By Sara Clemence
July 08, 2020
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This year’s World’s Best Awards survey closed on Mar. 2, just before widespread stay-at-home orders were implemented as a result of COVID-19. The results reflect our readers’ experiences before the pandemic, but we hope that this year’s honorees will inspire your trips to come—whenever they may be.

The Golden State is home to bays and canyons, surf beaches and redwood forests, ski mountains and deserts. All of that astounding geographic diversity is reflected in the best resort hotels in California. Browsing the list of the top properties is like taking an armchair tour of California’s most compelling locales: Kimpton the Rowan (No. 4) lies in the middle of Palm Springs’ Midcentury Modern glory; the Inn Above Tide (No. 7) sits on the edge of glittering San Francisco Bay; Rancho Valencia Resort & Spa (No. 2) is tucked among estates north of San Diego; and the Farmhouse Inn (No. 9) puts the Sonoma Valley’s rolling foothills front and center.

Every year for our World’s Best Awards survey, T+L invites its readers 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.

Credit: Courtesy of North Block Hotel

Despite California’s nearly 3,500 miles of Pacific coastline, fewer than half of the top 15 resorts in the state are on the water. Four, including the beloved Auberge du Soleil (No. 13) and its sister property, Solage (No. 6), are in northern California’s wine country. Not entirely surprising given the area’s reputation for relaxed good taste — and outstanding tasting rooms. Two properties are perched on the rugged Big Sur coast: the charming Tickle Pink Inn (No. 14) and the iconic Post Ranch Inn (No. 8). “Truly amazing rooms in the clouds up on the cliffs,” wrote one T+L reader of the latter. The 2018 landslides temporarily closed off access from Highway 1, considered to be one of the most beautiful routes in the world, but now that the roads have been fully restored, “driving in is part of the fun,” the respondent added.

Yet the resorts recognized in this list have two things in common. As befits a state that grows two-thirds of the fruits and nuts in the U.S. and has started multiple food movements, they all have a strong focus on food. (Farmhouse Inn and Auberge du Soleil have even been awarded Michelin stars.) And though all of these resorts excel when it comes to attention to detail and service, they’re also infused with the Golden State’s laid-back style, which means the hospitality is genuine, never stuffy, making an escape to the West Coast all the sweeter.

Below, the full rundown of the best resort hotels in California, including readers’ repeat No. 1 North Block Hotel in Napa County.

1. North Block Hotel, Yountville

Credit: Courtesy of North Block Hotel

Score: 95.24

More information: northblockhotel.com

In the heart of Napa Valley, North Block is a very grown-up escape that puts guests in walking distance to some of the region’s most beloved tasting rooms and restaurants (the French Laundry is just a few blocks away). Serenity abounds here: its 20 guest rooms have neutral color palettes and soothing heated bathroom floors, and the romantic, fireplace-lit courtyard exemplifies the best of California indoor-outdoor living. (A nice touch: The on-site spa also incorporates local touches like wine corks and ground grape seeds.) Service also gets top marks, with staff members that go out of their way to anticipate guests’ needs.

2. Rancho Valencia Resort & Spa, San Diego

Credit: Courtesy of Rancho Valencia Resort & Spa

Score: 95.12

More information: ranchovalencia.com

3. San Ysidro Ranch, Santa Barbara

Credit: Courtesy of San Ysidro Ranch

Score: 94.87

More information: sanysidroranch.com

4. Kimpton the Rowan Palm Springs, Palm Springs

Credit: Courtesy of Kimpton Hotels

Score: 94.13

More information: rowanpalmsprings.com

5. Kimpton Shorebreak Resort, Huntington Beach

Credit: Courtesy of Kimpton Shorebreak Huntington Beach Resort

Score: 94.00

More information: shorebreakhotel.com

6. Solage, Auberge Resorts Collection, Calistoga

Credit: Courtesy of Solage, Auberge Resorts Collection

Score: 93.95

More information: aubergeresorts.com

7. Inn Above Tide, Sausalito

Credit: Antonio Martins/Courtesy of The Inn Above Tide

Score: 93.94

More information: innabovetide.com

8. Post Ranch Inn, Big Sur

Credit: Kodiak Greenwood/Courtesy of Post Ranch Inn

Score: 93.66

More information: postranchinn.com

9. Farmhouse Inn, Forestville

Credit: Courtesy of Farmhouse Inn

Score: 93.51

More information: farmhouseinn.com

10. The Ranch at Laguna Beach, Laguna Beach

Credit: Courtesy of The Ranch at Laguna Beach

Score: 93.44

More information: theranchlb.com

11. Rosewood Sand Hill, Menlo Park

Credit: Courtesy of Rosewood Sand Hill

Score: 93.18

More information: rosewoodhotels.com

12. Brewery Gulch Inn, Mendocino

Credit: Courtesy of Brewery Gulch Inn

Score: 92.95

More information: brewerygulchinn.com

13. Auberge du Soleil, Auberge Resorts Collection, Napa Valley

Credit: Courtesy of Auberge du Soleil

Score: 92.70

More information: aubergeresorts.com

14. Tickle Pink Inn, Carmel-by-the-Sea

Credit: Courtesy of Tickle Pink Inn

Score: 92.25

More information: ticklepinkinn.com

15. Rosewood Miramar Beach, Montecito

Credit: Courtesy of Rosewood Miramar Beach

Score: 92.00

More information: rosewoodhotels.com

See all of our readers' favorite hotels, cities, airlines, cruise lines, and more in the World's Best Awards for 2020.