The Top 10 Resort Hotels in California
California has proven incredibly resilient during the past two years. In early 2017, devastating mudslides forced the closure of portions of the famed Highway 1, and — only months later — wildfires scorched more than 1 million acres, including land around popular vacation destinations in wine country (Napa, Sonoma, and Mendocino counties) and as far south as Los Angeles and San Diego. Then in January 2018, while some areas were still on the mend, further mudslides closed several landmark properties, including Santa Barbara’s San Ysidro Ranch, which readers still gave the No. 8 spot on this year’s list. But thanks to determined efforts on the part of state agencies and thousands of residents, California resorts have been steadily recovering and are, by and large, ready to welcome visitors with the warm service and natural splendor that draw millions of people annually.
Every year for our World’s Best Awards survey, T+L asks readers to weigh in on travel experiences around the globe — to share their opinions on the top hotels, resorts, cities, islands, cruise ships, spas, airlines, and more. Hotels were rated on their facilities, location, service, food, and overall value. Properties were classified as City or Resort based on their locations and amenities.
Related: The 2018 World's Best Awards
For the second year in a row, the majority of readers’ favorite resort hotels in California are in the northern half of the state. Known for its hot springs and mud baths, the town of Calistoga appears twice on this list with two very different properties — both part of Auberge Resorts Collection. The idyllic Calistoga Ranch (No. 6) draws nature aficionados with its rustic-luxe cottages and soaking pools, while the modern Solage (No. 3) appeals to families with its complimentary bikes and children’s pool. “The mudslide treatments at the spa are really special,” said one reader of Solage.
Yountville’s Bardessono earned the No. 10 spot on this year’s California resort hotels list. Its combination of top-tier service and proximity to what one reader called the town’s “superior” restaurants, including Thomas Keller’s French Laundry, garnered the most praise. “I cannot say enough great things about the hotel and its location for a quiet getaway in Napa,” said another fan. Newport Beach’s Resort at Pelican Hill ranked highest among properties in southern California. Readers applauded the myriad ways that staff “will go above and beyond for guests every single time. I have never experienced such luxury and a feeling of home all at once.”
Read on for the full list, including the reveal of reader’s No. 1 choice.
10. Bardessono Hotel, Yountville
9. Rancho Valencia Resort & Spa, San Diego
8. San Ysidro Ranch, Santa Barbara
7. Ventana Big Sur, an Alila Resort, Big Sur
6. Calistoga Ranch, Auberge Resorts Collection, Calistoga
5. Auberge du Soleil, Napa
4. Resort at Pelican Hill, Newport Beach
3. Solage, Auberge Resorts Collection, Calistoga
2. Brewery Gulch Inn, Mendocino
1. Post Ranch Inn, Big Sur
The Post Ranch Inn’s “magic location” — tucked amid majestic redwoods on a seaside cliff — is normally a boon, helping create as what one guest called “an intimate connection with the ever-changing Pacific Ocean and Big Sur.” But when mudslides shut down the resort’s major access on Highway 1 last year, the Post Ranch team had to come up with a creative way to help guests circumvent the closure (not only to get into and out of the property, but to experience the area around it); they quite literally went above and beyond in their solution. “The only way in was helicopter and/or a hike,” described one guest. “We used the provided fleet of new Lexus cars to drive the 22-mile accessible road that was available, which meant we were able to see Big Sur almost as if it was a private island.” Beyond the setting, fans of the sleek eco-lodge note its superlative food and wine selection, and several chimed in with a single word: exceptional.
See all of our readers' favorite hotels, airlines, cruise lines, and more in the World's Best Awards for 2018.