The 15 Best Resorts in California

The best resorts in California, according to Travel + Leisure readers, connect their guests to the Golden State's spectacular nature and world-class wineries.

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Pool at San Ysidro Ranch
Photo: Courtesy of San Ysidro Ranch

Travelers have been eager to spend time outdoors, and the Golden State delivers mightily on this front. The best resorts in California, according to Travel + Leisure readers, are the ones that put nature center stage.

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 (including safari lodges) were rated on their facilities, location, service, food, and overall value. Properties were classified as city or resort based on their locations and amenities.

While seaside hideaways might be the first places that come to mind, the state has plenty of gems tucked into valleys or the agricultural inland. Take, for instance, Ojai Valley Inn (No. 11), which is ringed by the Topatopa Mountains. "The location is magical," said one reader, who went on to rave about the "incredible" staff and about the hotel's signature restaurant, Olivella, declaring it "one of the best Italian restaurants in the United States."

Still, the pull of the Pacific remains strong, and perennial favorites on the list appear once again, including two properties in Big Sur: Alila Ventana Big Sur (No. 15) and Post Ranch Inn (No. 14). Both properties are perched above a dramatic stretch of this famous coastline south of Carmel. One reader claimed the latter was "the best luxury getaway in the U.S.," thanks to the "extraordinary location and rooms, fabulous food, and incredible spa." Another appreciated the "beautiful views" and "top-notch service."

But it was San Ysidro Ranch, in Santa Barbara, that won the top spot. Read on for more about what made it the favorite and the full list of the best resort hotels in California.

1. San Ysidro Ranch, Santa Barbara

Gardens and Exterior of San Ysidro Ranch
Courtesy of San Ysidro Ranch

"Truly one of the most spectacular hotels in the world" is how one reader described this year's winner, which has hosted such famous guests as Jackie and John F. Kennedy, Audrey Hepburn, and Lucille Ball. Once a citrus farm, San Ysidro Ranch sits on 550 acres, full of lavender, olive and oak trees, and gardens — all framed by the Santa Ynez Mountains. The resort's 38 bungalows were thoughtfully designed with cozy touches: each comes with a stone fireplace, a private outdoor patio (with a hot tub and a rain shower), king-size four-poster beds, and eclectic décor (think Persian rugs, antique furnishings).

Score: 96.57

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2. Rosewood Miramar Beach, Montecito

Beach House King at Rosewood Miramar Beach
Courtesy of Rosewood Miramar Beach

Score: 96.14

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3. Sparrows Lodge, Palm Springs

Pool at Sparrows Lodge
Courtesy of Sparrows Lodge

Score: 95.58

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4. MacArthur Place Hotel & Spa, Sonoma

Guest room at MacArthur Place Hotel & Spa
Courtesy of MacArthur Place Hotel & Spa

Score: 95.45

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5. Rancho Valencia Resort & Spa, Rancho Santa Fe

Outdoor shower at Rancho Valencia Resort & Spa
Courtesy of Rancho Valencia Resort & Spa

Score: 94.80

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6. L'Auberge Del Mar

Guest room at L'Auberge Del Mar
Courtesy of L'Auberge Del Mar

Score: 94.74

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7. Brewery Gulch Inn, Mendocino

Exterior of Brewery Gulch Inn
Courtesy of Brewery Gulch Inn

Score: 94.38

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8. Waldorf Astoria Monarch Beach Resort & Club, Dana Point

Pool at Waldorf Astoria Monarch Beach Resort & Club
Courtesy of Waldorf Astoria Monarch Beach Resort & Club

Score: 94.21

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9. Auberge du Soleil, Auberge Resorts Collection, Napa

Guest room at Auberge du Soleil, Auberge Resorts Collection
Courtesy of Auberge Resorts Collection

Score: 94.14

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10. The Ranch at Laguna Beach

Aerial view of The Ranch at Laguna Beach
Courtesy of The Ranch at Laguna Beach

Score: 93.88

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11. Ojai Valley Inn

Exterior of Ojai Valley Inn
Courtesy of Ojai Valley Inn

Score: 93.40

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12. Rosewood Sand Hill, Menlo Park

Pool at Rosewood Sand Hill
Courtesy of Rosewood Sand Hill

Score: 93.39

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13. Holiday House, Palm Springs

Guest room at Holiday House
Courtesy of Holiday House

Score: 93.33

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14. Post Ranch Inn, Big Sur

Ocean House at Post Ranch Inn
Kodiak Greenwood

Score: 93.26

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15. Alila Ventana Big Sur

Exterior of Alila Ventana Big Sur
Courtesy of Alila Ventana Big Sur

Score: 93.17

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