Where to Unwind in Santa Cruz, California: the Chaminade Resort and Spa

Escape to a mountaintop retreat in the coastal forest above Santa Cruz
Escape to a mountaintop retreat in the coastal forest above Santa Cruz | © Zoonar GmbH / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Culture Trip
9 November 2020

Take the rolling hills of the Santa Cruz mountains and add an escapist villa in a forest grove, miles of scenic hiking trails and panoramic views of Monterey Bay, and you’ve got the Chaminade Resort & Spa – a perfect escape just minutes from downtown Santa Cruz. On a road trip along California’s historic Highway 1, Culture Trip stopped in to check it out one the top spas in Santa Cruz.

Just an hour and a half from San Francisco International Airport, and 40 minutes from San Jose airport and Monterey, Chaminade’s mountaintop location and sweeping views of the bay provide a perfect balance to sun-drenched downtown Santa Cruz and its busy boardwalk.

Deriving its name from Father William Joseph Chaminade, the 19th-century founder of the Society of Mary, the 300-acre (121ha) hilltop estate was once home to the Marianists, Chaminade High School, a WWII center for training priests and a 1970s religious retreat.

Transformed into a holiday resort in the 1980s, the Chaminade is now home to a stunning Mission-style main building and 156 newly refurbished guest rooms grouped into 11 villas.

The Chaminade is surrounded by forest above Santa Cruz | Courtesy of Chaminade Resort and Spa / Expedia

Our villa, comprising a spacious one-bedroom apartment with a separate living area, kitchen, bedroom and bathroom, was decorated in warm shades, with vibrant accent colors and contemporary Spanish-style furnishings, and from the private patio, the forest views are beautiful. Also on offer are free wifi, a coffeemaker, feather beds and BeeKind Gilchrist & Soames bath amenities.

Enjoy views of Monterey Bay from the patio, which comes complete with fire pit | Courtesy of the Chaminade Resort and Spa / Expedia

After unpacking, we set out to explore the resort’s amenities: a heated outdoor pool, a full-service day spa, hard court tennis courts, a fitness center with sauna and whirlpool, two outdoor jacuzzis, sand volleyball and badminton courts and a croquet lawn.

Next, we headed to the resort’s private hiking trails (a 1.75mi/2.8km or 1.25mi/2km path) and unwound among eucalyptus trees and old-growth redwood groves.

After our hike, we headed to the spa, which offers a variety of treatments for men and women including massages and body treatments and enhancements, as well as skin and nail care services. Our favorite spot was the dreamy zen garden-like patio, where a jacuzzi bubbled away and padded lounge chairs offered scenic hilltop views.

For dinner, we headed to the Linwood Bar & Grill, one of two on-site restaurants, which serves locally sourced, farm-fresh ingredients. We enjoyed braised short ribs with whipped potatoes and a seasonal vegetable medley with a side of mac and cheese and a grilled 12oz New York steak with roasted fingerling potatoes.

As the sunken fire pit crackled, we sipped local wine while taking in the panoramic sunset over the bay and quietly planned our next trip back to the Chaminade.

Rooms at the Chaminade include private patios | Courtesy of Chaminade Resort and Spa / Expedia

Looking for further relaxation? Unwind at the Best Luxury Spa Hotels in Napa Valley, California

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