Review: Alila Ventana Big Sur All-Inclusive Dining

Filed Under: Hotels, Hyatt

I recently took my mom to California, and the highlight of our trip was a three night stay at the Alila Ventana Big Sur.

I reviewed this hotel in great detail back in 2019, so this time around am only reviewing two specific aspects of the experience — in a previous post I reviewed the Big Sur Suite we stayed in, and in this post I wanted to review our dining experience at the hotel. The hotel became all-inclusive in 2020, and this applies even when redeeming points.

What’s included with Alila Ventana Big Sur stays?

With the Alila Ventana Big Sur’s all-inclusive rates, virtually all of your food and non-alcoholic drinks are included with the stay:

  • You can enjoy breakfast at Sur House or via in-room dining (7AM-11AM)
  • You can enjoy lunch poolside or via in-room dining (11AM-5PM)
  • You can enjoy dinner at Sur House or via in-room dining (5PM-9PM)
  • On top of that there are all kinds of snacking options — there are complimentary in-room snacks, there’s a complimentary cheese and charcuterie plate at the afternoon sunset hour, there’s a nightly s’mores experience, and there’s a late night snack menu

Note that when you book a stay, meals are included starting with dinner on the day you check-in until breakfast on the day you check-out. In other words, lunch is only included on days where you’re “staying over,” and not on your day of arrival or departure. However, you can always purchase lunch on either of those days if you’d like, including a to-go picnic option.

What’s not included with your stay?

The main thing not included at Alila Ventana Big Sur is alcoholic drinks. These need to be purchased, regardless of whether you’re enjoying them at a meal, or poolside.

There are a few other things potentially not included:

  • There’s a cute dog room service menu, which costs extra
  • The hotel offers picnic kits for $100 that are primarily intended to be enjoyed on your departure day, but which you can also get on a day where you’re staying over
  • There are some premium tours and activities that you can arrange as well for an extra cost

What about tipping?

According to the Alila Ventana’s website, a “daily gratuity” is included with the rate you pay:

“For your convenience, and to make your visit worry-free, a daily gratuity for our service team members will be added to your guest folio”

This comes in the form of a service charge that’s a percent of the room rate. While there’s no service charge when redeeming points, in theory the hotel is supposed to take care of this in the same way for those redeeming points as for others. So there shouldn’t be an obligation to tip.

Whenever you have a meal at the hotel (whether poolside, in a restaurant, or via in-room dining) you’re presented with a bill to sign with a $0 balance (or more if you ordered drinks), and there’s a line to add a gratuity.

Alila Ventana Big Sur $0 balance check

Personally I added ~$20 per meal. Why?

  • Staying here on points is such a spectacularly good value, and the service was generally excellent
  • The people at this hotel work hard and are friendly, and it has been a tough time for the hotel industry

So while I don’t think a tip is required or necessarily expected, personally I did tip a bit, though everyone can use their own judgment.

What are the menus like?

The Alila Ventana Big Sur publishes all menus online, so you can find them here:

What are the dining venues like?

In addition to in-room dining, breakfast and dinner are served at Sur House, while lunch is served poolside. For context, here’s a map of the property:

You can either walk to Sur House on a nice trail (it’s roughly 0.3 miles from the area of the property with rooms), or you can ask the staff to drive you in a golf cart. In addition to some indoor seating, Sur House has a heated tent set up, as well as some other seating with heat lamps.

Sur House outdoor seating

Sur House outdoor seating

Sur House outdoor seating

Sur House outdoor seating

Sur House outdoor seating

The tables at the front have particularly good views of the Pacific Ocean, so if you can snag one of them, I’d highly recommend it. My mom and I usually came here in the afternoon for sunset hour and played some games at one of the tables, and then had dinner, and we could always keep the same table.

Sur House outdoor seating

Sur House outdoor seating view

Sur House outdoor seating view

Then there’s Meadow Pool (apparently the other pool is clothing optional — little did I know!), which is the hotel’s main pool, where lunch is served. You can either be served food directly on a lounge chair, or they have about a half dozen tables set up.

Alila Ventana Big Sur Meadow Pool

Alila Ventana Big Sur Meadow Pool lunch seating

Are Sur House reservations required?

The Alila Ventana recommends making reservations for breakfast and dinner at Sur House ahead of time, given limited seating capacity. For what it’s worth:

  • We didn’t make reservations before our stay, but had no issue reserving the times we wanted upon check-in
  • That probably wasn’t even necessary, since the restaurant wasn’t ever anywhere close to full
  • Perhaps reservations are more important if you want to dine indoors given the very limited indoor capacity, but we wanted to sit outside, and it was quite pleasant with the heat lamps
  • I’d recommend dining earlier rather than later, since it gets significantly colder after sunset

Alila Ventana Big Sur dining review

Now let’s talk about the actual meals. We had two days of great weather and one day of rainy weather, so in the end:

  • We had breakfast in our room all three mornings (I like to work in the mornings, it was kind of cold in the mornings, and I generally tried to limit the amount my mom had to walk)
  • We had lunch one day at the pool and one day in our room (since it was rainy on our last full day)
  • We had dinner two days at Sur House and one day in our room (since it was rainy on our last full day)

Alila Ventana Big Sur breakfast

Breakfast is served daily from 7AM until 11AM, and the menu is the same in the room as in the restaurant (you can seemingly order whatever you want). Breakfast was always delivered within 30 minutes, and came on proper plates, though everything was in plastic wrap (I appreciated that they didn’t serve food in to-go containers, as seems to be the norm nowadays at so many hotels).

Alila Ventana Big Sur room service breakfast tray

Alila Ventana Big Sur room service breakfast tray

The mashed avocado was my favorite, followed by the greek yogurt parfait, lox and bagel, and chia seed breakfast bowl, while the squash frittata was kind of bland.

Alila Ventana Big Sur breakfast — mashed avocado

Alila Ventana Big Sur breakfast — squash frittata

Alila Ventana Big Sur breakfast — lox and bagel

Alila Ventana Big Sur breakfast — greek yogurt parfait

Alila Ventana Big Sur breakfast — chia seed breakfast bowl

Alila Ventana Big Sur lunch

Lunch is served daily from 11AM until 5PM, and there’s one menu if you’re dining poolside, and a separate menu if you’re ordering from in-room dining.

The day we dined by the pool I had an iced coffee to drink, and my mom and I split a tuna poke and shrimp tacos. The shrimp tacos were great, while the tuna poke was perhaps a bit too saucy, but we enjoyed both overall.

Alila Ventana Big Sur lunch — iced coffee

Alila Ventana Big Sur lunch — tuna poke

Alila Ventana Big Sur lunch — shrimp tacos

The day we ordered lunch through in-room dining we had the marinated mushroom panini, organic chicken pallard (which looked more like a plain chicken breast), and a carrot cake to share for dessert. This was probably the blandest meal during our stay here, but then again, that’s on us for ordering a panini and chicken pallard. 😉

Alila Ventana Big Sur lunch — marinated mushroom panini

Alila Ventana Big Sur lunch — organic chicken pallard

Alila Ventana Big Sur lunch — carrot cake

Alila Ventana Big Sur sunset hour & snacks

The Alila Ventana Big Sur has an evening sunset hour at Sur House right before dinner. My mom and I went here in the afternoons before dinner and played games — it’s one of the things I’ll remember most about our great stay here, because we had so much fun.

Playing Rummikub with mom

Included with this was a cheese and charcuterie plate, which was excellent. We only ordered this one afternoon, since we realized this was way too much food in addition to the normal dinner (there’s a ton of cheese underneath those crackers).

Alila Ventana Big Sur sunset hour — cheese and charcuterie

We also typically ordered some drinks around this time, all of which were quite good.

Alila Ventana Big Sur sunset hour — wine & cocktail

Alila Ventana Big Sur sunset hour — cocktail

The drinks weren’t included, which is what I was expecting when I booked the stay, though I do think the hotel needs to rephrase the welcome letter. When you check-in, the welcome letter states:

“Our Signature Experiences, including yoga, meditation, Tai Chi, nightly s’mores, and a daily afternoon cocktail hour, are included with your stay.”

Unless there’s another cocktail hour I don’t know of, the only thing included here is the cheese & charcuterie plate, so that seems like a stretch?

Alila Ventana Big Sur dinner

Dinner is served daily from 5PM until 9PM, and there’s one menu if you’re dining at Sur House, and a separate menu if you’re ordering from in-room dining (though you can order from the restaurant menu via in-room dining as well). In both cases you can order a starter, main course, and dessert.

The food was truly very good. The first day I had the baby carrots to start, while my mom had the roasted squash salad.

Alila Ventana Big Sur dinner — baby carrots

Alila Ventana Big Sur dinner — roasted squash salad

Then I had the arctic char, while my mom had the pacific bass — I loved my arctic char.

Alila Ventana Big Sur dinner — arctic char

Alila Ventana Big Sur dinner — pacific bass

Then for dessert I had the cambolza sundae, while my mom had the apple goat cheese tart… mmm.

Alila Ventana Big Sur dinner — cambolza sundae

Alila Ventana Big Sur dinner — apple goat cheese tart

Each meal concluded with a further sweet treat, which in the case of our first night was macarons.

Alila Ventana Big Sur dinner — macarons

The second night I had the bruschetta without bacon, while my mom had the kale and white bean soup.

Alila Ventana Big Sur dinner — bruschetta

Alila Ventana Big Sur dinner — kale and white bean soup

My mom had the arctic char, while I had the polenta, which I didn’t particularly care for.

Alila Ventana Big Sur dinner — anson mills polenta integrale

Then the last night we had room service dinner, though the only new thing we tried was the mushroom “chorizo” tostada.

Alila Ventana Big Sur room service dinner

Alila Ventana Big Sur room service dinner — mushroom “chorizo” tostada

Other snacks at Alila Ventana Big Sur

As hinted at above, there are a few other snacking opportunities:

  • There’s a nightly s’mores experience from 8PM until 10PM
  • There’s a late night menu for those who want to order something else
  • There are in-room snacks and non-alcoholic drinks that are complimentary

Alila Ventana Big Sur complimentary in-room snacks

I was impressed, am surprised by the complaints

I was legitimately apprehensive about the food at this hotel based on reading some of the comments on FlyerTalk. Based on the opinions of some people, you’d think this hotel was serving United Airlines’ artisan first class chicken sandwich leftover dog food for all the meals. We’re all entitled to our opinions, though frankly I’m surprised by some of the complaints I’ve seen.

Some people were angry about the desserts, some people recommended bringing your own pastries, some people said the late-night menu wasn’t sufficient, some people said the portions were too small, and some people said they’ll never stay here again because of the food (even though they redeemed points, and even though the hotel previously charged the same number of points but didn’t include food).

Big-picture here’s my take on the food at the Alila Ventana Big Sur:

  • Does the hotel offer a Michelin dining experience? No, not quite, but all things considered I thought the food was excellent, with some dishes being exceptional, and others just being okay
  • I thought the quantities of food were massive, and the hotel was downright generous in that regard — you get three full meals a day, you can get a cheese and charcuterie board in the afternoon, you can order off the late night menu, there are in-room snacks, you get free non-alcoholic drinks whenever & wherever, etc.
  • The service was consistently excellent — they were friendly in the restaurant and the food was well paced, while room service always arrived on-time and the orders were correct
  • My one point of feedback is that I do think that both the breakfast and dinner menus could be a bit larger — they were perfect for our three night stay, but I think by day four or five, I would have probably gotten bored by the selection
  • This hotel was an outstanding value back when it wasn’t all-inclusive, so the fact that it now includes all meals and non-alcoholic drinks is so generous; this is probably the best value World of Hyatt redemption in the world, if you ask me

Bottom line

I was extremely impressed by the Alila Ventana Big Sur’s new all-inclusive experience, especially when redeeming points. The food was largely excellent (as you’d expect, some dishes were better than others), the portions were huge, and there was a ton of flexibility with ordering.

A points stay at the Alila Ventana Big Sur for 30,000 points per night is an outrageously good value, perhaps the best value of any Hyatt redemption in the world. This place was a great use of points before the hotel became all-inclusive, and now it’s an even better value.

My mom and I had an unforgettable time here, and I’m grateful beyond words that I had the chance to take this very special trip with her.

If you’ve stayed at the Alila Ventana Big Sur since it became all-inclusive, what did you make of the experience? Any other questions about the hotel I can answer?

  1. What a great review Lucky. I had reservations twice that were cancelled during COVID. I look forward to finally getting there. Thanks for taking the time to review this property.

  2. Looks like they have improved their menu from when we stayed there in summer 2020. Back then it was hard to get a decent spaghetti.

    I do think they need to broaden their culinary offerings. We were indeed bored by Day 3 and we had quite a long stay as COVID refugees.

    It would be a huge improvement nice if they could offer some comfort food like noodle soups or curries to cater to a diverse clientele. Not everyone wants generic “California cuisine.”

  3. Great review. I generally echo your sentiments here; I thought the food was tasty and quantity was good, but the dinner menu in particular could have used a few more entree choices. There were only 4 entrees last summer, so at least they added a couple more. We did a picnic our last day, and one of the hotel employees suggested we get the burger (which was not listed on any menu, but was a good choice).

    The S’mores were well worth it too…

  4. Just came back from this place. Everything was wonderful. People should not complain about the foot portion, as you can literally order as much as you want from the comfort of your room.

    But indeed the menu is a bit limited, but considering they are only serving about 100 guests per night at most, can’t really expect a big selection.

    By the way, smore hours start at 8pm.

  5. Ben, We will be there with our well behaved dog. Did you see any dogs, joining their owners, in the out door dining areas?

  6. I had a one night stay here last year and they provided the to go picnic lunch complimentary at the time. Sounds like that has changed.

  7. It’s a spectacular property. But from what I’ve heard, room rates have increased significantly from my last stay in 2019. I can’t justify that nightly rate …. unless I’m on safari in Africa! And the menu selections do not impress me.

  8. @ Jim — This hotel is VERY dog friendly. I didn’t see any dogs at dinner, but I believe they’re allowed outdoors. I’m sure someone with firsthand experience can chime in.

  9. @ Fernando — Happy to hear you had a great stay. And thanks for the s’mores correction — I updated the post.

  10. I also do recall a cocktail hour at the time I checked in for my stay last year. It was right outside the check-in area. Since you were at the Sur House before dinner, you may indeed have missed it. I believe they were mainly serving wine from what I remember.

  11. Thanks for the review, I’m planning a visit in a few weeks. Out of curiosity, what did you do during the day?

  12. @ Andy — Hmmm, was this before the start of coronavirus? Because back in the day the hotel definitely had a cheese & wine hour near reception. It’s possible that still exists, and that I was just confused.

  13. @ gba — To be honest, days passed pretty quickly between eating so much and playing games in the afternoons. Give my mom’s limited ability to walk long distances, we mostly drove up and down Highway 1 and enjoyed the views. When I was there with Ford we loved hiking as well. Many people enjoy hanging out by the pool as well, and the hot tubs and Japanese baths are awesome.

  14. Hi Ben, great review as usual. Thanks to you I was able to book a two nights stay on points in the coming weeks. I was wondering about the tipping policies. So it was great reading it from your perspective.

  15. Staying for the 1st time in mid May for 3 nights so this review was excellent timing. I too would love to know what activities you found available at the property? My wife & I will ultimately end up doing similar things such as playing games & relaxing but would like a bit of hiking or yoga activity if its available.

  16. @Jim yes dogs are allowed outside at Sur House

    Lucky I agree with everything you said about the food. I eat quite a bit and definitely was more than full with the number of times you could order food. Will admit they could change up the menu since it looks the same 1.5 months ago. However, they are willing to “customize” some of their dishes to your taste i.e. I didn’t want one dish with mushrooms and they were able to replace it with something else.

  17. @Ben

    no this was during covid, it was either July or August cant remember exactly but around the time that the west coast was having bad wildfires. I remember they were closed for a bit due to wildfires prior to my stay and just opened again the week that I stayed.

    it would have definitely been hard to miss the wine/cocktail hour at reception if you were checking in on time so maybe they did make changes to that as well.

    great reiew btw, I also stayed with my mom for the night and we enjoyed all the meals that we had. i remember the to go picnic lunch was fairly substantial as well and they gave it to us in a drawstring bag which was nice however I don’t think I would be open to paying $100 for the to go picnic lunch. At the time i believe they were serving a sirloin for dinner that was delicious and what pretty much everyone else seemed to order. that being said I was definitely thinking if I was staying for more than 3 days I would struggle with the menu selection.

  18. Ben was this your first ever all inclusive experience? I get that this is Big Sur so hard to compare apples to apples to other parts of the world, but even at 30k points a night, it just seems like an OK deal and not the spectacular value that you seem to think it is. Forget about the paid rates. That’s just a joke.

    Just like business and first class airfare, I hope you’re not valuing this redemption at face value for the paid rates of the rooms since you would never pay $2k+ per night to stay here.

  19. One of the best parts about the menu is the simply prepared options! It may be bland to some, but I found it easy to watch calories with their menu while still being served over-generous portions. The beet muhammara at lunch was to die for!

  20. @ Luis — I’ve had a few all-inclusive experiences, but not many (typically I avoid all-inclusives, to be honest). Even when no meals were included, I thought this was an excellent value at 30K points per night. Not because of the value per point compared to paid rates, but because Big Sur is such a gorgeous area, and there aren’t many lodging options there.

  21. @ Mike P — Enjoy your stay, I’m sure you’ll have a great time! While I didn’t do any of the activities, there are things like tai chi, yoga, meditation, a property hike, and more. I know others enjoyed these activities.

  22. I had a stay booked here for Feb but with Covid there was not yet in-restaurant dining so I cancelled (that & the hwy from Monterey washed out). Do they still only offer outdoors dining (other than in-room?).

  23. Lucky, if you want a great property with great views and staff… Please check out the WA Pedregal Cabo. I was there two weeks ago and LOVED it.

  24. My wife and I stayed here in October 2020 and enjoyed all of our meals but dinner service in particular was excellent. We were on a points stay so decided one afternoon to splurge on the Sip Like a Sommelier activity, which is one of their Alila Experiences and did cost us extra out of pocket. We were anticipating a healthy dose of wine tasting and maybe some crackers and cheese to go with it. Instead we got the best 4-course meal either of us have ever had, and a few glasses of wine that while very enjoyable, were completely overshadowed by the food.

    Crab legs and caviar served in an open crab leg (paired with a Riesling), charred octopus with squash apples and fennel (paired with a Chardonnay), crostini with camembert, brie, and caramelized onions (paired with a cab), and 28-day aged ribeye steaks with chimichuri and a balsamic glaze (paired with a Syrah). There was also a dessert wine and some chocolates at the end. Absolutely incredible.

    They had lost their executive chef (I’m not sure why) sometime before they reopened – they closed for a bit due to both COVID and wildfires in mid 2020 – so they “borrowed” the exec chef from Cindy’s on the rooftop of the Chicago Athletic Association, Christian Ragano. Man can that guy cook. He brought us each dish as he made them and told us the story behind the ingredients and his preparation. We almost forgot that we were there to taste wines the food was that good. Truly a meal we will never forget.

  25. ^^^ Crab legs and caviar with Riesling sounds like living.

    @Lucky — If you’re a Globalist doing late checkout, would lunch be included on the last day? 🙂

  26. I checked in the day Lucky checked out. Had a very similar food experience. The kale + white bean soup was great. The short rib entree was amazing and a huge portion. Both fish entrees were excellent too.

    Totally agree re: the comments on FlyerTalk. No clue where some of those posters are coming from. My wife and I really enjoyed everything we ordered (had the chia bowl at breakfast every morning). Definitely agree that the pastries and desserts were “just okay”, but that is such a small matter relative to everything else.

    For daytime activities, lots of sightseeing and hikes. Go into Pfeiffer Big Sur or Andrew Molera state parks. Also hike the Coast Ridge Road from the resort all the way up to Terrace Creek Trail (and keep going from there if you want). Gorgeous views.

  27. @ Quo Vadis? — Nope, unfortunately not included either way. It has nothing to do with the check-out time, but rather has to simply do with general rate package inclusion. Also, I wouldn’t count on getting a 4PM check-out. It’s subject to availability at resorts, and this hotel is seemingly sold out 24/7/365, so I wouldn’t be surprised if that gets denied.

    If you have the chance to visit, hope you have a great time!

  28. Thanks @Lucky — We have a few nights booked in September, really looking forward to it. Great food pics, reminds me of a cruise trip, where it will be hard not to gain a few pounds. At least there should be plenty of space to walk/hike outdoors.

  29. @ Ben — What a great picture of your Mom. I am glad to see her big smile after all she has been through!

  30. Last time I checked they had no rooms available on points for many months (same with Alila Napa Valley). Both Alila properties could be booked on points early in 2022.

  31. @ Ben — Two questions — 1) Do you think it is worth 60,000 to book directly into a premium suite? 2) How does the deposit work for a points stay? The rate description says “Deposit Required By April 8, 2021. Deposit By Credit Card Required. 1 Percent Of 4 Night(S) Deposit Will Be Charged To Credit Card.”

  32. My goodness, I couldn’t even finish the review… got so hungry! LOL

    Fantastic review, Lucky!

  33. I do think the service was pretty high quality in general. However while there were some really great staff at dinner, some of the employees were not so polished. The hostess was a particularly weak point. It often took absolutely forever to be greeted and seated.

  34. @ Gene — Thanks! The points are just pulled for the cost of the stay, there’s no further deposit. And as far as booking into the premium suite, I guess if you have the points it could be a good idea. Personally I’d probably book a standard room with points and upgrade to a standard suite to save the points, but I think just about any redemption here is a good value.

  35. @ Ben — I found 7 nights dates for 30k + suite upgrade (looks available; on hold now trying to confirm). That would be a great deal!

  36. @Ben @ Quo Vadis – Are you sure lunch is not included on check-out day? We had no problem ordering a packed lunch to go on our last day.

  37. Would love to see a review of one of the Miraval resorts on this blog (Tucson, Austin or Berkshire’s). They are also all inclusive but the food choices are much greater and they do include lunch on your arrival and departure day. I’ve stayed at 2/3 and enjoyed both of them greatly. Expensive but with Hyatt points (2 people is 60,000 points a night, double this resort, and 1 person is 45,000 points a night). Also get a $175 daily per person credit (except last day I believe) to use on non included activities and spa. Not as great of a value and completely different type of resort but is worth it.

  38. We will be there over Memorial Day, so perfect timing on the review for us.

    Someone on flyertalk had mentioned the included picnic is an option for one of the day’s lunches, and if you want it any more than that or on the last day you have to pay for it. This recent post mentions the picnic kit is included if you take it off property-

    Another fun fact i found is you can bring your own bottle of wine to dinner for a $50 corking fee.

    I am happy that you enjoyed the food. Maybe the ppl at flyertalk want to discourage other people from stealing the availability :).

  39. Did you eat at Post Ranch Inn or Nepenthe?

    Probably an unintended consequence of the all-inclusive is the opportunity cost if you were to eat at the two best restaurants in the area. Maybe the strategy is to make them a lunch stop if arriving early.

  40. @Lucky – when you ordered drinks, did you tip the $20 plus the 20% (or whatever your standard is) on the additional charges? I was also confused by the line for a tip, even though I read the note about gratuities being included. Perhaps they just needed someone to sign even when there were no actual charges, but I ended up tipping on what I felt a fair price would have been for the food. Probably more than they are used to getting, but I like to err on the side of caution with wait staff. And everyone really was excellent.

    As far as picnic lunches, we did a 9 mile hike at Andrew Molera one day, which was beautiful. We ordered the hikers lunches from the hotel and were not charged for them. The hotel also provided a Patagonia day pack, which was great. Though the hikers lunches were not actually packed for a hike, and the beet and quinoa salad container came apart in the bag.

    As for other activities, we did an enhanced wine pairing with one dinner, and Marty the sommelier was excellent. We did couples massages two days, which were great and in a beautiful setting. They were very much overpriced, but that was expected and known going in. A shorter hike another day, and one day just lounging by the pool and in the baths. We were going to do the foraging hike but cancelled because the timing didn’t fit in with our other plans for the day.

    We were able to confirm a 1pm check out in advance (Globalist), but 4pm was a no go. It was my birthday, so even 1pm may have been generous.

  41. The food looks good I have to say. That said, if a “$20 tip per meal” is only considered “a bit of a tip” then this is not the place for me. I realize the tipping culture in the US is insane as is, but that seems extreme even for that, at least to my european eyes.

    It is also the main problem I have with these kinds of hotel. Of course you CAN redeem points for your stay and I’ll even admit that in a case like this with all-inclusive in an expensive area it makes even more sense. But still I would assume that everything else sort of still adds up. Of course if everything else is included then $20 cocktails don’t hurt as much, but I would assume prices for activities will also be sky-high.

    Again maybe not so much an issue with this all-inclusive property, but it is also the reason why I am hesitant to ever use my hotel points for something like the top notch Maldives resort. Sure I might save thousands on the accomodation price itself (which I otherwise however would never have spent!), but then I can pay $750 for the 30min transfer, thousands of $ for a Overwater Villa upgrade, $150 upwards for lunch and dinners each day, hundreds of dollars more for activities and drinks. In my naive world redeeming points should still be something that more or less gets you a free vacation with only few/reasonable additional costs. And not a vacation with 5-10k additional costs still.

  42. @ Regis — Only subject to availability since it’s a resort. I’d guess it’s not available more often than not, given that this hotel runs at close to 100% occupancy year-round.

  43. @ ArnoldB — You’re totally right, in the Maldives even if you redeem points the cost of a stay will really add up. But at the Alila Ventana you could redeem points and not spend a dime. There’s no need to tip (according to the hotel), and parking is included, non-alcoholic drinks are included, some activities are included, and in this area you’re best off enjoying many of the hikes on your own anyway.

  44. @ Hepworth — Yes, I generally tipped $20 for the meals and then 20% for drinks, but in reality we didn’t have that many drinks while we were there, so that maybe only added up to an extra $20 total. Thanks for the data point on the lunch and other activities!

  45. @ Lisfranc — Indeed, there are some cute restaurants in the area, so that is perhaps an unintended consequence of it being all-inclusive. That being said, in coronavirus times I’m grateful for that, because Post Ranch Inn isn’t open to outside guests, and some of the other cute places we ate at last time weren’t open.

  46. In the grand scheme of things, over time, you will forget how good or bad the food was during your stay. You will however remember the great quality time you spent with your mom. That’s the highlight of this trip!!

  47. Ahh, that dining patio! Some friends who live in Big Sur brought us there for drinks a couple of years ago on a gorgeous afternoon. We had to wait a bit for a table, but between the view, the excellent IPA, and the good company, it was a truly special experience.

    Another good place to try is Nepenthe just down the road. The food isn’t as elegant (more hamburgers and fries), but it’s decent and the view is just as spectacular.

    @MikeP – there is PLENTY of hiking in the area, from multi-day trecks in the Santa Lucia wilderness to casual nature walks. Check out Big Sur State Park for the whole gamut of options. Andrew Molera beach and Julie Pfeifer Burns parks also have some nice hikes.

  48. The whiners complaining about the quality of food here are the Nurse Ratched of entitled jerk hotel guests — who already are looking the gift horse of this hotel being all-inclusive in the first place even on award stays. The only redeeming thing about them is that they make the entitled Marriott whiners also have company.

    The food quality here was excellent before the Hyatt/Alila integration and it was excellent afterward — even considering the limits during Covid. Some people are just too entitled for their own good. And many of those find a lovely home on FlyerTalk.

  49. Had my first dinner here. Octopus, Artic char and the sundae with a half bottle of Siduri SLH for $50. Great service and food was excellent, not Michelin level but definitely gourmet.
    I only had one other all inclusive experience at Hyatt Ziva in Cabo and flyer talk thought the food there was ok and I literally heard other guests raving about the steak! I have to say the food here at Ventana is miles better than that at Hyatt Ziva Cabo!!! I will pay to eat at Ventana with no complaints and I have eating at many great restaurants in the world. The menu is smallish but you still have 5 to 6 starters and mains to choose from and the quality is good. I can see why people complain about repetitiveness if you stay more than a few days. But you can’t really compare a 60 room hotel that serves nice sit down dinners to a 500 room hotel that serves crappy buffets and pedestrian speciality restaurants.

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