Review: Hyatt Carmel Highlands (Stay Away)

Review: Hyatt Carmel Highlands (Stay Away)

NAME: Hyatt Carmel Highlands, Overlooking Big Sur Coast & Highlands Inn, A Hyatt Residence Club
LOCATION: Carmel, California, USA
DATE: May 2021
REVIEW RATING:
BEN SAYS: The most disappointing stay that I have had at any Hyatt property. The only positive about the hotel are the views of the ocean.
78

Oh, the Hyatt Carmel Highlands. Come for the views, stay for the… well, maybe don’t stay.

Why we stayed at the Hyatt Carmel Highlands

I recently spent five nights in California with my mom — we spent the first night at the incredible Grand Hyatt SFO, then we spent three nights at the Alila Ventana Big Sur, and then we spent one more night at the Hyatt Carmel Highlands. I’ll review our stay at the Alila Ventana next, so that I save the best for last.

So, why did we decide to stay at the Hyatt Carmel Highlands?

  • I figured since my mom and I were were flying all the way from Florida, we might as well spend five days on the ground, and the Alila Ventana only had award availability for three nights
  • Carmel is such a cute town, and this hotel is only a short drive away
  • Since we were flying out of SFO, this would make our travel day a bit easier on the way back, and would mean we wouldn’t have to leave the Alila Ventana Big Sur super early
  • My friend Matthew from Live and Let’s Fly raves about this property, and calls it his favorite Hyatt property in California

When you add up all of those reasons, I figured this was the perfect place to spend a night!

Booking the Hyatt Carmel Highlands

The Hyatt Carmel Highlands is a Category 7 World of Hyatt property, meaning that a free night redemption here costs 30,000 World of Hyatt points per night. I had a Category 1-7 free night certificate from requalifying for Globalist status, so this seemed like the perfect property for using this.

Let me once again emphasize that Category 7 is the top category for Hyatt properties, meaning this property costs the same number of points as the Park Hyatt Paris and the Alila Ventana Big Sur. While I realize stuff is often priced based on the location, I (stupidly?) assumed this hotel wouldn’t be actively unappealing.

For what it’s worth, the paid rate at this hotel would have been right around $500 per night.

Is this a hotel or a timeshare property?

You might be confused about what exactly this property is based on looking at Hyatt’s website. Here’s the name of this property, which is a mouthful:

Hyatt Carmel Highlands, Overlooking Big Sur Coast & Highlands Inn, A Hyatt Residence Club

Essentially the property is split between being a Hyatt Residence Club (in other words, a timeshare), and being a hotel. The hotel portion of the property has just under 50 rooms.

By the way, some interesting context on the history here — the hotel portion of this property used to be a Park Hyatt, before just being rebranded as a plain old Hyatt.

Hyatt Carmel Highlands location

The Hyatt Carmel Highlands is located just off Highway 1. You’re just a few miles north of some of the most gorgeous coastline you’ll see anywhere in North America, and you’re just a few miles south of Carmel-by-the-Sea, which is one of the most charming towns in California, in my opinion.

The view not far from the Hyatt Carmel highlands

So the location is fantastic, and geographically this is a great place to visit in conjunction with a stay at the Alila Ventana Big Sur, since this property is about a 45 minute drive away.

Hyatt Carmel Highlands check-in & lobby

We arrived at the Hyatt Carmel Highlands at around 1PM, but our room wasn’t quite ready yet. Nonetheless I completed the check-in process before we headed into town, so that I’d just have to pick up the keys later.

Here’s a map of the property, for some context:

As you can see, there are over a dozen different buildings with rooms, and then the main lodge is right near the entrance, and it’s also where you check-in.

Hyatt Carmel Highlands main lodge

The check-in process was friendly enough. The front desk associate informed me that there were no upgrades available, and that the hotel was offering virtually no services. Since Globalist members receive complimentary breakfast, I was told that I’d receive some bonus points. For what it’s worth:

  • The hotel was still selling at least two standard suites (the most that will show through the Hyatt app) at the time of check-in, but I didn’t fight back too much
  • My stay still hasn’t posted well over a week later, and neither have my bonus points for not being offered breakfast

Here’s the sheet I was given highlighting everything that wasn’t available:

The lobby was dead, because nothing there was open. So I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves, since there’s nothing else to talk about.


Hyatt Carmel Highlands lobby


Hyatt Carmel Highlands lobby


Hyatt Carmel Highlands lobby


Hyatt Carmel Highlands lobby

The views were definitely the redeeming quality…


Hyatt Carmel Highlands lobby

I could peek into the restaurant which was closed — it had incredible views and I’m sure it would be lovely when the hotel is usually open, but that wasn’t the case.


Hyatt Carmel Highlands restaurant (closed)

By the way, the hotel seemed quite disorganized. I got a text saying our room was ready, at which point I picked up my key. We then went to our room, and about an hour later I received a text stating that my “villa” was ready (rather than my “room”), so I figured that maybe they had found a room to upgrade us to. Nope, it was an error.

Hyatt Carmel Highlands ocean view king room

We were assigned room 526. As mentioned above, the hotel has several buildings. We were advised to go park in the lot at the top of the property, and then had to find our room. The signage wasn’t great, and there was no offer to guide us to our room.

So we drove up the path, and then found the parking lot to the left.

Road at Hyatt Carmel Highlands

Eventually we found some parking — seriously, this is a Category 7 Hyatt property?!

Hyatt Carmel Highlands exterior building

I found the property in general to just be so much in need of some love. The whole property felt like it needed a fresh coat of paint and/or good power washing.


Hyatt Carmel Highlands property

Hyatt Carmel Highlands exterior hallway


Hyatt Carmel Highlands room exterior

The room was a reasonable size, with a king bed, a table with two chairs, a wall-mounted TV, and a fireplace.


Hyatt Carmel Highlands ocean view king room


Hyatt Carmel Highlands ocean view king room


Hyatt Carmel Highlands ocean view king room


Hyatt Carmel Highlands ocean view king room seating & TV


Hyatt Carmel Highlands ocean view king room fireplace

Near the entrance was a Keurig coffee machine and two bottles of water, which were literally the only on-property food or beverage options available. Then there was also a mini-fridge.


Hyatt Carmel Highlands in-room coffee machine


Hyatt Carmel Highlands in-room mini-fridge

While the pictures of rooms here looked bland online, they looked even blander in person, from the AC unit, to several of the walls being blank, to the lack of curtains (but rather just blinds).


Hyatt Carmel Highlands room blinds

The bathroom area was probably the worst part of the room — again, let me remind you this is a Category 7 World of Hyatt property, in case I haven’t done that often enough. 😉

The sink was simply in the room near a frosted window, so had no privacy from the rest of the room.


Hyatt Carmel Highlands ocean view king room bathroom


Hyatt Carmel Highlands ocean view king room bathroom


Hyatt Carmel Highlands ocean view king room bathroom window

Then the bathroom and shower/tub combo were in a separate room.


Hyatt Carmel Highlands ocean view room bathroom


Hyatt Carmel Highlands ocean view room shower

Toiletries were from Pharmacopia.


Hyatt Carmel Highlands in-room toiletries

Much like outside the room, the lack of basic maintenance was just plain disappointing.


Hyatt Carmel Highlands room in bad shape

There was also a closet near the bathroom, which had a vacuum in it. That’s the first time I’ve seen that. I guess it does reflect the self-service model the hotel otherwise uses.


Hyatt Carmel Highlands king room closet


Hyatt Carmel Highlands king room closet

Now, in fairness, the hotel had one amazing feature, which is the view. This hotel has simply incredible views over the Pacific Ocean, and that’s oh-so-special. We had a private balcony with two chairs.

Hyatt Carmel Highlands ocean view room balcony


Hyatt Carmel Highlands ocean view room balcony view


Hyatt Carmel Highlands ocean view room balcony view


Hyatt Carmel Highlands ocean view room balcony view

Hyatt Carmel Highlands pool

This property is fairly large between the hotel and timeshare portion, yet the entire hotel only has one pool, which isn’t even particularly large. I’m not a pool person anyway, so that didn’t bother me much, but don’t get too excited if you are a pool person.

Hyatt Carmel Highlands pool


Hyatt Carmel Highlands pool


Hyatt Carmel Highlands pool

Hyatt Carmel Highlands gym

The hotel amenity that impressed me most (well, assuming we’re not considering the view an amenity) was the gym, which actually had good equipment and was a decent size.

Hyatt Carmel Highlands gym


Hyatt Carmel Highlands gym


Hyatt Carmel Highlands gym

I wouldn’t return to this hotel

In closing I want to acknowledge a couple of points that people may bring up.

First of all, I totally get that with this hotel you’re paying largely for the view. That makes sense, because location and view largely dictate the price of hotels. Here’s the thing — I wasn’t expecting this to be as nice as a Park Hyatt, but I was expecting the hotel to at least be in decent condition.

The most disappointing thing was the complete lack of maintenance of this property, which I wouldn’t find to be reasonable even at a three star hotel. And then there’s the reality that the hotel could make the rooms significantly nicer with just a small investment in terms of art and some of the finishes.

I’ll forgive a lot for a great view, and no matter what the view here will be the show-stopper, though parts of this hotel felt to me like a three star property at best (and that’s probably being generous).

Next, there’s the complete lack of services at this hotel. I get that there’s a pandemic, and that the hotel industry is struggling. But it’s my understanding that the hotel was almost at capacity.

How do you in good conscience sell a room for $500 per night with literally no services? I respect if the economics of opening the restaurant fully don’t work, but:

  • Couldn’t they at least have a limited room service menu, at least over certain hours, that can be ordered from? It shouldn’t cost that much to have a skeleton staff to offer this
  • There was just generally a complete lack of effort; fine, if you don’t want to offer any sort of room service, whatever, but they don’t even sell packaged snacks

On top of that, the hotel suspended bike rentals. Seriously, no bikes due to coronavirus? Talk about a safe outdoor activity that people can enjoy. How can the hotel justify that? Is wiping them down between uses too much effort, or…?

Bottom line

The Hyatt Carmel Highlands has breathtaking views. But that’s literally it. The hotel is otherwise badly in need of a renovation (or at least some basic maintenance). I’d consider going to the hotel’s restaurant at some point down the road for the great views, but I wouldn’t otherwise consider staying here again, unless something changed significantly.

As I wrote yesterday, I’m usually a Hyatt cheerleader, and I don’t remember the last time I was disappointed by a Hyatt, because the brand is good at managing expectations. This was a major exception.

Next time I might give the Carmel Valley Ranch a try (admittedly this has a totally different setting, and doesn’t have ocean views).

Is there something I’m missing about this hotel? Would you consider staying at the Hyatt Carmel Highlands?

Conversations (78)
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  1. Roy Mize

    Stayed at Highlands inn every year for more than 20 years. Except for 2021 maintenance always good.
    Because of pandemic, support people almost impossible to find,/ especially for a property the size of Highlans Inn. The two properetis further south, motlu use local talent, so finding people not so hard. Even Nepenthe is struggling.
    Cut them some slack. Your unit was clean an organized.

  2. Charlie-bird

    We stayed there for a night in 2019 and couldn’t have had a more different experience!
    We also used a free night cert, but got upgraded to a duplex suite (I think a Ocean View Townhouse Spa suite) even though the app showed no availability! That room was massive, with a hot tub, a full kitchen, 2 bathrooms... and of course the view!
    I was expecting a “traditional” look and feel and that’s...

    We stayed there for a night in 2019 and couldn’t have had a more different experience!
    We also used a free night cert, but got upgraded to a duplex suite (I think a Ocean View Townhouse Spa suite) even though the app showed no availability! That room was massive, with a hot tub, a full kitchen, 2 bathrooms... and of course the view!
    I was expecting a “traditional” look and feel and that’s what it was. Although our room looked much better than yours, much more luxurious. I would have been disappointed if we got that room.
    The fact that the restaurant was closed when you stayed was a big negative. Because that restaurant is fantastic. The Plant Based tasting menu was amazing and very creative. And the Globalist breakfast benefit was really good, with hot and cold drink, main dish...
    I agree with others, hotels have taken COVID as an excuse to not provide services. No bike rental is insane, that’s a great outdoor activity to do around.

  3. Ira Pollack

    I also stayed there about 20 years ago on a timeshare promotion. I felt it was just as dumpy then. When I went to the timeshare presentation the salesperson asked me what I thought about the property. I honestly told her I thought it was a dump. She was somewhat taken aback by my honesty. Needless to say, I did not purchase a unit there.

  4. EGB

    It's literally been this bad for almost 2 decades! Stayed there once back in 2004, and it was exactly as you just showed in your review back then, clearly nothing has changed in all that time. So many better places to stay in the area in all price ranges. Carmel Valley Ranch you mention is awesome, same for Quail Lodge in the valley as well. Hyatt should be embarrassed and ashamed to be associated with...

    It's literally been this bad for almost 2 decades! Stayed there once back in 2004, and it was exactly as you just showed in your review back then, clearly nothing has changed in all that time. So many better places to stay in the area in all price ranges. Carmel Valley Ranch you mention is awesome, same for Quail Lodge in the valley as well. Hyatt should be embarrassed and ashamed to be associated with this property, a real black eye to the brand IMO. Want the views? Go take a walk in Point Lobos or even better on Carmel Beach, and stay somewhere actually worth $500/nt. In the Carmel area, you really shouldn't be in your room all day anyway, so sleeping in that dump makes no sense. Good honest review, thanks for showing and telling the world the truth!

  5. Jonathan Sapp

    The main problem with this 100 year old property has been the ownership. It was owned for many years by the Pritzker family, who coincidentally are the major owners of the Hyatt chain. As stated in the article the rooms for for $500 per night. That's been the case for many years. The owners didn't see any reason to even refresh the rooms as people were willing to pay for the view. I've heard the...

    The main problem with this 100 year old property has been the ownership. It was owned for many years by the Pritzker family, who coincidentally are the major owners of the Hyatt chain. As stated in the article the rooms for for $500 per night. That's been the case for many years. The owners didn't see any reason to even refresh the rooms as people were willing to pay for the view. I've heard the rooms described as "20th century Best Western".

    The hotel changed ownership last year. I happened to talk with a couple of consultants for the new ownership around that time, who told me that the plan is to totally renovate (not just refresh) the property to bring it up to the expected standard. I would expect that the multimillion renovation will commence in the near future.

    As an aside, the Pritzkers also owned the Hyatt Regency in Monterey which was treated the same. It too was sold to new owners last year (different ones than the Highlands) and the new owners have just completed the long-overdue multimillion dollar renovation of that property.

    If you want what you are expecting at the Highlands Inn stay instead at the adjacent Tickle Pink Inn. Same view, but at the standards you would expect next door.

  6. Christ

    Such a dismal, overrated place (and uber-pretentious when we stayed there) ... at least you had good weather

  7. Pam P

    You should have stayed at Carmel Valley Ranch! We stayed there last August and it was to die for, even during COVID. Favorite hotel by far on our CA coast road trip - and we stayed at a lot of nice hotels, including the Ritz Carltons in Santa Barbara and Marina del Rey. We used 25,000 Hyatt points to book our Carmel Valley Ranch room, and it had an indoor/outdoor fireplace, outdoor tub, and deck swing. So awesome.

  8. AW

    I worked in affordable housing for many years. The unit that you stayed in (and garage) looks exactly like a Class B or C unit for people who make 60% of the area median income. What a piece of garbage for a top tier Hyatt.

  9. Bps

    In March was originally booked at Ventana, but reservation was canceled due to significant electrical items being addressed at Ventana.

    Stayed at Carmel Highlands on points instead in an Ocean View townhouse suite that had a full kitchen. The property was not good about communicating they were offering no food services. If it wasn't for a call I made to the property, I would not have known this prior to arrival. I planned accordingly and...

    In March was originally booked at Ventana, but reservation was canceled due to significant electrical items being addressed at Ventana.

    Stayed at Carmel Highlands on points instead in an Ocean View townhouse suite that had a full kitchen. The property was not good about communicating they were offering no food services. If it wasn't for a call I made to the property, I would not have known this prior to arrival. I planned accordingly and picked up breakfast food after arriving in MRY. I also received a refund of 10k points per night due to Ventana cancelation and no services at Carmel Highland when I called Hyatt customer relations.

    Yes, the property needs some attention, but remember, there are very few properties in this area, that, and the views are why this is a property is a category 7. Also, you should be focusing on enjoying Point Lobos and Big Sur when staying here.

    And a nice touch from the Ventana - when we entered the room, there was a bottle of wine, some Ventana hats, and luggage tags along with a nice note apologizing for our original reservation being disrupted. I will be staying at Ventana later this year.

    If one books a stay at Carmel Highlands, realize you are in a beautiful place on the planet and staying at a rustic property and you will be ok.

  10. Tommy Trash

    30,000 points for that?!? And Globalist status only entitles you to a middle finger from management? Definitely passing on this one.

  11. rich

    Strange that even bike rentals are suspended. A fairly safe outdoor activity that requires at most some soap and water to clean the bike after rentals.

  12. snic

    I stayed here around 15 years ago. The stay was either free of very cheap because it was one of those timeshare come-ons where you have to spend an hour listening to their sales pitch. The room wasn't an ocean view, but it was fine for the price - I barely remember it. I think the nicest thing about it was the fireplace, which had the wood all set up so all we had to...

    I stayed here around 15 years ago. The stay was either free of very cheap because it was one of those timeshare come-ons where you have to spend an hour listening to their sales pitch. The room wasn't an ocean view, but it was fine for the price - I barely remember it. I think the nicest thing about it was the fireplace, which had the wood all set up so all we had to do was light a match. The deal also came with $100 of any other expenses on the property, so we used it at the restaurant. The food was unmemorable and the wine list was outrageously expensive - even 5 star restaurants usually have some bottles in the $50 range, but the least expensive was $100.

    In all, we weren't impressed.

    By the way, if the pool isn't heated, it's pretty much useless. The central CA coast is cool and foggy in summer. There are some beautiful sunny days, and the fog recedes by noon, but it's not exactly pool weather unless the pool is heated.

  13. MM

    This looks like a rundown Sheraton.

  14. Overnight Worker

    The problem with hotels and corona virus is that the older GM's need to have their eyes opened. I worked at an Embassy Suites that had a younger GM that had the full breakfast spread that we had pre covid. It was popular before the start of the pandemic and even more popular after the pandemic. Why? He kept the breakfast area well staffed/overstaffed to make sure it would remain clean and that they could...

    The problem with hotels and corona virus is that the older GM's need to have their eyes opened. I worked at an Embassy Suites that had a younger GM that had the full breakfast spread that we had pre covid. It was popular before the start of the pandemic and even more popular after the pandemic. Why? He kept the breakfast area well staffed/overstaffed to make sure it would remain clean and that they could keep the areas clean and refreshed between guests. Made to order omelets and fresh bacon / sausage / parfaits with some new options every month. It was a huge part of our repeat business and many choose our property because we didn't go to grab and go model which most people hate. The hotel I work for now is still fixing water issues from 3 months ago and is dragging their feet to reopen the bar area. We have a lot of construction crews/contractors that go spend their money across the street in the gas station because we do not offer any drinks / evening food. The older GM's are so focused on selling cheap rooms that they forgot people come to eat and drink and play. Granted that isn't as easy with restrictions but they all miss the hotel boom in the 2018-2019 economy when everyone was travelling and would pay top dollar to stay in subpar hotel. Now that the customers are more choosy they don't realize they are bleeding business to places that still care about the guests experience.

  15. Annie

    We had a a lovely stay at the Highlands Inn, pre-Hyatt days, and before it had deteriorated so much; dinner at the restaurant was outstanding. Sad to see it in such disrepair, but at this point I'd also give it a pass.

    We did have some pleasant stays at Carmel Valley Ranch, with suite lodging, but as a non-golfer myself I'd prefer either in town (Carriage House is a favorite) or a room with a view.

  16. Scott

    I live in the SF Bay area, and the Monterey area is a favorite weekend escape for my family. I had my eye on the Hyatt Carmel Highlands for a couple years, and finally stayed on a Cat 1-7 cert during Mother's Day weekend 2019. The experience was probably our worst at any hotel, adjusting for the expectations. Our room was in the block "above" where Ben stayed, maybe room 512. It was a small...

    I live in the SF Bay area, and the Monterey area is a favorite weekend escape for my family. I had my eye on the Hyatt Carmel Highlands for a couple years, and finally stayed on a Cat 1-7 cert during Mother's Day weekend 2019. The experience was probably our worst at any hotel, adjusting for the expectations. Our room was in the block "above" where Ben stayed, maybe room 512. It was a small single king room, but the layout was different than what Ben had. There was no tub, just a shower that was so small I couldn't bend over to soap my legs (at 6'2", I am tall, but not anything unusual). Breakfast was a fiasco. Because of Mother's Day the hotel had a special brunch in the restaurant, but we kept getting redirected by clueless staff (go here, no go there, no order room service) on how to use our Globalist breakfast benefit. Eventually we were so frustrated and hungry we just checked out without the free Globalist breakfast and ate at a local restaurant. Like many others, I will probably never stay at this property again. The Hyatt Regency in Monterey is a fine Cat 4 property with a convenient location, and I've always been treated well there. (I do want to check out the Big Sur and Carmel Valley properties in time--they do look fantastic!)

    One other thing: I've noticed that several California Hyatts are using COVID-19 as an excuse to not offer the usual amenities (like F&B), even though state and county restrictions do not prevent them from doing so. I assume it's a convenient excuse to cut costs, but for that reason I am currently sitting in the Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe Resort in Nevada instead of a California property. Services here are still modified, but close enough to normal to make for a fantastic short Spring Break getaway!

  17. DCS

    So much for Hyatt’s purported stellar skills at expectation management.

    As I wrote yesterday, in the comments section of another post that suggests that this site may be sobering up from drinking too much of its own "Hyatt is best" kool-aid,

    Any program is only as good as one’s willingness to ignore the bad and inflate the value of the good.

    For most in travel blogosphere, a program is only as good...

    So much for Hyatt’s purported stellar skills at expectation management.

    As I wrote yesterday, in the comments section of another post that suggests that this site may be sobering up from drinking too much of its own "Hyatt is best" kool-aid,

    Any program is only as good as one’s willingness to ignore the bad and inflate the value of the good.

    For most in travel blogosphere, a program is only as good as one’s self-anointed travel ‘guru’ says it it :-)

    At this rate, there will soon be more than just chink in WoH's or Hyatt's heretofore shining armor...

    G'day!

  18. Kevin

    As a comparison, the Wick Inn in Tofino is also on the West Coast, is priced similarly, and is from what I can see better in literally every single way. When I visited in July, during the pandemic, they had some common sense changes (no housekeepers in the room), but "made up" for what couldn't be done with lots of great extras. Isn't that the point of a luxury hotel? Once the US/Canada border is...

    As a comparison, the Wick Inn in Tofino is also on the West Coast, is priced similarly, and is from what I can see better in literally every single way. When I visited in July, during the pandemic, they had some common sense changes (no housekeepers in the room), but "made up" for what couldn't be done with lots of great extras. Isn't that the point of a luxury hotel? Once the US/Canada border is open again, the choice would be obvious if you wanted a "view hotel" on the West Coast.

  19. Greg hargrove

    I agree with a previous reviewer who recommended the Tickle Pink Inn right next door. I have stayed both places, and I believe that the Tickle Pink out-classes this particular Hyatt. The views are the same, if not even better, and can enjoy amenities like an in-room Jacuzzi/hot tub, not available at the more expensive Hyatt. Rooms also have expansive and beautiful Carmel stone fireplaces and rates include a delightful morning breakfast and a wine...

    I agree with a previous reviewer who recommended the Tickle Pink Inn right next door. I have stayed both places, and I believe that the Tickle Pink out-classes this particular Hyatt. The views are the same, if not even better, and can enjoy amenities like an in-room Jacuzzi/hot tub, not available at the more expensive Hyatt. Rooms also have expansive and beautiful Carmel stone fireplaces and rates include a delightful morning breakfast and a wine and cheese happy hour each evening, where you can mingle with other guests, We're just find a quiet place to watch the gorgeous sunsets. I do, however, wish to end on a positive note for the Hyatt. The restaurant whose fabulous, in every way.

  20. Vert

    @ Ben

    One of the commentariat mentioned the owner of this property. Why don’t you and other reviewers mention the franchise owners and management companies? Whether praising, shaming, or in between, I want to know the corporate names behind the curtain, I mean blinds. This would guide future booking decisions at other properties (for better or for worse... I’d like to think for the better). I understand why the brands don’t publish this information....

    @ Ben

    One of the commentariat mentioned the owner of this property. Why don’t you and other reviewers mention the franchise owners and management companies? Whether praising, shaming, or in between, I want to know the corporate names behind the curtain, I mean blinds. This would guide future booking decisions at other properties (for better or for worse... I’d like to think for the better). I understand why the brands don’t publish this information. But we all know how much leeway the actual ownership has to shape our stays.

  21. Z

    Oops I see the fireplace now, but a Durflame log? That's just weird. They usually have a tidy stack of incredibly fragrant hardwood.

  22. Z

    Wait, no fireplace in your room? That's one of main highlights of this property. They actually *did* do a recent renovation and if it involved replacing the beloved fireplaces with mini split units then that's tragic news.

  23. Esquiar

    Tbh, If you had stayed there two years ago, or one year in the future, you’d say it’s overpriced but still worth it. The restaurant closure is killer

  24. Mark

    I understand that they can get away with charging that much for a shabby room, based on the location, but given that it reflects poorly on the brand, i'm surprised that Hyatt lets them get away with that. Don't they do inspections to verify brand standards are being met?

  25. KW

    It's insane that Ventana right down the road had all of the services open while this hotel doesn't. That's not county based recommendations - that's laziness.

  26. IDontKnowHer

    Carmel Ranch Inn is ok. Ground is pretty but the finishes inside the rooms are def not Mandarin or Four Seasons level.

    Hyatt Carmel Highland is known for their restaurant with amazing view especially during sunset time. But the rooms are obviously nothing to write home about.

    Your best bet is drive up towards Mendocino and stay at Heritage House Resort and spa. Rates are similar but finishes are much better and you...

    Carmel Ranch Inn is ok. Ground is pretty but the finishes inside the rooms are def not Mandarin or Four Seasons level.

    Hyatt Carmel Highland is known for their restaurant with amazing view especially during sunset time. But the rooms are obviously nothing to write home about.

    Your best bet is drive up towards Mendocino and stay at Heritage House Resort and spa. Rates are similar but finishes are much better and you get unobstructed ocean view. Plus tons of hiking trails around Mendocino that are comparable anything you can find around Carmel. I think you and Ford will really like it.

  27. chaff

    Is this the hotel right above the Tickle Pink Inn? I went t wedding there and thought that hotel was cool, a little less expensive but a daily wine party, free breakfast, same views.

  28. William K Hamilton

    I have found this hotel disappointing even in the best of times...

  29. S

    This is shocking. I'd be absolutely fuming if I was paying the same rates here that you'd pay for the Park Hyatt Paris or Zurich. This is basically saying this hotel is better than, for example, the Grand Hyatt Tokyo. Absolute clownshow.

  30. Jake

    @AlanD that's exactly it. Category level is driven by pricing, not hotel quality, and pricing is driven by what people are willing to pay for it. It's not Miami; people in the Bay Area make loads of money, and spend it lavishly, so everything within driving distance of San Francisco is much more expensive than Florida.

    But thanks for calling out the decrepit state; that's inexcusable.

  31. Bob

    How does Hyatt continue to fool people selling overpriced garbage.

    Their brand/marketing team is amazing.

  32. Sam

    I own a timeshare here and pay $1929 in yearly "maintenance fees." Where the F are these fees going to considering the condition of this property?

  33. echino

    If you stayed in a 2-bedroom residence like 433 or 434 your opinion would likely be very different. Especially if you booked using HRC timeshare points, which is a great value. I am surprised your blog does not teach how to use this amazing travel hack.

  34. AlanD

    So many hotels in the Monterey Bay area are both overpriced and overrated. Some of the mid level hotels are downright terrible for the price. The area is like the definition of location, location, location. With the views, the local culinary scene etc. you could literally open up a roach motel and charge $250 a night and people would happily come in their droves.

  35. Andrew

    Good job on calling this hotel out, Ben. It’s not the only hotel in the San Francisco area that reportedly is “full service” but only gives 500 points.

    (I’m looking at you, Fisherman’s Wharf!)

  36. holly

    I completely agree with Ric, in that the Point Lobos Suite is sensational. We've been upgraded to it a few times, though not at all in the past few years. As for Carmel Valley Ranch, I would disagree with most of your commenters. My husband and I did not care for this property at all. It's visually stunning - if you like the valley. I do not. Though convenient, it's super expensive if you plan...

    I completely agree with Ric, in that the Point Lobos Suite is sensational. We've been upgraded to it a few times, though not at all in the past few years. As for Carmel Valley Ranch, I would disagree with most of your commenters. My husband and I did not care for this property at all. It's visually stunning - if you like the valley. I do not. Though convenient, it's super expensive if you plan to have your meals at the resort. A very small appetizer (egg rolls) and two mixed drinks came to $50+ for us. While not an enormous amount, it felt so in relation to portion size and quality. Globalist treatment was excellent, and our upgrade was to a Bluff Suite. I got the impression this is a playground for Silicon Valley engineers with young families. There were many, many children when we stayed. This was a one and done for us, and I don't say that often.

  37. Angie W

    Have no desire of staying at his hotel after reading this review. Carmel Valley Ranch will be our go to lodging next time we are there!

  38. Ted

    Sorry it was a bad stay!

    Clearly they are making zero effort during the pandemic. I have stayed at Highlands before and enjoyed it, but more for the views and location. It is also foggy often there though, so in thay sense you got lucky Ben

    If you want to see a really bad Hyatt skating by on its location in northern California, check out the Hyatt House in Belmont. Once Oracle departs the area, I expect it will close. Or become the Motel 6 that it really is at heart

  39. Joe Chivas

    I was there for 3 nights last week. The restaurant was open for room service, with a pretty sweet Globalist breakfast spread delivered to the room. Perhaps they didn't like the cut of your jib.

  40. Kevin

    We had booked there in 2019. Planned on 5-nights. But we departed the next morning. We were stunned at the abysmal conditions for a “luxury” hotel. We expected so much more.

  41. UA-NYC

    @Ben - as a high profile blogger, I can only assume you will hear from Hyatt Corporate and/or the hotel GM or the like at some point about this negative (and extremely fair) review. I hope you will relay that conversation to us.

  42. Pierre

    @Ric LOL Nice job rubbing it in! One of his primary complaints was not getting upgraded.

  43. Ric Garrido

    Looks like you got the most basic room at the hotel. That is a small room you received. Now if they had put you in the Point Lobos Suite cottage, located below the main lobby, you might have had a somewhat different review on rooms.

    Two-floor townhouses with the bedroom downstairs and a full kitchen and living room upstairs at least offer more space, like #505.

  44. PeterSFO

    Maybe it's because we only paid $230/night (even less after a successful best rate guarantee) here's a contrarian opinion of this property. We had a fine stay at Carmel Highlands for 1 night on our way to Ventana. Requested and got upgraded to a room with privacy and an unobscured view of the ocean as Globalist.

    The property itself is a bit old but I wouldn't call it rundown. The biggest thing that bothered me...

    Maybe it's because we only paid $230/night (even less after a successful best rate guarantee) here's a contrarian opinion of this property. We had a fine stay at Carmel Highlands for 1 night on our way to Ventana. Requested and got upgraded to a room with privacy and an unobscured view of the ocean as Globalist.

    The property itself is a bit old but I wouldn't call it rundown. The biggest thing that bothered me was all the smoke from the fireplaces. I'm not a big room service/hotel restaurant person so we were perfectly happy to go to the town 10 minutes away to get our meals.

    It's not a resort hotel as there's nothing to do at the hotel or even within walking distance; I could see this being a Cat 4/5 if it didn't have a spectacular view. If the only thing you want from a hotel is sleeping and a view, it's really not bad. I probably wouldn't pay 30k points or $500 to stay here but ~$250/night is a fair price.

  45. latrell

    From my stay in 2015, when things were normal:

    - hotel dropped off room service breakfast by walking in room, putting tray on table, and handing me bill without saying a word
    - gym was full of spiderwebs
    - my tub didn't empty; I called about this and hotel responded by removing the stopper. When I called back to point out that this now meant that I couldn't use the tub, maintenance showed...

    From my stay in 2015, when things were normal:

    - hotel dropped off room service breakfast by walking in room, putting tray on table, and handing me bill without saying a word
    - gym was full of spiderwebs
    - my tub didn't empty; I called about this and hotel responded by removing the stopper. When I called back to point out that this now meant that I couldn't use the tub, maintenance showed up at 11 PM, hours later, to bring a new stopper
    - notepad ran out of paper and wasn't replaced, pen didn't work
    - front desk volunteered to relay valet request to valet and then didn't bother
    - hotel called me on the third day of my stay to try and get me to return for a timeshare presentation and recommended that I come on an important day, like my birthday; this happened while I was, in fact, celebrating my birthday and not enjoying the amenities
    - front desk didn't bother asking about how things went at checkout

    This was when things were normal!

  46. Gregg

    The late, great, Bette Davis said it best.

    “What a dump!”

  47. david

    Too bad the restaurant was closed as it is 5*

  48. Alan

    A thorough and useful review, Ben - appalling lack of maintenance at that sort of cost. I wouldn't be holding my breath for Carmel Valley Ranch though unless it has improved significantly - I had an extremely disappointing stay with them about 5 years or so ago!

  49. David

    Hyatt's most expensive and highest category limited service hotel.

  50. MoGreen

    Vacuum in the closet in a Category 6 hotel , or is it Category 7 , you never mentioned in article :-)

    This hotel is just coasting on location , like a terrible ice cream parlor that charges $9.00. a cone because it is on the beach. You get it once , feel ripped off and never again .

    Luckily there is a sucker born every minute so this place will not spend the money and upgrade . expect same service and cleanliness in 10 years

  51. Anthony

    Ben, as an informed hotel guest, you must know:

    1) Hotels in coastal California are always in high demand, so they are priced high in points and cash
    2) This is especially true during Covid, as many travelers who may fly internationally can’t
    3) Many hotels are not providing full amenities currently, justifiably or not (local regulations make this complicated)
    4) Hotel quality varies significantly based on age, owner, etc

    You job...

    Ben, as an informed hotel guest, you must know:

    1) Hotels in coastal California are always in high demand, so they are priced high in points and cash
    2) This is especially true during Covid, as many travelers who may fly internationally can’t
    3) Many hotels are not providing full amenities currently, justifiably or not (local regulations make this complicated)
    4) Hotel quality varies significantly based on age, owner, etc

    You job is to review hotels, so I get why you booked the property. But were you really surprised? All hotel groups will have duds in the portfolio.

  52. MDA

    @joepro the PH in Sydney had some excellent specials last year. Per haps notifications only went out to Australians.
    Will keep this hotel off my list.

  53. David

    @Ben "While I realize stuff is often priced based on the location, I (stupidly?) assumed this hotel would be actively unappealing."

    Do you mean "wouldn't"? It doesn't seem to make a lot of sense to go if you assumed the hotel would be actively unappealing, unless you're a masochist!

  54. Pierre

    No bikes? WTF? That's just lazy.

  55. Michael F

    To better understand why this hotel is so poorly maintained, you need to know about the owner, Interval Leisure Group (Miami). They have a long-term licensing agreement to run the hotel under the Hyatt brand.

    When they bought the property back in 2014, they promised to a "grand renovation" that would be completed by 2016. What took place was a much less costly "refreshing", announced to great fanfare in 2017.

  56. Luis

    Looks like they haven't updated a single thing since I stayed there about 7 years ago. Like not even some touch up paint. Smh.

  57. Kendor

    Stay instead at the nearby 500-acre Hyatt Carmel Valley Ranch, which offers the food, service, maintenance, charm, kickin' pools, hiking, beekeeping classes, goats, chickens, free s'mores, and serenity that this place does not. The Highlands Inn has a great view: and so what? An even better collection of views is just up the road at Point Lobos State Park, which you should spend the day hiking. You can get to Point Lobos in 15 minutes...

    Stay instead at the nearby 500-acre Hyatt Carmel Valley Ranch, which offers the food, service, maintenance, charm, kickin' pools, hiking, beekeeping classes, goats, chickens, free s'mores, and serenity that this place does not. The Highlands Inn has a great view: and so what? An even better collection of views is just up the road at Point Lobos State Park, which you should spend the day hiking. You can get to Point Lobos in 15 minutes or less from the bucolic Carmel Valley Ranch: there is really no reason at all to pay a premium to stay at a badly maintained campsite without services .

    Pro tip #1: if the weather is fine, order the "Picnic Dinner" and eat at the picnic tables nestled amid the grapevines at the Carmel Valley Ranch.

    Pro tip #2: Point Lobos, 15 minutes or less from the Carmel Valley Ranch is IMHO the can't-miss-iest destination of the entire PCH. Be awesome and spend a few hours hiking the entire perimeter of the park, about nine miles. We managed this just fine during our last visit with myself, my wife, my nine year old, and my four year old (part-time in a backpack.) The paths are flat and easy.

  58. David

    This hotel is horrible! Amazing that it can be Cat 7.

    We much preferred Carmel Valley Ranch and had a nice weekend there last summer.

  59. Jack

    Matthew writes about this property a few times a year. You can tell looking at the pictures its dated. I never understood the appeal.

  60. AC

    @Ben -

    "You’re just a few miles south of some of the most gorgeous coastline you’ll see anywhere in North America, and you’re just a few miles south of Carmel-by-the-Sea, which is one of the most charming towns in California, in my opinion."

    Do you mean a few miles north of some of the most gorgeous coastline?

  61. Henry

    I originally thought to spent a couple of nights there, now I felt very lucky that I did not decide to stay there at the end! Thanks!

  62. John

    And it used to be a Park Hyatt! I wonder if it’s about to be renovated? I’ve stayed at a few places that apparently decided that if they were getting gutted in 12-18 months it didn’t make any sense to bother with any more maintenance.

  63. dddddd

    looks like a motel with a view of the ocean. Dont waste your money or points with bogus "luxury hotels" in the US

  64. Rene

    Wow, what a sucky hotel.

    If you ever find yourself in the area I highly suggest you check this place out.

    Tickle Pink Inn (next door), nearly half the price with the same ocean view. Complimentary bottle of sparkling and chocolates upon arrival. Wine and cheese reception included. Free breakfast (delivered right to your door every morning).

  65. Timo

    I stayed there a few years ago. Yes, the bathroom is atrocious! It's very similar to the ones at the Grand Canyon Lodge South Rim...like a dormitory. The views are incredible and the restaurant food was actually very good. I loved the actual wood burning fireplaces and numerous Jacuzzis. But yes, the place is beat up. And don't go to the free wine reception...it's a timeshare pitch but they act all coy like they are...

    I stayed there a few years ago. Yes, the bathroom is atrocious! It's very similar to the ones at the Grand Canyon Lodge South Rim...like a dormitory. The views are incredible and the restaurant food was actually very good. I loved the actual wood burning fireplaces and numerous Jacuzzis. But yes, the place is beat up. And don't go to the free wine reception...it's a timeshare pitch but they act all coy like they are fellow guests.

    My friend and I are scheduled to return in Sept because she loved the place. I used points and cash so feel ok about it. But it's not the Park Hyatt. BTW, an excellent restaurant in town is Cultura Comida. Fantastic! Ben's review, though, is fair.

  66. Santastico

    This stupid virus became the universal excuse for laziness. It is just amazing how many businesses and people just blame Covid for being lazy. Why is Covid affecting bike rentals? Can't they just spray some disinfectant on the bikes and let people use it? It is outdoors so what is the big problem here? Not offering food and beverages is another example of Covid BS.

  67. Reaper

    Lots of great BnBs in Carmel by the Sea.

    No points, but a better option unless you want golf & tennis at Carmel Valley Ranch and the like.

  68. Tortuga

    Not even remotely comparable to the Hyatt Place in Moab. A real shame.

  69. Seattle Eric

    I think you need to dump Matthew as a friend. :)

  70. Grant

    It's a shame the restaurant was closed. During a recent stay at Ventana, my wife and I made the trek up to Carmel for the plant-based dinner tasting menu (this was prior to Ventana going all-inclusive). It remains to this day probably the most memorable meal of my life, in terms of both the quality & inventiveness of the food and the sunset views over the ocean. But I agree, just from walking around the...

    It's a shame the restaurant was closed. During a recent stay at Ventana, my wife and I made the trek up to Carmel for the plant-based dinner tasting menu (this was prior to Ventana going all-inclusive). It remains to this day probably the most memorable meal of my life, in terms of both the quality & inventiveness of the food and the sunset views over the ocean. But I agree, just from walking around the property, I could tell that a return to that hotel wasn't worth it beyond a sunset dinner reservation, especially considering the price.

  71. Luke

    @Ben were you at least aware of the lack of food available before reaching there so that you could take your own snacks or other food there?

    On the other hand I've stayed there in 2014 and pretty much your photos look the same as then. Felt like throwing away 25k Hyatt points per night at the time but the good thing besides the view was we liked the restaurant breakfast there at the time.

  72. Matt

    Carmel Valley Ranch is amazing! Also, the best spa in the area is Refuge. As an introvert, you’d love it.

  73. michael e

    was/is there a way to research amenities/services before booking these days? i feel like knowing that they were offering basically nothing and running water only, even with the views, would be a good start

  74. JoePro

    "How do you in good conscience sell a room for $500 per night with literally no services?"

    I don't know if I agree with this statement. I want to agree with it, but to be fair you'd also have to question how so many hotels have been selling rooms at normal rates across the entirety of this pandemic. PH Sydney for instance has been selling rooms at the same rate they always have, despite the...

    "How do you in good conscience sell a room for $500 per night with literally no services?"

    I don't know if I agree with this statement. I want to agree with it, but to be fair you'd also have to question how so many hotels have been selling rooms at normal rates across the entirety of this pandemic. PH Sydney for instance has been selling rooms at the same rate they always have, despite the entirety of Australia being closed off to the rest of the world. (I've been searching over the last year out of curiousity)

    IME, even with services, the sole reason for the cost is the view. Agree that it makes virtually no sense to return.

    Funny that we align in some regards 6 years later. From my 2015 review: I would have been extremely disappointed had I paid the Saturday night daily rate of $500. The room lacks in comfort and style, and the service is friendly but unremarkable. The single element that makes it worth any more than the Regency up the street is the unbeatable view and the beauty of the grounds. This resort is designed for a romantic getaway and its location caters to that element, but the hotel doesn't offer enough to make it wow. I don't regret spending the night, but think there are better options in the Monterey region.

  75. Taylor

    Yikes, this place looks beat up. The last time I was in Big Sur, we stayed a night at a Comfort Inn in Monterey that was (obviously) no-frills, but exceptionally clean and well-maintained. Think we paid $120/night, which feels like an even better value in light of this review ...

  76. Lou

    Had a great stay at Carmel Valley Ranch last summer

  77. Nathan

    I went once, and had the same reaction. Of course views are great. But just not worth it.

Featured Comments Load all 78 comments Most helpful comments ( as chosen by the OMAAT community ).

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Roy Mize

Stayed at Highlands inn every year for more than 20 years. Except for 2021 maintenance always good. Because of pandemic, support people almost impossible to find,/ especially for a property the size of Highlans Inn. The two properetis further south, motlu use local talent, so finding people not so hard. Even Nepenthe is struggling. Cut them some slack. Your unit was clean an organized.

Charlie-bird

We stayed there for a night in 2019 and couldn’t have had a more different experience! We also used a free night cert, but got upgraded to a duplex suite (I think a Ocean View Townhouse Spa suite) even though the app showed no availability! That room was massive, with a hot tub, a full kitchen, 2 bathrooms... and of course the view! I was expecting a “traditional” look and feel and that’s what it was. Although our room looked much better than yours, much more luxurious. I would have been disappointed if we got that room. The fact that the restaurant was closed when you stayed was a big negative. Because that restaurant is fantastic. The Plant Based tasting menu was amazing and very creative. And the Globalist breakfast benefit was really good, with hot and cold drink, main dish... I agree with others, hotels have taken COVID as an excuse to not provide services. No bike rental is insane, that’s a great outdoor activity to do around.

Ira Pollack

I also stayed there about 20 years ago on a timeshare promotion. I felt it was just as dumpy then. When I went to the timeshare presentation the salesperson asked me what I thought about the property. I honestly told her I thought it was a dump. She was somewhat taken aback by my honesty. Needless to say, I did not purchase a unit there.

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