Bernardus Lodge And Spa (credit: Randy Yagi)
Luxury resorts are typically defined by impeccable style, elegant furnishings and unrivaled service. But in California, where exclusive lodging is practically the norm, some have set the gold standard for contemporary luxury and classic sophistication. Capturing the essence of what a world-class experience offers, here are five of the best luxury resorts in California.
415 W. Carmel Valley Road
Carmel Valley, CA 93924
Of all the luxury properties spread across the spectacular Monterey Peninsula, only a select few are surrounded by vineyards and stunning lavender fields. Bolstered by a fabulous multi-million dollar renovation and under new ownership, Bernardus Lodge and Spa is easily one of the premier food and wine resorts in California and in the entire country. This award-winning boutique lodge features 57 lavish guestrooms and suites all equipped with a limestone fireplace, Italian Carrara marble vanities and several other delightful surprises such as a complimentary wine bar with fine wines from Bernardus Winery and a butler’s pantry. The exquisite 28-acre resort also hosts an award-winning spa, a 24-hour fitness facility and the prodigious restaurant Lucia, led by acclaimed chef Cal Stamenov, whose impressive culinary experience includes work with such celebrated chefs as Alain Ducasse and Pierre Gagnaire. Located in one of the world’s most romantic destinations, Bernardus Lodge and Spa is just minutes from the beautiful coastal communities of Carmel-By-The-Sea and Monterey. Recent distinctions awarded to the Lodge include being named the second “Most Exclusive New Hotel in the World” from World Travel, “Top 20 Food and Wine Resorts” from Andrew Harper and listed among the Best Hotels in the USA according to U.S. News and World Report Travel. Bernardus Lodge and Spa is expected to open several more luxury suites in June, not far from its gorgeous wedding venue.
905 Country Club Road
Ojai, CA 93023
Spread across 220 sun-kissed acres in the valley that bears its name, Ojai Valley Inn and Resort has been one of California’s premier getaways for more than 90 years. Originally intended to be a private country club and golf course at its unveiling in 1923, the historic resort just 90 minutes northwest of Los Angeles has attracted a host of Hollywood celebrities over the years such as Charlie Chaplin, Rita Hayworth, Katharine Hepburn and Walt Disney. Today, the five-diamond resort offers 305 fabulously appointed guest rooms and suites, in addition to the championship-caliber golf course, a host of dining options and a stunning 31,000-square-foot spa. The Ojai Inn and Spa continues to be a popular playground for Hollywood royalty, with Julia Roberts, Brad Pitt, Michael Douglas, Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin all counted as past guests. Among the exceptional dining choices at the resort are signature restaurant Olivella and the Wallace Neff Heritage Bar located in the original clubhouse. The resort’s extensive list of awards includes listings among Travel+Leisure’s World’s “Best Hotels,” “Top Golf Resorts” in North America from Golf Magazine and among the “Top Resorts in the U.S.” from Condé Nast Traveler.
5921 Valencia Circle
Rancho Santa Fe, CA 92067
The winner of several prestigious awards, Valencia and Spa is the only Relais & Châteaux property in South California. Quietly tucked away on 45 acres and just minutes from the coast, this amazing property offers 49 hacienda-styled suites with private patios, along with a host of other exceptional amenities such as a nationally ranked tennis facility, award-winning spa and two acclaimed restaurants. Led by executive chef Jarrod Moiles, The Pony Room and Veladora both offer Coastal Ranch cuisine utilizing fresh seasonal produce and herbs collected onsite, with the latter the recipient of the coveted Award of Excellence from Wine Spectator. Among the resort’s enormous collection of awards are “Best Hotel in California” and “Best Relais & Châteaux Hotels in North America” from U.S. News and World Report Travel, “America’s Best Culinary Hotel” from the Boutique Hotel Awards and “Top Resort in Southern California” from Condé Nast Traveler. Rancho Valencia is located about 30 minutes from San Diego and 20 minutes from the beaches of the affluent community of Del Mar.
Auberge Du Soleil
180 Rutherford Hill Road
Rutherford, CA 94573
Elegantly nestled within the hills above the breathtaking Napa Valley, Auberge du Soleil is consistently mentioned as one of the world’s finest luxury resorts. First opened in 1981 as the Napa Valley’s first fine-dining venue, the extraordinary 33-acre property evolved into a five-star luxury resort in a matter of years, featuring a number of Earth-colored maisons, housing 50 luxurious rooms and suites graced with Mediterranean-inspired décor. In more recent years, the multi-award winning resort added an equally impressive spa, and the landmark restaurant led by executive chef Robert Curry remains one of the Wine Country’s premier culinary destinations and the recipient of a Michelin star for 10 consecutive years. Other fabulous resort amenities from the flagship property of Auberge Resorts include the spacious fitness room, Auberge Pool and Cabana and La Pagode, a tranquil spot used for fitness classes and special events such as proposals and weddings. Among the recent awards and accolades bestowed upon Auberge du Soleil have been the Michelin Star 2016 from Michelin Guides, the Gold List from Condé Nast Traveler and a listing among the Top Resorts in the Continental U.S. from Travel+Leisure.
900 San Ysidro Lane
Santa Barbara, CA 93108
Described as California’s most historic and beloved secret hideaway, San Ysidro Ranch is a completely captivating boutique hotel founded in 1892. Encompassing 500 acres within the Montecito foothills of Southern California’s wine country, the resort has enjoyed a rich history of hosting a significant number of celebrities over the years, including Winston Churchill, Audrey Hepburn, Lucille Ball and Bing Crosby. San Ysidro Ranch was also the setting for “Gone With The Wind” star Vivian Leigh and Laurence Oliver’s wedding, in addition to the intimate honeymoon destination for President John F. Kennedy and his wife Jacqueline Bouvier. Known for its unparalleled natural beauty and classic luxury, the Ranch offers 41 individually decorated cottages and suites, two restaurants — including one selected as one of the 50 Best Restaurants in America — and a host of other amenities. Among the Ranch’s recent awards are “No. 1 Resort” by Travel+Leisure, one of “America’s 100 Best Wine Restaurants” by Wine Enthusiast and “Favorite Leisure Resort Hotel Anywhere in the World” from Forbes Life.
Randy Yagi is an award-winning freelance writer covering all things San Francisco. In 2012, he received a Media Fellowship from Stanford University. His work can be found on Examiner.com