By Roger Cox, Editor
This 500-acre, pet-friendly property trails along an inland valley in the wooded Santa Lucia Mountains, above the fog that sometimes blankets the coast. The suites, all with fireplaces and terraces, perch high in the hills, with views of the valley or trees and easy access to the lodge and an excellent restaurant, Valley Kitchen. Adjacent to the lodge is the 10,000-square-foot Aiyana Spa and an adult pool with a rimless hot tub. In the valley below lies an area called River Ranch, an activity zone that includes tennis and pickleball courts, a junior Olympic pool, a kids' splash pool, and a second wellness adult pool, a 5,200-aquare-foot fitness center (whose extensive roster of classes are all complimentary), a bocce court, and a cafe serving light fare for golfers and tennis players in what was originally an 1890s farmhouse.
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Tennis Director Ben Gottenberg has been at Carmel Valley Ranch has been part of the Carmel Valley tennis staff since 2018. Originally from Atlanta, GA, he played college tennis for Georgia College & State University in Milledgeville before joining Peter Burwash International (PBI), the company that manages the tennis, and trained at its facility at the JW Marriott Desert Springs Resort & Spa in California's Rancho Mirage. Much of the programming he oversees at Carmel Valley Ranch is geared to the needs of the resort's substantial local membership. That has benefited guests by ensuring greater participation in the solid roster of weekly activities, among them one or more clinics daily, multiple Liveball sessions a week, and weekly doubles mixers. Together with the clinics and round robins, they provide not only instruction and workouts but also help guests meet compatible people for later matches, though the staff will otherwise help to put games together. Carmel Valley Ranch has also capitalized on the popularity of pickleball and installed four permanent courts for that growing racquet sport. The staff offers beginner lessons and stages community play several times a week and a complimentary doubles tennis mixer every month.
Courts & Fees. The Ranch has seven hard courts and four permanent pickleball courts. Court fees: $25/half-hour for resort guests.
Spa & Fitness
Golf Course. Pete Dye designed the resort's 18-hole course in 1981 and it was redesigned in 2010. The front nine meanders along the Carmel River, but the back nine climbs into the forested upland, where holes 10 to 14 cling precariously to the hillsides and induce vertigo with drops as much as 350 feet from tee to green. To makes matters worse, heavy underbrush guard the margins of these back fairways. Length: 6,055-6,515 yards.
Spa & Fitness Center. The 10,500-square-foot Spa Aiyana, adjacent to the Lodge, takes its cue from the gardens by incorporating fresh herbs, botanical extracts, and various oils into its treatments. There is a gaslog fireplace in the waiting area and another in the couples treatment room. There are actually two fitness centers: a small one near the lodge and accessible to guests 24/7 using their room key card; and the larger one at River Ranch, which in addition to having a full suite of workout equipment offers Pilates, yoga, spinning, body sculpting, guided hikes, and more, all of them complimentary for guests.
And ... Hiking trails lead into the Santa Lucia Mountains and horseback rides start nearby.
The resort now offers a variety of child-friendly programs, including a visit to the Ranch's Ranch, where they tend to our farm animals and learn what it takes to care for the herds of goats, chickens, deer, alpacas, cows, and even bees. This traditional experience feature livestock education, lasso lessons, and even an introduction to ranch chores.
Draped along the top of a ridge, the Ranch suites range from studios to four bedrooms in sizes from 650 to 1,200 square feet. Spacious and well appointed, they all have living areas with travertine fireplaces, separate living rooms (except for studios), complimentary WiFi, flat-screen televisions, mini fridges, and bath amenities made with fresh-pressed lavender harvested on property. One set of rooms, which are larger and somewhat more private, trail along winding paths through stands of oak trees, which may somewhat obstruct their views of the valley; the other set, while somewhat smaller, occupy terraces on an open hillside that gives them more expansive views. Either way, these are some of the most supremely comfortable rooms anywhere.
The Valley Kitchen restaurant has a well-established reputation for serving superb California cuisine inspired by the produce of Carmel Valley itself, including ingredients from the resort's organic garden, wine from its own vineyard, olive oil from its trees, fresh eggs from its chickens, and honey from its apiary. It serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Otherwise, there is light fare—sandwiches, salads, smoothies—at the River Ranch Cafe and the Market Cafe & Creamery, and salads, sandwiches, tacos, and quesadillas at the Clubhouse Grill.
If you like the sound of Carmel Valley Ranch, also check out:
Visit the website for current rates
Seasons. Year-round though the best time to visit is from March through November.
Travel Instructions. By Air: The nearest major airports are San Jose International (SJC), 80 miles to the north and San Francisco International (SFO), 117 miles north. There is also a small regional gateway in Monterey Regional Airport (MRY), 13 miles from the resort.
General Tourist Information. Visit the Go California/Monterey website.