1 – OREGON – Oregon is one of those states I think we often forget about. But there’s much to see beyond the eclectic and foodie-centric city of Portland. Just an hour from there, you’ll find the up and coming Willamette Valley made famous in recent years for its Pinot Noirs. Lay your head at the beautiful resort, The Allison Inn & Spa, and spend your days visiting wineries and hiking. If you’re looking for beach, you need only head a few hours Northwest to the famous Cannon Beach with its sprawling sand and iconic basalt rock formations. My pick there would be the Stephanie Inn. For a longer trip, perhaps even pair the two!
2. LAKE TAHOE – I’ve visited the Lake Tahoe region in summer, fall and winter and its absolutely beautiful every time. Check out this guide from a recent trip to Lake Tahoe – it has my best picks on where to stay, where to eat and what to do. For a longer trip, I’d recommend splitting your time between the Ritz Carlton on the North coast and Edgewood Tahoe on the south – giving you two distinct home bases to explore all the lake and surrounding region has to offer. Lake Tahoe is easily accessible from the Reno airport and perfect for west coasters looking for a bit of hiking and nature but who also want to swim and enjoy the water.
3. WINE COUNTRY – Napa and Sonoma – it’s a no brainer right?! There are SO many incredible resorts in the California wine region and many of them are set on large tracts of land. Two of my favorites – Meadowood (in Napa) and Farmhouse Inn (in Sonoma) are perfect for social distancing. The former has all freestanding accommodations and a sprawling estate. The latter is a very boutique property with only 25 rooms. Both also have fabulous concierge teams who can assist you in planning private visits to nearby (and off the radar) wineries to minimize interaction with crowds. I visited both just a few months ago – check out my blog post here for more information.
4. YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK – I’m a National Park junkie and one of my great travesties is that I have yet to visit Yosemite! Now that I’m a true Californian, this is really high on my list, especially after watching Free Solo last year. While Yosemite has a lot to offer in the way of rustic accommodations, by far the “top” hotel is The Ahwahnee Hotel (formerly the Majestic), a historic property just a 5 minute drive from the Yosemite Valley Visitor’s Center. For a trendy option, consider Autocamp Yosemite – a collection of vintage airstreams, glamping tents and cozy cabins – modernized with the most instagram-worthy furnishings.
5. BIG SUR – Starting in San Francisco, head south to Half Moon Bay (~45 minutes) for a stay at the cliffside Ritz Carlton Half Moon Bay. Enjoy a night or two of spectacular sunsets, s’mores and their signature bagpipes, before you resume your drive south to Monterey and Carmel along the Pacific Coast Highway (Highway 1). In Carmel, I recommend a stay at Bernardus Lodge or Carmel Valley Ranch. And as you head further south, you’ll get into the heart of Big Sur with its dramatic coastline and staggering cliffs. Here you can stay at the legendary Post Ranch Inn or opt for a few nights at Ventana Big Sur. You’ll finish your trip in San Simeon where you can visit the Golden Age’s Hearst Castle. If you opt to continue south, take a pause in San Luis Obispo (SLO for locals) or go straight to Santa Barbara (see the next bullet!).
6. SANTA BARBARA – Picture your typical quaint town filled with local boutiques and casual, innovative restaurants – now add the Pacific Ocean at your doorstep, dozens of winery tasting rooms (hello urban wine trail!), and the HQ to a nationally-renowned ice cream brand (McConnells here we come!) – now you have Santa Barbara. My favorite hotels in this town are full of casual elegance, nodding to the area’s past as a hub for Hollywood’s Golden Age. Hotel Californian has been beautifully reimagined with a flair for Moroccan design. It’s location in the heart of the city can’t be beat as you can easily walk everywhere. And don’t forget about the rooftop pool! For a little more privacy, head into the hills for a stay at Belmond El Encanto – overseeing all of Santa Barbara, or San Ysidro Ranch, tucked away among lush gardens.
7. LA BEACH TOWNS – With so many wonderful fabulous resorts to choose from up and down the coast, it’s easy to skip over LA. But the sprawling city is home to several beach towns which have much to offer, in addition to proximity to great restaurants and shopping. In North LA, you’ll find two fabulous spots in Malibu – Nobu’s first hotel – Nobu Ryokan, and the Malibu Beach Inn, a member of Leading Hotels. Both are directly on the beach and perfect if you just want to hideaway and enjoy the ocean. For a more relaxed yet buzzy, head south of LA to Terranea – a large sprawling resort along the picture-perfect cliffs.
8. ORANGE COUNTY – Further south in Orange County, you’ll find plenty more oceanfront resorts ideal for a bit of an escape from everyday life. In Laguna, head to mainstay Montage or Ritz Carlton Laguna Niguel, or opt for a more boutique chic stay at Laguna Beach House or Hotel Joaquin. Up in Newport Beach, you can’t go wrong with a private casita at Pelican Hill Resort – great for golf lovers as well!
9. SAN DIEGO – As a San Diego resident, I’m a bit partial here, but July and August are truly wonderful summer weather in San Diego. You’ll have plenty of sun, ideal beach days and no humidity in sight. While San Diego offers plenty in the way of accommodations, it can be tricky to find something right on the beach. For the most iconic stay, I’d opt for Hotel Del Coronado and the Beach Village is worth the price tag if you want the most updated accommodations and private beachfront access. L’Auberge del Mar is another nice option in the North county for ocean views. And just a bit inland from there, you’ll find two beautiful spots – Rancho Valencia and the Inn at Rancho Santa Fe. Each property has acres of beautiful gardens and private casita accommodations and is only 15 minutes’ drive to the coast. Plus Rancho Valencia, a member of Relais & Chateaux, is well known for its incredible food, as well as its spa and tennis facilities. If you end up out in San Diego in September, consider the newly remodeled Park Hyatt Aviara, set to reopen that month after an extensive renovation.