Post Ranch Inn, Big Sur, Calif.
Most visitors to Big Sur simply pass through while cruising California’s Highway 1, resigned to experience the region from turnouts in the road. But this Central Coast expanse of state parks and steep cliffs plunging into the Pacific requires more than a rest-stop review. For the ultimate Big Sur experience, there is no better base than the bluff-top resort the Post family opened in 1992 on the westernmost edge of their 1,500-acre ranch. Guests of the Post Ranch Inn behold views of a never-ending horizon from 39 rooms and two private homes built according to principles of organic architecture. The buildings’ shapes mimic the coastline, maximizing the vistas and blending with the property’s wild splendor. Among California chaparral and mature oak trees, small heated pools perched on the edge of the 1,000-plus-foot cliffs are perfect vantages for watching the sunset. Breakfasts bring the chance to spot passing whale pods, while dinners, thanks to the restaurant’s powerful telescope, are opportunities to view oft-obscured constellations and nebulae. ($550–$2,300, including breakfast) www.postranchinn.com