The Golden State gets a gold star (or should we say heart?) in the romance department. From San Francisco to Big Sur, California is filled with cities and towns perfect for an amorous getaway -- and uber-romantic hotels seal the deal by providing amenities such as stunning spas, sexy suites, and top-notch restaurants. Click through our slideshow of the 15 most romantic resorts in California.
-- Jane Reynolds, Oyster.com
Calistoga Ranch, An Auberge Resort
It's no wonder royalty, A-list celebrities, and athletes keep returning to the luxury Calistoga Ranch: It's in a class all by itself. Guests rent exquisite private lodges, set on a private 157-acre park-like property complete with hiking trails and a top-of-the-line restaurant and spa. Attention to detail carries over from room design to landscape planning -- all modules for the lodges were flown in by helicopter to minimize impact on surrounding trees and to maximize privacy. The property boasts plenty of activities, including outdoor yoga, a beautiful heated outdoor pool, a bocce court, a fabulous fitness center, and wine tasting seminars. This property stands out as one of the most remarkable not just in Napa Valley but in the entire country.
Post Ranch Inn, Big Sur
The 39-room Post Ranch Inn is one of the most beautiful hotels in the United States -- if not the entire world -- and offers a romantic, intimate stay amid gorgeous natural surroundings. The hotel is built into the cliffs of Big Sur, and the organic architecture is breathtaking, seeming to grow out of the ground beside the hotel's surrounding redwoods. The spacious, eco-sensitive rooms have ocean or mountain views (that are sometimes obstructed by the pervasive fog that the area is known for) and many feature floor-to-ceiling windows to better show them off. Rooms also have wood-burning fireplaces, radiant floor heating, outdoor showers or hot tubs, private decks, and organic bath products and linens -- but no televisions or alarm clocks as the hotel strives for a peaceful environment. The award-winning spa focuses on rejuvenating services and even has a shaman on-site; the restaurant, Sierra Mar, is one of the best in Big Sur; the hotel's cliff-top pools are stunning; and free amenities (such as yoga and stargazing) are abundant.
The Grand Del Mar, San Diego
This 249-room Spanish-Colonial-style resort in the rolling hills near Del Mar is stunning, from the old-world decor to the enormous rooms to the luxurious spa. It features four pools, excellent restaurants, an 18-hole golf course, an Equestrian Center, and free car service in a Mercedes or Cadillac Escalade.
The Avalon Hotel on Catalina Island
The Avalon is an upper-middle-range boutique located in a quiet but central spot across the street from the beach. The property is intimate, with a mellow vibe, and only 15 rooms all built around a quaint shaded courtyard. The highlight here is the rooftop sun deck, offering loungers, and expansive ocean and hillside views. Rooms are spacious, homey, and well-equipped, with flat-screen TVs, DVD players, microwaves, and mini-fridges stocked with free bottled water. Prices are a little steep, but freebies -- such as Wi-Fi, continental breakfast, refreshments and coffee, and taxi service from the ferry terminal -- add value. It may also be worth considering the similarly priced Aurora Hotel, which is a bit more stylish.
The Inn Above Tide, Sausalito
A quiet alternative to San Francisco's busy downtown hotels, the luxurious Inn Above Tide is within walking distance of the shops, restaurants, and ferry in quaint, ritzy Sausalito (the scenic ferry ride to the city takes about 30 minutes). The 31 sophisticated rooms here have sweeping bay views and most come with patios overlooking the water. While there's a spa, free breakfast, and free wine and cheese receptions, its lack of a pool and an on-site restaurant may deter some visitors.
Sea Rock Inn, Mendocino
The intimate Sea Rock Inn is an upscale bed & breakfast with resort touches, offering suites and cottages with panoramic ocean views and wood-burning fireplaces. Binoculars are provided for whale-watching from private decks or the large lawn, which slopes gently toward the edge of the rocky Pacific cliffs. The inn is not fancy, but is charming, with knotty pine furniture, ebullient flowerbeds, and whimsical paintings and sculptures. Cabin-like guest rooms have plush beds from which guests can see the ocean.
The Lodge at Torrey Pines, La Jolla
With its proximity to some of the most beautiful spots in San Diego, the 170-room Lodge at Torrey Pines is a haven for nature lovers and golf enthusiasts opting for a rustic, relaxed vibe. Rooms and common areas feature craftsman-styled decor and furnishings, and the rooms are sweet and spacious, with a unique woodsy feel -- though some are a bit dark and even a tad bland. The bathrooms are massive, with custom-made toiletries and most featuring beautiful soaking tubs. The lodge's on-site facilities are up to par for a luxury resort -- heated outdoor pool with underwater music, beautiful spa, and a famous golf course that's a stop on the PGA Tour.
Ventana Inn & Spa, Big Sur
Situated on more than 200 acres of picturesque oceanfront land, The Ventana Inn & Spa looks like a rustic cabin nestled in the woods -- yet it features 62 luxurious, streamlined rooms with wooden accents, refreshing pops of color, and modern amenities such as flat-screen TVs, iPod docks, and free Wi-Fi. Many rooms have fireplaces, creating a cozy retreat vibe to fit with its surroundings -- though glass doors and large windows keep the rooms feeling bright and airy. Not a place for families, the overall goal of the hotel is to create a zen, holistic retreat with such offerings as yoga classes, discovery walks; afternoon wine and cheese, Japanese baths, and two pools (one of which is clothing optional).
Aurora Hotel, Catalina Island
Aurora Hotel is a stylish 18-room B&B located a short walk from Avalon's main drag. Rooms are small (with even smaller bathrooms), but have stylish contemporary decor, and wonderful amenities -- including Tempurpedic mattresses, flat-screen TVs, DVD players, microwaves, mini-fridges, and Keurig coffeemakers. There is a chic rooftop deck with great ocean views, and a massage room offering an extensive treatments menu -- but no full restaurant or pool. Prices are a little steep for such a limited range of on-site features, but freebies such as a weekly wine and cheese hour, Wi-Fi, and continental breakfast add value.
Cypress Inn on Miramar Beach, Half Moon Bay
The 18-room Cypress Inn on Miramar Beach is a mid-range boutique located in a quiet residential neighborhood next to the Pacific Ocean. The rooms are homey and romantic, and have a coastal California style that matches the setting. Some rooms have balconies offering spectacular ocean views. Fireplaces in all rooms and two-person jetted tubs in some add romantic touches. The free breakfast and evening wine reception with homemade desserts are appreciated perks, as is the resident massage therapist. There is access to a pretty coastal trail right outside the door of the property.
West Cliff Inn, a Four Sisters Inn, Santa Cruz
West Cliff Inn is an historic mansion perched on a hill across from a Santa Cruz beach. A bed-and-breakfast operated by the California-based Four Sisters Inns, it features smallish rooms, but most have a fireplace and modern marble bathrooms. The neighborhood has changed around the Victorian building as of late, and it now borders a mobile home park and has seen a growing homeless population.
L'Ermitage Beverly Hills
Hidden away in a quiet residential section of Beverly Hills, this 119-room hotel pampers guests with extraordinary service (including a rare, flexible checkout policy), huge 650-square-foot standard rooms, and a 24-hour rooftop pool with 360-degree views. All in all, a hotel with few equals.
Cavallo Point, Sausalito
This historic property under the Golden Gate Bridge offers sweeping views of the San Francisco Bay skyline. Located in a state park in Sausalito, Cavallo Point feels removed from the hustle and bustle of the city even though it is still accessible -- the hotel operates a free shuttle to the ferry terminal. The hotel has retained many charming historical details in its two main buildings as well as in its Historic Rooms, which were all formerly officers' residences. Contemporary Rooms, on the other hand, were built into the hillside, and have great views, gas fireplaces, and floor-to-ceiling windows. The hotel also features an acclaimed spa with a pool and fire pits, a Michelin-starred restaurant serving regional cuisine, an on-site cooking school, and many outdoor activities such as morning yoga and hiking.
The Beverly Hills Hotel
On 12 acres of lush grounds, this historic hotel is a serene, luxurious escape five minutes from Rodeo Drive. Its formal service and aura lend it a stuffier feel than the Four Seasons Beverly Wilshire, but it also has anachronistic charms, like an old-fashioned soda fountain, plus a great pool and (pricey) restaurants. The historic rooms, which are the most standard, are smaller and not as luxe, but all other rooms are spacious with fresh decor, amenities such as massive flat-screen TVs, and marble bathrooms with separate showers and tubs.
Bardessono, Napa County
Swank yet eco-friendly, this 62-room resort opened in 2009 with a mission of sustainability and luxury. Proud of its LEED Platinum certification awarded by the U.S. Green Building Council for leadership in environmental design, the hotel is solar-powered, sources its water from geothermal wells, and uses organic cleaning products. The modern rooms are plush and the bathrooms are spa-like, complete with a pullout massage table in each one. After a day of biking and vineyard visits, guests can lounge in covered sun beds by the rooftop pool, visit the spa, or enjoy a farm-to-table meal at Lucy Restaurant and Bar. The professional staff can arrange everything from hot air-balloon rides to pedicures on the guest room balconies.