Few destinations in the country boast the variety of vacation options that California offers. You can visit the second-largest city in the country, float along one of the world’s clearest lakes, get an eyeful of the largest tree in the world, taste your way through the nation’s largest wine-producing region, journey through the desert, then drive a few hours west to discover miles upon miles of beaches. It’s this incredible geographical diversity that makes the Golden State a great choice for traveling twosomes.
To help you and your partner plan your next dream vacation, U.S. News searched far and wide to determine the state’s most romantic escapes. From luxurious oceanfront resorts to small towns and beach communities that remain best kept secrets among locals (until now), these are the top romantic getaways in California.
Romantic Getaways in California:
— Napa Valley
— The Ritz-Carlton Bacara, Santa Barbara
— The Inn Above Tide
— San Francisco
— Post Ranch Inn
— The Sanctuary Beach Resort
— Laguna Beach
— Ojai Valley Inn
— Korakia Pensione
— Point Reyes National Seashore
— Farmhouse Inn
— Lake Tahoe
Foodie couples looking for a romantic getaway will certainly feel satiated in Napa. The reason Napa Valley is so famous for its wine is because it’s home to a whopping 16 American Viticultural Areas (AVAs), or areas designated by the government as official winegrowing regions. Within these AVAs are approximately 475 wineries. To complement this delicious vino, a competitive dining landscape has emerged, including nearly 30 Michelin-starred restaurants that provide the perfect setting for a special date night with your one and only. Traveler-approved spots like La Toque and Kenzo Napa can be found in the city, while the famous three-star French Laundry is tucked away in Yountville. But what makes Napa stand out as a romantic getaway is the landscape; everywhere you look, you’ll find lush rolling hills lined with vineyards and quiet, scenic valleys, allowing for plenty of special moments with your partner. To make sure you get the most out of the scenery — with vino in hand, of course — consider taking a tour, whether by bike, trolley or hot air balloon.
And if there is any place to treat yourself to some luxurious accommodations, it’s Napa Valley. The region is home to plenty of top hotels in Northern California. Auberge du Soleil, part of the Auberge Resorts Collection, affords spectacular views of Napa’s awe-inspiring scenery thanks to its hillside location in Rutherford. Meanwhile, at Solage, another Auberge property, each room comes equipped with an outdoor patio and two complimentary bicycles. For more affordable hotels, check out the offerings in downtown Napa.
This seaside community about 35 miles west of Los Angeles is well known for being a refuge for the rich and famous. And while you’ll no doubt find plenty of palatial homes situated high atop the mountains or steps away from the ocean, Malibu is more than a refuge for its glitzy residents. Angelenos know this, but visitors may be surprised to hear that Malibu is full of dozens of beautiful beaches big and small. Not only that, but this little town is just a stone’s throw from some incredible state parks, including Topanga State Park, Malibu Creek State Park and Point Mugu State Park.
With so many different shorelines, it’s easy for couples to find a secluded slice of the coastline to call their own. During your visit, make sure to explore the pocket beaches of Robert H. Meyer Memorial State Beach, including El Matador State Beach, Zuma Beach and Point Dume State Beach, especially at sunset. Another popular means of taking in the coastal landscape is hiking. For panoramic ocean views, trek the Paseo Miramar Trail or through Solstice Canyon or Sycamore Canyon.
As for where to stay, know that because Malibu is so small, there are few hotels to choose from. The Surfrider Malibu and the Malibu Beach Inn are located on the coast, while Calamigos Guest Ranch and Beach Club can be found in the adjacent mountains. For more hotel options, consider the lodging available in nearby Santa Monica, which is located less than 20 miles southeast of Malibu.
Carmel‘s awe-inspiring location by the Pacific Ocean and its soothing small-town charm make it the perfect place for twosomes in need of a getaway. Located in Monterey County, Carmel’s streets are lined with architecture just as dreamy as the nearby shore; here, you’ll find Spanish-style storefronts and courtyards, as well as Tudor-style cottages with thatched roofs housing local businesses. In fact, to retain Carmel’s character, chain restaurants of any kind are not allowed to set up shop here. Instead, hit up popular spots like La Bicyclette (a European bistro-inspired restaurant), Italian-influenced La Balena and L’Auberge Carmel‘s upscale Aubergine.
After you’ve perused the delightful offerings along Ocean Avenue — the town’s main drag — walk down to Carmel Beach, Carmel’s crown jewel. Sit in the sand and take in the scenery under the cypress trees, or take a walk along the shore path that snakes along Scenic Road. Another underrated stunner is Carmel River State Beach. Located on the other side of Carmel Point, just minutes from Carmel Beach, this state beach sees fewer visitors than its popular counterpart, perfect for duos who want to find a quiet spot on the sand.
Carmel is an affluent town, so you’ll find plenty of luxurious accommodations available. The most highly-rated hotels can be found in the nearby Carmel Valley, including Bernardus Lodge & Spa and Carmel Valley Ranch. For something closer to town, there’s Tradewinds Carmel. But if you’re looking for a truly unforgettable hotel experience, consider splurging on accommodations at a Pebble Beach Resorts property. Casa Palmero is perfect for couples who want a secluded, intimate hotel experience, while golf lovers will appreciate a stay at The Inn at Spanish Bay or the legendary Lodge at Pebble Beach.
The Ritz-Carlton Bacara, Santa Barbara: Santa Barbara
If you and your partner prefer indulging in some R&R at a great resort, T he Ritz-Carlton Bacara, Santa Barbara should be at the top of your list. Its location at the northernmost edge of Santa Barbara, roughly 15 miles west of the city center, gives it a remote feel that’s perfect for a much-needed getaway. Pair that with the resort’s dreamy Spanish-style architecture and its location atop the bluffs and you have all the makings of an unforgettable romantic vacation. Each room comes equipped with a private balcony or patio, as well as an oversized tub. For an unforgettable stay, upgrade to a room with an ocean view and a fireplace.
Outside your digs, you’ll find plenty of activities to keep you entertained, some of which the property’s $50 daily resort fee covers. The resort has three pools with cabanas, four tennis courts, a fitness center and an impressive spa. The spa has its own pool, fireside lounges, a rooftop terrace, a redwood sauna and a eucalyptus steam room. The resort is also right next to the Sandpiper Golf Club and features direct beach access to 2 miles of beautiful shore. Catch a sunset on the beach or from the waterfront Angel Oak restaurant, one of six food and beverage establishments on-site. What’s more, this Ritz-Carlton outpost is close to both the center of town and the area’s wine country. There are several wine tours available, including by bike.
The Inn Above Tide: Sausalito
Few hotels in the Bay Area afford a location as spectacular as T he Inn Above Tide. This modest, 33-room hotel is located just across the bay from San Francisco in Sausalito, and as its name suggests, it literally sits above the tide. This feeling of sleeping on the water is quite a unique experience. And if that’s not enough, you’ll wake up and fall asleep to incredible panoramic views of the bay and the San Francisco skyline. Book a room with a private balcony and fireplace to dial up the romance and get the most out of the inn’s location. Standard rooms come equipped with binoculars, custom-made linens, designer toiletries and complimentary breakfast daily. The inn also provides an evening wine and cheese reception for guests.
When you and your significant other are ready to peel yourselves away from your room’s fabulous view, take the time to explore Sausalito and beyond. The Inn Above Tide is located right along Sausalito’s main drag, putting couples within walking distance of numerous shops, restaurants and waterfront parks. For a delicious date night, consider Scoma’s Sausalito, an Italian seafood restaurant on the water, or Barrel House Tavern, another waterfront spot that specializes in California cuisine. Plus, the inn is also a stone’s throw from the Golden Gate Bridge, as well as the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, which features access to beautiful beaches and plenty of spectacular hiking trails.
Big cities aren’t always the right fit when it comes to romantic getaways, but San Francisco really knows how to make the heart flutter. The city is simply gorgeous, from the colorful Victorian-era homes that line the sky-high hills to the incredible views of the bay that can be spotted from the parks, beaches and cultural institutions. Couples should stroll hand in hand through beautiful neighborhoods like Pacific Heights and Nob Hill, the latter of which is home to some of the Best Hotels in San Francisco, including Fairmont San Francisco and T he Ritz-Carlton, San Francisco.
To admire the majestic Golden Gate Bridge, head to t he Presidio or Baker Beach. Or, travel across the bridge via a bike tour for more spectacular views at Battery Spencer in Marin County. Try to pencil in extra time to take advantage of the many stunning trails that make up the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, whether on the Marin County side at Muir Woods National Monument or at Lands End in the city. If sightseeing is a big priority for you and your partner, sign up for a guided tour. Or, to really impress your other half, arrange a helicopter tour for a bird’s-eye view of San Francisco’s most well-known landmarks. As the day winds down, consider grabbing dinner at the Embarcadero, which is located along the water in view of the Bay Bridge. Solid spots include EPIC Steak, Waterbar and Peruvian La Mar. At night, the bridge is illuminated, making for an incredibly romantic evening strolling along the bay.
Post Ranch Inn: Big Sur
This hotel boasts one of the most spectacular addresses in all of California. Post Ranch Inn is located at the edge of Big Sur‘s famous towering cliffs, affording guests unobstructed, panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean. In addition to its unmatched location, Post Ranch Inn offers a variety of accommodation options, including guest rooms and two private houses that are perfect for some one-on-one time with your partner. There are even several treehouse-style accommodations available, should you and your partner prefer waking up to views of the adjacent mountains.
Standard amenities available in rooms and houses include wood-burning fireplaces, binoculars, walking sticks for hiking, heated floors, daily complimentary breakfast, hot tubs and private decks with sweeping views. Plus, the hotel offers an array of complimentary activities, such as morning yoga, guided nature walks, guided sound meditation, stargazing, a tour of the chef’s garden and use of the property’s Lexus. The inn also houses a fitness center, a spa, a restaurant and a pool that faces the ocean. What’s more, the property is right next to Pfieffer Beach and Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, as well as a short drive away from other top attractions, including Andrew Molera State Park.
Mendocino is perfect for duos looking to take a pause in spellbinding scenery. Situated about 200 miles northwest of Sacramento, Mendocino enjoys a truly sublime location atop a verdant headland, with access to the coast and its striking cliffs just a short stroll away from many points in town. On the other side of state Route 1 are miles upon miles of forest — truly spoiling couples for choice when it comes to outdoor exploration.
Mendocino Headlands State Park is a great place to start. Here, you’ll be able to ogle at the bluffs and the beaches that can be found in between. Those beaches are not accessible, but you can head to nearby Big River Beach to sink your toes in the sand. Venture down the Big River Trail to get lost in the natural splendor, or get in your car and drive to Russian Gulch State Park or the Mendocino Woodlands State Park. This is the kind of place that is so beautiful that wherever you choose to explore, you’ll encounter incredible scenery.
As for where to stay, you’ll find plenty of great options in and around town. The Blue Door Inn, Four Sisters Collection and Headlands Inn Bed & Breakfast are located in town, while the Brewery Gulch Inn can be found a few miles south on the other side of Big River. These darling inns each come equipped with luxe amenities, such as in-room fireplaces, breakfast delivered to your room daily, cozy robes, designer bath amenities and views of the ocean, meadows or on-site gardens. For an unconventional lodging experience, bed down at Mendocino Grove, a glampground that features small, yet luxurious tents in the middle of the forest. All tents include fire pits, picnic tables and beds with down comforters and wool blankets, while the campsite itself has a bathhouse, hammocks, a bocce court, Saturday morning yoga, and complimentary coffee and chocolates at an on-site cafe.
The Sanctuary Beach Resort: Marina
This central California resort gives duos the unique opportunity to bed down on the beach without having to camp or glamp. The Sanctuary Beach Resort, which is located a little more than 9 miles south of Monterey in Marina, can be found sitting in the dips of the dunes that line the area’s coast. From each room and suite, you are just steps away from the beach. You’re so close that you’ll be able to fall asleep to the sound of the waves. There are several accommodation options available, but to really soak up the scenery, consider booking a room category that offers unobstructed ocean views and direct access to the sand. Previous guests were enchanted by the oceanfront location and found the excellent customer service to be a nice extra touch.
Standard in-room amenities include private patios or decks, binoculars, gas fireplaces, designer bath amenities and minibars. The resort also features a spa, a restaurant, complimentary bikes and helmets, and morning beach yoga every Saturday and Sunday. The beach is probably where you’ll be spending the bulk of your time, though. This stretch of shoreline in Monterey County truly goes as far as the eye can see, and because it’s not as well known to Monterey visitors, it’s easy to find a quiet spot in the sand to savor the scenery with your one and only. In fact, depending on when you go and how far down the beach you walk, you may not find anyone else there.
This small town is one of Southern California’s greatest jewels, especially for a romantic getaway. Laguna Beach, which sits between San Diego and Los Angeles, stuns thanks to its incredible geography. Mountains dotted with mega mansions cascade down the east side of state Route 1, which runs through the entirety of the town, while the west side lives on the edges of a stunning stretch of coastal cliffs. In between these cliffs you’ll find plenty of small cove beaches, a geographical attribute that isn’t as prevalent in other parts of Southern California. Venture to local favorites, such as 1,000 Steps Beach, Crystal Cove State Park and Victoria Beach, the latter of which has a 60-foot stone turret called the “pirate tower” that’s seemingly built into the cliff. Then, pack a picnic for two and venture to Heisler Park or Crescent Bay Point Park, both of which offer incredible views of the coast. If you two are wanting to get out on the water, book a kayak tour or take a surfing lesson.
Laguna Beach is an affluent city, so luxurious accommodations come in bulk here. The most famous hotel is Montage Laguna Beach, which can be found a little more than 2 miles south of the town center. This sumptuous resort sits right at the edge of the ocean and features four restaurants, a spa, on-site shops, a salon and a fitness center. If you don’t need all those extra bells and whistles, Hotel Joaquin will do the trick. With just 22 rooms, this boutique hotel embodies a more secluded and intimate atmosphere compared to its neighbors. Plus, guests must be at least 18 years old, meaning you won’t be sharing the pool with a bunch of kids. Twosomes who don’t want to stay in the bustling action of the coastline should opt for The Ranch at Laguna Beach, a resort that is tucked away in a valley between the Aliso and Wood canyons. Here, you’ll find a golf course, a pool with a bar, a spa and three dining establishments. For more options, check out the Best Hotels in Laguna Beach.
Ojai Valley Inn: Ojai
Ojai is well known for being a respite for tired Angelenos looking to unwind, luxuriate and take a break in nature. The Ojai Valley Inn offers all of that and more. Located about 80 miles northwest of LA, the five-star Ojai Valley Inn can be found right in the middle of the valley, meaning you and your better half will be treated to towering mountain views from just about every spot on the property grounds. This, in combination with the inn’s soothing Spanish-style architecture, makes your experience feel less like a hotel stay and more like a getaway. Delve further into the spirit of the destination (early members of the Chumash Indian Tribe believed that the valley possessed a peaceful energy and mystical powers) and take advantage of the wellness offerings available. Here, you can take part in yoga, meditation and guided hikes (the latter of which the $40 daily resort service charge does not cover) or indulge at the spa, where a range of treatments, including a brightening botanical facial and a CBD oil massage, are available for a fee.
You can also relax poolside (the property has four), play tennis, golf or go shopping at one of several on-site boutiques. The inn is home to eight dining venues, so you don’t need to venture off-site for sustenance. Accommodations feature creature comforts, such as plush bathrobes, Illy espresso machines, minifridges, artisanal bath amenities and iPads that allow you to access resort services. To up the romance, book a room with views of the Topatopa Mountains. Should you and your partner decide to leave the resort grounds, you’ll find plenty of activities. Take a hike at nearby Los Padres National Forest, head to town to visit the world’s largest outdoor bookstore (Bart’s Books), stop for a breather atop Meditation Mount or indulge in a wine tasting at downtown’s Casa Barranca Tasting Room.
Korakia Pensione: Palm Springs
There’s no better California getaway than a trip to the desert. Palm Springs is so revered because it offers the best of both worlds: access to a sprawling desert landscape and a city equipped with plenty of amenities, including an impressive array of hotels that cater to relaxation-seeking visitors. While many travelers tend to flock to the expansive resorts available here, couples may desire something more intimate to get away from any and all noise. That’s where Korakia Pensione comes in. Offering an enchanting blend of Mediterranean- and Moroccan-style architecture and decor (think: white-washed walls, arched entryways and fountains throughout), this boutique resort feels like a hidden oasis in the heart of Palm Springs, according to past guests.
Each of the 28 accommodations, which occupy two villas (a 1920s Moroccan villa designed by American painter Gordon Coutts and a 1930s Mediterranean villa once owned by American actor J. Carrol Naish), is individually appointed. Depending on the space you choose, you may find luxurious touches like a stone tub, a rain shower, a private patio or balcony, a wood-burning fireplace and a kitchenette or kitchen. Additional amenities, including two pools, massage services, Sunday morning yoga, guided meditation sessions and afternoon Moroccan tea, can be enjoyed on the property grounds. There isn’t a restaurant on-site, but the resort offers breakfast and lunch daily, which you and your partner can savor in a Moroccan courtyard, by the pools or in your room, suite or bungalow. When you’re ready to explore, walk to Indian Canyon Drive to check out its various shops and eateries. Or, borrow the resort’s complimentary bikes to reach nearby attractions like the Palm Springs Art Museum and the Elvis Honeymoon Hideaway. After a day of touring, return to the property to dial up the romance. Admire the resort’s hundreds of flickering candles and lanterns, which are lit nightly, and cuddle while watching a vintage flick beneath the stars.
Point Reyes National Seashore
Point Reyes National Seashore is easily one of California’s most underrated destinations. While many travelers make time for the state’s better-known vacation spots, including its big cities, national parks and wine country, Point Reyes remains largely untouched by mass amounts of visitors. What does this translate to? A remote vacation full of peace and quiet amid truly unbelievable landscapes. In this destination about 40 miles northwest of San Francisco, you’ll discover waterfalls that cascade down directly onto the beach, scenic overlooks that reveal miles of rugged coastline and trails that meander through quiet meadows and lagoons. Point Reyes is so undeveloped that several different species of mammals, reptiles, birds and more call this place home. In fact, 50 of those species have been designated by the state or federal government as threatened, rare or endangered.
While Point Reyes is no doubt a stunner, Mother Nature makes you work hard to enjoy its natural beauty. The bulk of Point Reyes’ trails are at least 4 miles long, so you’ll want to pay attention to trail descriptions before embarking on your trek. Lodging options in Point Reyes are also minimal. However, there are a variety of campgrounds, inns and bed-and-breakfast accommodations in nearby towns, including Olema, Point Reyes Station and Inverness. Olema House Point Reyes is the closest you’ll get to a luxury hotel experience. Accommodations offer luxe amenities, such as private patios, rooms with heated floors and, in some cases, fireplaces. Plus, guests have access to the property’s tavern and market, which serve California cuisine featuring local, seasonal ingredients.
Farmhouse Inn: Sonoma
This country-style hotel situated in Northern California will be a welcome reprieve for couples looking to take in the splendor of Sonoma. The Farmhouse Inn manages to provide exceptionally comfortable accommodations while maintaining a pristine level of rustic elegance throughout. Rooms here are dressed in predominately white and neutral tones and come equipped with luxurious amenities, such as oversized gas fireplaces, jetted tubs, saunas or steam showers, locally made bath products, fresh flowers and nightly turndown service with cookies and milk. Accommodations also feature an abundance of natural light, with views looking onto flourishing gardens and verdant trees. Recent guests sang praises for just about every aspect of their time at the inn, from the luxurious rooms to the exceptional customer service. Lodgers really felt like they were taken care of here by the staff. That, in combination with the property’s offerings, made their stays all the more memorable.
Explore the property further and you’ll discover the on-site spa, which features treatment rooms that each lead out to a private porch with an outdoor shower. What’s more, the Farmhouse Inn offers an impressive selection of couples treatments, such as couples massages outside and two signature massage experiences that include food and drinks, as well as use of private steam rooms and showers. The inn also has an outdoor pool, a hot tub and a Michelin-starred restaurant. Additionally, you and your partner can take advantage of the property’s wine connections. The Farmhouse Inn’s Winery Partner Program provides a laundry list of must-visit wineries in the region and can help you make tasting reservations. Plus, you can organize wine excursions through the inn, including sommelier-led tours. You’ll find the Farmhouse Inn in Forestville, about 30 miles northwest of Sonoma.
With more than 72 miles of shoreline, Lake Tahoe makes it easy to find a place to kick back and relax on or in the water with your favorite person. Located in Northern California, Lake Tahoe is so big that it pours across the border into Nevada. While travelers are quite familiar with its size, many may not realize that it is one of the clearest lakes in the world. In fact, in the 1860s, if someone dropped something into the lake, you could see the object visibly sinking for up to 100 feet. It’s this beautiful clarity, as well as the stately, forested mountains that surround it, that make the area a perfect place for couples who want to get swept up in nature.
Any and all outdoor adventure activities can be had here, including paddleboarding, hiking, skiing and sailing. You can even take a hot air balloon ride or book a helicopter tour for a more unforgettable ride. What’s more, the accommodation options are just as diverse as the activities. Popular properties include T he Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe, Edgewood Tahoe Resort and The Landing Resort & Spa. If you and your significant other want to test Lady Luck, stay at Harrah’s Lake Tahoe Resort & Casino or Harveys Lake Tahoe. For more options, check out the Best Hotels in Lake Tahoe.
More ways to explore California and beyond:
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