California’s Central Coast doesn’t have the glamour of Los Angeles or the energy of the Bay Area — and that’s perfectly fine for those who call this heavenly stretch connecting Carmel, Monterey and Big Sur home. Locals and astute out-of-towners would much rather keep the rugged coastlines and gorgeous state parks to themselves.
But natural wonders aren’t the only reasons for a visit. The area also boasts an impressive collection of high-end hotels. Of course, when you think of all the famous names who’ve either lived (Doris Day), worked (Clint Eastwood, who was Carmel-by-the-Sea’s mayor from 1986 to 1988) or stayed in (Taylor Swift and countless other A-listers) this quaint corner of the Golden State, it makes sense that there would be so many awe-inspiring accommodations.
These are the eight hotels that stand out most in the region.
Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa
Perched along Monterey Bay, this Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star hotel gives you ocean vistas and a symphony of lapping waves from many of its rooms. You might even glimpse at dolphins or sea otters at play from your balcony or while dining on the day’s fresh catch at Schooners Coastal Kitchen and Bar.
This Four-Star European-influenced property whisks you to another time with graceful architecture, charming courtyards and four-poster beds. The artful cuisine at the hotel’s Five-Star Aubergine at L’Auberge Carmel has a nostalgic feel, too, what with freshly picked ingredients and locally grown proteins highlighting its menu.
Though Pebble Beach is best known for its hallowed fairways — Pebble Beach Golf Links is the site of the 2019 U.S. Open — the resort has much more hidden in its bag. This Four-Star inn, a 269-room, contemporary-styled beauty, is one of those surprises. And no matter if you’re there for a summer PGA event or quiet fall weekend, the hotel’s brilliant service, world-class dining and nightly bagpipe performances make any visit a winning one.
Bernardus Lodge & Spa
Tucked among Carmel Valley’s verdant vineyards, this Four-Star hideaway blends the best of wine country’s indoor/outdoor lifestyle, from Four-Star Lucia Restaurant‘s light-filled dining room to the spa‘s serene open-air pool. Private patios and alfresco showers helped Bernardus nab a spot on Forbes Travel Guide’s 2019 Verified List of the World’s Best Rooms.
Golf lovers should flock to this Pebble Beach paradise. Between rounds on the resort’s legendary greens, unwind in the Four-Star hotel’s historic courtyard, sparkling pool or in one of the 24 Spanish Colonial-style accommodations — these Mediterranean-inspired spaces also were named to FTG’s 2019 Verified List of the World’s Best Rooms.
Nestled among Big Sur’s redwoods, this clifftop refuge unveils jaw-dropping vistas at every turn. Take in the Pacific and jagged coast or the Santa Lucia Mountains from your secluded modern-rustic room, the window-walled Four-Star Sierra Mar Restaurant and the cozy Four-Star spa. Forge a deeper bond with your surroundings by partaking in the Four-Star hotel’s complimentary outdoor yoga, nature walks and stargazing.
The Lodge is among the Monterey Peninsula’s most illustrious hotels. Opened in 1919, the waterfront property offers classic rooms with wood-burning fireplaces, five restaurants and, most importantly, remarkable views of Pebble Beach Golf Links’ 18th hole. This is a bucket-list destination for golfers.
For a California-cool vibe with Asian flair, check into this Forbes Travel Guide Recommended retreat. Personal touches like a handwritten note and chocolate-dipped strawberries on arrival make a stay at this historic Carmel gem extra sweet.