A short drive from Carmel-by-the-Sea and the lovely Monterey Peninsula sits the Carmel Valley Ranch, a luxurious place to stay along the California coast, surrounded by 500 acres of country estate.

This is a hotel dedicated to leisure time, with world class golf courses, hundreds of miles of hiking trails, vineyards, swimming pools, and mountain top yoga all within easy reach of guest's luxurious suites - and that's just for the adults. The little ones will be entertained (and educated) at the Carmel Valley Ranch Kids and Teens clubs, where activities range from arts and crafts, to hiking.

There are 139 spacious suites, including villas with multiple suites that are perfect for families. All the rooms have fireplaces, flat screen TVs, iPod docks, Body Bliss bath products and Keurig coffeemakers. The suites also feature a private deck and bathrooms with separate showers and soaking baths.

Executive Chef Tim Wood uses fresh produce from the Ranch's organic garden alongside the finest locally sourced seafood and delicious meat in the main Lodge restaurant, next to one of the hotel's pools, and Pinot Noir vineyard. Also by the pool is the more informal River Ranch Café for light lunches, snacks and drinks served within what was once a lovely 19th century farmhouse. Golfers playing the Carmel Valley Ranch golf course can also enjoy lighter meals and breakfast at the Clubhouse Grill, and given this is a region boasting 300 days of sunshine a year, chances are guests can eat on the large terrace here overlooking Carmel Valley itself.

Speaking of golf, it's one of the many activities on offer, alongside hiking several trails around the estate, tennis on the nine hotel courts, wine tastings in Carmel and Napa Valley, or even helping the estate beekeepers. Less exacting is a visit to the treetop Spa Aiyana with 11 treatment rooms, and therapies on offer from facials to aromatherapy massages, plus saunas and a gym.

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Ollie is our 'Carmel Valley Ranch' expert and as a seasoned traveller has the inside track on the most memorable adventures.