South of Sycamore Canyon, roughly three miles from the heart of Big Sur village, Hwy-1 passes between two of California’s most deluxe small resorts. The larger of the two, Ventana Inn & Spa (831/667-2331 or 800/628-6500, $600 and up), covers 243 acres of Big Sur foothills and offers saunas, swimming pools, and four-star accommodations in 1970s-style cedar-paneled rooms and cabins. There’s also a fine restaurant, with incredible views and reasonable prices, to which guests are ferried in a fleet of electric carts.

Completed in 1992 and directly across Hwy-1 from Ventana, the Post Ranch Inn (831/667-2200 or 800/527-2200, $875 and up), a low-impact but ultra-high-style luxury resort hanging high above the Big Sur coast, is at the forefront of luxury ecotourism. In order to preserve Big Sur’s untarnished natural beauty, the Post Ranch Inn is designed to be virtually invisible from land or sea. The 39 guest rooms and one private house—all featuring a king-size bed and a whirlpool bath with built-in massage table—blend in with the landscape, disguised either as playful tree houses raised up in the branches of the oaks and pines or as underground cabins carved into the cliff top. The Post Ranch restaurant, Sierra Mar, is also excellent.

Map of Pacific Coast through California's Central Coast.
Map of Pacific Coast through California’s Central Coast.