Hyatt’s Carmel Valley Ranch Takes the Gold

Pickleball was the carrot that got us to Hyatt’s Carmel Valley Ranch for a four night stay. What we discovered was a gold mine filled with outdoor activities and animals of every flavor.  This place gets recorded in my top three USA favorite destinations, taking the podium with Nantucket, MASS and Vail, CO, and earns repeater status.      

Good to Know

The Carmel Valley is in Monterrey County, California, 83 miles south of San Jose and 116 miles south of San Francisco.  The Valley occupies 19 square miles from the Pacific coast outward and sits amongst the Santa Lucia Mountains. 

Pacific Ocean & Santa Lucia Mountains

Temperatures are cool year round.  Precipitation is highest December – March.  The website is a great planning tool.  Carmel Valley is home to the famous village, Carmel-By-The-Sea, otherwise known as Carmel, that is perched alongside the Pacific Ocean and 8 miles from Hyatt’s Carmel Valley Ranch, otherwise known as the “Ranch”. 

Carmel-by-the Sea Instagram Wall

Little Known Facts

Carmel-by-the-Sea bans wearing shoes with heels higher than 2 inches or with a base of less than one square inch.  The law was passed early on to keep folks from tripping over uneven pavement from tree roots.  Police do not issue tickets to fashionistas.  Nevertheless, ladies, leave your heels at home.  A sporty, closed-toe shoe is best like this one I grabbed at Carmel Cole Hahn after my own shoe packing fail.

Cole Hahn Tennis Shoes

Homes in Carmel-by-the-Sea do not have street addresses.  Its founders wanted residents to know one another so mail is delivered to the central post office.  The practice continues today.  The address for this residence is Santa Fe 4 NW 6th, interpreted as the home on the west side of Santa Fe, and the 4th house from the NW corner 6th and Santa Fe.  Carmel cottages channel Hansel & Gretel like this charmer here.

Carmel Cottage

What To Wear

The region is cool, and gets colder closer to the water.  Temperatures change dramatically throughout the course of the day.  Sporty athletic gear is a good look, and layers are your friend.  A swimsuit may be ideal mid-day.  A light coat is needed in the evening, even during summer months.  Big Little Lies was filmed in Monterrey, just south of the Carmel Valley.  The ladies wore coats and skull caps for a reason.  There is a happy haze some days too.

Airline Travel & Car Rental

Airline Travel

San Jose International Airport (SJC) is 83 miles from the Ranch, with nonstop service from 49 destinations.  San Francisco International Airport (SFO), 116 miles from the Carmel Valley Ranch, has nonstop service from 134 destinations.  This data is from, a website covered in Strategy Workshops for the Expert Traveler.  SJC is a smaller airport and the one we prefer.

San Jose Airport

A car is essential to enjoy the Ranch.  A car is also needed to visit the off property gold mines nearby in Carmel-by-the Sea, Monterrey, and Big Sur.  Don’t miss the famous Bixby Bridge when heading south of Carmel to Big Sur.  Bets are you have seen this on TV or the big screen dozens of times.

Bixby Bridge

I check my rental car rate a day or so before departure.  My rate dropped for this trip. I rebooked and cancelled, in that order, at the airport before leaving on our outbound flight to San Jose.  Check rental car rates before booking flights to be sure cars are available and book cars ASAP.  Strategy Workshops for the Expert Traveler cover topics guaranteed to ramp up your travel experience.  Note the tips above, and register for the workshops.   

The Ranch – Key Things to Know

First, a $20M renovation was completed in 2015.  There’s more to follow. 

Lodging Rates

Heads up.  The Ranch is not cheap but it’s worth it.  Shout out and thank you to Hyatt for the Friends and Family Rate honoring Healthcare Heroes we used for our stay.  This benefit is offered through December 31, 2021. 

Doctor in Scrubs & Mask

I used Hyatt points for one night and the Heroes rate for the rest.  Before booking the award night, I did the math to be sure point conversion was a smart one.  It was.  We cover point conversions in Strategy Workshops for the Expert Traveler.  Here’s a tip.  If you don’t find a target promotional rate for your entire stay, try it for certain days, reserve it, then call the property to merge reservations with different rates. 

Lodging Concept

“Ranch” is part of the Hyatt property name for a reason. The property is giant.  Suites are lodging style and architecture is 1980s cool.  Buildings with multiple newly remodeled suites are spread out, and include Bluff, Treetop, Forest, and Valley Suites.  Our Valley Suite #208 was in an excellent location, and just  a short walk to The Lodge.  Parking is available feet from the front door.  

Carmel Valley Ranch Suite Front

Dogs are allowed and Doodles were everywhere.  Cats are welcome too.  Check out Ranch Accommodations for Pets before booking. 

doodle dog

The suites are simple, functional, and well designed.  Ours came with two balconies, a king bed, sleeper couch, and a dining table/workspace that seated eight.  There’s a refrigerator in every room and microwaves are available upon request.

Ranch Suite Living Room

The Crowd

The Ranch checks the box for every travel target.  If you are planning a honeymoon, ladies retreat, family getaway, and all others consider this place.  However, skip the Ranch if walking is a problem.  While roasting smores, I met a Miami Beach attorney, from South Africa, traveling with her teenage daughters. 

Smores at Carmel Valley Ranch

I hiked with a twelve year old from Tel Aviv, Israel, who just finished summer camp in New York.  A Taiwanese woman, visiting from the Bay Area, and her pup, were also on the hike but they fell out early.  The crowd is polished and not pretentious.  Standards are high.  Hiking is tough.

Carmel Valley Ranch Dining

There’s a handful of food options on-site.  Be sure to make time also to dine in Carmel-By-The-Sea at least once while staying at the Ranch.

Valley Kitchen Inn

The Valley Kitchen Inn is located inside the The Lodge, and has indoor and outdoor seating.  Heaters are plentiful.  The back dining room tables peer over the vineyards and are “pinch yourself” stunning.  Reserve on Open Table before your arrival. 

Valley Kitchen Inn Dining Room & Bar

River Ranch Café

Grab-n-go food is available at the River Ranch Cafe for breakfast and lunch.  Check hours before showing up.

River Ranch Cafe Seating & Fire Pit

The Clubhouse Grill

Golfers, the Clubhouse Grill is where you grab your pre or post golf food, or to enjoy a happy hour brew.  The patio is a stunner.  Check hours first before showing up.

Clubhouse Grill

Carmel-By-The-Sea Dining

We ventured offsite one night and dined at Porta Bella in Carmel.  Build in plenty of time for a stroll along the ocean and for window wandering.  Shopping is plentiful. 

Porta Bella in Carmel

Grab a coffee at the Carmel Valley Coffee Roasting Company on Ocean Avenue between Lincoln and Monte Verde and take a jaunt around town using the Fairy Tale Homes Tour on GPSMyCity as a guide.  GPSMyCity is another app we cover in Strategy Workshops for the Expert Traveler.

Carmel Valley Roasting Company

Make Your Own Food

The suites are equipped with a fridge, and microwave upon request.  A Safeway is one mile away and stocks spirits, beer, and wine too.  We stopped there for a bottle of wine, snacks, breakfast, and lunch food. We didn’t buy coffee.  Coffee is replenished daily by housekeeping. 

Safeway in Carmel

The Ranch – Let’s Explore the Property

The Carmel Valley Ranch property is shared between the Hyatt Ranch and private homeowners.  Short-term rentals are not allowed for the private homes, but are available one month or more.  If home rental is how you roll, check which amenities are available for rental properties.  This gate is used by Ranch for guests and homeowners. 

Entrance Gate Carmel Valley Ranch

On our departure day, there was a rafter of turkeys opposite the gate.  This was not a gaggle nor a flock.  Rafter is defined as a group of turkeys. 

Turkeys at Carmel Valley Ranch

Most of your time at the Ranch will be split between The Lodge and The River Ranch.  Golfers, add a third building, The Golf Clubhouse.  These buildings are far from one another and require transportation.  We used a car.  Spa Aiyana, The Corral and the The Organic Garden are walkable from the suites.  A bus is available to transport guests. 

Bus Carmel Valley Ranch

The Lodge

Check-in happens at The Lodge.  Hotel staff work from home style desks.  A swing is perched just outside.  The feeling is cool from the start. 

Lobby at Carmel Valley Ranch

The Lodge has the adult pool (ages 16 and above), the main dining option, The Valley Kitchen, and one grab-n-go food spot, The Market and Creamery.  Kids use the pool at River Ranch, not the one at The Lodge.  The Spa Aiyana is just behind the pool at The Lodge.

Carmel Valley Ranch Adult Pool

The Lodge is home base for the fire pit and nightly smores.  Activities are posted on the big board at The Lodge, and on the Carmel Valley Ranch website. You need to register for activities before arrival.  Space is limited.  Many activities are complimentary.  Some have a fee.  Call 831.626.2577 to schedule activities or email  Earlier is better. 

Activities Board Carmel Valley Ranch

The River Ranch

River Ranch is home to the kid’s pool and numerous activities.  It is not walkable from the suites.  We used our car, but a bus is available too.  We played pickleball at River Ranch, and took Barre and Body Pump classes outdoors.  Tennis courts are at River Ranch, and there is a good spot for grab-n-go food. 

River Ranch Pool

We caught a glimpse of an outdoor cycling class at River Ranch.

Carmel Valley Ranch Cycle Class

The Golf Clubhouse

The Golf Clubhouse is not walkable from the suites.  We used our car, but a bus is available too.  Watch out for the deer on the golf course.  Also, beware of the mountain backdrop and cool temperatures.  You might never leave this amazing course.

Carmel Valley Ranch Golf Course

Deer on Golf Course Carmel Valley Ranch

The Corral

The Corral is accessible by foot but is up a very steep hill.  Equine Experiences are offered. These differ from riding and are at the top of my list for my next visit to the Ranch.

The Corral at Carmel Valley Ranch

The barn, located nearby, has a cascade of farm animals.  There are experiences to get up close and personal with these furry creatures too.  One goat stole my heart.  A camera shy alpaca pair were in the mix too.

Goat Face

Alpaca Pair


Daily hikes were our mojo.  The property’s trails continue on to Garland Ranch Regional Park.  Just because the hike starts on a Hyatt property do not be fooled.  The trails are for serious hikers, humans and dogs, and offer stunning views of the valley.  Pack ample water and food.  If you go far enough you will see the ocean.  We did not go that far.

Hiking at Carmel Valley Ranch

Beekeeping & Falconry

We didn’t survey the Falconry Ambassadors program but we did happen upon the Bees Life excursion going on and it was a curious sight.  Both of these programs are fee based.

Beekeeping at Carmel Valley Ranch

The Not So Good


We arrived at the Ranch at 4:00 pm on a Sunday.  Check in was 4:00 pm.  Rooms were not ready for guests, to include our room.  Housekeeping staff was not sufficient to clean the volume of rooms vacated the prior night.  No compensation was offered, such as bar or food credit.  I complained to the front desk manager, and we were in our suite by 5:00 pm.  Service staff is short everywhere tied to COVID-19 economics, demand exceeds supply.

Hiring Sign

Room Prep & Bed Linens

Once in our suite, I surveyed lamps, coffee, towels, etc.  One lamp at the bedside did not have a working light bulb.  A call to the front desk fixed that in 5 minutes.  Housekeeping should have resolved that before I arrived.  One king foam pillow was not acceptable, and was ready for retirement long ago. A replacement pillow also arrived in 5 minutes.  Overall, bed linens at the Ranch were not up to par.  Hyatt, I suggest you step up the bed linens. That is my one complaint for the entire stay.         

Tips on Carmel Valley Ranch

Plan in advance for dinner reservations, spa services, and for all activities.  Talk to Hyatt’s onsite staff and make a suite request, not guaranteed, that matches your needs.  Reset your expectations when traveling now, to include your stay at the Ranch.  Service staff is in short supply everywhere.  Be patient and forgiving.  Ranch staff otherwise was exceptional.  Don’t arrive with high expectations for bed linens.  Expect to be wowed in every other way.  This is fancy camp for adults and kids that offers a recharge and reset of the best kind.

Strategy Workshops for the Expert Traveler

Travel is complex.  Strategy Workshops are guaranteed to ramp up your travel experience.  Move to Expert Traveler status with one or more 50 minute sessions. Workshops are curated based on needs and goals.  They are offered live in Austin, Tx, and by Zoom for all locations.  Participants range from students, preparing for a summer abroad, to office staff, responsible for travel arrangements.  Group size ranges from 1-300.  Return is guaranteed for travelers who book travel independently or through a travel professional.  Let’s chat and get you, your group, or office staff on the road to Expert Travel. The payoff is great.  Email

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