Portola Hotel & Spa © Portola Hotel & Spa
There’s something civilized about the Monterey Bay area. It’s a combination of sea breezes, healthy cuisine, a respect for the environment and locals who seem comfortable in their own skin. A great base of operations for enjoying the area is the Portola Hotel & Spa, set against the picturesque backdrop of the bay. During the last several years, the four-diamond hotel has accomplished renovations to the tune of $8 million.
Guests staying at the Portola will never feel as if they are trapped in their hotel and cut off from their surroundings. The hotel is steps from Monterey’s lively Fisherman’s Wharf and it’s a short stroll along the shore to Cannery Row. There are plenty of dining options, with seafood being prevalent on most menus. A local specialty is abalone, which is farmed commercially at the Abalone Farm on Wharf 2, within sight of the hotel.
The Portola is proud of its Silver LEED Certification; it was the first Green Hotel in central California. The property has a history of supporting the environment and is continually fine-tuning its operation to leave the lightest footprint possible.
“The fact that we’re a LEED certification hotel is an especially significant factor for groups,” said Monty Deemer, the hotel’s director of sales.
The hotel has 379 guestrooms and suites. Rooms with the best harbor views are on the fifth and sixth floors. Guests can pre-book by category, but are unable to book specific room numbers in advance. I stayed in one of the hotel’s harbor-view rooms. Features I liked were the slatted wooden blinds; the compact balcony affording sea views; the minimal and masculine interior design with lots of wood and natural fabrics; the in-room fridge (not a minibar); and the Keurig coffee maker with a generous supply of complimentary Paul Newman coffee. I especially enjoyed waking to the sounds of sea birds and the barking of harbor seals in the bay.
Overnight guests have access to the hotel’s spa and fitness facilities, complete with a steam room, a sauna, an outdoor pool and a Jacuzzi. The 6,000-square-foot facility has 10 treatment rooms and a spa menu of more than 30 treatments.
“The signature treatment in the spa is the warm stone treatment,” said Deemer. “Guests can book spa appointments in advance of arrival through the hotel spa desk.”
Brew With a View
Portola is the home of two on-site eateries; Jacks Restaurant & Lounge is a spacious, full-service, three-meal restaurant and lounge, and Peter B’s Brewpub is Monterey’s only craft brewery. Breakfast at Jacks will run you $18.95, but for that price you’ll chow down at an excellent breakfast buffet, with such items as homemade sausage and muffins, an omelet station, bottomless mimosas and Bloody Mary’s, and the option to order a la carte waffles, French Toast and pancakes. If you’re looking for an intimate dining experience at Jack’s, opt for one of the side booths against the wall.
Beer aficionados will appreciate the onsite brewery at Portola’s Peter B’s Brewpub, featuring whimsically named libations such as Belly Up Blonde and Stout Resistance. A testament to the venues popularity is the fact that almost all of the beer is consumed on premises. If you’re a lucky guest, you may be visiting during one of the monthly brew pairing dinners. These are popular with locals and are usually capped at 38 to 40 guests. For a very reasonable $45 diners receive a four course meal paired with four brews and featuring dishes created by Chef Jason Giles. I was especially struck by a pairing of 40 Acre Pale Ale with a Rouge Salad (composed of roasted beets and crispy red onions dressed with India Pale Ale vinaigrette). The 40 Acre Pale Ale had a unique pine aroma, which brewer Kevin Clark explained as, “I made this ale to evoke the countryside where I grew up, with pine trees, BB guns and dogs.”
The green ethos at the Portola even extends to how they dispose of the leftover hops and grain at the brewery; it’s used as feed for local cattle and is also transformed into healthy dog treats. The Portola Hotel & Spa is a pet-friendly property. This even applies to both restaurants, with each having pet-friendly patios.
“Approximately 80 percent of our guests are self drive from the Bay area, with the remaining being fly-ins,” said Deemer. “Almost all of our fly-in guests rent a car to take advantage of the scenic drive on the Pacific Coast Highway, with most of them opting for the southern route that takes them through the magnificent scenery of Big Sur.”
Interested travel agents are invited to reach out to the property since the Portola extends special rates to agents at typically 50 percent off.
When it was time for me to end my completely relaxing stay at the Portola, and to set off down the PCH toward Los Angeles, I was reminded of the words of Monterey’s favorite son, John Steinbeck, who wrote in his novel Cannery Row — “Being at ease with himself put him at ease with the world.”