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 emailed photo of your happy, rejuvenated selves will do!) To help you prepare, see our Tips for a Romantic Getaway.
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 new 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 Big Sur, which embraces Ventana Inn & Spa. Throughout your stay, you and your significant other experience a cascade of sensory delights: the layered fragrance of wild herbs, pine forests and sweet jasmine; a breathtaking coastal panorama; and the mating songs of native birds. The environs may be rustic, but Ventana’s rooms are luxurious perfection. A clothing-optional pool and open-air Japanese soak tubs are a fitting prelude to passion-filled evenings.
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.
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.”
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!
Art for heart’s sake is how we think of this gorgeous seaside resort. Taking its decorative cue from Laguna Beach’s world-famous art festivals, Montage’s idyllic setting seems lifted from an impressionist seascape. The service, spa and cuisine here are impeccable, the accommodations plush as can be, and the room service among the most indulgent we’ve experienced. Wallowing in Montage’s first-class pampering is a sure-fire way to kindle amour in the OC.
Deep in the San Bernardino mountains is a heavenly lakeside retreat that’s famous for playing Cupid: Lake Arrowhead has created Love Letters, a tempting selection of 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.
The seduction begins the moment you enter this opulent oasis. Old World architecture, a spicy color scheme, flower-edged pathways and splashing fountains provide an exotic backdrop to your time together. Warm desert nights are ideal for stargazing or a midnight swim in the adults-only pool. Sure, world-class golf and shopping are within walking distance…but the plush bedding in your suite encourages lingering under the covers. French doors open onto a private patio, just the place to share room service goodies and sun-drenched mountain panoramas.
Reminiscent of a quaint Nantucket B&B, this enchanting hostelry makes its home in a quiet oceanfront town north of San Diego. The most beguiling of the Lodge’s themed guestrooms is the Sweetheart Room, a circular hideaway located in a fairytale tower. Here, hearts feature prominently: they’re carved into the grand, scrolled-beam ceiling; a custom heart-shaped whirlpool tub faces a double-sided fireplace—there’s even a custom heart-shaped skylight! The Lodge’s rooftop garden is an exhilarating aerie for toasts to the glorious sunset…and of course, each other.
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).