For an escape from an all-systems-go lifestyle, consider the beach. Not for the bustle of the boardwalk, but for the seaside calm and a state of contentment. That’s the appeal of Carmel and Big Sur, with casually elegant, cortisol-calming experiences. First stop: L’Auberge Carmel (room rates from $509 per night, laubergecarmel.com), a 20-room hotel amid downtown’s art galleries and boutiques, close to Carmel Beach. Dating to 1926, L’Auberge’s stucco exteriors look straight out of the French countryside. Interiors mix elegant fabrics and antiques with flat-panel TVs and tablets for concierge service. Cocoon here for dinner at one-Michelin- starred Aubergine restaurant ($185 per person, wine pairings $155). Eight courses might include salmon, leek and nasturtium pesto with a rosé of cabernet franc 2018 Thibaud Boudignon; or lobster, shiro dashi and fava paired with a 2016 Louis Michel Vaudesir Grand Cru Chablis. For seclusion, try the Post Ranch Inn (room rates from $1,005 per night, postranchinn.com) on 100 acres in Big Sur; the inn is a cantilevered marvel on the Monterey Coast. Some of architect Mickey Muennig’s guest rooms feature oceanfront views and grass roofs, while others are on stilts in the redwoods (none of the 41 units has a TV). At Sierra Mar restaurant, reached via a footpath and stairs in the redwoods, prix fixe menus (lunch $75, dinner $125; wine pairings $57 and $95, respectively) might include Violini Farms asparagus with nasturtium gremolata and Meyer lemon, or black cod with Hakurei turnip, eggplant and shiso. Postmeal, soak in a blufftop hot tub 1,600 feet above the rhythmic surf of the Pacific—a perfect sensorial reverie.
Photography by: PHOTO BY KODIAK GREENWOOD