I stayed for a weekend at Carmel Valley Ranch in August of 2011, on a solo trip to escape the brutal Texas summer. After a cold and rainy stay in (charming) Carmel by the Sea, I took a 15 min cab ride into Carmel Valley and the sky opened up to a perfect 70 degree day. The grounds are beautiful - deer and wild turkeys, lavender everywhere, a young vineyard, organic gardens, 2 pool areas with restaurants, spa, yoga studio - truly everything you would want. I purchased my stay through Jetsetter.com, which offered a special rate of $250/night. While Carmel Valley Ranch is the perfect place to unwind, they also offer a great selection of activities: guided hikes, hilltop yoga and pilates, cooking classes, beekeeping lessons, etc. My suite was luxurious and perfect, with a wrap-around balcony, huge bathroom and fireplace. The restaurant showcases their delicious home grown veggies, and the pool and infinity hot tub was a perfect place to spend the day.
For activities outside of the resort, I found I was able to get around pretty well without a rental car. I explored the surrounding wineries and tasting rooms of the Carmel area via the Grapevine Express; there is a pickup across the street from resort. There is also a bus that will take you down Hwy 1, from Carmel to Nepenthe restaurant in Big Sur for about $3 round trip. When I get a chance to return to the area, I will definitely allocate time to visit Point Lobos Reserve and Julia Pfeiffer Park, along Hwy 1 in Big Sur. Amazingly beautiful area.
All in all, a fantastic vacation to the Carmel area, and Carmel Valley Ranch was undoubtedly the highlight of the trip.