Nature Overload

On this slice of the California coast, it is perfectly acceptable to hug a tree.

There’s one way into Big Sur, and it forces you to slow down. Literally. The curvy, narrow Highway 1—the region’s view-strewn welcome mat—is not something you want to rush. Twenty-five miles per hour will be just fine on some stretches, until you reach Ventana Inn & Spa, a mix of California coastal cabin and Dwell centerfold.

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Big Sur is about getting schooled by Mother Nature, the kind that populates Jack Kerouac novels and lures barefoot soul-seekers. Half the fun of staying at Ventana is allowing the region to work its magic. So this next bit might sound odd: Don’t wander too far from the 243-acre property of cedars and redwoods! Canyons, meadows, and ocean? Check, check, and check it out!
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You can see it all from the deck of your cedar-and-redwood cabin. Just lift up those supplied binoculars. Pick up the in-room walking sticks and meet up for the morning walk. You might see red-tailed hawks, and even whales during the right months, from Ventana’s vantage points. For a longer romp, Stephen Copeland leads hikers from the property into an area known as “off the property,” which features waterfalls, monarchs, and Kerouac’s old driving route.

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Big Sur’s pervasive hippie vibe comes through at Ventana: There are on-site astrology readings, daily yoga and Pilates, jade-stone massages, and a clothing-optional pool. But it’s also achingly chic. There’s another pool that requires a swimsuit, plus Japanese hot baths, a library, and a gallery.

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The evening meal is another one for the nature books. Get there before sundown to get that above-the-cloud view. Then it’s time to explore the menu. If the cinnamon doughnuts with banana ice cream don’t help you hit reset, the ten-minute walk back to your room through a fragrant forest wrapped in fog should finish the job.

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