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The Highlands Inn

Carmel, California

Rising out of a pine forest high above the ocean, the sand colored stone inn with its floral landscaping is a welcome sight. We took the most dramatic approach, driving northward through Big Sur along Highway One with its postcard vistas and hairpin turns along cliffs that drop precipitously. California artist Francis McComas called this "the greatest meeting of land and water in the world," but it is not a drive for the faint-hearted.

Once there, we could enjoy the view in comfort. The sea, the rocks and the sunset are visible from almost every part of the inn. As we sipped champagne we watched the sunset from our suite. We didn't light our fireplace, but others lit theirs, and as the fog settled in, the scent of burning pine wafted through the air.

The main restaurant, Pacific's Edge, is highly acclaimed for its seafood, but we opted for a light meal of pasta and salad from the more casual California Market, which also packs picnic baskets. Both restaurants have access to the view and to a wine list with about 1,000 choices.

Perched between Point Lobos and Yankee Point, the Highlands Inn is four miles south of the quaint, but sophisticated village of Carmel and not far from historic Monterey. The inn opened its doors in 1917 and its early guests arrived by a rutted narrow road.

Recently remodeled and restored, the inn today has 142 rooms, most of them suites with full kitchens and simple, subdued decor, which uses natural woods and a palate of so-called southwestern pastels. All accommodations have decks and many have spa tubs and sliding shoji screens conveniently partitioning different areas.

Highlands Inn, P. O. Box 1700, Carmel, CA 93921. Tel. 408-624-3801, 800-538-9525, in Calif. 800-628-4811. Highlands Inn is a member of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World. Prices range from $225 to $650 with some seasonal specials. Reserve three to four weeks in advance for weekends.

-- Ruth Holcomb

Winter 1994-95