Lucia restaurant terrace at Bernardus Lodge & Spa
Mention of Carmel likely brings to mind the storybook cottages and sandy beaches of “Carmel-by-the-Sea.” But there’s another Carmel that deserves equal billing. It’s the version that is warmed by a sun that often evades its coastal cousin. It’s the Carmel that features hiking and biking trails, championship golf courses, working ranches, a 4,000-acre regional park, and award-winning Bernardus Lodge & Spa, the region’s most gracious hospitality option.
Bernardus Lodge & Spa entry
Bernardus Lodge & Spa lobby
Located in the heart of inland Carmel Valley and surrounded by the spectacular Santa Lucia Mountains, Bernardus is a lavender and grape vine-studded haven. The Forbes Travel Guide twelve-star establishment features everything one might require for a luxuriant and relaxing getaway: a sumptuous spa, a fitness room, an expansive 10,000 sq. foot bocce lawn, heated pool and two hot tubs, destination restaurant, verdant gardens in which to stroll, and fire-warmed nooks in which to nestle. Even after several stays over the years, I continue to find something new each visit, like the cozy, tree-hanging hammock tucked within a shaded corner, or the charming children’s garden where wee guests have sown varied vegetable seeds.
Bernardus Lodge & Spa suite terrace
More than 20 Central Coast wineries and wine tasting rooms are a hop and a skip away. Garland Ranch Regional Park, a favored hiking spot for all levels, is directly adjacent. And Refuge, a two-acre water park of thalassotherapy pools is just down the road. Yet once on the Bernardus property, guests find little reason to venture forth. A warm greeting begins at check-in with an offer of a glass of Provencal-made Bernardus Rosé, and continues with gratis in-room snacks and beverages and turn-down chocolates—simple yet generous gestures that truly make a welcoming difference.
Bernardus’ 73 large rooms and suites are luxuriously equipped to please even the most pampered traveler. Scattered throughout the property and overlooking either the main pool, the central bocce and croquet lawn, or the rose and chef’s gardens, each is the epitome of ranch house chic featuring refined décor, comfy furnishings, and heated bathroom floors—a highly underestimated indulgence. The resort’s villas are the choice for those seeking a little more living space. Plus, they provide quick access to the adults-only infinity whirlpool and fire pit with mountain and vineyard views. At 1050 and 2100 square feet, these deluxe quarters feature vaulted ceilings, French doors, large master baths with free-standing hammered copper soaking tubs, al fresco showers, double sided fireplaces, and fully furnished private patios with fire pits.
Bernardus Lodge & Spa guest room
Bernardus Lodge & Spa villa bathroom
On-site Lucia restaurant alone is worth a visit. Its all-season, al fresco dining terrace is an enchanting spot in which to dine, as is the chandeliered main dining room. Long under the purview of founding chef Cal Stamenov, Lucia enters a new era with Executive Chef Christian Ojeda, formerly of Montage Deer Valley Resort. Ojeda’s style is progressive, with a fresh take on classics which he infuses with local, seasonal influences. Many of his ingredients, such as Meyer lemons and fresh herbs, come directly from the restaurant’s two-acre organic garden and some dishes feature honey gathered from the property’s apiary program that features Italian honey bees. And with a 15,000 bottle wine cellar and a garden-to-glass craft cocktail program, guests are sure to find the perfect aperitif and wine pairing.
Lucia restaurant terrace and dining room
For further pampering, don’t miss The Spa at Bernardus, offering an in-depth, individualized approach to wellness. Indulgent treatments are infused with botanical ingredients, many culled from the local vineyards and on-site gardens. Before or after your treatment, enjoy the spa’s private warming pool, or pull up a chaise near the larger pool that overlooks the bocce courts and outdoor terrace. And don’t miss the spa boutique’s great assortment of clothing and gifts, particularly the line of eye-catching women’s swimsuits, made expressly for the resort.
The Spa at Bernardus warming pool
Finally, one of Bernardus’ most charming features is its staff. It’s no secret that the hospitality industry has suffered a bit in recent years; staffing has been an issue worldwide. But Bernardus has been successful in maintaining its longtime team. Many employees have been with the resort 20, 15, and 10 years, creating a family like atmosphere where every guest is made to feel welcome and appreciated.
Bernardus Lodge & Spa celebrates 25 years in 2024! Look for a variety of upcoming festive food and beverage programs that will mark the grand occasion.
Photos courtesy of Bernardus Lodge & Spa