My only regret about visiting Carmel Valley Ranch was that I arrived at night. That meant no grand visual welcome to the resort as soon as I rolled through the gate — manicured green golf course, lavender bushes, acres of trees in the distance, maybe even a deer sighting. That is how a visitor is meant to first experience the property, but because I got to this central California destination, just a few miles inland of Monterey, after the sun had gone down, I would have to wait until the next morning to fully appreciate how much the property has to offer.
All of Carmel Valley Ranch’s 139 rooms are suites, each with a fireplace, custom-made furniture, expansive limestone bathroom, and a private deck, from which visitors can enjoy their striking views of the surrounding area (once the sun comes up). They range in size from 650 square feet to 1,200 square feet, but there is not a subpar space at the resort. Each is designed with understated colors that complement the surrounding 500 acres of land in which the Ranch is nestled.
But despite the tranquility of the suites, visitors might find they are spending little time there. The property offers such a wealth of activities and experiences its marketing team describes it as a summer camp for adults (“summer” is right — with an average of 300 days of sunshine, it’s warm here even in winter). There are the outdoor pools and hot tubs; guided hikes and hilltop yoga or tai chi for the health-minded; stargazing and even nightly s’mores around the property’s campfires. A look at their online hospitality calendar (http://www.carmelvalleyranch.com/pdf/Calendar.pdf) will give readers a sense of their options.
But what sets Carmel Valley Ranch apart is its farm-to-table approach to hospitality. Its expansive property includes a lavender garden, an organic garden, a salt house, and even an apiary. Not only can guests tour and all of these areas, with a bee-keeping experience, lavender distillation, and more, but all of the offerings from these sources are integrated into the property experience as well. The property’s lavender is incorporated into a number of treatments at the Ranch’s Spa Aiyana, while the honey from the apiary can be bought in the gift shop when in season.
Many of the vegetables and fruits from the organic garden are used in the dishes at the property’s Lodge Restaurant, which offers a vibrant dinner menu overseen by Executive Chef Tim Wood. The soup of the day during our visit, with chestnut and pear puree, garnished with fried kale from the garden, as well as the hand-pressed ravioli with candied walnuts and garden greens were both delicious. For ingredients secured outside the property, from the wine to the seafood, Wood seeks out local offerings as well, preparing them in ways that are at once rustic and refined.
The restaurant offers a full menu at lunch and breakfast as well, opening early so active guests can get an early start to their day, whether wandering the property or going for a round of golf. Or heading back to their suite to sit on the patio and enjoy the view.
Carmel Valley Ranch
One Old Ranch Road
Carmel, CA 93923