Beachside resorts, wine country B&Bs, sleek city hotels, $2,000-a-night ryokans on the cliffs of Malibu: however you define a romantic getaway, California nails it—and then some. But the real reason we look to California for weekends away—beyond the fact that it’s massive, home to some of the country’s best hotels, and hey, we can all agree that a sunset is just better on the West Coast—is that is does romance in that effortless, quintessentially Californian way. Whether you live in state, or you’re thinking of flying in, these are the best places to sneak off to, all year ’round.
The Highway 1 Road-Trip Stop: Post Ranch Inn, Big Sur
Clinging to the cliffs of Big Sur, some 1,200 feet above the Pacific, is the iconic Post Ranch Inn, a nineteenth-century homestead that delivers on romantic ocean views and elevated, tranquil spaces: elements of slate, marble, and wood complement the dramatic natural setting, rather than competing with it, and floor-to-ceiling glass walls make it easy to spend hours taking it all in together. It’s easy to forget there are other guests here, despite a collection of 39 rooms—including several treehouses, and two private homes for rent—making it easy to focus on the company you arrived with. Take advantage of the spa (or better yet, let them come to you for a couples’ massage in your room), and indulge in long meals exploring the hyperlocal menu at Sierra Mar restaurant (they serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner, with daily prix-fixes and an extensive wine list). During the day, you can borrow a complimentary Lexus for a spin along Pacific Coast Highway, or escape for a hike—likely, with nobody else around.
Get there: Three hours from San Francisco by car.
Splurge on: To really soak up the views, treat yourself to the Post House private home, which has vintage details (including the original fireplace once used by the original owners of the property, the Post Family), and private outdoor hot tub and patio that face away from the rest of the Inn, making it really feel like you have the grounds to yourselves.
The Rustic Getaway, With a Modern Spin: Timber Cove, Sonoma
A cliffside location, unobstructed views of the Pacific, roaring fireplaces, and moody, wood-beam details—every element of Sonoma’s Timber Cove Resort seemingly adds up to a surefire recipe for a romantic weekend away. It’s self-described as “one part hippie chic and two parts rustic modern”, which draws a decidedly NorCal mix of couples who want to pair their downtime, whether that be wine tasting on the oceanfront deck or afternoons cozying up by the fire, with active time outside. Activities on offer include everything from private guided hikes through the redwoods (there are more than two miles of hiking trails on property), or going kayaking on the Pacific below. The location is also a perfect base for exploring Sonoma Country’s wineries, and local oyster farms like Hog Island Oyster Co. (which are anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour away, depending on what you go.)
Get there: It’s roughly a three-hour drive north from San Francisco.
Splurge on: To dial up the romance factor to a ten, spring for the Ocean View Jr. Suite and choose the Romance Package add-on for just $50 more per night, which includes a sparkling bottle of wine in your room, and breakfast for two. (You can pretend the bottle waiting in the room was your idea—we won’t tell.) This suite, the second-largest room, has a 180-degree view of the Pacific, and an in-room fireplace, redwood patio, and, unlike the larger suite, the added perk of a soaking tub.
The Once-in-a-Lifetime Splurge: Nobu Ryokan, Malibu
Chef Nobu Matsuhisa has made a name for himself in sushi, but his namesake Malibu restaurant now has a sister: Nobu Ryokan. This elevated space is inspired by the ryokans of Japan, but this high design masterpiece is a far cry from your traditional Japanese inn—details like teak soaking tubs beneath skylights in the bathrooms, in-room dining from Nobu, and prime Malibu real estate are decidedly indulgent. It’s exclusive (read: rooms start at $2,000 a night during low season, with a two-night minimum), and everyone staying here values their privacy, which all makes for a decadent once-in-a-lifetime getaway. Even better, the M.O. of everyone here is quietly unwinding, usually in pairs, and soaking up the special space and views.
Get there: A twenty-minute drive outside Los Angeles.
Splurge on: These rooms start at $2,000 a night, so just being here is a splurge. Up the ante by booking an oceanfront bungalow, and ask about one with an outdoor Japanese soaking tub. You deserve it.
The Desert Retreat: Ojai Valley Inn, Ojai
There’s something in the air at Ojai Valley Inn—time moves slower here, where every inch of the 200-acre property has been designed to help you unwind. Farm-to-table dining options, a daily lineup of yoga and pilates classes, and ever-present organic juices feel like classic tenets of any wellness retreat, but the real draw of Ojai Valley Inn is its intangible je ne sais quoi. Take advantage of the on-site spa, known for unique treatments inspired by the valley’s first inhabitants, the Chumash Native American tribe, and spend evenings over wine at The Oak restaurant. Sure, you could venture into town for the weekend farmer’s market or a long hike, but we can’t promise it’ll be easy to pull yourself away (and who says you need to?)
Get there: A 45-minute drive from Santa Barbara, or around two hours from Los Angeles.
Splurge on: All of the spa treatments are decadent, but spring for the 100-minute Shangri-La Body Treatment (which includes a full-body buffing, wrap, then mini-facial, all of which incorporate lavender and honey grown here), or select any of the massages (options range from a Warm Himalayan Salt Stone massage, to one incorporating CBD oil), and ask for the couple’s suite.
The Wine Country Stay: Las Alcobas, Napa
Wine tastings, sunsets, private hot tubs—who says you need to reinvent the wheel on your next romantic getaway, if the classics work this well? Sure, some wine country stays can feel a bit, erm, predictable, but this restored Victorian mansion stands out with turn-of-the-century architecture, sleek contemporary interiors, and a restaurant from celebrated chef Chris Cosentino that does wine-supporting dishes in a decidedly NorCal fashion (think fresh rigatoni with kale pesto). Spend your days between the farmhouse-style spa, the saltwater pool, and, of course, tasting as many of the valley’s wines as you can. There’s nothing quite as romantic, though, as sipping apéritifs on the communal porch, from where you can watch the sun set over the cabernet vines of Beringer Estate.
Get there: Just over a two-hour drive from San Francisco.
Splurge on: We lied, it can get more romantic than sunset on the porch—if you’re willing to pay. Book a room with a private fire pit or tub, and enjoy the sunset from there (ask for a west-facing room). It’ll feel as though the entire home is just yours, even if only for an evening.
The Mountain Escape: The Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe
Set amongst the thick pines of North Lake Tahoe, the Ritz-Carlton is a tried-and-true getaway for couples craving a mountain retreat, with amenities. During the winter, this ski-in/ski-out hotel hits a cozy note: round out days on the slopes with cozy, lazy evenings beside the in-room fireplaces, or skip the whole thing and spend a day at the spa, from which you can appreciate the snowy hills outside. In the summer, take advantage of its convenient North Shore location as a basecamp for days on the lake (the hotel can arrange standup paddle boarding or kayaking), or rent a poolside cabana that comes with personalized service for two. All year-round, you can count on a stay shrouded in romantic mountain views.
Get there: A 45-minute drive from Sacramento, or a four- to five-hour drive from San Francisco.
Splurge on: Right in the hotel is one of North Tahoe’s best restaurants, the French-inspired Manzanita. Snag Chef Roman Garcia’s chef’s table, where you can enjoy a private tasting menu guided by Garcia himself for $175. Reservations must be made in advance by calling Manzanita directly.
The Chic City Stay: Kimpton La Peer Hotel, Los Angeles
Beaches and mountains may be romantic, but a design-forward hotel in the heart of Los Angeles? If that doesn’t scream sexy, it sure whispers it. Kimpton’s latest Los Angeles opening fits right into the Design District it calls home, with Scandinavian high-design that features natural materials, like wood and leather. For those eager to get out and canvas the city, use the hotel as your launchpad for hitting must-visit museums, like The Broad, and snagging must-have reservations (such as N/naka or Trois Mec), before slinking back in the evening for drinks in the intimate courtyard bar.
Get there: It’s a 40-minute drive from Los Angeles International Airport.
Splurge on: Slip into something a little more comfortable—like a bubble bath in your in-room soaking tub, drawn by your personal butler. Request the Signature La Peer Bath for just $75, and a butler will fill the tub with fresh herbs like lavender and rosemary. Make sure to order a chilled bottle of Champagne on the side.
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