Ultimate Girls Getaway
There are endless ways to relax and reset with your girlfriends in Monterey County, whether it’s your BFF’s birthday, a pre-wedding weekend, or a get-together with your college besties. Monterey is, after all, the setting for TV’s homage to female friendship, HBO’s Big Little Lies, with many scenes shot at local landmarks. You and your friends can walk on the beach, pamper yourself with spa treatments, sip wine on a private sailboat charter and indulge in some power shopping. At the end of the day, your only difficult decision is where to have yet another memorable dinner.
Carmel Valley Ranch can be your perfect home away from home, particularly its Vineyard Suites, replete with hot tubs. You can connect up to four suites to accommodate your group. (Slumber party!)
Big Sur’s Scenic Drama
Start your getaway with a drive south on Highway 1 to Garrapata State Park. (There’s only one sign pointing to this nearly 3,000-acre park, so keep an eye out.) Visitors come here to hike the inland trails for their ocean vistas and walk along the coastline known for its big, crashing waves—the ones often seen in Big Little Lies.
Continue another 25 miles to Nepenthe, the iconic Big Sur ridge-top restaurant with one-of-a-kind views down the coast. Order a line-caught albacore tuna sandwich or the famous Ambrosia burger. After lunch, cross the highway to Ventana Big Sur for an afternoon at Spa Alila. Ease your muscles with a two-hour herbal poultice massage (with eucalyptus, pine, sage and lavender) or a full-body Javanese coffee scrub followed by a purifying facial.
Make your way back to Carmel Valley for dinner at Lucia, Bernardus Lodge’s renowned French-inspired restaurant. Chef Cal Stamenov, who studied under Alain Ducasse, harvests flavorful vegetables and herbs from the lodge’s garden to use in dishes such as citrus-and-chicories salad and prime angus filet with mustard greens.
Gather the girls and head to another familiar Big Little Lies site, Monterey’s Del Monte Beach. This is where Nicole Kidman’s character escaped to a beachfront apartment and where Shailene Woodley’s character likes to run. Don’t worry—you needn’t break a sweat as you stroll along the boardwalk lined with benches and picnic tables where you can sit and watch the surf. From here you can see the Old Fisherman’s Wharf, where you’ll be stopping for lunch. Walk or drive the two miles to Paluca Trattoria, otherwise known as Blue Blues Cafe, where Reese Witherspoon, Kidman and Woodley’s characters meet for coffee or lunch on the outdoor patio. In addition to wharf favorites like clam chowder and calamari, Paluca serves hearty Italian favorites, such as lobster ravioli and Sicilian prawns.
After lunch, pick up the Monterey Bay Coastal Recreation Trail as it runs by the wharf. This is a popular pathway for walkers, joggers and casual cyclists, and it’s the best way to see this stretch of the Monterey Peninsula. (Altogether, the trail stretches 18 miles, from Castroville in the north to Pacific Grove in the south.) Across from the wharf, you can rent a bike or large surrey for your group at Adventures by the Sea, then follow the pathway to scenic Lovers Point.
Or you can visit the world-famous Monterey Bay Aquarium, followed by a visit to Point Pinos Lighthouse in Pacific Grove, the longest continuously operating lighthouse on the West Coast. Plan for dinner at nearby Passionfish, a local favorite with creative seafood dishes and an emphasis on sustainable ingredients.
Sail, Spa and Happy Hour
For a different vantage point of the bay and its wildlife, take a two-hour private cruise with Sail Monterey, where you and your friends will have the boat to yourselves. Enjoy the peacefulness of touring the Monterey Bay under sail power. You’ll pass sea otters, sea lions, dolphins—and occasionally whales. Your captain will share knowledge of the bay and its wildlife as you head two miles offshore with the coast slowly disappearing behind you.
Alternatively, you can spend the morning at Cannery Row’s Vista Blue Spa, which has just undergone a major renovation. Located on the penthouse floor of the Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa, Vista Blue offers a number of treatments and massages, plus a rooftop sundeck with two Jacuzzis overlooking the bay. For a true splurge, book the two-hour private spa suite, with a fireside bath and private balcony.
Afterward, enjoy lunch in Carmel-by-the-Sea, where you can also shop at galleries and boutiques around Ocean Avenue. At day’s end, meet your guide from Carmel Food Tours for a two-hour Happy Hour excursion. The tour takes you to three or four of the best local bars and restaurants for wine and cocktail tastings, plus small bites.
Dinner is a short walk away at Vesuvio, a favorite with the locals for its lively rooftop patio with heaters and a fire pit. The menu features southern Italian specialties and Italian-Asian sushi (like tuna roll with garlic bread chips).
Extend Your Stay
Carmel Valley Delights
A few days on the Monterey Peninsula is never enough. If you can spend more time, check into Quail Lodge & Golf Club, where all of the rooms have patios or balconies, and the suites have fireplaces. The 18-hole golf course is known for its immaculate greens, and there are plenty of other activities available—bocce, tennis, pickleball and a heated outdoor pool. Or book a suite at Bernardus Lodge, with amenities like soaking tubs, fireplaces and indoor and outdoor showers. Enjoy a game of croquet, bocce, or tennis, then unwind around one of the many fire pits or in the adults-only hilltop infinity Jacuzzi.
Take time for a rejuvenating morning at Refuge, Carmel Valley’s tranquil European-style thermal-water sanctuary. The “cycles” of warming up before a cold plunge is a centuries-old tradition touted for its beneficial health effects. Afterward, relax in front of the fire pit or in one of the six heated pools with waterfalls.
Spend an afternoon (or two) wine tasting in the valley, known for producing excellent chardonnays and pinot noirs. Be sure to appoint a designated driver, and don’t miss Folktale Winery & Vineyards on Carmel Valley Road or Bernardus Winery in the village. While there, stop in at one of several artist galleries, including Patricia Qualls, Rolf Lygren and Barbara Codd.