Monterey Offers Travelers Elite Hotels

The view of Big Sur country from the Hyatt Carmel Highlands unveils the spectacular Pacific.

John Scott Lewinskiby John Scott Lewinski

With the Monterey Bike Week fast approaching, it’s a good time to take a look at three of the top hotels in the area.

The Clement Monterey (the bay’s Intercontinental Hotel along historic Cannery Row), The Hyatt Regency Monterey Hotel and Spa (a short distance inland alongside Del Monte Golf Course) and the Highlands Inn (another Hyatt property in Carmel by the Sea).

The Clement resides in the footprint of the huge canneries that gave the street its name. The one-time stomping ground of literary great John Steinbeck along the Monterey Bay waterfront is now a tourist hotbed and home to the elite Monterey Bay Aquarium.

The Intercontinental property reaches across Cannery Row – with the hotel reception, C Restaurant and Bar and guest rooms on the bay side, and more guest rooms, spa and fitness center across a bridge on the city side of The Row.

I got to enjoy a very comfortable room on that city end with a balcony overlooking the bustling Cannery District below. Sardines and anchovies swim freely there now, but the area now swarms with people enjoying top shelf steak houses like The Sardine House and The Whaling Station.

Clement room rates start around $200 per night, but they’ll cruise higher during peak periods like Bike Week around the AMA Motocross event at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.

A short drive inland, The Hyatt Regency Monterey Hotel and Spa is a sprawling, recently renovated property tucked in alongside the popular Del Monte links. It holds more rooms (550) in its multi-building complex than any other hotel in the Monterey Bay Area. My suite was spacious, warmly appointed and quiet – hiding away in pine-studded woods.

I had a chance to work out a traveler’s kinks at the Accista Spa with their namesake massage. The property includes multiple pools, a large fitness center, ample meeting space and the gourmet TusCA Ristorante and casual Fireplace Lounge. But my favorite stop was the Knuckles Sports Bar with the best menu I’ve ever seen for a ballgame HQ with wild boar ribs and hot dogs made of Kobe beef.

Depending on the season, rooms at the Hyatt start around $125, but the luxury is worth the price.

The Highlands Inn in Carmel offers up one of the more impressive  natural views you’re likely to find at any American hotel. High atop the Big Sur cliffs, blue Pacific waters, rugged cliffs and quiet tidal pools. Add the perfect, sunny but cool Big Sur weather and you’ll find yourself in an idyllic atmosphere you won’t want to leave – even to visit the nearby quaint village that is Carmel.

A lodge was first built on the site in the rugged early 1900s, the Highlands now includes the Pacific Edge Restaurant. With a menu built on local cuisine culled from regional ingredients, the AAA 4-Star Pacific Edge is a local meeting point for all Montery Bay gourmands. Local winemakers and farmers come into the restaurant regularly to show off their wares in dishes prepared by the chef staff.

The only potential problem with the Highlands is its average room rate of about $450 a night. That’s out of the reach for most Monterey tourists – or bike week visitors. But the Highlands is worthy of “once in a lifetime” stay status.