I was particularly attracted to Carmel Valley Ranch when Hyatt announced the promotion this summer for 25% back in points for World of Hyatt cardholders if you registered by August 20th for stays at a Joie de Vivre by Hyatt, Destination by Hyatt or the Unbound Collection by Hyatt property from June 15th, through September 15th, 2021.
Carmel Valley Ranch is part of the Unbound Collection, and is a World of Hyatt Category 6 Property, which means it’s 25,000 points for a standard room redemption per night. Note: World of Hyatt peak award pricing will kick in for bookings as of mid-October 2021, for stays starting March 2022, so when that occurs this property will cost 21,000 points off peak, and 29,000 points during peak pricing, respectively.
I thought this would be a great property to visit with family and our dog for a weekend trip. The only weekend with a standard redemption available with a room that fits 3 guests was the end of August, so I booked the Santa Lucia Studio. With the promotion, I’ll get 25% of my points back in 6-8 weeks. So, net cost for the stay was 18,750 World of Hyatt points per night. Free Night Awards also have waived resort fees which is nice. Cash rates for the weekend for my studio were $998 ($1,163 with tax and resort fee) per night, which is crazy, so I think I got a great points redemption. Additionally, since this was my first Unbound Collection stay, I will add one more brand to my World of Hyatt “Brand Explorer” and be closer to a free night stay certificate.
Standard rooms at Carmel Valley Ranch start at a quite roomy 650 square feet. For standard room point redemptions, The Santa Lucia Studio has a King Bed and a Sofabed, or you can opt for the Vineyard Oak Studio with a King Bed, or the Vineyard Oak Studio with an Outdoor Tub.
Before COVID made nature resorts like Carmel Valley Ranch a hot commodity, I’ve seen off seasons rates in winter around $300. Currently, you can still find rates around $400/$500 in off season right now; I see some dates in November and February.
A 5 hour drive from Los Angeles, or 2 hour drive from San Francisco, the town of Carmel Valley is just a short 20 minute drive from the coastal town of Carmel-by-the-Sea, which contains cute shops and restaurants. In Carmel Valley itself, it’s less foggy and much warmer than Carmel-by-the-Sea, allowing for a resort experience filled with hiking, a farm and outdoor activities.
Directly outside the hotel there isn’t much, but there is a shopping center with a Safeway and a pizza place just a two minute drive from the main entrance.
Carmel Valley Ranch is a massive 500 acre community. Within the community contains the resort, golf course and million dollar residences. It’s a popular spot for pets and families. We brought the family dog on the trip, and the hotel charges a one time fee of $150 per pet per stay. It came with a doggy bed, water bowls and doggy bags. There was also a “Pooch Room Service Menu” for the dogs.
The ranch has a gated entrance when you first arrive. From the entrance, you’ll drive about a mile uphill to The Lodge, which is the main location for the resort where you will check-in and it contains the flagship restaurant for the property, The Valley Kitchen, as well as the casual Market which contains a coffee bar and grab and go options. Also housed at the Lodge are the spa and main “quiet” Saltwater pool and Infinity Hot Tub for those 16 and up.
The hotel’s 139 suites are split up into 4 sections. The Valley Suites, Forest Suites, Treetop Suites and the Bluff Suites. All are relatively close to one another, but each section has different benefits.
The Treetop Suites are closest to the main Lodge, but you can’t park right outside your room really. We were assigned a room in the Bluff Suites which I really liked because we could park our car literally in front of our room. The Bluff Suites are also closest to the Corral if you want to see the farm animals but perhaps an extra 5 minute walk to the main Lodge than the other sections. (All sections are walking distance to the main Lodge). The Valley Suites and Forest Suites have the most number of suites together, and a bridge connecting back to the main Lodge.
The Room: Santa Lucia Studio
Upon entering the room, there was a large cabinet that housed the mini fridge for personal use, and some extra storage space. Two complimentary bottles of water were waiting in the mini fridge.
To the right, is the large bathroom, and continuing down into the studio is a dining area with two chairs. There’s a large fireplace and the TV had Chromecast so you could connect your streaming apps to it, and you could also control the TV remote from your phone which was a nice touch.
A Nespresso Machine and hot water maker were provided, as well as the Nespresso capsules and tea from Steven Smith.
The high vaulted ceilings were a nice touch and made the room feel very open. And, the sofabed was quite large and pretty comfortable. I would guess the size in between a queen and a king. If you don’t like the sofabed and want a rollaway bed instead, it would cost you an additional $40 per night. Thankfully, the sofabed was quite comfortable as far as sofabeds go. The main king sized bed was sufficient, with pillows and linens to the four star level.
The negative of the room was how noisy it was with rooms next door. You could hear the water running through the pipes when the next room turned on the sink/shower, and could hear movements next door. I would recommend earplugs to assist with sleeping.
The outdoor balcony looked amazing, with a nice table and bench, as well has 2 large chairs. Unfortunately, there were so many flies and bugs out in the balcony that it was not possible to enjoy lounging outside. I do wish for the hotel to perhaps clean the balcony better so fewer flies loiter around.
The bathroom was very large, and featured double sinks, a large shower, separate soaking tub and separate W/C.
The bathroom was probably my favorite part of the room. Bathrobes and slippers were provided, and the towels were clean and of good quality.
And, if you have been following my recent travel reviews, I’ve been complaining about the quality of toilet paper that I’ve been experiencing at 4 and 5 star hotels. I was very impressed on this front with Carmel Valley Ranch and their Cottonelle TP.
Toiletries were provided in the reusable bottles. I wish they had the single use bottles so I could take them home as I loved the scent. The Carmel Valley Ranch has its own lavender garden on the property, and this is showcased in the toiletry scent, Lavender and Sea Pine.
Lavender bath salts, and lavender pillow mist was able provided which was a nice touch.
Service + Amenities:
Service was sufficient for a four star stay, with some minor quirks here and there. For example, at check-in the agent asked if I wanted housekeeping which I declined, but housekeeping still knocked on the door the next morning. And, my request for late checkout as an Explorist was granted at check-in for 2pm, but I noticed it wasn’t reflected in the Hyatt App the night before checking out, so I had to revisit the front desk and they updated it. So, it wasn’t actually submitted at check-in.
Staff across the property were generally pretty friendly, and when I needed extra sheets delivered to the room they came rather quickly.
There are plenty of hotel shuttles that take you to all the sections of suites, the main Lodge, as well as the Golf Clubhouse, Organic Garden, and River Ranch activities complex. You can text or call Guest Services to request a ride.
As the hotel is very pet friendly, pet stations are set up throughout the property.
One mile from the main Lodge, is the River Ranch complex, which is the main center for activities. Tennis, pickleball, Kids Camp, the Family Saltwater Pool and an additional adult’s Flex Pool is located here. The fitness center is also located here, and has a movement Studio and fitness classes. This complex can be used by hotel guests and members of the community. During my two-night stay, I actually did not have time to visit the River Ranch complex, so no photos to report from here.
There are plenty of activities offered at the Ranch, most with a fee, but there are complimentary options available too. Examples include complimentary Hilltop Yoga, Meet and Greet with the Farm Animals, Guided Hikes. Some cool paid options include “A Bees Life” and Archery Classes.
The full service Spa Aiyana is located across the Lodge Pool.
Places I visited also include the Organic Garden that has plenty of plants, fruits and vegetables that they use at the Valley Kitchen.
Just outside the Vineyard is the famous logo for the resort, the large tree with the swing. There’s also one in front of the Lodge as well.
You can also walk through their lavender fields, and the vineyards. The hotel has their own wine!
The corral was my favorite spot, a short hike from the Bluff Suites that houses many farm animals from horses, sheep, alpacas, goats and more. I loved seeing the alpacas!
There are plenty of hiking trails for all difficulty levels around the resort as well.
I think the grounds were decently maintained, but could use some improvement. I do understand it’s quite a vast property and it is out in nature, but some common area pathways like the walkways to the rooms could use some sprucing up. Additionally the entrance to our room had numerous cobwebs and the planters had a lot of dead leaves.
We experienced a dinner at the signature restaurant, the Valley Kitchen. At first we had reservations to sit outside, but most of the outdoor tables were by the pool and not very pleasant with smell of sunblock and traffic of people walking in and out of the pool. We requested to be moved inside and got a nice table by a fireplace.
The watermelon salad was amazing, and my favorite ingredient was the Carmel Valley Ranch Cremery Feta. It probably was the best feta I’ve ever had, and at first I didn’t know it was from the ranch farm, but it now totally makes sense on why it was so good!
The clams were pretty good for a starter, and were the perfect balance between being tasty and not too salty.
The halibut was light in flavor, but had a great texture and the corn and potatoes mixed well with the dish.
The Angus Ribeye was very tasty, even better than some steakhouses, and the Mushroom Ragout added a great pack of flavor. Overall, the Valley Kitchen had a great farm to table cuisine, and we truly enjoyed our dinner here.
Additionally, we got room service from the Valley Kitchen on the day of checkout. I ordered the night before and they delivered right on time. Due to COVID, it came in takeout boxes, but the food was tasty.
We had the Eggs Your Style ($18), Seasonal Fruit Plate ($16) and I had the Hen House Egg White Burrito ($19). I loved the burrito I had!
Other dining options include the Golf Clubhouse Restaurant for casual lunches and happy hours or the River Ranch Cafe for a light lunch and grab and go snacks.
The fee is $50 per day + tax. Thankfully, it is waived for Free Night Awards which is nice. It includes:
- Activities around the resort
- Shuttle Services around the Ranch
- Fitness classes
- River Ranch Recreation Complex
- Access to all 3 swimming pools
- Nightly S’mores
In my view, the four star Carmel Valley Ranch provides a nice nature retreat for the weekend. Given that, I don’t think it is worth the $1000 price tag. For me, the hotel was more of a checking off a box and while I enjoyed my stay, I probably won’t return unless there is a special going on and perhaps they updated the rooms and balconies. I would say that the hotel is worth a try if you find cash rates in the $300s or have some Hyatt points to use.
Have you stayed at Carmel Valley Ranch before? What were your thoughts? Comment below!