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Post Ranch Inn

A heavenly honeymoon stay in Big Sur

Kodiak Greenwood

At 1,200 feet above the Pacific Ocean, the sound of waves is not a crash, but a whisper. Cargo ships look like toys making silent ripples in a sea that stretches out to the horizon, where a setting sun leaves behind bands of blazing red, orange, and purple sky.

The view from the private terrace of my suite at the Post Ranch Inn was captivating—and inescapable. With floor-to-ceiling windows and sliding glass doors in the living room, bedroom, and even the shower, it was as if I was staying the night in heaven itself.

It may be secluded, perched high atop a cliff west of Highway 1 in Big Sur, but the Post Ranch Inn is no secret. The luxury resort with 40 guest rooms, a world-class restaurant, a spa, a fitness center, three heated pools, hiking trails, and every amenity you can think of, has been named one of the best places to stay in the world by Travel and Leisure and CondéNast Traveler. For me, it was ultra special as the grand finale to a 10-day coastal road-trip honeymoon with my new husband, Paul.

Pulling up to registration, feeling a little out of place in our dusty Just Married–emblazoned Honda Civic, we were warmly welcomed by the Post Ranch staff and offered wine and juice as we finalized the itinerary for our stay. Our luggage was loaded into one of the hotel’s hybrid Lexus SUVs (these, as well as sedans and convertibles, are also available for guests’ use) and we were driven to our room with a brief tour along the way.

Our room—a 900-square-foot Pacific Suite—is part of the Inn’s addition of 10 new guest rooms earlier this year. Like the resort’s original rooms, the architecture and design enhances the beauty of the natural surroundings. The suite was drenched in sunlight from the windows on the ocean side but could be shaded with the flick of a switch by sheer coverings that retained the view. And the rounded, native wood walls carefully block all sightlines, assuring complete privacy in the suite, even without window coverings.

With three-and-a-half hours until dinner, we found plenty to do in the room. There was the stunning sunset, which we enjoyed on chaise lounges with a pair of binoculars. There was also the satellite radio and iPod dock (Post Ranch is television-free), the abstract paintings and sculptures in every room, the fully stocked complimentary mini bar, the black slate whirlpool tub with lavender bath salts, the crazy comfy robes and slippers, the welcome wine and fresh fruit… if it weren’t for the dinner reservations, we may never have left the room.

Walking the low-lit path to Sierra Mar restaurant, we wondered if we should have taken our bellman/driver’s offer to chauffer us to dinner. The restaurant is only 100 feet away, we thought, surely we can walk. But this is a cliff, after all, and it’s quite dark this far from city lights.

Like our room, Sierra Mar features floor-to-ceiling windows on the entire West side, which makes for incredible sunset dining in spring or summer, but in fall and winter, only reflects the interior. On clear nights, a resident astronomer sets up a telescope on the deck, pointing out the planets, stars, and nebulas to guests.

Here, it’s all about the four-course prix fixe menu prepared by Executive Chef Craig von Foerster. The menu changes daily and features organic local produce as well as herbs from the restaurant’s own garden. There were at least four options for each course, which made it easy to accommodate our different tastes. Highlights were the off-menu treat of cauliflower mousse topped with finely chopped peppers and caviar served in a spoon, the artichoke napoleon (crispy chips, olive oil-braised, and puree with truffle vinaigrette and chanterelle mushrooms), and the beef entree: grilled rib eye steak bordelaise topped with bone marrow on one side of a long, rectangular plate, and braised American Kobe beef short rib rossini topped with seared fois gras on the other. The double delight was ridiculously tender, and we loved the peppery edges of the rib eye as well as the accompanying herb-roasted potatoes.

Kodiak GreenwoodFor dessert, I had a gourmet version of my county fair favorite: churros. It came with caramel-cinnamon ice cream, dark chocolate sorbet, and chocolate sauce. Yum! Paul’s key lime buttermilk pudding cake was paired with the freshest strawberry ice cream we’ve tasted—like eating five flavorful strawberries in each bite. We joked with the server, “You think you can box up some of this strawberry ice cream, maybe a gallon, to-go?” After a brief pause, he said with slight smile and some seriousness, “That can be arranged.” In hindsight, we think he really meant it.

We returned to our room satisfied and sluggish and set to making a fire (the ready-to-go fireplace has neatly stacked and bundled logs, kindling, and newspaper). While we were away, the bed had been turned down, and carafes of water and glasses appeared on the end tables. The staff had even delivered Paul’s iPhone, which he’d left in our car. With full bellies and a flickering fire, we fell asleep to the whisper of the waves.

The next morning, our ocean view had disappeared. The fog rolled in, covering the water with pillowy clouds. We felt like we were transported overnight onto a luxury airliner. The feeling was magnified surrounded by windows at Sierra Mar, where we returned for our complimentary breakfast buffet. We enjoyed crispy bacon, fresh baguettes, eggs Benedict, made-to-order waffles, berries and pineapple, and fresh-squeezed orange juice—barely able to take our eyes off the sea of clouds below. The other guests seemed ho-hum about the view, opting to read one of several newspaper titles offered at the restaurant entrance.

Kodiak GreenwoodWith only a few hours until check-out, we toured the rest of the resort: tree-house rooms on stilts, hidden hammocks, infinity pools, a mercantile selling some of the art and spa products we’d seen and used in our room, the spa with its glorious mountain views, the yoga yurt and fitness center (complimentary yoga classes are available each morning), and loads of nephrite jade. The stone is found naturally throughout the Big Sur area and is revered by the locals. We even met another newlywed couple that had an in-room wedding performed by Post Ranch’s resident “nondenominational celebrant.”

Alas, at 1:00 p.m., we had to bid the place adieu. Our request for a return ride to reception came with a short wait and an explanation: “It seems everyone is checking out at the same time today.” We understood. It’s a cruel checkout time for a place so enchanting. It seems everyone wanted put off leaving until the last minute.

As we turned out of the main gate and onto the Pacific Coast Highway—road snacks of soda and trail mix from the mini bar on board—we vowed to return again one day. Maybe on our fifth anniversary. Or maybe as a retreat for writing the great American novel. The Post Ranch Inn is a truly special place for a special getaway.

Post Ranch Inn, Highway 1, Big Sur, (800) 527-2200, www.postranchinn.com. Room rates are $550 to $2,185 per night. Sierra Mar’s four-course dinner is $105 per person.

Newlyweds LeeAnne and Paul Jones