Joie de Vivre Hotels

Wild Cat Adventure at Ventana Inn, Big Sur

Four hotels in the Monterey Peninsula-Big Sur area are members of the Condé Nast Traveler Platinum Circle List signifying five consecutive years, including 2012, on their annual CN Traveler Gold List hotels.

Ventana Inn, Big Sur 89.7

Post Ranch Inn, Big Sur 93.9

Inn at Spanish Bay, Pebble Beach 92.5

Lodge at Pebble Beach 95.0

Four Platinum Circle hotels make the grade out of fewer than 70 hotels in the U.S. This region of Monterey County, with only about 10,000 residents over a 30 mile stretch of Central California Coast, is recognized for hotel excellence on par with four Platinum Circle hotels in places like New York, Chicago and Las Vegas.

These four Monterey County coastal hotels almost always have listed rates starting at over $500 per night. Meals and experiences additional!

So what will you find with an $800 per night room getaway at a world class destination like Big Sur?

My adventure was a little wilder than I anticipated for a luxury resort visit. And that was a good sign for me during my visit to Ventana Inn.

Ventana Inn & Spa, Big Sur

Ventana Inn & Spa sits 1,200 feet above the Pacific Ocean on the east side of Highway 1.

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The entrance to Ventana Inn from Highway 1 reveals little of the resort that sits on two ridges several hundred feet above the main road cutting through Big Sur Valley.

a sign for a restaurant

Post Ranch Inn directly across Highway 1 from Ventana Inn, on the west side of the highway, is probably more famously known for its rooms perched on the edge of the cliffs dropping down hundreds of feet to the sea. You will need to shell out a few hundred dollars more per night than Ventana Inn rates to sleep across the street at Post Ranch Inn. Loyalty Traveler readers should recognize this photo from the infinity pool at Post Ranch Inn.

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Post Ranch Inn infinity pool

Ventana Inn & Spa is set back from the ocean, yet there are still plenty of views to be seen from these 243 acres of hillside.

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View from Vista Del Mar outside the Ventana Restaurant. A popular Big Sur hangout Nepenthe, another location on the edge of the Pacific, is visible through the trees in the right side of this photo.

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The Restaurant at Ventana has a prix fixe menu currently priced at $80 per person for Dinner. The hotel website has a sample menu.

The Restaurant Path

The trail across the Ventana Inn Big Sur property is actually called the “restaurant pathâ€.  The well-maintained gravel path is a ten minute walk from one ridge 1,200 feet above the Pacific Ocean with the restaurant and gift shop and the adjacent ridge with the lodging rooms, spa and pools. A narrow valley runs between the high ground ridges.

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The path traverses fields and woods. Ventana Inn rooms are in the distance. Cars are corralled into parking lots away from the rooms at the Inn. Service carts whiz guests from their cars to the rooms if you do not desire walking. I walked past a woman in a motorized chair transporting herself around the spa and lodge area, so much of the resort is accessible.

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Ventana Inn Restaurant and gift shop seen from the trail.

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Live oak trees on the hillside.

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Ventana Inn wildflowers and woods seen from Restaurant Path.

“Wild Cat trail†is the name I will affectionately remember the Ventana Inn restaurant path by for my bobcat encounter.

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In the woods I noticed this cat on the trail hunting something in the brush. I watched the cat pounce, a movement so familiar to me from observing my cats play. The cat was bigger than my house cats, but not too big that I immediately sensed it was wild. Then the bobbed tail caught my attention.

a cat standing on a dirt path

We checked each other out for awhile. I stood my ground about 50 feet away. In my mind I kept thinking spring time and kittens and possibly a mean mama.

a cat standing on a dirt path

I didn’t want to be the restaurant trail meal.

a cat walking on a dirt path

Then the cat continued the hunt elsewhere. Those paws are quite a bit larger than my cats’ paws at home.

I let a minute go by before I continued in the direction of the bobcat to the Ventana Inn. And I did not see the wild cat again.

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Resting place in the woods.

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A few bridges truly keep the up and down to a minimum.

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The Library at Ventana Inn.

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Big Sur Valley looking north from Library.

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Hammocks are located on room patios and on the grounds.

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66 degrees in the shade on a sunny, breezy May day above the Pacific Ocean.

Big Sur is known for its winter season heavy rains and Ventana Inn & Spa is a year round resort. No problem if the weather is unsuitable for an outdoor pool swim. Heated Japanese tubs are also available for guests.


Photo Credit: Joie de Vivre Hotels.


Photo Credit: Joie de Vivre Hotels.

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Ventana Inn room buildings are well designed into the natural landscape.


Photo Credit: Joie de Vivre Hotels.


Photo Credit: Joie de Vivre Hotels.

Ventana Inn Room Rates June 2012

Wilderness and privacy with all modern conveniences does not come inexpensively.

Rates over the next couple of weekends start at $716.67 per night plus 8.5% tax and a $30 per night Resort Fee is additional. Ventana Inn guestroom descriptions.

Midweek stays start at $650 per night or nearly $750 per night all-in after tax and fees.


Ventana Inn guestroom, Photo Credit: Joie de Vivre Hotels. 

Some dates even have a three night minimum stay. A 3-night stay in a Pacific House room will set you back $4,000 total for the June 15-18 weekend. The room rate and resort fee includes breakfast and a wine and hors d’oeuvres evening reception, morning yoga class and “Ventana Discovery Walkâ€.


Pacific House guestroom, Photo Credit: Joie de Vivre Hotels.

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Ventana Inn & Spa, Big Sur

I discovered Ventana Inn & Spa, Big Sur in my own wild cat way before I ambled off down the Highway 1 path back to Monterey.

Note: Photos not credited to Joie de Vivre are my Loyalty Traveler photos.

Ventana Inn is a member of Joie de Vivre Hotels, a collection of about 30 boutique hotels mostly in California. Joie de Vivre loyalty program is Joy of Life Club.

JDV Hotels recently merged with Thompson Hotels October 1, 2011.


  • Scottrick May 24, 2012

    Cute cat. Even a kitten can do damage though. I remember when my tabby was only a few weeks old, and he latched onto my arm with all his claws and refused to let go. There was quite a struggle. He came out fine. Me, not so much.

  • Ric Garrido May 24, 2012

    I raised my little wild one Pim from a three-week old kitten. He chewed through my computer cord and left our skin torn and scabbed for the first two years of his life. He is five now and finally domesticated for the most part.

  • D May 24, 2012

    Might that be a male bobcat, judging from the rear view shot? Great “wild” encounter!

  • Ric Garrido May 25, 2012

    @D – The final picture does look like a male to me. I can’t really tell. My wife thought thought the cat didn’t look normal under the tail when we enlarged the photo.

  • Miles Momma May 26, 2012

    Love your pics! Brought back so many memories! We spent 3 wonderful nights after we were married 12 years ago (seems like yesterday) A great honeymoon spot! So peaceful and relaxing! Worth every penny! How about those “naked” pools??? 🙂

  • Ric Garrido May 26, 2012

    I read about the clothing optional pools in many reviews. Nobody was in the pools during my trip, naked or clothed.

  • Ric Garrido May 27, 2012

    I don’t ever recall seeing a bobcat in my life before this Ventana Inn encounter four days ago. Then yesterday my wife and I were driving in the Fort Ord National Monument backcountry about 10 or 15 miles from our home. A bobcat ran across the road in front of our car.

    The weather was rainy and cloudy so the photos suck from our backcountry adventure for Sheep Appreciation Day. This area of Monterey County is a gem that I had totally forgotten until yesterday. It has been over 30 years since I explored these areas on the backroads of Fort Ord when I taught my sister to drive a car. This special event sponsored by the Federal agency Bureau of Land Management – BLM allowed access for private cars into the Fort Ord backcountry.

    Normally the area is restricted to cyclists and hikers with no motorized vehicle access. There are 20 square miles of hill country in this land between the Monterey Peninsula and Salinas.

    Fort Ord National Monument was created on April 20, 2012 by President Barack Obama. This is a historical treasure of native landscape with hill after hill of old oak trees, wildlife and native plants.

    This is an incredible place for cycling on miles of paved roads without cars and motorized noises. There are also miles of trails for mountain biking.

    The wilderness here is so much more accessible than Big Sur.

    Keep an eye out for bobcats and bigger beasts. There are probably some bigger mountain lions hanging out in this wilderness too.

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