think I have posted three reviews of the property. The balcony is kind of small on the townhouse rooms with chairs for two people and actually looks right out to your neighbor’s balcony in most rooms. Not too private at all.

    I am in Spain for the next week and I do not have access to my photos.

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