Carmel Valley Ranch is a beautiful family playground located in the sunniest spot in of the Monterey Peninsula. The enormous property is just minutes away from Carmel-by-the-Sea and about 15 minutes from Monterey. We take an annual trip to the area, and this is—by far— one of our favorite destination because there is so much to do for both children and adults. Carmel Valley Ranch is extremely family and pet-friendly. Adults will enjoy the award-winning golf course, spa, fitness classes and restaurant.
Our family stayed in the Hilltop Suite. These rooms are perfect for a family of four because it has a separate bedroom and living room with a long hallway in between— so there is ample privacy. The living room contains a pull-out bed, the bathrooms are enormous and have a huge shower and separate bath tub. Carmel Valley Ranch always supplies amazing bath products made with lavender grown at the resort. And suites also contain refrigerators for kids’ snacks.
There are more than enough activities for families to enjoy during even a week-long visit. Megan, the Activities Director, is so helpful and will assist you in planning your days suited for your family. My daughter and I opted not to leave during our most recent visit. Parents who want to have a special night out can leave children at the kid’s club from 6 to 10 pm.
The hotel restaurant has amazing offerings for foodies but they are also very accommodating for children. The children’s menu is much healthier than your average fair. My son enjoyed the catch of the day which was a beautiful piece of salmon with a side of fresh vegetables from the organic garden. The hotel has several fire pits and offers S’mores at the lodge each night from 6 to 10 pm. Skip dessert at dinner.
There are two gyms and many exercise classes – yoga, TRX, core, spin, etc. I loved the larger gym that had everything I could dream of – free weights, machines, spin bikes, etc. This is a great hotel for fitness buffs because you can swim in the lap pool and run or hike on the trials. This property is also well-known for their swings that are sturdy enough for adults. There are so many enormous trees optimal for climbing, too, including a group up by the hotel’s stable that are very generous for young climbers. You will notice green stuff hanging from the trees – this is called “old man’s beard” and only grows in the cleanest air – the photos don’t do it justice. It is truly breathtaking.
The main pool, lap pool, and kiddie pool are heated and relaxing, and there is also a fountain in this area for children to run through. These water features and pools are by the casual restaurant, River Ranch. My kids loved this food.
Each morning Carmel Valley Ranch offers a guided nature hike. We also toured the organic fruit and vegetable garden and were able to eat right off the vine. The Little Lady loved eating the purple bell peppers. We went to a salt tasting in the salt house where we got to witness the formation of salt.
My favorite part of the stay was the Bee Experience. The resort has a contained beehive on the property guests can tour while wearing full bee keeper suits. My daughter has always been terrified of bees— in fact, her first nightmare was about bees. This experience gave her a better understanding of the insects and how to avoid antagonizing them. Did you know that, when aggravated, bees will fly towards your ears and eyes? This is their natural defense against bears and other animals that are after their honey. As such, you should cover your ears and look down when an angry bee is bothering you. I was so proud of her for going through with this experience. Below are photos of me and my daughter enjoying the bees. They sell honey in the lodge that is harvested by the beekeeper, John, who gives the tours. This experience may sound scary but it actually feels very safe.
The new stables offer trail rides, and my amateur riders were 100% comfortable going on a 45 minute trail ride with very competent staff leading ever the beginner rider. The group we were with included someone who has never been on a horse, and she was also very happy. The trail guides are very nice and patient and stop at a vantage point to take your photo.
Carmel Valley Ranch is feels like no other vacation because its offerings are so unique. Its setting is spectacular, offering some of the best aspects of an inland Northern California experience.