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“From The Nomad Architect (http://thenomadarchitect.blogspot.com/ ) - California Dreamin' in Big Sur”

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Hyatt Carmel Highlands
Ranked #13 of 25 Hotels in Carmel
Reviewed April 6, 2012

So - we headed north to one of America's most beautiful and romantic destinations - Big Sur. After settling in for the two hour plus drive, we began to drink in the visual perfection that makes this enchanting part of America so unique. With every cliff hanging curve, surf pounding inlet and cascading rock formation, we were reminded of the grace and beauty of nature at its best. As an architect, I have spent most of my life dealing with issues of design and the built environment. Having said that, one must acknowledge those forward thinking nature lovers, explorers and even political leaders who managed to create the national parks, state parks and monuments for places like Big Sur where man is asked to tread lightly. Without those efforts, condos would be hung from every precipice with a view!! Frank Lloyd Wright said that he found great inspiration in The Grand Canyon. Upon seeing the work rendered by nature at Big Sur and the Central Coast of California , you come to realize - no matter how great the genius, any man made design pales when measured against God's earthly creations found in this enclave of natural splendor.

As the long and winding road took us closer to Carmel, we realized that we had absolutely no idea where we were going to stay for the night. Like all travelers during the Pre-Google/Internet Search days, we had a stack of dog eared, highlighted books on California and its many regions, hotels and eateries from LA to San Francisco. But for some reason, we had not really planned much of an itinerary. Normally, I do not recommend this approach, since, you may end up in a Motel Six for the night, especially in places as heavily visited as the Central California Coast. As luck would have it, my Co-Nomad and life mate, Susie, turned to the page with a Hyatt Resort listed in The Carmel Highlands on the northern tip of Big Sur. I would like to think she found this place as a result of a thorough and highly evolved system of travel research, but, in reality, it was just one of those random, serendipitous occurrences that yielded results beyond our wildest imaginings. I mean, what are the chances of finding a killer hotel in Big Sur, California in the middle of the summer, only four hours before check in? It also helps that Susie, aka Karen Sue, is an avid reader and remembers the most mundane details from every book she has ever read, including travel books. She is also an excellent navigator and sign reader, even though she takes great pride in NOT being able to read a map. It defies explanation, but it's the truth. Without my soul mate, who has stumbled through life with me for thirty nine years, I would still be figuratively and quite literally - lost!

I know what you are thinking. Wait a minute- this guy is always trashing big hotels and particularly chains - so how can he possibly be talking about actually staying at a Hyatt? Well - all chains are not created equal. Our history with Hyatt has always been very positive, particularly after staying in a very small boutique property in Chicago with a killer on-site restaurant some years earlier. So, given the late hour, we dialed the hotel direct. A very nice young lady informed us, amazingly, that they did indeed, have a room. Now that we had snagged a room on a Sunday afternoon, no less, in one of the most desired destinations for Nomads of every ilk, we slowed down even more, stopped at every nook and cranny to take in the beautiful views as we crawled along the most famous scenic drive in America. Just inside the area known as Big Sur, we stopped at a small roadside store of vintage "this place is really old" design, bought some road food, and found a place to rest and appreciate the simple pleasures one can experience when one travels like a True Nomad. In this environment, cheese crackers and Boone's Farm Elderberry would have fit the bill.

Over the years, the vibe of Big Sur has been enticing to artists, writers and other creative types. Such luminaries as Henry Miller, Hunter S. Thompson and Jack Kerouac have resided here and produced many works while in residence. In addition, the area has served as a backdrop in numerous big studio and indie films, including The Sandpiper starring Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. It has also been home to all manner of off the grid - or off the wall - places of religious thought, contemplation and new age philosophies, including a Catholic Monastery, The Esalen Institute and Tassajara Zen Mountain Center, a Buddhist Monastery . With only about a thousand permanent residents, this sparsely populated corner of Eden is comprised roughly of a ninety by twenty mile wide strip of coastline from Ragged Point in the south to Carmel in the north. Only the very wealthy can afford to live there, as real estate is sold by the square foot. One 1,200 square foot house is currently on the market for a cool seven million! But ridiculous real estate prices and strange, new age philosophies could not keep this Nomad and his bride from relishing the incomparable beauty of this little part of heaven on earth. As we continued north for the short drive to Carmel, I thought to myself - If I ever win the lottery, I am definitely moving here.


The Hyatt Carmel Highlands is a scant fifteen minutes south of the very artsy and very wealthy coastal town of Carmel By The Sea. Besides having world class art, extremely wealthy residents and many restaurants, B&B's and shops where you can spend your hard earned money, Carmel boasts having Clint Eastwood as a former mayor. Only in California does Dirty Harry get to run the town. Because of its location, The Highlands feels as though it is the only place on earth from which to observe the comings and goings of the natural world and the Pacific Ocean. Upon arrival, we were upgraded to a full suite with direct views of the pounding surf below. By American standards, with only forty eight rooms and suites, The Highlands is a pretty small place. With exquisite wood detailing and intimate public spaces, the feel is more like a retreat or lodge than a hotel. In addition, it is designed "into" the landscape, so you are completely surrounded by the best that nature has to offer. And, as you would expect from a five star property, the rooms are impeccably decorated with no detail left to chance. Sleeping with our doors open to enjoy the sublime climate of this mountainous coastal place and waking the next morning to enjoy nothing but the sunrise and the sounds of giant seals on the coast from our private deck proved that serendipity is, indeed, a good thing. As you would expect, the on-site restaurants are second to none. Whether you choose the the sushi grade sea bass at the Pacific's Edge for dinner or the "make your own" omelet on the deck of the more casual California Market, you will not be disappointed. And both restaurants have views of the Pacific to die for.

So there you have it. Big Sur. The land. The sea. The mountains. And, most of all, the spirit of this special place and our stay in a world class boutique retreat made this middle leg of our coastal California sojourn No. 1 On The Nomad's List of Places To See, Eat, Sleep and Experience before you die.

  • Stayed: July 2011, traveled as a couple
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1  Thank DOYLE S
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
CarmelHighlands, Manager at Hyatt Carmel Highlands, responded to this reviewResponded April 7, 2012

Thank you for the great, wonderfully written review! We are glad you enjoyed your stay with us and we hope you visit our property again!

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798 - 804 of 1,160 reviews

Reviewed April 5, 2012

The hotel sits atop Highway 1 in the Highlands of Carmel, overlooking a dramatic and beautiful cliff. The views from the rooms (we had booked two) were spectacular, the rooms themselves very nicely done. They come equipped with a fireplace. The view from the deck of the casual of the two restaurants is stunning, the food is good! That is the place where they also serve breakfast - bonus: no buffet, they actually have a menue and you get to order! (I personally can't stand these standard breakfast buffets anymore.) The dinner restaurant serves great food and - of course - has a panoramic view of the Pacific. It's the perfect place for a one- or two-day stay-over on a trip of Highway 1. If you stay there, you might try to get a room further up the hill, since our rooms where above the highway - not too bothersome, since traffic in the night is very low, but I'd probably opt for another room next time. Still, it's a beautiful setting, a great hotel with very friendly staff, an instant favourite.

Stayed: April 2012
Thank maverickberlin
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
CarmelHighlands, Manager at Hyatt Carmel Highlands, responded to this reviewResponded April 7, 2012

We are happy to hear you enjoyed your rooms and our delicious dining options! We hope you visit us again next time you are in Carmel.

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Reviewed March 27, 2012

This overpriced hotel offers dated rooms with limited comfort. The ocean views are spectacular but not else is worthwhile. I paid over $400 for a room which phone did not work, was freezing cold, the heating did not work. The phone was out of order. The rooms do not have mini-bar.
Think twice before staying here.

  • Stayed: March 2012, traveled on business
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8  Thank TRAVELER1TEXAS
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
CarmelHighlands, Manager at Hyatt Carmel Highlands, responded to this reviewResponded April 7, 2012

We are sorry you did not enjoy your stay with us. If there are ever problems with items in your room functioning, please let us know and we will do our best to accommodate you. We'd like to invite you to call and speak with our management regarding your experience, as we want all of our guests to leave happy. We hope you will consider staying with us again.

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Reviewed March 27, 2012

This is what I need to say about this hotel, it was located on a prime piece of land, but the amneties need to be updated.

We stayed at this hotel for my girlfriend's birthday. I booked the Townhouse, which was 2 stories, along with a massage and a late check-out. Along with this was a dinner over at their in-house restaurant called "The Pacific's Edge" Restaurant.

The reason why I'm giving this place a 3 out of 5 is because of how expensive this place was to stay, there were a couple of other places I stayed here that were more worth the price, but I wanted to give this place a try since it's Hyatt owned, and their properties are usually cleaned properly, up to date, and well equipped. That wasn't the case for this property. It seems like the electronics (TV, LodgeNET system, and iPod/iPhone dock) wasn't even functioning properly, we had to give them a call 3 times, one for each TV, and the iPhone dock, they spend about 20 minutes for each TV, and the dock they replaced from another unit. It wasn't all bad though, their in-house therapists that we got for our massages did a great job, and the view from the room was completely stunning. They had an in-room jacuzzi, which was completely relaxing, although I would recommend bringing bath salts, they don't provide any and we had to go to the local Safeway just to get some. ^_^

The other part of our trip and this hotel was the "The Pacific's Edge" Restaurant, the ambience was great, there were children and other couples there, so it didn't seem like a strange place, but it was perfect for romance also. Their wine selection was great, but the thing it seemed like they were lacking was the ability to properly cook their food. I have no idea if the prices were based on the location of the restaurant or if they thought they did a spectacular job cooking the food, but I've had food at other restaurants in the Carmel/Monterey area that had great views and ambience for a better price.

In short, I want to make people to be sure to take a look at the hotel's styling before staying there, it may be your make it or break it escape.

Room Tip: Their rooms never get filled during the week, the best thing to do is book for a cheaper room, then...
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  • Stayed: March 2012, traveled as a couple
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1  Thank Eric S
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
CarmelHighlands, Manager at Hyatt Carmel Highlands, responded to this reviewResponded April 7, 2012

Thank you for your review. We appreciate your feedback and will look into your comments as we want all of our guests to enjoy dining with us, and have a trouble free experience. We are sorry you had issues with some of the items in your room. We hope you will visit us again.

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Reviewed March 27, 2012

We have stayed at this hotel on numerous occasions and it is our escape from home to go find peace and quiet. The views are amazing and the fire places in each room just makes it more rewarding...nothing like a crackling fire and a fresh ocean breeze.

  • Stayed: February 2012, traveled as a couple
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Thank Tobie L
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
CarmelHighlands, Manager at Hyatt Carmel Highlands, responded to this reviewResponded April 7, 2012

We are happy to hear that you stay with us regularly! We are glad you enjoyed your visit and hope to see you again soon.

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Reviewed March 27, 2012

We just finished a 3 day stay and enjoyed this resort. Flat iron steak and chicken were delicious but the peanut butter bar was out of this world. This place is pricey. We had the awaken rate which included breakfast. They gave us a dollar limit which did not cover the pricey breakfast! The manager was great in taking care of that mistake. Bell staff was amazing.

  • Stayed: March 2012
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Thank Queentooty
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
CarmelHighlands, Manager at Hyatt Carmel Highlands, responded to this reviewResponded April 7, 2012

We are glad you enjoyed your breakfast with us and that we took care of the mistake with your bill. We hope you will visit us again soon!

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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed March 19, 2012

This is perfect hotel for visiting Carmel-Big Sur region. Very nice rooms and facilities overlooking the ocean. Carmel is 6 minute drive and Big Sur is 15 minutes. Point Lobos state park is 1 mile away. It is a MUST see. Julia Phieffer park on the coast is also must see.

Room Tip: Get ocean view. worth the money
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  • Stayed: January 2012, traveled as a couple
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2  Thank NHFWashington_DC
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
CarmelHighlands, Manager at Hyatt Carmel Highlands, responded to this reviewResponded April 7, 2012

Thank you for the great review! We are glad you enjoyed your visit and the wonderful local attractions.

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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Additional Information about Hyatt Carmel Highlands

Address: 120 Highland Dr, Carmel, CA 93923-9607
Location: United States > California > Monterey County > Carmel
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Business Center with Internet Access Fitness Center with Gym / Workout Room Free Parking Kitchenette Restaurant Room Service Spa Suites Swimming Pool Wheelchair access
Hotel Style:
#4 Luxury Hotel in Carmel
#17 Romantic Hotel in Carmel
Price Range: $348 - $899 (Based on Average Rates for a Standard Room)
Hotel Class:4 star — Hyatt Carmel Highlands 4*
Number of rooms: 448
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
Indulge yourself. Hyatt Carmel Highlands is a picturesque retreat overlooking the Big Sur coast with epic views of the Pacific Ocean, and a stunning natural environment made even more special by our impeccable staff. Our Carmel by-the-Sea hotel is an oceanfront retreat that seamlessly blends the amenities of a large hotel with the refined charm of a boutique hideaway. Dine at the award-winning California Market at Pacific's Edge restaurant. After a morning of yoga, take a dip in our heated outdoor pool or unwind with a relaxing spa experience. If it's outdoor activity you crave, we offer mountain bike rentals and maps for hikes, jogs and bike rides around the stunning Carmel area. Let the Les Clefs d'Or Concierge arrange a day trip to explore Big Sur or a round at legendary Pebble Beach. Host an intimate sunset wedding ceremony or intimate reception on our redwood deck. Feel inspired by the breathtaking vistas that surround our Carmel hotel. Your experience is limited only by your imagination. ... more   less 
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Also Known As:
Hyatt Carmel Highlands Hotel Carmel
Highlands Hotel Hyatt Carmel
Carmel Highland Inn
Carmel Hyatt

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