Post Ranch Inn

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 30 September, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 30 September, 2003, 12:00am

Where? On the cliffs of Big Sur, near Monterey in northern California.

Sounds rather rugged? Offering the perfect antidote to urban overload, this 30-room retreat was promptly named one of the world's finest by Conde Nast Traveller and Travel + Leisure magazines after it opened in 1992.

What's the big deal? Firstly, it's seriously spoiling. Secondly, it's ultra low-key: no coach tours, noisy cocktail bars or golfers in vile V-necks. And thirdly, the organic wood and glass architecture echoes the coastline in a funky, Frank Lloyd Wright way.

It's eco-friendly, then? Guests can choose from a variety of 'green' rooms at the Post Ranch Inn, including three-metre-high Treehouses, Ocean cottages with vertiginous seascapes, Mountain lodges with circular rooms, and family-friendly duplexes.

What's the decor like? Rustic Americana with a hint of Ralph Lauren. Rooms have wood-panelled walls, slate floors, fireplaces, leather chairs, denim duvets and native American art. Hot tubs and stereos are standard, but televisions are a definite no-no.

Any interesting details? Cushy bathrobes, soap wrapped with straw ties and glossy meditation stones. There's also a pull-out massage table for treatments including LA stone therapy, reiki and reflexology.

Sounds like Nirvana for hippie chicks? In addition to yoga in a Mongolian-style yurt and meditation jags before a crackling fire, there also is also tarot card readings, star-gazing, tai chi and qigong.

What about hydrotherapy? Guests can relax achy muscles in the cliff-side basking pool, or swim in the lap pool.

Who goes there? Actors Gwyneth Paltrow, Brad Pitt, Claudia Schiffer, Robert Redford and Ashley Judd have all spent the night, while Clint Eastwood, Elisabeth Shue, Ted Turner and Jane Fonda have stayed for dinner.

The food must be awesome? Perched 300 metres above the sea, the Sierra Mar restaurant combines jaw-dropping views with award-winning cuisine (regional Californian with a sprinkling of Pacific Rim), and 400 types of wine.

Rooms start at US$675 a night. Highway 1, PO Box 219, Big Sur, CA 93920 (Monterey County). Tel: 408 667 2200;