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Back in the day, Monterey, Calif., was known for providing inspiration for some of John Steinbeck’s greatest stories, as well as for the annual Monterey Jazz Festival (now in its 56th year). Years ago, this weekend getaway for Californians was served by the Mark Thomas Hotel, a quaint motor lodge on Highway 1, at the start of the famous 17-Mile Drive.
Today, Monterey is an internationally known tourist destination that boasts a world-class aquarium (the Monterey Bay Aquarium), world-famous golf resorts (Pebble Beach) and a world-renowned wine region (some say Carmel Valley is what Napa Valley was in its glory days). Built in 1969, on the site of the old Mark Thomas Hotel and retaining one of the original buildings, the Hyatt Regency Monterey Hotel and Spa is a luxurious full-service resort for modern-day Monterey.
Recently transformed by a massive multimillion-dollar renovation, the Hyatt Regency Monterey, the largest property on the peninsula, succeeds in being many things to many guests, and provides visitors with an ideal base from which to explore California’s stunning Central Coast.
Relax and Hang Out
On a recent visit to the property, the results of the renovation were obvious as soon as I stepped inside. The property’s renovated lobby felt fresh and modern, with natural earth tones and wood and stone accents. The new centerpiece is the Fireplace Lounge, a large fireplace with cozy sofas surrounding it on all sides, begging guests to settle in with a good book or a favorite cocktail. The lobby also features a coffee bar and — in case you forget that you’re in the heart of wine country — a retail wine shop that hosts tastings of local labels.
Just off the lobby, TusCA Ristorante is the main dining room for the property. The restaurant specializes in combining Tuscan and Californian cuisine presented in a sophisticated setting. In addition, the restaurant features a special organic kids’ menu designed by world-famous chef Alice Waters highlighting food from local farms. My dinner there was delicious, but I found the restaurant to be especially great for breakfast, when light came streaming in the large floor-to-ceiling windows.
Also off the lobby is the cleverly designed Knuckles Sports Bar, which takes advantage of recycled wood from old gymnasiums and stadium seats and bleachers to accent the walls and give it an authentic sports feel. Knuckles serves drinks and snacks, and it’s an especially popular hangout on weekend nights.
Something for Everyone
The 550 guestrooms, which include 32 suites and the four-bedroom President’s House, have been renovated as well, and are scattered throughout the 22-acre resort in mostly two-story buildings. The rooms are contemporary and comfortable and feature flat-screen plasma televisions, the Hyatt Grand Bed and walk-in rain showers. My first-floor guestroom had a great patio area where I could sit and watch golfers tee off on the resort’s course.
The next phase of renovations, which should be completed soon, will include new in-room technology and updated furnishings.
The resort’s amenities truly make it ideal for just about every type of guest. There are two heated pools that kids will love — as well as quieter, tucked-away Jacuzzis and firepits that are ideal for snuggling couples.
There’s also a fitness center, a large racquet club and a bike and hike outfitter on property for those who want to be active. However, not to be overlooked is the Accista Spa —featuring unique local products custom formulated for each guest — for those who are looking to be pampered.
One of the hotel’s main attractions is the Pebble Beach Company’s Championship Del Monte Golf Course, the oldest course west of the Mississippi. While it’s not on the coast like its more famous cousin at Pebble Beach, the Del Monte course has a parkland layout reminiscent of many of Pebble’s holes. It’s well-maintained and challenging — for a fraction of the price of playing Pebble.
Families and Groups
Monterey is especially popular as a summer getaway, and the Hyatt Regency will not disappoint when it comes to families. In addition to the many on-property activities, the resort, in conjunction with Big Sur Guides and Hiking, hosts daily nature walks along the coastline that are perfect for families. The hikes start at the beach, just a 10-minute drive from the hotel, and last for about an hour. The price is $20 per person and children under 12 years old are free. If clients are interested in a different excursion, Big Sur Guides and Hiking offers a whole range of options on its website.
The next big project for the Hyatt is a complete renovation of its ballroom and event space, scheduled to be completed this June. The theme of the new space is “Land, Edge, Sea,” which refers to the description of the Monterey Coast by painter Francis McComas as “the greatest meeting of land and sea.” The new Monterey Ballroom and Monterey Conference Center will be the biggest conference facility between San Francisco and Los Angeles, including indoor/outdoor space, expanded pre-function space, a wide range of new technology and more.
Whether clients are families, business travelers, couples or groups, the Hyatt Regency Monterey Hotel and Spa provides a sure-to-please resort for all guests as they explore one of the most intriguing and beautiful settings in the world.
Big Sur Guides and Hikingwww.bigsurguides.com
Hyatt Regency Monterey Hotel and Spawww.monterey.hyatt.com