Ventana Big Sur vs. Miraval Arizona

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Hyatt offers a few all-inclusive luxury resorts within the continental United States: Alila Ventana Big Sur and three Miraval resorts.  Recently I stayed at the Miraval Arizona resort, and then stayed at Alila Ventana Big Sur a few weeks later.  Which was better?

You can find my separate reviews of each property via these links:

I enjoyed both resorts, but there were significant differences between them.  Here’s a point by point comparison…

Property and Location: Ventana Big Sur by a mile

Alila Ventana Big Sur Sunset View
Big Sur, as viewed from Ventana

While Miraval’s property and surrounding area is pretty, it doesn’t come close to matching the majestic hills, crashing waves, and giant redwood trees found in Big Sur.

Staff and Service: Ventana Big Sur

Alila Ventana Big Sur Happy Hour Bubbles
Ventana’s bartender, Jared, shows off his bubble making skills.

The staff at both locations were excellent, but at Ventana the staff consistently went above and beyond to ensure we had a great stay.

Food…

Breakfast: Ventana Big Sur

Alila Ventana Big Sur Breakfast French Toast and Berries
Alila Ventana Big Sur Breakfast: French Toast and Berries

Ventana has a great breakfast menu and you can’t beat the view.  I enjoyed most breakfast items there, but my favorite was the combination of the French toast and the yogurt and granola bowl (I’d put the yogurt and granola on top of the French toast… yum!).

Lunch: Miraval Arizona

Miraval Arizona Fish
Miraval Arizona’s lunch specials were awesome

Each day, Miraval Arizona offers a chef special for lunch… usually a fish dish.  And, in my experience, those dishes were awesome.  Ventana’s lunch menu is pretty limited and (in my opinion) uninspired.  On the other hand, Ventana has just recently reopened their Big Sur Smokehouse which offers awesome barbeque options for lunch.  Even though the Smokehouse is open to the general public (which is no longer true of the resort’s main restaurant), it is free for Ventana guests.  The Smokehouse is open Wednesday through Sunday, noon to 7:30pm.

Dinner: Miraval Arizona

Sample dinner menu at Miraval Arizona. The items on the left and right side stay the same, but the items in middle two columns change daily.

This was a tough one to rate since both resorts offered excellent dinner options. Ultimately, though, I gave my nod to Miraval because the quality was at least as good as Ventana’s and, more importantly, Miraval offered both standard dishes and a selection of “chef’s daily inspiration” each evening.  Ventana, meanwhile, offered the same unchanged menu daily and only once during our stay offered an off-menu chef’s special.

Dessert: Ventana Big Sur

Alila Ventana Big Sur Chocolate Torte
Chocolate Torte. This wasn’t my favorite dessert on the menu, but it was one of the few dessert photos I could find.

Miraval offered decent desserts, but Ventana’s were exceptional.  Plus, Ventana offered many more choices if I recall.

Activities: Miraval Arizona

During a hike at Miraval Arizona, we passed by this outdoor yoga class

Miraval is all about activities.  You can pick from a huge selection of included activities such as exercise classes, hiking, yoga, meditation, cooking, photography, and more; or from a number of paid activities.  If you want to stay busy doing fun stuff, Miraval is a great choice.

Ventana offers far fewer activities, but they’re actively working on adding more and more.  They recently added additional complimentary guided hikes, astronomy, and even falconry (yes, it’s now included complimentary) and bee keeping!

Point Price: Ventana

Ventana Award Pricing (Category 7 Hyatt):

  • Room: 30K points per night standard, 25K off-peak, or 35K peak.
  • Suite: 48K points per night standard, 43K off-peak, or 53K peak.
  • Premium Suite: 60K points per night standard, 50K off-peak, or 70K peak.

Update: Ventana is increasing to category 8, effective as of Tuesday, March 22, 2022, at 8:00 a.m. CDT.  New pricing:

  • Room: 40K points per night standard, 35K off-peak, or 45K peak.
  • Suite: 61K points per night standard, 56K off-peak, or 66K peak.
  • Premium Suite: 80K points per night standard, 70K off-peak, or 90K peak.

Miraval Award Pricing (Hyatt has a separate award chart for Miraval):

  • 2 Person Room: 65K points per night standard, 57.5K off-peak, or 72K peak.
  • 2 Person Suite: 95K points per night standard, 82.5K off-peak, or 107K peak.
  • 2 Person Premium Suite: 125K points per night standard, 112.5K off-peak, or 137K peak.

Miraval award rates for two people are approximately double Ventana’s rates.  That said, Miraval includes $175 per person per day credit towards paid activities and spa treatments so you do get more for your points.  Still, Miraval awards are very expensive.  The best bet when booking Miraval is to wait for their two nights for the price of one deal to return.

Overall: Ventana Big Sur

While Miraval edges out Ventana in a few categories, I far prefer Ventana overall.  And that’s before considering award pricing.  It’s astounding to me to see that Miraval charges twice as many points as Ventana!

To be clear, I very much enjoyed my stay at Miraval Arizona and I do hope to return someday.  But Ventana is my happy place to which I hope to return often.

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24 Comments
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Brian G

Hey @greg, how many points per night did you actually spend for your room? I just booked at 70,000 points per night for a suite during the summer as their availability was minimally. I don’t want to spend 70,000 points per night but I do want to go here before the point price goes up.

Byron

I have just recently been to Ventana and Miraval Austin. It is Ventana hands down. Can’t wait to get back.

Beth B

FYI, just saw that Ventana is moving to a category 8 next month.

slaven

do they offer a food credit if choose to eat elsewhere?

Pam

Lol there really is no “elsewhere” other than a bbq joint at base of property & Hwy 1 you can apply your credit. But it has very random operating hours & honestly not that great anyway.

Pam

My husband & I are at Ventana – he just ordered that French Toast concoction in the picture based on your breakfast rec, Greg!

As Gene L posted about Ventana is my own perception with Miraval. I have been several times since Hyatt purchased, but it was entirely more special back in its independent heyday.

Miraval Tucson for me is not an especially relaxing getaway. From the frenetic push to review & book schedules by their many deadlines to full days of activities once there, it is more like a big city vacay in a mountain setting. The many breakouts offered, too, are more like therapy & can also generate stress before relieving it at the spa! I love Miraval, but you gotta be ready for it & do your homework well before arrival to get the most benefit.

That said, all the varied choices offered/included is why Miraval is probably more valuable. Their rooms/suites are also more updated. I don’t think you can find more luxurious bedding than their “marshmallow” bed! Ventana is chill – we were presented with few activities at check-in. That’s fine, just that it in no way compares to an entire book of choices at Miraval.

Ventana is so great with the text service. Literally anything we can think of we need or need to go, we text & it’s delivered/done/provided. Miraval on the other hand discourages phones & really doesn’t like to provide room service, especially not whenever you feel like it like at Ventana.

Miraval is busy, reflective, & more rules. Ventena is flexible, kick back, & so very romantic. For the day of love that is just what we wanted.

SebR

100% agree with you on the Miraval bedding!! It was soooo comfortable.

SebR

Both great properties I would love to visit again! However, I believe I enjoyed miraval just a little more. To me the Arizona setting, the activities, vibe and all the wildlife you can run into just walking back to your room made it more “special”. Don’t get me wrong Ventana is amazing but it kinda felt just like any other luxury hotel with great views.

DavidS

They both sound like great options. The only thing to keep in mind is the difference in weather at the locations. While Big Sur has plenty of sun during the year it is still less than Tucson. Also, in winter, Tucson is rarely below 60s during the day while highs in the 40s are not uncommon. If you’re planning for a Nov-Feb trip well in advance and need sun, this would push me towards AZ. Otherwise, CA coast hands down.

tjp74

My biggest issue picking the Ventana has a winner is the points availability and tipping. Constantly having to worry and wonder about tipping was a big turn off for us and lack of point availability. I recently spot searched for next 12 month and only found few days with premium suite. Not even standard suite let alone standard room, peak or off peak.

tjp74

but I have to admit… walking through the big redwoods forest to the breakfast or dinner was magical and although I didn’t get to try it last time since we had a private hot tub at our suite but that communal infinity pool overlooking the redwood forest and Japanese bath house looks neat. and I miss the real wood burning fireplace at our suite.

Pam

Venrana is no tipping. I verified at check in, but they also won’t discourage as at Miraval.

Gene Litton

I had been staying at the Ventana since 1983. It was only 40 rooms then. Loved the place. Things changed over time with each new owners. But then in 2015 when I married at Ventana I noticed disturbing changes with Hyatt’s ownership. It went all corporate. All the specialness is gone. All about corporate events and points. Maybe I wouldn’t have noticed if I hadn’t experienced the charm of the old Ventana. I’m now staying across the street at Post Ranch, but I find myself always saddened over what became of the Ventana

Theresa

I haven’t been to Ventura Big Sur, but from your review it definitely beats Miraval if a couple is looking for a romantic vacation. However, if you are a single person going by yourself I would say Miraval is hands down the better choice. I have been to the Miravals in both Arizona and Austin and throughly enjoyed both. For a single person, it is 45,000 per night and 40,000 off-peak. For that you get the $175. credit per night, many, many more activities than Ventura, and also free pickup/drop-off from the nearest airport, so you don’t have to worry about renting a car.

I have read that it is often very hard to find availability at Ventura and people often have to pay the 48,000 to get the suite because that is all that is available.

Boonie

Great comparison points! I’m sure both are on a lot of bucket lists but this helps if a decision needs to be made.

Nid

Hey Greg: FYI If you add tip Ventana removed the tip before they charge for the visa.