The Post Ranch Inn, Big Sur, California

 Post Ranch InnStunning and dramatic from the moment you veer off California State Highway 1, the Post Ranch Inn has a sense of place and spirit attracting those who want to strike out on their own. when it comes to a free-form spa experience.

Symbolizing the independent, spiritual side of the spa experience, with more emphasis on individual needs rather than a structured program, the Post Ranch Inn, rich in history but avant garde in design, beckons those who are receptive to the essence of the spa experience without the benefit of a state-of-the-art megagym or a ready staff to serve every need. This spa reflects nonconformity, and it works harmoniously with those who march to a different drummer.

When you check in, you leave your television, car, and cell phone behind. Your car is whisked away upon arrival, and after a few days you may never want to see it again. Replace all that civilization has wrought with the dramatic majesty of the Big Sur’s rugged coastline, studded with redwood trees and framed by mountains.

Put yourself in this picture, and you are at the threshold of one of North America’s stellar resort destinations, a totally controlled environment where you can contemplate, meditate, and challenge yourself spiritually and physically, in the lap of luxury. This is definitely a no-stress zone, and those who want to be alone with their thoughts or their partner will find the ambience made to order. Designed to take advantage of views that overwhelm and ultimately calm, the infinite boundary of the Pacific Ocean sets the stage for spa treatments that transcend the ordinary South on Highway 1 about twenty minutes from the Post Ranch Inn is the Esalen Insititute, a retreat center known for its educational offerings on personal growth The Post Ranch Inn has therapists schooled there who are on the cutting edge of bodywork and massage. All of this positive energy has led the Post Ranch Inn to offer two-night theme programs throughout the year, such as the Outdoor Inspiration, and to implement more New Age treatments, such as spa-tested crystal and gem.

The goal of this 90-minute treatment is to clear blocked energy; the therapist uses smooth Big Sur jade and other carefully selected gemstones that are positioned on the seven chakras. For those who are intrepid and who are willing to go beyond chocolate scrubs and blueberry facials, there are specialized therapies: craniosacral, reiki, reflexology, and Thai massage.

Post Ranch Inn treatments, including some facials, can be done in guest rooms, even if it means bringing it all to a tree house! Cuisine, though not specifically conforming to strict guidelines, is inventive and fresh.

Some call the Post Ranch Inn nirvana. It’s a protective perch jutting above the Pacific Ocean, where a fortunate few enjoy their days and evenings with their heart’s desires: a quiet hike, steeping in the basking pool, or simply chilling out. And the day doesn’t end with a magical sunset. Enhancing this romantic spa rendezvous is nightly stargazing with the resort’s amateur astronomer.