The Most Romantic Hotels in California

The Golden State is home to a host of romantic places to stay
The Golden State is home to a host of romantic places to stay | © Adonis Villanueva / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Casey Hatfield-Chiotti
27 November 2020

Cuddle up over cocktails or engage in some serious pillow talk at these romantic California retreats, from Sonoma to Santa Barbara.

With its soft-sand beaches, pristine mountain peaks and sun-dappled deserts, California has a romantic landscape for every taste. Many hotels roll out the red carpet for guests, along with decadent dining experiences and romantic extras, like fresh-cut flowers and champagne on arrival. Get ready to reach for the “do not disturb” sign and whisper sweet nothings at these hotels in the Golden State.

La Serena Palm Springs

Boutique Hotel, Luxury
Map View
La Serena Villas
Courtesy of La Serena Villas / Expedia

La Serena Palm Springs, a 21-and-over hotel with 18 rooms, offers couples the ultimate luxury: privacy. Guest rooms are in storybook stucco bungalows with vaulted ceilings and reclaimed wood floors. French doors open onto private patios with outdoor clawfoot bathtubs, rectangular fire pits and built-for-two seating. While La Serena is boutique-sized, it has five-star flourishes like a bright blue swimming pool with views of the San Jacinto mountains, a tranquil spa offering couple’s massages and a Mediterranean restaurant with a rooftop bar.

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Sparrows Lodge

Boutique Hotel
Map View
Sparrows Lodge
Courtesy of Sparrows Lodge / Expedia

Built as Castle’s Red Barn in 1952 by MGM actor Don Castle, the Sparrows Lodge was one of Hollywood’s original Palm Springs getaways. A renovation in 2013 by the globetrotting couple behind luxe-villa Korakia Pensione gave it a rustic modern redux. The 20 guest rooms have exposed-beam ceilings, russet red walls, concrete floors with inlaid pebbles and humble horse troughs repurposed as bathtubs. Note that there are no televisions, so you’ll get quality time and a real-world chance to reconnect.

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Autocamp Russian River

Budget Hotel
Map View
AutoCamp
Courtesy of Autocamp Russian River / Expedia

If your idea of romance includes cozy quarters and plenty of fresh air, consider Autocamp Russian River. Guests can stargaze and snuggle around a campfire and laze away on hammocks strung between redwood trees. Glamping digs include refurbished Airstream trailers with spa bathrooms, retro campers, canvas tents and an accessible suite with creek views and a queen bed. It’s just a five-minute drive to Russian River beaches and downtown Guerneville.

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Petite Hermitage

Boutique Hotel
Map View
Petit Ermitage
Courtesy of Petit Ermitage / Expedia

This sultry hotel in West Hollywood transports guests to Marrakech with its furnishings and exotic rooftop oasis. There’s a small pool surrounded by oversized orange- and white-striped lounge cushions, and the Petite Hermitage’s rooftop garden, a dreamy spot for a candlelit soirée for two, has been dubbed a butterfly and hummingbird sanctuary by the National Wildlife Federation. At this all-suite property, even the demi suites have fireplaces, dining nooks, kitchenettes and fully-stocked honesty bars.

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  • Waters Edge Hotel

    Boutique Hotel, Hotel
    Map View
    Waters Edge Hotel
    Courtesy of Waters Edge Hotel / Expedia

    Couples need no excuse to stay in bed at the boutique Water’s Edge Hotel in Tiburon, just north of San Francisco. Free breakfast is delivered to rooms each morning: guests can choose items like steel-cut oats, granola, fruit juice and buttery Kouign Amann pastries. Light-filled rooms have crisp white bed linens and nautical art, and staff members deliver freshly-made cookies to guests each evening. Guests also receive a welcome bag on arrival with a half bottle of local wine and goodies like popcorn and trail-mix snacks – ideal for happy hour on the hotel’s fittingly-named Grand Waterfront Deck with views of the San Francisco skyline.

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    Ritz Carlton Bacara, Santa Barbara

    Luxury
    Map View
    The Ritz-Carlton Bacara, Santa Barbara
    Courtesy of The Ritz-Carlton Bacara

    At the Ritz-Carlton Bacara, on a prime 78-acre (32ha) swath of oceanfront in Santa Barbara, there are not one but three infinity pools and a vast spa with a redwood steam room that beckons couples to stay put. The resort also has six restaurants including a steakhouse serving Japanese Wagyu and locally-caught abalone. It’s just a quick walk to a 2mi (3km) beach with a gentle break and soft sand for hand-in-hand strolls at sunset.

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    Bodega Bay Lodge

    Lodge
    Map View
    Bodega Bay Lodge
    Courtesy of Bodega Bay Lodge / Expedia

    Located on a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean and made of local wood and stone, Bodega Bay Lodge embraces Sonoma’s rustic elegance. Follow the advice of the lodge’s down-to-earth staff and watch fishermen scour the bay for the day’s catch, spot migrating whales surf the waves, look for rare sea birds on the Coastal Bird Walk or stroll the 2mi (3km) beach side by side. After a day out exploring, indulge in Sonoma-inspired spa treatments, like the signature warm-shell massage or cabernet-grape sea scrub.

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    MacArthur Place

    Boutique Hotel, Spa Hotel
    Map View
    MacArthur Place
    Courtesy of MacArthur Place / Expedia

    Following a multi-million overhaul, wellness is now a central theme at the MacArthur Place hotel in Sonoma, once a working ranch and vineyard. The spa offers treatments using fruits, flowers and herbs grown in the property’s gardens, and there are plenty of ways to rejuvenate with your special someone. It also has a steam room and treatments for men and women, including a gentleman’s facial and an antioxidant-rich citrus and kale masque. After a day of pampering, tuck into an old-fashioned or MacArthur mule in the bar, a classic American drinking den with dark-wood finishes and low-slung leather couches.

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    These recommendations were updated on November 27, 2020 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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