Ventana Big Sur during the pandemic — a reader’s experience

a fence in a wooded area
Greg’s photo of the Ventana Big Sur grounds

It’s no secret that my wife and I absolutely loved our stay at Hyatt’s Ventana Big Sur.  But… we stayed before the pandemic changed everything, and before Ventana Big Sur became all-inclusive.  What is it like to stay there now?  A reader named Emily recently stayed at Ventana Big Sur for two nights and she shared her experience with us.  Except for the section headings, all of the following text is in her words [except where I chime in within brackets, like this].  Emily’s photos are shown except where noted otherwise.


[I asked Emily what she thought about the resort overall. Would she return?]

Absolutely would return – on points but not with cash – at the $2000 per room with tax and resort fees – that’s not worth it in my opinion.

[Hyatt doesn’t charge resort fees on award stays — so, as Emily indicates, that adds to the value of booking with points]

Already have 3 nights booked in February!  On points of course.

Award booking

a room with a fireplace and a bed
Photo of Big Sur Suite courtesy of Hyatt’s website.

[Emily initially was only able to book one night, but then another became available…]

First I was able to book another night a couple of days before check in – perhaps there was a cancellation. My first night was a standard room (30k) and my second night was at Big Sur suite (48k). I reached out and asked them to link my two reservations and said I am not keen to change rooms – they were gracious and upgraded me to Big Sur suite for first night as well (such a big win as I only paid 30k before the 25% points refund).

We checked out Friday and my 25% points back showed up Monday.

[Emily is referring to Hyatt’s current promo offering up to 25% back on points-awards through October 8th]


Check in was at 4 PM but I arranged to get there early enough for lunch.

Social Hour

We did enjoy drinks at 4 pm at social house – just white wine and no food – nothing fancy but you can get food by the pool.

[Social hour] is set up at upper deck of social house. it is really just a grab and go – no chairs are set up there. They are not encouraging you to linger given Covid. It was quite a non event, so we skipped the second day. We just ordered drinks at the pool.  [This is a bit disappointing as I really enjoyed the social aspect of their happy hour during my pre-pandemic stay]


a restaurant with tables and chairs on a deck overlooking the ocean
Greg’s photo of breakfast seating at the Sur House.

Sur house is open for both breakfast and dinner OUTSIDE only per California regulations. There are heat lamps but a couple of tables don’t have them, and we opted for those to be a bit further away from other tables. It was chilly! They did offer us blankets which help. [This is a good reminder to bring a jacket! One morning for breakfast it was very windy and cold — the heat lamps didn’t help much].


We had breakfast at Sur house. I feel that the menu at Sur house is superior to in room dining [in-room dining is part of the all-inclusive offerings]. Also: you can order more than one item – staff is very flexible.


a pool with chairs and umbrellas
Greg’s photo of the main pool.  Lunch by the pool is now included as part of the room rate.

Very good pool menu for lunch.

a picnic table and chairs in a forest
Emily’s photo of the Redwood Cathedral (this is a gathering area surrounded by Redwood trees)

[On the day of check-in] We had a picnic at 2pm at the Redwood cathedral. It was lovely but portions are small. please note they only take a few couples so I suggest you plan ahead if interested. Not sure if you have followed them on Instagram – the pictures of their picnic with real plates, wine glasses, real utensils was not our experience. It was all disposable …. not sure if that was an option… but had to say I was a bit disappointed as the pictures set the bar high.

a basket with a lid

a group of boxes of fooda box of food in a box


a path in a forest
Walking path to the Sur House for breakfast and dinner

Dinner at Sur house was lovely. It did get quite chilly. Need to make reservations in advance. They don’t change their menu so if you are there for a few nights – having the same menu is not ideal. We loved what we ordered for dinner the first night – and opted to have the same dish.


Alcohol is additional but prices are not outrageous- $15 for Chardonnay , $17 for Old fashioned.


There was s’mores at Redwood cathedral.


The morning movement class is at 7 am – a bit early and also very foggy at that hour, so we didn’t join.

There is a guided hike at 10 am around the property – we didn’t join the group hike. It is the same route in the red dotted line around property, so you can do it on your own. [My wife and I did the free guided hike and we highly recommend it]

a tent in the woods
Greg’s photo of Ventana’s Glamping

You can order picnic item to go for hiking / adventure outside resort. We took a long walk and ventured to glamping area to check out. Guests at glamping do not have resort privileges. [It’s a very pretty walk to the glamping area — I recommend doing that too].

a beach with waves and rocks
Pfeiffer Beach

We stayed in most of the time but did venture out to Pheiffer beach -20 min away. Either go early or late as parking is limited. We did the latter and it was so beautiful. Highly recommend. [I recommend also venturing out to the various state parks in Big Sur]

McWay Falls on a beach
Greg’s photo of Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park

One of the Instagram stories said Ventana reached out to them to arrange activity – we didn’t have that experience. I called over and it was not easy to get someone… there was a wait.

Getting Around & Parking

They have little electric golf carts to take guests around – we didn’t use them during our stay.

They can valet your car, but we opted to self park.

[They also have an SUV that will take you anywhere within 3 miles or so of the resort]

COVID-19 Safety

They gave us a piece of paper with QR code when we checked in – with various info, including menu – so you could order without the disposable menu they provide (less contact).

The cleaning protocol was superb. We feel very safe there. Only unfortunate part is the infinity Jacuzzi is closed, and same with Japanese bathhouse due to regulations.

Check-in is at social house with doors open. But you can do self check in with the Hyatt app which shows you room number, and totally skip that.

A guest told me they sanitize the electric golf carts after each use, and there are stickers to show you they have been clean and no one has gone inside the carts.

They also deep clean / sanitize the in-suite hot tubs.

[Can you tell me about mask-wearing? Are there many places where it is required or encouraged?]  I live in Southern California so most folks are quite good at mask-wearing in general . Ventana has disposable masks in a bucket for you to take at many locations – like social house / Sur house. Most folks walk around with masks. When the server come to take our order at Sur house or serve us – we put masks back on and I see most guests do that as well. When we checked in – they went over the mask policy with us – wear it at public spaces. We didn’t wear them at the pool, as we were spaced out from other guests. Overall – we feel very safe there – I think they set a good policy standard and the guests are respectful.

Thanks Emily!

[What follows is now from Greg] Thanks Emily for sharing your experience!  My wife and I have a stay at Ventana planned for a few weeks from now.  This was very helpful for getting an idea of what to expect!

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I just visited 2 nights. It was a shitshow! General Manager has left and it seems there are no adults left in charge. My Globalist upgrade was not honored although days before the “front desk” guaranteed it. On the way there I couldn’t get a call through to Big Sur only to their phone bank in Carmel. After arriving at 4pm I waited 30 minutes to check in. The entire stay felt uggy. Each person has to determine their own tolerance for COVID but the lack of adult supervision here doesn’t give me warm fuzzies. Then when we checked out the valet didn’t leave the TESLA keys in the car as is standard protocol. We didn’t realize their error until we got to Carmel. We finally broke through the Carmel phone bank and they brought our keys to us an hour later. Needless to say we have cancelled our reservation for November. The owners of this property have some soul searching to do!

Last edited 3 years ago by JustSaying

Hard to justify $2000 a night for that. Even 40k points is hard to justify.


So much fun!! We just got back from a stay in that same suite. So peaceful and beautiful. Also the grey whales are breaching, and could see from restaurant.


It’s weird how none of these articles discuss the seasonality of Big Sur (it’s opposite what you’d think as summer has some of its ugliest weather), but then again I guess people aren’t from there.

Jim H

What would you consider the best month to visit?

Jay Moore

As someone who lives in nearby Santa Cruz and visits Big Sur ~5x year, I can tell my preference is late Sept thru Oct, which is when I’ll be staying at Ventana next. But please keep it to yourself. We don’t mind seeing the tourists fogged in during Jun – Aug gloom 🙂

Last edited 3 years ago by Jay Moore

Thank you so much for this article, I have a booking there in November. Do you happen to know how the outdoor spa services were handled? Many thanks.


Outdoor spa is closed. I was just there too (returned last night).

Richard Garrido

A correction to your photo caption.

Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park with the campground is the park 3 miles north of Ventana Big Sur lodge.

Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park with McWay Waterfall is 16 miles south of Ventana Big Sur lodge.