Gone Glamping

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glamping_credit Ventana Big Sur
Raised-platform, safari-style tents cabins at Ventana Big Sur include both a wood-burning fire pit as well as a propane-fueled one on the deck to gather around in the evening. | Photo by Ventana Big Sur

From cabins to fully furnished yurts, several locales along the coast offer rustic yet luxury lodging, plenty of amenities and a chance to unwind and immerse in nature.

By Sharon Stello

 

After the year we’ve all been through, nothing sounds better than spending a stress-free weekend relaxing in nature—but without giving up the comforts of home. Glamping destinations offer the opportunity to spend time with family and close friends or unplug and commune with the great outdoors, then retreat to a fully furnished cabin, safari tent or yurt with hotel-like amenities and services.

Enjoy a massage at the on-site spa and order an already prepped meal to cook over the open campfire at your site, toast with a glass of wine from the resort market, then snuggle close, gaze up at the stars and get lost in the flickering flames.

While locales may have reduced services due to the ongoing pandemic restrictions, some are planning to begin offering them again this summer. So take a look at these glamping options within driving distance of Orange County for all the details to start making plans.

 

Cabin Comfort

Set among 350 acres of oak and sycamore trees growing along a creek in the Santa Barbara area, El Capitan Canyon Resort is a peaceful retreat with a backdrop of the Santa Ynez Mountains and the Pacific Ocean just across the highway.

While the adventure yurts and safari tents are currently closed during the pandemic due to shared restrooms—but expected to reopen by summer—the cedar cabins, each with a private bathroom and kitchenette, remain available. Different sizes are offered to meet your group’s needs, including some with one or two private bedrooms, others featuring one large room with bunk beds and the rest with sleeping lofts. There’s a three-night minimum stay for summer weekends and around some holidays, and at least two nights are required on weekends during the rest of the year. Pets are not allowed.

loft_credit Eric Hernandez, Look Photography/El Capitan Canyon
El Capitan Canyon Resort, in the Santa Barbara area, offers cabins with luxury amenities. The property also has safari tents and yurts, but these are currently closed due to the pandemic; they are expected to reopen by summer. | Photo by Eric Hernandez, Look Photography/El Capitan Canyon

These are no ordinary cabins as all are equipped with fine linens and towels, soaring peaked ceilings, heaters, a minifridge, microwave, wet bar sink and coffee maker. Outdoors, each cabin has its own picnic table and fire pit with a removable grill for cooking or sitting around the campfire.

And there’s no need to lug around coolers full of food. For dinnertime, several barbecue meal kits are available to order with options ranging from burgers and hot dogs to tri-tip, baby back ribs, chicken, salmon or mahi mahi and all the fixings. Meals come with drinks, a s’mores kit, firewood, matches, paper plates and utensils. Most come with a green salad and baked beans while some also include garlic bread; the ribs are accompanied by roasted corn and baked potatoes as well.

Remote ordering and delivery—perfect for social distancing during the pandemic—are available for the meal kits as well as the on-site market’s snacks, Santa Barbara County wines, other sundry items and the deli’s menu of pizzas, sandwiches, burgers, salads, soups and coffee. 

For activities during the day, choose one of several hiking trails to enjoy the scenery. El Capitan Canyon also provides adult-size beach cruiser bicycles for free to guests, based on availability. All group activities including wine tastings, a summer concert series and docent-led hikes as well as storytime and astronomy talks around the campfire have been postponed until county guidelines allow them to resume. However, guests may still visit the llama and goat farm to feed the animals during certain times of the day. The spa, pool and playground were closed as of press time, but the resort hopes to reopen them by early summer—before Memorial Day weekend for the pool.

horseback riding_credit El Capitan Canyon
Activities like horeseback riding are available in the area for small groups. | Photo by El Capitan Canyon

Local companies offer activities for families and small groups such as horseback riding, whale watching, wine tours, surfing lessons and more. And El Capitan plans to add on-site activities including yoga and sound baths soon.

Of course, there’s also time to simply relax at your cabin, listening to the woodpeckers and other local and migratory birds, the babbling brook (depending on the season) and frogs in the creek at night. While reconnecting with nature, visitors might also catch a glimpse of other wildlife: deer walking by or squirrels scampering about the campground.

 

A Redwood Retreat

Farther up the coast, about 30 miles south of Monterey, Ventana Big Sur offers 15 luxurious, safari-style tent cabins for a glamping getaway amid 20 acres of redwoods near Post Creek. For those seeking a more remote, immersive experience, four of the tents require a short hike to reach (choose Canyon Glampsite at checkout).

These raised-platform, canvas tents come complete with a plush, custom-designed mattress and premium linens, electric lamps and power outlets with USB ports for charging devices, a sink with instant hot and cold water, two fire pits (one wood-burning and the other propane-fueled) with Adirondack chairs on the deck, handheld lanterns and a picnic table. Bath and hand towels are provided for use at the shared Bath House, which appears more like part of the resort than the campground with its heated floors, teak-enclosed showers and marble vanities; there are now limits on how many people may be inside at one time and the facility is cleaned more frequently for safety during the pandemic.

A three-night minimum stay is required during the summer, while at least two nights must be booked during the rest of the year. Dogs are allowed at the campground for an additional nightly fee, which includes a dog bed, water bowl and treats. As part of the property’s social distancing guidelines during COVID-19, glamping guests will not be allowed to use the resort ground amenities such as the swimming pools, fitness studios, spa or The Sur House or Glass House restaurants, but the resort fee will be waived.

smores-credit Ventana Big Sur
A s’mores kit at Ventana Big Sur, with marshmallows that can be cooked over the fire in front of your glampsite | Photo by Ventana Big Sur

Those staying in the tent cabins may order a s’mores kit, firewood bundle, bag of ice, snacks and drinks (including beer and wine) from the on-site SurStream store. Glampers also will have access to the nearby Big Sur Smokehouse eatery on Highway 1 when it reopens for the season in the coming months. Known for its tempting platters of barbecued tri-tip, St. Louis ribs, chicken, hot links and even cauliflower, the iconic red farmhouse (a historic local homestead) serves up meats smoked in-house and sides created with farm-fresh ingredients.

For activities, plenty of hiking is available in the area: The property lies between Andrew Molera and Pfeiffer Big Sur state parks. And there’s a 1.3-mile, low-intensity path that loops through the Ventana property itself, past stands of towering redwood trees. The Big Sur region has also been designated an Important Bird Area by the National Audubon Society due to its birds of prey population, so be on the lookout for condors, eagles and red-tailed hawks. 

Editor’s note: Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, details may change. Please check with each property for updates before making travel arrangements.

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