Review: Big Sur Suite At Alila Ventana

Filed Under: Hotels, Hyatt

The whole reason my mom and I recently traveled to California was to stay at the Alila Ventana Big Sur, which is probably my favorite Hyatt property in the US. I wrote a detailed review of this hotel just over a year ago, so this time around I’m going to be writing two installments on the property, focused on specific aspects of the experience:

Why we visited the Alila Ventana Big Sur

I had visited Big Sur for the first time in late 2019, and became hooked. As someone who loves nature, this is simply one of the most gorgeous places in the world, especially if you get perfect weather.

Ford and I loved coming here, and I knew my mom would love this place too:

  • While she can’t really hike, the beauty of Big Sur is that you can just drive up and down Highway 1 and pull over just about anywhere to enjoy the endless views
  • Being in this environment is just such a nice change of pace from Florida, in terms of how mountainous the area is, the trees, the air, the climate, etc.
  • Big Sur is pretty accessible, and isn’t far from some gorgeous towns, like Carmel

Views along Highway 1 


Views along Highway 1 

I had been wanting to take my mom here for a long time, so this seemed like the perfect opportunity for a mother-son trip.

Redeeming points at the Alila Ventana Big Sur

The Alila Ventana Big Sur is a Category 7 World of Hyatt property, meaning that a free night in a standard room costs 30,000 World of Hyatt points. For context, I value Hyatt points at 1.5 cents each, so to me that’s the equivalent of paying $450 per night to stay here, which is beyond incredible.

The hotel has been in that category since it joined World of Hyatt. However, last year the hotel started making rates all-inclusive. For those booking stays with cash, rates roughly doubled, while the points requirement stayed the same.

Award availability can be tough to come by at this hotel, though I managed to find space just a couple of days before arrival. There is often some availability at the very last minute, as people make cancelations before the deadline. We planned this trip last minute, and that worked out perfectly for us.

So I redeemed a total of 90,000 World of Hyatt points for our stay, and then also applied a suite upgrade award to immediately confirm an upgrade to a Big Sur Suite.

For context on how much our stay would have cost if paying cash:

  • A standard room would have cost $2,250 per night, plus taxes and service charges
  • The Big Sur Suite I confirmed an upgrade to would have cost $2,450 per night, plus taxes and service charges
  • As you can see, while those prices are steep, the suite sells for a modest premium over a standard room when paying cash

Big Sur Suite at the Alila Ventana Big Sur

Now let’s get into the review of the Big Sur Suite, which is the standard suite at the Alila Ventana Big Sur (again, I recommend reading my full review of the hotel from my last stay).

The hotel tries really hard with Globalist upgrades and often even upgrades beyond the standard suites when available, though:

  • We booked last minute, and I think we booked the last suite
  • There are a lot of Globalists staying at the hotel — on FlyerTalk someone claims the manager told them that on weekends 75-80% of guests are Globalist

Anyway, the Alila Ventana Big Sur is spread out over 160 acres, with several buildings housing the hotel’s 59 accommodations. This time around we were assigned room 49, located in the Sycamore House.

This was a bit further from reception and the Meadow Pool (the main pool), but it was right next to the Mountain Pool, and also a shorter walk to the path leading to the restaurant. Here’s a map of the property:

The Sycamore House has a total of four rooms on two floors, and our room (#49) was at the very end of the building on the second floor.

Alila Ventana Big Sur Sycamore House


Alila Ventana Big Sur Sycamore House

The door to the room faced the hills, while the balcony faced in the opposite direction.


Alila Ventana Big Sur Sycamore House

Anyway, the Big Sur Suite is 619 square feet — it’s a single room, so it’s only about 50% larger than the standard room, but then again, when paying cash this is also less than 10% more expensive than a standard room.

Our Big Sur Suite was great — it featured a comfortable king size bed, a table (or desk, if you prefer) with two chairs, and then two leather chairs facing a TV and fireplace.

Alila Ventana Big Sur Suite


Alila Ventana Big Sur Suite king bed


Alila Ventana Big Sur Suite living area


Alila Ventana Big Sur Suite table with chairs

I loved the fireplace. We turned it on in the mornings and evenings when it was cold, and it was a great way to heat the room the old fashioned way.


Alila Ventana Big Sur Suite sitting area, fireplace, and TV

Back near the entrance was a minibar setup. Since the hotel became all-inclusive, all snacks and non-alcoholic drinks in the minibar are complimentary. There are also two reusable hotel branded water bottles, which you can take with you, as well as a pack with some PPE.


Alila Ventana Big Sur Suite minibar


Alila Ventana Big Sur Suite in-room coffee machine

As you can see, they loaded up our minibar with Diet Coke and sparkling water. A Hyatt hotel left some note in my profile about a decade ago about my drink preferences, and some hotels still catch on (go figure in the meantime I try to drink less soda, but…).


Alila Ventana Big Sur Suite in-room fridge


Alila Ventana Big Sur Suite complimentary snacks

The bathroom was over to the side of the room, and was large — it featured double sinks, a tub, a shower, and a separate room with a toilet.


Alila Ventana Big Sur Suite bathroom


Alila Ventana Big Sur Suite shower & tub


Alila Ventana Big Sur Suite tub

Toiletries were in reusable bottles, as is the norm in California (and as you’d expect in a nature-focused property).


Alila Ventana Big Sur Suite shower


Alila Ventana Big Sur Suite toilet

The Big Sur Suite also had a lovely deck, with two chairs and a hammock.


Alila Ventana Big Sur Suite deck


Alila Ventana Big Sur Suite deck

Our room overlooked the Mountain Pool. On a clear day you could see the ocean in the distance, though the reality is that there are so many opportunities to enjoy views from this hotel, particularly from the main pool and restaurant.


Alila Ventana Big Sur Suite view


Alila Ventana Big Sur Suite view

All things considered I thought our suite was great — I love how the rooms here have a sense of place while still being very well maintained and having all of the luxuries you’d expect.

Highway 1 closure near Ventana Big Sur

While throwing this in is kind of random, I figured I might as well address it, since I’m sure the question will come up.

Storms a while back caused Highway 1 to close approximately 13 miles south of Ventana Big Sur. If you’re coming from the north (like Monterey or San Francisco), this isn’t an issue. This only becomes an issue if you’re coming from the south, in which case a detour is required.

Highway 1 closure near Big Sur

There’s ultimately still plenty of Highway 1 to enjoy in terms of the views. It would be nice to drive a bit further south, but I don’t in any way consider the Highway 1 closure to be a deal-breaker in terms of enjoying the area, or anything.

Views from Highway 1

Bottom line

I was happy to have the chance to stay in the standard suite at the Alila Ventana Big Sur, after redeeming points and using a Globalist suite upgrade award. The rooms at this resort are great — they have a sense of place while being luxurious and well maintained.

But of course you don’t come here for the rooms, you come here for the location and the incredible views, and then the price also factors in that this place is all-inclusive.

Stay tuned for the next installment, where I’ll review the food & beverage experience at this hotel.

If you’ve stayed at the Alila Ventana Big Sur, what did you think of your room?

Comments
  1. Hi Ben, you have been around. Could you please explain what makes this place worth asking 2250 USD per standard room? What other hotels have a starting price at this level? I simply don’t get it.
    Thanks

  2. Unfortunately the air conditioning is pretty weak at this hotel, and the toiletries smell horrible.

  3. @ David — During our stay it wasn’t ever warm enough to use the air conditioning, but good to know.

  4. @ Veit — That’s a fair question. I agree the $2,200+ starting price for this hotel is steep, and I’d expect pricing to be more in the range of $1,500 for a standard room, considering this is all-inclusive. How can the hotel get away with this pricing? I’d say there are a few factors:
    — The proximity to a major city with a lot of wealth means there are more people willing to pay these prices
    — The hotel has fewer than 60 rooms, and many of those are filled by World of Hyatt members redeeming points, and the remainder are probably filled by people who have enough money where they likely don’t care whether it’s $1,500 or $2,500 per night; after all, the hotel doesn’t have much inventory to sell
    — Maintaining the high rates is probably partly also a strategy to get high reimbursement from World of Hyatt, since the program reimburses at some percentage of the paid rate when hotels are mostly full
    — This hotel really can’t be cheap to run, as the property is huge, it’s very well staffed, and revenue on ancillaries is limited

  5. I think this property has gamed the WoH program. They put outrageously expensive paid rates, but are able to get to near capacity with mostly points redemptions and so they get reimbursed by Hyatt for their full room price.

    I stayed here back in October and the front desk accidentally printed out the internal payment from Hyatt and it was almost $3k a night.

  6. @ Lou — It’s hard to say given how many different room types there are. The villa I had last time had a ton of privacy, as the balcony faced the mountains rather than the resort.

  7. @Omar
    It’s near San Francisco and it has incredible views. People in SF pay a lot more for a lot less, so they’re just charging what the market can bear.

  8. I stayed in a Big Sur Suite (in a different building) and adored the room, just like everything else about the hotel.
    As for the prices, I don’t think I would ever pay what they charge unless I was so rich that money isn’t a thought anymore.

    I had a discussion with the freshly minted manager sent over by Hyatt, who was in charge of one of the s’mores making evening. She told me that it’s prohibited to do any new construction for miles around since it’s a protected area, and that even adding as much as a fence on property requires a ton of paperwork and authorizations.

    So essentially they know they are alone here in one of the most beautiful areas in the world, along with Post Ranch Inn across the street, and there won’t be any competition for the foreseeable future. As such the hotel seems at near capacity most of the time, so people are paying those rates for sure… When we stayed there it was obvious that most of the crowd was Silicon Valley money.

    I would return in a heartbeat though!

  9. @David, no doubt some do pay to stay there, but I would wager it’s less than 50% of the occupancy, hence the property is gaming the system.

  10. I am sorry but, when looking at the prices of their rooms, they just capitalize on the view and the area – beautiful, indeed …
    Decoration and furnitures are old fashioned and no one would pay that price for that kind of accomodation anywhere else – and you should say it !

  11. @ Schatz JP — Right, you’re absolutely paying for the view and location, but isn’t that to be expected? Similarly, you could buy a $300,000 mansion in the middle of nowhere, or you could buy a $1 million condo in New York City that’s small & dumpy. At least unlike the Hyatt Carmel Highlands, this place is well maintained and has tasteful finishes.

  12. @ Omar — I’d say that comes down to semantics. If the hotel is actually consistently sold out (which it is), then is that really “gaming,” or just doing a good job maximizing revenue? Should the hotel just lower rates and reduce how much award space there is (which is already limited), or what would you really do differently if you ran the hotel? And I think your numbers sound about right in terms of World of Hyatt redemptions vs. paid guests.

  13. @Lou: Canyon House on the map is really private, they’re the forest shower suites and literally no one can see you while you’re on the balcony (room 44).

    @Lucky: did the front desk give you a heads up the Mountain Pool was “clothing optional”?

  14. Does Hyatt not have a flexible booking tool to check award availability? I guess I’m surprised that Marriott provides such a simple tool for searching award dates, but I can’t find it on Hyatt’s website.

  15. @ George — Unfortunately Hyatt doesn’t, and I agree that can be frustrating, especially when trying to find availability at a hotel like this. I believe Hyatt plans on introducing a tool like this when peak and off-peak pricing is introduced this summer.

  16. Did you see any of the regular rooms? Managed to get 4 nights on points in early August but suite upgrade is not available.

  17. This hotel is terrible please no one go there or use points there so i can go and use my points there haha.

  18. Brought back fond memories of my stay there last year! I’ve stayed a couple time now and am grateful it fell within range the south bay’s travel advisory. The second floor suites are much better than the first floor suites, as the ceiling is vaulted and gives a much bigger sense of space. Love the cabin decor! I know many will think It’s not high-end luxury, but it’s more along the lines of glamping and paying for that experience.

  19. They are very dog friendly. We took our goldendoodle and hiked around the paths on property. She went crazy with all the new smells of the surrounding forest and redwoods. She was also welcomed with our inclusive meals at the out door patio. It would be nice if you would review, or a blurb, about a hotel when travelling with Winston and what worked for him or not.

  20. @omar- what exactly are you upset about? You accuse the hotel of “playing games” because they charge too much but are always full.

    I take it you skipped all economics courses?

  21. @ryan, I’m not upset at all. Great value with points and I’m happy the hotel was able to take advantage.

  22. @Ben, I’m saying the hotel is doing the right thing to maximize value but it probably wasn’t WoH’s intention to have that happen. Again, it’s great for points redeemers, great for the hotel, not so good for cash buyers.

  23. Worth mentioning that this is an adults-only property. For those of us who LONG to go here, but cannot.

    I think you were hard on the Highlands property, it’s a special animal. The single rooms are indeed nothing to write home about, but the townhome/suites are quite nice. We sometimes stay there as a family on points, back in my Globalist day on suite upgrades. We enjoyed the pool, the hot tub, and the dining there a lot! First plac my kiddoes had burgers with “black” (squid ink coloring) buns. Just sitting with a glass of Prosecco looking for whales out the windows of the clubhouse is special. It is regrettable the pandemic has made that a haunted mansion, but better days ahead!

  24. Brings back such great memories. We stayed recently in the Vista Suite (which is technically their highest room category). Must say, the room itself doesn’t didn’t look much different to yours. The view was more private and the deck had a hot tub but otherwise don’t think there is that much different.

    @Ben, did you do the falcon / birds of prey lecture? That was a real highlight for us.

  25. Well Ben, we agree to disagree : like many others, I made a wonderful trip along Highway 1, enjoyed the scenery, and settled for the night not in middle of nowhere but in great places – some of them with greta views also – which were not directly along the shore. To be clear, I could have said “no one should pay that price” !
    And you probably know better than I do the nice places where you can stay all along Highway 1 …

  26. @ John S — It really fluctuates, though typically somewhere around 100,000-300,000. The beauty of Hyatt points is that they can always be supplemented by Chase Ultimate Rewards points, and I have a significant reserve of those.

  27. @ ArnoldB — That’s the beauty of points! You can stay here for a very reasonable number of points, and won’t even be on the hook for paying for food. It’s an incredible value.

  28. You should do a piece about how many points you have and the sources (chase, hyatt, etc). It would be an interesting read and your followers would love to know.

  29. @Lucky – stay was great overall. Food was amazing with one miss (the polenta from the build your own portion of the menu had a very strong citrus flavor that made it not pair well will some of the proteins), and there were some service disconnects when multiple departments involved (hikers lunch/daypack was supposed to be delivered with room service breakfast but wasn’t, concierge had set up enhanced wine pairing for one dinner but Sur House had no idea). Everything got worked out and staff was all very friendly. Little things I would have been disappointed about if actually paying $2,500/night, but for 30,000 Hyatt points I wasn’t complaining.

    Property was completely booked, but never crowded.

  30. @Lucky – did you also get to enjoy the woodpecker that was quite fond of the northerly(?) wall of room 49?

  31. @ Hepworth — Hahahah, so that’s what that was! Happy to hear you mostly enjoyed your stay otherwise.

  32. Hi Lucky,

    Very timely as I’m planning our 25th wedding anniversary in a month. Currently have the Vista Tub suite booked for two nights, and hoping to add a third but so far no availability. Seems like this premium suite often actually goes for a higher cash price than any other including the villa. At 60000 points it’s expensive, but this is a very special occasion. My question is, have you or any readers seen this suite, is it that much better than the other suites or cottages? If we really want three nights in the same suite, we might have to “downgrade” to a different one like the Big Sur suite and I’m wondering about that. Thanks!

  33. @ Lucky…This is a prime example of why/when buying Hyatt points is a good deal and should be referenced in your next Hyatt point promotion. Certainly the number of properties where buying points makes sense is very limited, but where they do make economic sense it’s a home run of savings.

    So glad you took your mom on this trip. Really couldn’t think of a better place domestically to go. Can’t wait for the food review.

  34. @Lucky and @joeygirl: yep, we were there last weekend of February and they specifically told us at check-in to “be aware that the Mountain Pool is clothing optional”. Lo and behold, there was a guy that took advantage of that as well as at the Japanese baths.
    The view at the other pool though was much nicer though

  35. Really not sure why a lot of the people gripe about this place, I thought it was phenomenal. It’s a great deal on points and if I had the kind of money ppl make in Silicon Valley, I would be fine paying for it in cash obviously. It’s more of a 5 star eco resort

    It’s all about supply and demand. Other than camping and at the Post Ranch Inn, there’s not really any other places in the area that match the amenities you can get there.

  36. Hmmm..so glad to know. We have a suite booked this summer and as an older woman I would NOT want to have my balcony look out over that pool. Surely if I request not to be in a suite with that view they will find plenty of others who would love it. LOL

  37. I have to say – if you’re paying $2.5K +, I would rather go down the road and stay in a suite at Post Ranch Inn with ocean views for $1K more. That property is hands down the best hotel in Big Sur. Ben, would love to see a review of that hotel. I know your mom would really appreciate that stay! After all, aren’t our parents considered “priceless”?

  38. We stopped by and had a couple of cocktails at the bar overlooking the gorgeous view of the Pacific. Breathtaking. I pulled up the rates online – it wasn’t part of WOH at the time, this was summer of 2018 and rooms were around $550/night in the middle of summer. Seems WOH has ballooned the price!

    I was excited to read it joined WOH, but I’m sure it’ll be a nightmare to get a redeem since I try to plan things several months out.

  39. Staying at a regular room with fireplace now. Really like the property and the staff. Hotel is probably full on a Wednesday, all tables were taken for dinner and they don’t allow outside guests at this point. The guest is pretty diverse.

    I am from San Francisco but I can’t afford and is not the kind of people who would pay over $2000 plus tax for a room (don’t think I ever paid over $300 a night for personal travel). However, with the kind of money I know floating around here in the Bay Area (work in venture) I can definitely understand why this hotel is full. Honestly, after staying here I can see myself paying over $1000 cash to stay here. But thank you for points I will be coming back and paying nada, especially I am fairly flexible on dates and less than 3 hours away.

    I think for people complaining about the price are probably never stayed in such kind of properties and don’t understanding how relaxing the experience is. Of course you can pay only $80 to stay at the camp ground or cheaper for a motel a few miles down but then we are talking about a different crowd.

  40. Just to clarify, the property offers two rooms, the Big Sur Forest Shower Suite and the Big Sur Spa Suite. From the picture you took in the bathroom, it looks like you stayed in the Big Sur Spa Suite. These details really matter when using your reviews to make decisions.

    The reviews are timely, as we planned to stay here last Jan, but we were not able to due to the pandemic. Looking at same time next year. Ben, do you have any info on the Vista Hot Tub Suite?

  41. Actually, I take back my comment above. The standard suite is the Big Sur Suite. The premium suites break out amongst the two different rooms I mentioned above.

    Ben, do you think its worth the point differential (48k vs 60k per night) for a premium suite?

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