1801 First Inn
Napa Valley locals direct friends to this tiny bed and breakfast, outfitted with just five suites, two cottages and one private carriage house. Deep-red, cherry-wood panels line the Amica Dolcetto suite (the largest), while the upstairs Noble Noir has buttery interiors and a large skylight in its sloped ceiling.
Alila Marea Beach Resort Encinitas
Andaz San Diego
The Andaz’s central location in the Gaslamp Quarter provides easy access to neighborhood restaurants, lounges and clubs. The 159 guest rooms are sleek and modern, featuring designer lighting, local art and, in some rooms, glass-walled bathrooms.
The hotel offers a good value, including for its modern boutique accommodations, amenities and services, like poolside massages. The rooftop fitness center as well as restaurant and bar boast beautiful views of the area.
Auberge du Soleil
Belmond El Encanto
With barely a sign indicating the way to the El Encanto, it is a wonder guests find their way to this Belmond-managed property, set amidst the homes and estates that dot the hills above downtown Santa Barbara, overlooking the Pacific coast. One of the most anticipated hotel openings of 2013, El Encanto is finally back and turning heads in Santa Barbara after a painstaking restoration and reconstruction. As much as could be retained of its original structure was kept intact. All of the white clapboard bungalows date back to their foundation between 1914 and 1918, while thirty new structures were based on its Spanish Colonial Revival phase in the late 1920’s.
The ninety-two accommodations are scattered over terraced grounds, consisting of manicured lawns and lush gardens abundant with fragrant and colorful flowers. Interiors are an eclectic blend of California Coastal-meets-Spanish Colonial, with some offering a more contemporary aesthetic than others and even introducing Asian-inspired fabrics and wall art. Fireplaces, outdoor spaces and views are sprinkled throughout and highly coveted. All accommodations have in common uniquely large bathrooms with rainfall showers and separate soaking tubs, plush beds and bedding, and individualized, monogrammed pillowcases (a nice touch).
The pool and main restaurant have the best vantage point from which to see the countryside and coast, offering panoramic views throughout the day and dramatic sunsets at night. Both spots are full of action, particularly the restaurant, a large, mostly outdoor space that serves French Californian fare and remains full of both guests and locals throughout the day and into the late evening. Entrenched within the Santa Barbara community, the El Encanto starts a new chapter in its history.
Bernardus Lodge & Spa
Tucked into the rolling hills of Carmel Valley, Bernardus Lodge & Spa is situated just minutes from the area’s attractions, but feels a world away. Twenty-eight acres of lavender fields, orchards and vineyards provide a pastoral backdrop to the elevated ranch-style main lodge and rooms. The lodge, which originally opened in 1999, was fully renovated and reopened in 2015 with a sleeker aesthetic and a gorgeous new spa.
The 57 guestrooms and suites are warm and inviting, featuring fireplaces, French oak floors, eclectic furnishings and lavish king-sized featherbeds. The bathrooms are fitted with deep soaking tubs and heated marble floors. Off of each room sits a spacious private patio or balcony, most of which face the croquet lawn and bocce court. The patios are not designed for privacy, but rather inspire guests to get to know each other (to assist in this socializing effort, all rooms are stocked with complimentary Bernardus wines). Those who enjoy more active pursuits will appreciate the property’s two tennis courts, the lap-length pool overlooking the mountains and fitness center.
The fabulous restaurant, Lucia, which is worth a visit even for those not staying on property, offers an acclaimed, vegetable-driven menu featuring ingredients from the onsite organic gardens. The terrace is a lovely setting for lunch or dinner, and occasionally features live music.
Cal-a-Vie Health Spa
Cameo Beverly Hills
Mr. C’s (C is short for Cipriani) makes no effort to distance itself from its Italian roots, and guests will be pleasantly surprised at how seamlessly Venetian luxury fuses with West-Coast ease. The property was opened by fourth-generation members of the Cipriani family, whose patriarch founded Harry’s Bar in Venice in 1931 (and mixed up the first-ever Bellini). It welcomes guests with high quality-service. These nods to the past are countered by contemporary design, resulting in a rather whimsical atmosphere. Vintage black-and-white photographs adorn guest rooms that are accented by retro chesterfield sofas (who knew leather looked so good beachside?). But the real highlight is the views. All accommodations have private balconies with sweeping panoramas, and the ones facing Beverly Hills cannot be beat. There’s a fabulous guest-only pool; with orange and white cabanas and excellent poolside service.
Canyon Ranch Woodside
Canyon Ranch Woodside is a Spiritual Wellness Retreat that focuses on the integration of body, mind, heart and spirit.
Carmel Valley Ranch
The 500-acre resort, nestled in the Santa Lucia mountains, lies two hours south of San Francisco (in its former incarnation, it was a golf and tennis resort). Today the family property has ancient oaks, fields of lavender, a vineyard, an organic kitchen garden, a great spa, multiple pools, an 18-hole Pete Dye-designed golf course and a sports center with a 25-meter pool, basketball and bocce courts and fitness and tennis centers. And while the wooden swings that dangle from ancient tree branches may evoke traditional family resorts, progressive thinking has given a modern twist to the offerings. (The gift shop sells the wooden swings that you see around the property. If you don’t see them for sale, ask to be put on the wait-list.)
Being an hour south of Silicon Valley and two from San Francisco, the property offers some cutting-edge programming and draws lots of tech geniuses looking to recharge. You can spend a day full of learning disguised as pure amusement. From honey-harvesting with the bee-keeper to attending one of Carmel’s cultural events, the activities range from the quirky to the cerebral with lots of outdoor options in between. (Among my favorite activities on a visit: honey harvesting, hiking, the Monterey Bay Aquarium and an amazing massage at the spa.)
But as action-packed as your time can be at the Ranch-part of its magic is how the place inspires you to enjoy simplicity. The swings that hang from ancient tree branches are impossible to resist as is making s’mores around the fire pit. The Lodge building itself, where sun floods through skylights and fires crackle in stone fireplaces, feels more like a home than a hotel, despite its size. It’s anti-fancy but inviting. In the main dining room the menu focuses on fresh local ingredients. Salads come straight from the Ranch organic garden; grilled artichokes from nearby Castroville; and sea bass and scallops from the fishing boats in Monterey.
In keeping with the rest of the resort, the guest rooms, like the menu, feature the right balance of California nature and sophistication. Each room feels like a cabin tucked into the woods with the comforts of a great hotel room, including a fireplace that flares at the flick of a switch and flat-screen TVs but with the laid-back vibe of summer camp with wood floors, stone fireplaces and broad porches off of the bedrooms. The bathrooms are spacious but not glitzy and the living areas not over-decorated but cosseting.
Carneros Resort and Spa
This 86-cottage inn, part of the PlumpJack group of hotels and restaurants, adds a modern, Californian touch to the valley’s lodging options. Located in the southern end of the Napa Valley, the inn is just under 50 miles from San Francisco. Set on 27 acres and surrounded by vineyards, farmland and apple orchards, this is what a tech billionaire's gentlemanly farm would feel like. Everything is top-of-the-line but so casual that a coat and tie may never have been seen here. The cottages have fireplaces, flat-screen TVs and gorgeous bathrooms with adjacent outdoor showers. The family suite has adjoining cottages with an extra-large backyard. There’s a children’s pool with changing rooms and a snack bar and the farm restaurant draws a trendy evening crowd.
Casa del Mar
Shutters on the Beach and Casa del Mar, managed by the same family, are located side by side along a choice stretch of Santa Monica State Beach. The historic Santa Monica Pier, with an arcade and a 1916 carousel by master amusement-ride builder Charles I.D. Looff, is only a short walk away. Guests have signing privileges at both hotels and can use both pools.
The more opulent, Renaissance Revival–style Casa del Mar was built in 1926 as a grand beach club and hotel but was converted into a military hotel during World War II, then put to various uses until it reopened as a hotel, in 1999. The large lobby maintains its '20s look, featuring leather club chairs and an inviting bar, and the small pool on the fifth-floor terrace offers a panoramic ocean view. The 145 rooms and suites, all of which were updated in 2016, are comfortable, with a sense of place and ocean-inspired accents, and the ocean-view rooms are particularly impressive. Catch, the hotel restaurant and NYC transport, offers fresh seafood and a sushi bar. The small, attractive spa, with sea-grass walls and chintz-covered chairs, offers treatments that use products by Dr. Howard Murad, who runs the Murad Medical Spa, in nearby El Segundo.
Families looking for a resort-style property within striking distance of downtown San Francisco flock to Cavallo Point, which is located in Fort Baker, part of the Golden Gate National Park. This former army base has expansive grounds that stretch down to the San Francisco Bay, allowing for wonderful walks to the water’s edge as well as easy access to the city via ferry or a short drive.
Rooms are divided into two categories: contemporary and historic. Both styles include modern amenities, from flat-screen televisions and large bathrooms with soaking tubs to organic linens, but the 68 historic rooms are housed in wonderfully restored officers' quarters and have more personality.
Each building, arranged in a semi-circle around the main parade ground, features unique touches such as expansive foyers, spacious front porches with rocking chairs, authentic tin ceilings and fireplaces. The 74 newly built Contemporary Rooms are located on the resort’s higher ground, offering truly breathtaking views. Built within a strict environmental code, the rooms are of sustainable design and construction using solar power, radiant heat, renewable materials, organic bedding and linens.
While many guests use Cavallo Point as a base for exploring San Francisco, there are also plenty of activities in the area. Kayaking, biking and hiking the Marin Headlands are first-time musts, as are walking tours of Fort Baker and beach excursions. There are also great kid-related activities including the outstanding Bay Area Discovery Museum, which is located in the Fort Baker property and ideal for young children.
Definitely not for everyone, the Chateau Marmont has its own distinct cool, casual style. The sixty-three rooms, including four bungalows (two with two floors), each uniquely decorated, seem to have been furnished courtesy of the Rose Bowl Flea Market, right down to the vintage O’Keefe & Merritt stoves in everything from junior suites on up. Bathrooms aren’t the marble palaces you may have come to expect; most are outfitted in the building’s original tiles and have clean white cotton curtains across the showers. Nevertheless, the Loire-style Chateau is quintessential Los Angeles, a local legend that began as an apartment house in the '20s and whose inhabitants have included Jean Harlow, Clark Gable, Jim Morrison, Helmut Newton and John Belushi, who spent his last night here. Most admirably, the property is a holdout against plastic surgery of any sort, if you don’t include new elevators. The place reeks of time-stopped-here Old Hollywood charm and is another feather in hotelier André Balazs’s cap.
Most guests are repeat customers: generally the young international set who read the covers of Variety and Billboard posted daily in the elevators. There’s no spa, and the seventh-floor gym is strictly dungeon-like, with one TV. For exercise, follow the lushly planted stone paths to the Ping-Pong table and the lovely pool, framed by a lemon tree. It’s hard to believe that the Sunset Strip is just outside the gate. If you don’t check in, be sure to at least dine in the garden restaurant, which is alongside a Gothic colonnade and is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Your view may very well include the sight of a smoking, tattoo-covered rock and roller drinking Badoit and red wine with his smoked salmon and bagel. Chef Carolynn Spence, from New York’s Spotted Pig, serves fare loaded with seasonal produce, plus oxtail bruschetta and organic eggs any style. She also cooks at the perennially hip and extremely funky Bar Marmont, next door. Dinner reservations are a must.
Colony Palms Hotel
Downtown L.A. Proper
Drift Palm Springs
El Capitan Canyon
For nature lovers who also love their creature comforts, a special campsite twenty miles north of downtown Santa Barbara offers safari tents and cedar cabins for a camp-out experience that comes with fully made beds. Located on 300-plus acres on a stunning oceanfront property, El Capitan Canyon has 108 cedar cabins with mini kitchens and 26 safari tents. Built on permanent wood decks and furnished with willow beds, electric lights and Western-style throw rugs, the tents are apt to thrill the kids, while parents are more likely to appreciate the cabins’ extra facilities. All of the cabins come with attached bathrooms; otherwise, facilities are a short walk. And there’s no room service, but all accommodations have grills, and meals can also be purchased on-site at the Canyon Market & Deli. Hiking trails traverse the 2,500-acre canyon, and docent-led hikes are offered. From May through October, the resort has Saturday-night barbecues, along with blues, jazz and bluegrass concerts. Be sure to reserve way in advance; up to a year is suggested.
Indagare Tip: Ask for a cabin with a creek or a canyon view. The new Canyon Loft Cabins are ideal for small families, as they come with a living room and a bedroom downstairs as well as a sleeping loft.
Estancia La Jolla
Just north of the Torrey Pines State Reserve in the beach community of La Jolla, this former equestrian estate is set on 10 verdant acres with 210 rooms, and still manages to feel intimate and relaxed. From its red-tile roofs and hand-plastered walls to its hundreds of citrus, olive, fig, eucalyptus and pomegranate trees, the property looks very much like a Spanish Mission-style ranch with its own botanical gardens including a separate rose garden.
Swathed in shades of caramel and cream, rooms feature white-tiled baths and either patios or balconies overlooking the lush courtyard spa is complete with a saltwater whirlpool and Asian influenced therapies including a cherry blossom and rice powder body scrub and massage.
The weekend breakfast buffet at Adobe restaurant is very popular, while hacienda-style Mustangs & Burros offers fine dining matched with incredible tequilas. The awarding winning Trinitas Cellars Wine Bar offers wine by the glass or flights.
Fairmont Grand Del Mar
Taking design cues from American resort architect Addison Mizner, who drew inspiration from Europe’s palaces and coastal retreats, this sprawling 249-room property has old-world charm to spare. Channeling colonial Spain and France, in-room details include hand-stenciled ceilings and marble baths. The hotel’s scale is indeed impressive: it sits on 380 acres in the posh northern San Diego community of Del Mar, with an 18-hole Tom Fazio-designed golf course, a 20,000-square foot spa, four swimming pools and access to the 4,000-acre Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve for hiking, biking and horseback riding. The spacious rooms have views of either the golf course or preserve and feature traditional—if dated—décor, with silk-upholstered curtains, tartan-printed textiles and striped beige wallpaper.
The property’s six dining venues and their creative chefs offer guests a wide array of options. Tuck into Jidori chicken and lobster and crab pappardelle at the property’s all-day restaurant, Amaya. For a special occasion, the 10-course tasting menu at sophisticated Addison, located up the resort's hill and helmed by chef William Bradley, is a must. Other dining options include some grab-and-go cafés as well as a lovely afternoon tea served in the library.
The buzzy Fairmont Miramar offers a bucolic slice of beachside living in Los Angeles. Especially ideal for families, thanks to spacious bungalows, the Santa Monica property is located a bit farther from the beach than Shutters, but closer to Malibu.
The Fairmont has comfortable rooms and a deservedly popular restaurant on premises that draws a happening crowd nightly. Most of the guest rooms are in the main high-rise building but the best ones are in the bungalows that surround the pool. In fact, the duplex bungalows with Pacific Ocean views and a Malibu beach house décor almost feel like private cottages. The two-story bungalows have upstairs living rooms with views of the beach. They feel like private beach bungalows and have been decked out with all of the elements to invoke coastal calm such as you would find in a Nantucket beach house.
On-property amenities include a beautiful Exhale spa and gym, complete with Exhale's workout classes, the latest fitness equipment and Peloton bikes. There is also a seasonal beach club that is open during the summer and offers complimentary rides to the beach, as well as food and drink service once there.
Fairmont San Francisco
The historic Fairmont San Francisco hotel atop Nob Hill opened in 1907, just one year after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, and to this day remains an elegant symbol of Nob Hill’s prestigious past. Beyond the Fairmont’s grand lobby are rooms that have recently been completely refurbished and include modern amenities like two phone lines and high-speed Internet access. The hotel comprises the historic main building and a less distinguished tower, for a total of 591 rooms and suites. Rooms in the main building are more spacious, but views are better from the tower; however, due to the sheer size of the property, the tower can feel like a long walk away from the lobby. While the Fairmont has all the amenities for the business traveler, it seems to be a favorite among couples as well.
The imposing lobby, with its grandiose decor, appeals to guests who want a bit of theater with their vacation. Perhaps it’s just as well that the subdued guestrooms don’t try to compete with the grandeur of the lobby. For more kitsch, guests can head to the decades-old Tonga Room restaurant/bar that features tropical thunderstorms, fruity drinks and Hawaiian nibbles.
Located in the Russian River Valley, 11 miles southwest of Healdsburg, this graceful rural property comprises a converted 1872 farmhouse (the “main house”) and various additional stand-alone buildings, including the "barn" built on the site of the farm’s original barn. The private barn rooms and suites are the most luxurious, with muted tones, amazing bathrooms and a farmhouse chic vibe. Topping many lists of best wine country inns, or indeed best inns anywhere, Farmhouse indulges guests with gourmet meals; airy, welcoming rooms; a lush, wooded setting; and a serene spa.
The inn’s agrarian roots are evident throughout, from the classic American furnishings to the local, seasonal cuisine at the Michelin-starred Farmhouse restaurant and the organic ingredients used for spa treatments. The luxury comes through in gourmet three-course breakfasts, marble bathrooms and a team of dedicated concierges to help you enjoy the best of the wine country. Farmhouse’s emphasis on homey comforts is clear in touches like their scrumptious daily cookies left at turn-down service, their indulgent breakfast pastries, unlimited s'mores supplies each night and a help-yourself "spa bar," which includes different homemade soaps, scrubs and bath salts. Guests are encouraged to choose what they like from the selection and bring their treats back to their room to enjoy in their spacious bathrooms.
Four Seasons Beverly Wilshire
This landmark property is situated at the intersection of Rodeo Drive and Wilshire Boulevard, Beverly Hills’ shopping headquarters. The Italian Renaissance–style lobby sets a grande dame backdrop but the rooms and other common spaces are much more contemporary in look and feel. The 395 rooms and suites are located in the Wilshire Wing and the Beverly Wing. The ten-story Wilshire Wing is the original building and rooms here come with all-marble bathrooms that include flat-screen TVs and furniture that is surprisingly au courant. Accommodations across the way in the Beverly Wing are a tad less spiffy, but their larger windows bathe the rooms in sunshine.
A highlight is the stunning 8,500-square-foot spa that manages to look expensive and Zen at the same time, with walnut, etched-glass, alabaster and limestone details. Before you reach the ice fountain or the aromatherapy-crystal steam room, you pass a massive amethyst geode poised in front of a water wall of changing colors. If you book four or more hours of Personalized Time, putting yourself in the hands of a therapist who guides you through the menu of treatments and rituals, lunch is on the house. The other eye-popper is the pool area, serene and modern, with private cabanas that can be rented (complete with flat-screen TV, iPod and two fifteen-minute foot massages). A state-of-the-art gym with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooks the pool area.
Four Seasons Hotel Los Angeles at Beverly Hills
The hotel sits on an urban street, but once you’re inside, the creamy marble lobby and profusion of avant-garde flower arrangements make you feel you’re someplace special. Culina Restaurant and the Windows Lounge are appropriately elegant. Workouts are a pleasure in the canopied gym next to the pool on the fourth-floor roof. Spa services are really over the top and include a massage performed “rhythmically and in harmony” by two therapists at once. Maybe the margarita scrub (tequila, lime and sea salt go on you, not in you) is more your style. If you so desire, some treatments can be performed in poolside cabanas. The fourth-floor pool deck is surrounded by chic lime green loungers and the poolside Cabana restaurant serves breakfast and lunch alfresco. Standard rooms were recently renovated and are now decorated in neutral tones and boast balconies, handsome marble bathrooms and stunning views. Almost every room offers a private balcony and the rooms facing the peaceful garden in the back are particularly lovely. The design quotient really increases in the priciest suites, which have touches like inlaid-marble floors in the foyer. The owners live on the property, which probably accounts for everything always looking just right. Don’t even think about getting a room here during awards season; it’s entertainment-industry headquarters.