I recently took my mom to California, and the highlight of our trip was a three night stay at the Alila Ventana Big Sur.
I reviewed this hotel in great detail back in 2019, so this time around am only reviewing two specific aspects of the experience — in a previous post I reviewed the Big Sur Suite we stayed in, and in this post I wanted to review our dining experience at the hotel. The hotel became all-inclusive in 2020, and this applies even when redeeming points.

What’s included with Alila Ventana Big Sur stays?
With the Alila Ventana Big Sur’s all-inclusive rates, virtually all of your food and non-alcoholic drinks are included with the stay:
You can enjoy breakfast at Sur House or via in-room dining (7AM-11AM)
You can enjoy lunch poolside or via in-room dining (11AM-5PM)
You can enjoy dinner at Sur House or via in-room dining (5PM-9PM)
On top of that there are all kinds of snacking options — there are complimentary in-room snacks, there’s a complimentary cheese and charcuterie plate at the afternoon sunset hour, there’s a nightly s’mores experience, and there’s a late night snack menu
Note that when you book a stay, meals are included starting with dinner on the day you check-in until breakfast on the day you check-out. In other words, lunch is only included on days where you’re “staying over,” and not on your day of arrival or departure. However, you can always purchase lunch on either of those days if you’d like, including a to-go picnic option.
What’s not included with your stay?
The main thing not included at Alila Ventana Big Sur is alcoholic drinks. These need to be purchased, regardless of whether you’re enjoying them at a meal, or poolside.
There are a few other things potentially not included:
There’s a cute dog room service menu, which costs extra
The hotel offers picnic kits for $100 that are primarily intended to be enjoyed on your departure day, but which you can also get on a day where you’re staying over
There are some premium tours and activities that you can arrange as well for an extra cost
What about tipping?
According to the Alila Ventana’s website, a “daily gratuity” is included with the rate you pay:
“For your convenience, and to make your visit worry-free, a daily gratuity for our service team members will be added to your guest folio”
This comes in the form of a service charge that’s a percent of the room rate. While there’s no service charge when redeeming points, in theory the hotel is supposed to take care of this in the same way for those redeeming points as for others. So there shouldn’t be an obligation to tip.
Whenever you have a meal at the hotel (whether poolside, in a restaurant, or via in-room dining) you’re presented with a bill to sign with a $0 balance (or more if you ordered drinks), and there’s a line to add a gratuity.
Alila Ventana Big Sur $0 balance check
Personally I added ~$20 per meal. Why?
Staying here on points is such a spectacularly good value, and the service was generally excellent
The people at this hotel work hard and are friendly, and it has been a tough time for the hotel industry
So while I don’t think a tip is required or necessarily expected, personally I did tip a bit, though everyone can use their own judgment.
What are the menus like?
The Alila Ventana Big Sur publishes all menus online, so you can find them here:
What are the dining venues like?
In addition to in-room dining, breakfast and dinner are served at Sur House, while lunch is served poolside. For context, here’s a map of the property:

You can either walk to Sur House on a nice trail (it’s roughly 0.3 miles from the area of the property with rooms), or you can ask the staff to drive you in a golf cart. In addition to some indoor seating, Sur House has a heated tent set up, as well as some other seating with heat lamps.
Sur House outdoor seating
Sur House outdoor seating
Sur House outdoor seating
Sur House outdoor seating
Sur House outdoor seating
The tables at the front have particularly good views of the Pacific Ocean, so if you can snag one of them, I’d highly recommend it. My mom and I usually came here in the afternoon for sunset hour and played some games at one of the tables, and then had dinner, and we could always keep the same table.
Sur House outdoor seating
Sur House outdoor seating view
Sur House outdoor seating view
Then there’s Meadow Pool (apparently the other pool is clothing optional — little did I know!), which is the hotel’s main pool, where lunch is served. You can either be served food directly on a lounge chair, or they have about a half dozen tables set up.
Alila Ventana Big Sur Meadow Pool
Alila Ventana Big Sur Meadow Pool lunch seating
Are Sur House reservations required?
The Alila Ventana recommends making reservations for breakfast and dinner at Sur House ahead of time, given limited seating capacity. For what it’s worth:
We didn’t make reservations before our stay, but had no issue reserving the times we wanted upon check-in
That probably wasn’t even necessary, since the restaurant wasn’t ever anywhere close to full
Perhaps reservations are more important if you want to dine indoors given the very limited indoor capacity, but we wanted to sit outside, and it was quite pleasant with the heat lamps
I’d recommend dining earlier rather than later, since it gets significantly colder after sunset
Alila Ventana Big Sur dining review
Now let’s talk about the actual meals. We had two days of great weather and one day of rainy weather, so in the end:

We had breakfast in our room all three mornings (I like to work in the mornings, it was kind of cold in the mornings, and I generally tried to limit the amount my mom had to walk)
We had lunch one day at the pool and one day in our room (since it was rainy on our last full day)
We had dinner two days at Sur House and one day in our room (since it was rainy on our last full day)
Alila Ventana Big Sur breakfast
Breakfast is served daily from 7AM until 11AM, and the menu is the same in the room as in the restaurant (you can seemingly order whatever you want). Breakfast was always delivered within 30 minutes, and came on proper plates, though everything was in plastic wrap (I appreciated that they didn’t serve food in to-go containers, as seems to be the norm nowadays at so many hotels).
Alila Ventana Big Sur room service breakfast tray
Alila Ventana Big Sur room service breakfast tray
The mashed avocado was my favorite, followed by the greek yogurt parfait, lox and bagel, and chia seed breakfast bowl, while the squash frittata was kind of bland.
Alila Ventana Big Sur breakfast — mashed avocado
Alila Ventana Big Sur breakfast — squash frittata
Alila Ventana Big Sur breakfast — lox and bagel
Alila Ventana Big Sur breakfast — greek yogurt parfait
Alila Ventana Big Sur breakfast — chia seed breakfast bowl
Alila Ventana Big Sur lunch
Lunch is served daily from 11AM until 5PM, and there’s one menu if you’re dining poolside, and a separate menu if you’re ordering from in-room dining.
The day we dined by the pool I had an iced coffee to drink, and my mom and I split a tuna poke and shrimp tacos. The shrimp tacos were great, while the tuna poke was perhaps a bit too saucy, but we enjoyed both overall.
Alila Ventana Big Sur lunch — iced coffee
Alila Ventana Big Sur lunch — tuna poke
Alila Ventana Big Sur lunch — shrimp tacos
The day we ordered lunch through in-room dining we had the marinated mushroom panini, organic chicken pallard (which looked more like a plain chicken breast), and a carrot cake to share for dessert. This was probably the blandest meal during our stay here, but then again, that’s on us for ordering a panini and chicken pallard. 😉
Alila Ventana Big Sur lunch — marinated mushroom panini
Alila Ventana Big Sur lunch — organic chicken pallard
Alila Ventana Big Sur lunch — carrot cake
Alila Ventana Big Sur sunset hour & snacks
The Alila Ventana Big Sur has an evening sunset hour at Sur House right before dinner. My mom and I went here in the afternoons before dinner and played games — it’s one of the things I’ll remember most about our great stay here, because we had so much fun.
Playing Rummikub with mom
Included with this was a cheese and charcuterie plate, which was excellent. We only ordered this one afternoon, since we realized this was way too much food in addition to the normal dinner (there’s a ton of cheese underneath those crackers).
Alila Ventana Big Sur sunset hour — cheese and charcuterie
We also typically ordered some drinks around this time, all of which were quite good.
Alila Ventana Big Sur sunset hour — wine & cocktail
Alila Ventana Big Sur sunset hour — cocktail
The drinks weren’t included, which is what I was expecting when I booked the stay, though I do think the hotel needs to rephrase the welcome letter. When you check-in, the welcome letter states:
“Our Signature Experiences, including yoga, meditation, Tai Chi, nightly s’mores, and a daily afternoon cocktail hour, are included with your stay.”
Unless there’s another cocktail hour I don’t know of, the only thing included here is the cheese & charcuterie plate, so that seems like a stretch?
Alila Ventana Big Sur dinner
Dinner is served daily from 5PM until 9PM, and there’s one menu if you’re dining at Sur House, and a separate menu if you’re ordering from in-room dining (though you can order from the restaurant menu via in-room dining as well). In both cases you can order a starter, main course, and dessert.
The food was truly very good. The first day I had the baby carrots to start, while my mom had the roasted squash salad.
Alila Ventana Big Sur dinner — baby carrots
Alila Ventana Big Sur dinner — roasted squash salad
Then I had the arctic char, while my mom had the pacific bass — I loved my arctic char.
Alila Ventana Big Sur dinner — arctic char
Alila Ventana Big Sur dinner — pacific bass
Then for dessert I had the cambolza sundae, while my mom had the apple goat cheese tart… mmm.
Alila Ventana Big Sur dinner — cambolza sundae
Alila Ventana Big Sur dinner — apple goat cheese tart
Each meal concluded with a further sweet treat, which in the case of our first night was macarons.
Alila Ventana Big Sur dinner — macarons
The second night I had the bruschetta without bacon, while my mom had the kale and white bean soup.
Alila Ventana Big Sur dinner — bruschetta
Alila Ventana Big Sur dinner — kale and white bean soup
My mom had the arctic char, while I had the polenta, which I didn’t particularly care for.
Alila Ventana Big Sur dinner — anson mills polenta integrale
Then the last night we had room service dinner, though the only new thing we tried was the mushroom “chorizo” tostada.
Alila Ventana Big Sur room service dinner
Alila Ventana Big Sur room service dinner — mushroom “chorizo” tostada
Other snacks at Alila Ventana Big Sur
As hinted at above, there are a few other snacking opportunities:
There’s a nightly s’mores experience from 8PM until 10PM
There’s a late night menu for those who want to order something else
There are in-room snacks and non-alcoholic drinks that are complimentary
Alila Ventana Big Sur complimentary in-room snacks
I was impressed, am surprised by the complaints
I was legitimately apprehensive about the food at this hotel based on reading some of the comments on FlyerTalk. Based on the opinions of some people, you’d think this hotel was serving United Airlines’ artisan first class chicken sandwich leftover dog food for all the meals. We’re all entitled to our opinions, though frankly I’m surprised by some of the complaints I’ve seen.
Some people were angry about the desserts, some people recommended bringing your own pastries, some people said the late-night menu wasn’t sufficient, some people said the portions were too small, and some people said they’ll never stay here again because of the food (even though they redeemed points, and even though the hotel previously charged the same number of points but didn’t include food).
Big-picture here’s my take on the food at the Alila Ventana Big Sur:
Does the hotel offer a Michelin dining experience? No, not quite, but all things considered I thought the food was excellent, with some dishes being exceptional, and others just being okay
I thought the quantities of food were massive, and the hotel was downright generous in that regard — you get three full meals a day, you can get a cheese and charcuterie board in the afternoon, you can order off the late night menu, there are in-room snacks, you get free non-alcoholic drinks whenever & wherever, etc.
The service was consistently excellent — they were friendly in the restaurant and the food was well paced, while room service always arrived on-time and the orders were correct
My one point of feedback is that I do think that both the breakfast and dinner menus could be a bit larger — they were perfect for our three night stay, but I think by day four or five, I would have probably gotten bored by the selection
This hotel was an outstanding value back when it wasn’t all-inclusive, so the fact that it now includes all meals and non-alcoholic drinks is so generous; this is probably the best value World of Hyatt redemption in the world, if you ask me
Bottom line
I was extremely impressed by the Alila Ventana Big Sur’s new all-inclusive experience, especially when redeeming points. The food was largely excellent (as you’d expect, some dishes were better than others), the portions were huge, and there was a ton of flexibility with ordering.
A points stay at the Alila Ventana Big Sur for 30,000 points per night is an outrageously good value, perhaps the best value of any Hyatt redemption in the world. This place was a great use of points before the hotel became all-inclusive, and now it’s an even better value.
My mom and I had an unforgettable time here, and I’m grateful beyond words that I had the chance to take this very special trip with her.
If you’ve stayed at the Alila Ventana Big Sur since it became all-inclusive, what did you make of the experience? Any other questions about the hotel I can answer?