The real California “hot spots”!
WANTED: A special place for a romantic escape. Scenic, natural surroundings required. Must be lavished with sensual creature comforts. Obliging yet unobtrusive service preferred.
Does this imaginary classified ad sound like something you might have written? If so, we’re answering your cry for help with a dozen of the best places in California for a romantic weekend—choice spots bound to inspire relaxation and heartfelt moments. (No need to thank us—an Instagrammed photo of your happy, rejuvenated selves will do!) To help you prepare, see our Tips for a Romantic Getaway.
From North to South…
The rugged coastline of Mendocino, famous for its crashing surf and misty twilight, has a Gothic wildness known to stir elemental desires. In dynamic counterpoint, the Inn at Schoolhouse Creek, with its featherbeds, fireplaces and oceanview hot tubs, is your cozy haven after a brisk forest hike or hand-in-hand amble through the Inn’s flourishing gardens.
At this Wine Country eco-resort, picturesque environs, gourmet sustenance and the art of spa combine to release worldly tensions and weave a sense of togetherness. You and your significant other can experience the healing tingle of essential oil-enhanced mud treatments at Solage’s signature Mud Bar & Bathhouse. Later, from your private cabana, it’s just steps to the geo-thermally heated pool. Your guest cottage even has a pebbled shower floor, tempting you to linger in your bain à deux.
Sultry lighting, warm wood accents and fresh lavender scattered throughout lend a soft patina to this modern urban oasis, overlooking San Francisco’s revitalized Embarcadero waterfront. Couples can enjoy side-by-side massages, followed by a deep-tub soak on Vitale’s garden rooftop surrounded by a dramatic Bay vista. Your view-filled guest suite is your nesting sanctuary from which to sample indulgences like rainforest showers and 440-thread count linens…and of course, relaxing alone time.
It’s impossible not to be moved by the staggering beauty of Carmel, which embraces Hyatt Carmel Highlands. Throughout your stay, you and your significant other experience a cascade of sensory delights: the layered fragrance of wild herbs, pine forests and the ocean; a breathtaking coastal panorama from this extraordinary cliffside setting; and the mating songs of native birds. The environs may be rustic, but the rooms at Hyatt Carmel Highlands are luxurious perfection—some include a wood-burning fireplace and a balcony. You’ll want to opt for a custom in-room spa treatment. And find more romantic hotels with full spa services in Northern California here.
Tuscan-inspired luxury and pampering in the heart of Paso Robles Wine Country can be yours at the new Allegretto Vineyard Resort. Lavished with Old World materials like stone and marble, the stunning resort is surrounded by fountains, grapevines, and picturesque hillsides. The interior is equally impressive: A grand staircase sweeps into the Lobby, which boasts a lofty frescoed ceiling that could be right out of a Medici villa. Whether lounging poolside within sight of the vineyards, indulging in viticultural spa treatments for two, or wining and dining on locally sourced Northern Italian fare, you’re bound to feel every bit the romantic.
The artist’s village of Cambria is known for pristine beaches, rugged hiking trails and the garden paradise of Cambria Pines Lodge. Set on a forested knoll overlooking Moonstone Beach, the comfortably quaint Lodge is a welcome escape from day-to-day worries. Exploring the Lodge’s lovely themed gardens naturally turns one’s attention to the birds and bees, and whether you and your sweetie reserve a rustic cabin or a fireplace suite, the Lodge makes an inspiring setting for your own passion play.
San Luis Obispo
In the wooded hillsides above Avila Beach lies Sycamore Mineral Springs, a natural haven for metaphysical connections, as well as more earthly pleasures. Stroll together through the Meditation Gardens Labyrinth and contemplate the meaning of it all, or lounge in your private redwood hot tub following decadent spa treatments. The resort’s West Meadows Suites offer ultimate privacy amidst a flowering glen. Culinary Bonus: The Gardens of Avila restaurant, which has consistently been voted “Most Romantic on the Central Coast.” You’ll find more romantic hotels with full spa services in Southern California here.
At Shutters, you can revel in sunsets, seagulls, and stretches of powdery sand from the seclusion of your beach patio; or walk right outside the hotel lobby and lay your beach towels side by side. Then slather suntan lotion on each other and let the balmy breeze caress your skin as the rhythm of the waves lulls you to Fantasyland. Especially ONEderful is Shutters’ acclaimed spa, ONE, a favorite of celebrity couples. Our advice: Make like Brangelina and get thee to Shutters!
Overlooking a championship golf course and an ocean panorama stretching as far as the eye can see, a grand outdoor stairway leads to an emerald lawn of regal proportions. With its Tuscan-inspired architecture and décor, and breathtaking sights, sounds and service, the resort offers the ultimate in luxury. Book a poolside cabana, take a complimentary shuttle to a private beach, challenge yourself on the golf course, learn to ride the waves with your own “surf butler,” or pamper yourself at the on-site Miraval Life in Balance Spa. However you spend your time, it’ll be hard to top this singularly sensational destination hideaway for flawless service, comfort, cuisine and first-class amenities.
Deep in the San Bernardino mountains is a heavenly lakeside retreat that’s famous for playing Cupid: Lake Arrowhead has created a tempting selection of romantic spa and couples packages “designed to enliven the senses.” Our favorite: “Dirty Weekend/Good Clean Fun,” which includes peacock feathers and chocolate body paint…need we say more? Should you want a little extra help, consult the accommodating staff about creating a special Lake Arrowhead Resort weekend with your loved one.
This exclusive Mediterranean-inspired retreat evokes the romance and natural elegance of the desert. Swim in cool pools resembling tropical lagoons. Sip a glass of frosty champagne after your afternoon massage, and admire the snow-topped mountain peaks bathed in the rosy glow of sunset.
This island getaway just 20 minutes over the bridge from San Diego, may be one of the few places where you truly can have it all. The accommodations are wonderfully plush, and what really impresses is how warm and helpful the staff is at every turn. Its serene locale balances beach-y relaxation with pampered elegance, while providing unsurpassed ocean and bay vistas. Indulge in some spa treatments, take a dip in the pool, play tennis or explore the town. Presiding over its own 15-acre peninsula adjacent to Silver Strand State Beach, this beautiful venue offers a picturesque setting plus the personal touch that makes every couple feel like VIPs.
Okay, so maybe you can’t get away for the entire weekend…well, there’s nothing like a candlelight dinner at a romantic restaurant as prologue to a steamy evening. Some of our personal faves: The Ranch House (Ojai), The Firehouse (Sacramento), Shadowbrook (Santa Cruz).
For tons more romantic getaways, either for your honeymoon or just for a fun weekend, look at the romantic hotels in our honeymoon section. Many have wonderful package deals.