I’ve been a fan of The Highlands Inn for decades. Its remarkable location—tucked in the hills of Carmel Highlands, just south of Carmel-by-the-Sea hovering above Highway 1—is just far enough away from commuter and visitor traffic to feel remote, yet easy to drive to downtown Carmel for shopping or head out to Carmel Valley for wine tasting or further south to Big Sur. The cliff dwelling also provides dramatic ocean views from the guest rooms and public areas. We liked the Highlands Inn (now Hyatt Carmel Highlands) enough that when the hotel company converted the larger room suites to timeshare, we signed up. For the last 10 years we’ve enjoyed our visits to the property in mid-November, hiking around nearby Point Lobos and taking morning strolls in the hills behind the hotel.
It’s one of the few places on the planet where the terminally cute gas station serves espresso and fresh pastry. Just relaxing on the deck with a seagull dropping by for a visit is my idea of fun.
Recently, during the Monterey Car Week events in August, we had an opportunity to spend a couple of days in the hotel portion of the inn. The rustic charm of wood-burning fireplaces was familiar and the ocean view every bit as good as our timeshare unit. The room was spacious enough for two, but showed some signs of age. Mel Bettcher, the hotel’s Managing Director, assured us that room remodel was next on the list and occurring soon. The remodeling project that was well underway already included the two restaurants and public spaces in the main building.
The culinary experience had already been elevated at the venerable Pacific Edge restaurant when Executive Chef Chad Minton was recruited. Minton worked with Gary Danko in his earlier years at the Ritz Carlton and received a Michelin nod during his youthful career. He not only loves fresh local ingredients, but is also a fan of culinary adventure.
We sampled Chad’s fun first courses beginning with Monterey Bay Red Abalone with mushroom tartare, orange segments, and leche tigre aioli, then followed with Octopus Confit with Peruvian potatoes and Kalamata aioli, and finally Zucchini Carpaccio with wild arugula. Each dish was a culinary treat. A new Pacific Edge dining room and deck is now open and the California Market will move into a nicely remodeled space with dinner hours added to its casually elegant breakfast and lunch offerings. It’s a great time to rediscover a classic property in Carmel Highlands.