On the stunning northern Pacific coast where cliff faces drop more than 1,000ft to the sea, Big Sur is a pristine outdoor playground. Composed of several state parks, it has mapped and marked scenic trails of all lengths and levels, from a mile-long stroll along a deserted beach to an eight-mile hike up a mountain. Dirt paths meander by rivers, waterfalls and redwood canyons. The air is salty and scented with pine. And here, almost hidden among the trees, is the Post Ranch Inn.
The feel is of understated elegance, with wood-panelled interiors and earthy tones. Stay in one of the Tree Houses or, for a total hideaway, go for a private cabin with a kitchenette and fridge stocked with homemade houmous, chocolate-chip cookies, artisanal cheeses and local wine. There’s no television, but who cares – it’s all about the view from your deck, where the horizon is so wide that you can actually see the earth curving.
Schools of whales blow in the sea below, tiny rabbits dart out of lavender bushes, hummingbirds flit in among the trees. Start the day with a trail run, or a yoga session in the glass-walled studio (mornings are best because you can watch the sun peek over the mountains). If hiking, mountain biking or horse riding don’t appeal, set up camp on the wooden sun-loungers by the pool (there’s a phone for ordering drinks and food at lunchtime). And for more downtime, the light-filled spa with views of the forest delivers treatments that include chakra clearing, a crystal-and-gemstone therapy that uses burning sage to clear your aura, and an almost tribal drum session with a local shaman to let go of any painful past experience. If you’re open to it, these treatments can really catalyse change.
If the safety of the norm is preferable, opt for the more orthodox organic garden facial, which uses herbs, local honey and minerals blended for your skin type to sort out blemishes and sun damage. One word of advice: book well ahead and arrive early, as staff are sometimes a little out of sync. Skip dinner in the restaurant and order room service: huge sandwiches piled with roasted, olive-oil-glossed vegetables, avocado and apples. Then sit by the fire looking out at that surreal landscape before clambering up to the high, dark-wood bed. You’ll sleep well, a reminder that fresh air and wild surroundings are the ultimate replenishment for tired spirits.