Photography by Yuri Krasov
Hyatt Regency Monterey Hotel and Spa on Del Monte Golf Course, just a couple hours drive from San Francisco, is actually on the golf course, so it’s practically a gigantic golf club with swimming pools and fire pits, luxurious Accista Spa and Stay Fit 24-hour fitness center, and even Monterey Bay Racquet Club. There, you can get a free rental racquet and get a lesson from the tennis director Hans Roemer who teaches the noble sport to hotel guests and their offspring daily.
The said hotel guests reside in dozens of little buildings scattered in the vicinity of the 17th and 18th holes, and to get from building #1 to building #20 takes a power walk, or you can catch a ride to your destination in a golf cart driven by a polite hotel staffer.
Turn away from the front desk upon check-in, and you hit Knuckles Sports Bar, where the walls are made of recycled materials from basketball courts and bleachers; all TV screens are tuned to various games; and you can pour beer from the taps right on your table. I could’ve guessed the theme from the address at Old Golf Course Road, but until I’ve seen it with my own eyes, I couldn’t have imagined the magnitude of Hyatt Monterey.
Recently renovated to an astounding grandeur, Monterey’s largest conference hotel has 550 guest rooms, 40 000 sq. feet of multi-use function areas and lots of green open spaces that even include a dog-walking trail. Hyatt Regency Monterey is a pet-friendly hotel, and dogs on a leash are as common a sight here as men in business suits, heading for a meeting room or families with children playing ping-pong or grilling marshmallows by a fire pit.
There is plenty to do and enjoy here even for a non-sports cat person, as I have discovered on my walk around the campus.
First, I found a cat house built specifically for a stray that used to hang around for occasional food handouts, but eventually got his own residence here. His name is Tiger; he is a well-fed tabby, and doesn’t mind some behind-the-ear scratching from a strange woman.
Second, I signed up for a massage at the spanking new Accista Spa. It’s a gorgeous modern facility with plush relaxation rooms, soothing music, and assortment of teas, nuts, and fresh berries to keep you serene but energized. The spa employs wonderful masseuses who use aromatherapy oils from Ajne organic parfumerie and apothecary in the neighboring Carmel-by-the-Sea. I so enjoyed my pine-and-lime massage oil that the next day my husband and I took a little side trip to the Ajne store for some highly individualized perfume. Every scent is selected here for each customer based on character traits questionnaire administered by the husband-and-wife Ajne team – Jane Hendler, president and organic perfumer and Rex Rombach – creative director and distiller.
Third, I made a dinner reservation at the hotel’s fine dining TusCa Ristorante, where chef de cuisine Johnny de Vivo serves some mean cured meats, fruit de mar with locally-caught fish, and blood orange caramel dessert among other Tuscan-California delicacies. After dinner, we stayed a while at the Fireplace Lounge in front of the restaurant, where a singer was performing Cole Porter classics, accompanied by a live band.
Bright and early next morning we started for the Big Sur coastline. The air was filled with ocean breeze; the water was azure, and wild irises; California poppies and miniature succulents were blossoming on the cliffs above the Pacific. We headed for the Big Sur Coast Gallery and Café with its impressive collection of the contemporary American art. The Gallery occupies two recycled water tanks made of seasoned redwood planks. Round windows, narrow staircases and a cute little patio adorned with light-weight hanging art pieces, add to the appeal of the glass, metal, ceramic, painting and photography collection that makes the Coast Gallery a not-to-be-missed stop along California Highway One. White marble contemporary sculptures grace the entrance to the gallery.
Café tables hide under red umbrellas on the roof of a tank. With the recent renovation and reopening, the café is geared toward serving seasonal local and organic produce. Suffice it to say that a charcuterie board prepped by the chef/manager Matthew Farmer on the day we lunched, contained California-grown caper berries and quince jelly; Red Hawk, Mt. Tam, St. Pat, and Humbolt Fog cheeses from the famed Cowgirl Creamery; and Fra’ Mani salami from Berkeley.
That night, we dined at Pacific’s Edge at Hyatt Carmel Highlands. The restaurant has a comprehensive wine list and serves abundant and well-executed fresh seafood dishes, yet it is best known for its views. Overlooking the Pacific, its floor-to-ceiling windows grant the best sunset views from every seat in the dining room. If you think yourself lucky for getting a table right by the window, prepare for a sunset invasion with flashing cameras. There is always a moment in the nightly ritual when most diners jump to their feet and run to the glass wall for that perfect shot of a Pacific sunset.