A view of California's Big Sur coastline, taken from a helicopter. (Joann Dost )
Leave it to a luxury resort to redefine "alternate route." To the Post Ranch Inn in California's Big Sur area, a 15-minute helicopter ride is the best way to avoid an hours-long detour. And starting Wednesday, you can book a package that includes the scenic flight.
Since March 16, when a section of Highway 1 collapsed north of Big Sur, about 13 miles south of Carmel, the California Department of Transportation has advised motorists to find different routes into this popular stretch of Central California.
Travelers driving up from Los Angeles and other points south of Big Sur are not affected by the slide. But for motorists arriving from the north, the detour could mean a long ride down various highways, rejoining Highway 1 south of Cambria, or connecting from Highway 101 and winding across Nacimiento-Fergusson Road.
Noting the drop-off in visitors to the ocean-view resort, Mike Freed, Post Ranch Inn general partner, collaborated with a helicopter company to shuttle guests from Monterey Peninsula Airport to a helipad on the Post Ranch property.
The inn's new "Flight to Paradise" package includes free round-trip helicopter transport from the airport to the resort; free airport parking; two nights in a treehouse guest room (it's on stilts, in the treetops); free snacks, beverages and wine; two 60-minute massages; activities such as daily yoga, guided nature hikes and stargazing with the in-house astronomer; and other perks.
"This is the first time we’ve set up a package where the room charge includes a complimentary helicopter round trip," said Freed, who tested the flight in the four-seat aircraft earlier this week. "It was a rare opportunity to see the Big Sur coast...from the ocean point of view."
Prices for the two-night, midweek package begin at $2,170, plus tax and tip. Basically, you get the helicopter trip, valued at about $900, for free. Here's the math: Treehouse rooms begin at $945 a night, or $1,890 for two nights, and massages add $280 for a total of $2,170. Weekend packages are available at a higher price.
The package is available through May 6, when Caltrans is hoping to have cleared the Highway 1 slide area; the road reopening date is tentative.
Even though the road closure affects only travelers approaching Big Sur from the north, many tourists, fuzzy on details of the detours, have stopped traveling into the area, local representatives say.
Many Monterey County events are slated for the season, including the Pebble Beach Food & Wine festival from April 28 to May 1; the Marina Festival of the Winds, May 7-8; and the Carmel Art Festival, May 12-15.
If there is a silver lining to the perils that heavy spring rains have brought, it’s visible from the sky, Freed said.
"The area has totally recovered from the fires we had years back," he said. "And the wildflowers are going crazy."
Info and reservations: Post Ranch Inn, (888) 524-4787.