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Concierge.com

California Hotels

$199 or less
Editor's Pick
Hotel Photo
Ace Hotel and Swim Club
701 E. Palm Canyon Drive
Palm Springs , California
92264
Tel: 760 325 9900
www.acehotel.com/palmsprings

Rather than the usual Rat Pack retro or duffer chic, this hip oasis is a slightly rugged desert escape. The Sahara-circa-1950s decor features walls covered in tent canvas (and matching bedspreads), steamer trunks (which store extra pillows), striped Berberesque robes, magazine racks stuffed with vintage National Geographics, and a clock/MP3 player that appears to be World War II surplus. Bathrooms could be bigger, and the water takes a while to get hot, but that just adds to the illusion of being far, far away. The grounds of this onetime Howard Johnson motor lodge have been transformed into a garden of mature palms and olive trees, with outdoor fireplaces. The King's Highway restaurant, a former Denny's, now serves Middle Eastern cuisine with a California edge. Despite its petite size, the spa offers an awesome array of treatments, while the sprawling pool is framed by royal palms, rocky outcrops, and snowcapped peaks. David Hockney, eat your heart out.

$400 or more
Editor's Pick
Hotel Photo
Auberge du Soleil
180 Rutherford Hill Road
Rutherford , California
94573
Tel: 800 348 5406 (toll-free)
Tel: 707 963 1211
info@aubergedusoleil.com
www.aubergedusoleil.com

One of the best-known and best-loved hotels in Napa Valley, Auberge du Soleil has turned its 33-acre hillside property into an outdoor sculpture gallery amid acres of olive groves. If that sounds over-the-top romantic, trust that the design was meant to be exactly that. Every light is on a dimmer; fireplaces burn wood, not gas; and half a dozen strategically placed votive candles let you set the mood come nightfall. The property celebrated its 20th birthday in 2005 with a total renovation, including a restyled pool deck bracketed by high-backed sofas that are ideal for lounging in the California sun. The 52 rooms in both a main house and cottages are inspired by the Côte d'Azur, with terra-cotta and orange accents, tiled floors, limestone countertops, and matelassé bedcovers. Two spacious maisons feature outdoor hot tubs on private patios and steam showers for two. Every room has a full wet bar, complete with top-shelf liquor and homemade mixers; bathrooms are stocked with everything from shaving supplies to Dr. Hauschka bath oils and an "intimacy kit." Regional ingredients—grapes, herbs, flowers, olive oil, and mud—are used in the signature treatments of the guests-only spa (some, such as lemon verbena, come from the hotel's herb garden).

$200-$299
Editor's Pick
Hotel Photo
The Avalon
9400 W. Olympic Boulevard
Beverly Hills , California
90212
Tel: 310 277 5221
reservations@avalonbeverlyhills.com
www.avalonbeverlyhills.com

The first and least flashy of the Viceroy Hotel Group's hotels, the 84-room Avalon has a classic main building that epitomized the California Dream of the '50s and '60s. Marilyn Monroe once lived here briefly, and the sun-splashed terraces and balconies overlooked a shimmering pool where beautiful young things lounged in bikinis. These days, the Avalon also includes two newer buildings, and the property's style is a hip homage to mid-century-modern style. Plush beds and modern amenities like CD and DVD players mix with original and reproduction pieces from that era's best-known designers (George Nelson, Noguchi, Eames). The young and fabulous can still be found here around the hourglass-shaped pool—these days, dining and sipping cocktails at the Blue on Blue restaurant.

$200-$299
Editor's Pick
Avia
1450 First Street
Napa , California
94559
Tel: 866 644 2842 (toll-free)
Tel: 707 224 3900
www.aviahotels.com/hotels/napa

While the famous up-valley hotels and resorts charge through the nose for their agrarian settings, you can almost always get better rates by staying in downtown Napa. And Avia, which opened in 2009, definitely feels more city than country. Rooms have nine-foot ceilings, wood-grain paneling covering the wall behind the flat-screen TV, a burgundy velvet swivel chair at the desk, and (best of all) bathrooms clad floor-to-ceiling in white marble, complete with dual showerheads and Japanese-style benches. The 141 rooms also have the requisite bells and whistles—king beds, iPod docks, and plush linens. Though the new construction feels slightly sterile, with many hard angles (and chances to stub your toe), an interesting mix of textures and fabrics adds some softness. The downtown location also puts multiple restaurants within walking distance, meaning you can have a third glass of wine without thinking twice.—John A. Vlahides

$400 or more
Editor's Pick
Bacara Resort & Spa
8301 Hollister Avenue
Santa Barbara , California
93117
Tel: 805 968 0100
info@bacararesort.com
www.bacararesort.com

Just a few miles up the coast from Santa Barbara, on 78 beachfront acres, the whitewashed collection of buildings known as the Bacara Resort & Spa—think ritzy Spanish Colonial—is the kind of status-y getaway that attracts new money, old money, wannabe money, and everyone in between. Room rates aren't cheap ($550 is the starting rate in high season), but the doting service makes it worth every penny. All the rooms are designed with a clean and comfortable beach-chic vibe, but the ocean-view suites hold the key to Bacara's secret weapon: dramatic sea cliff vistas that open onto a wild stretch of beach. With three swimming pools, a 220-seat screening room, the nearby Sandpiper golf course, and hiking trails galore in the nearby Santa Ynez Mountains, it's tempting to stay put rather than head into town. Good thing, then, that the campus dining options run the gamut from top-notch Basque-Catalonian cuisine at Miró to calorie-conscious fare at the Spa Café. However, even dinner at the resort's more casual option, The Bistro, will run you around $70 a head. At 42,000 square feet, the spa and exercise center is impressive in size but can feel somewhat factorylike, and the massages (the treatment of choice for most guests) are nothing to write home about.

$400 or more
Editor's Pick
Hotel Photo
Bardessono
6526 Yount Street
Yountville , California
94599
Tel: 707 204 6000
www.bardessono.com

Being green has never felt as good as it does at Bardessono, whose main assets are its stumbling distance from more Michelin stars than any Paris pied-à-terre, paired with the atmosphere of an agrarian retreat. After check-in, done via a staffer's hip-slung electronic tablet, it's a short walk to the hotel's four courtyards, where stone walkways curve alongside meandering streams. Each of the 62 rooms comes with a patio and a two-person tub; a few also have outdoor showers. A rooftop lap pool with cabanas overlooks the hotel's own grapevines. The modernist architecture makes use of salvaged cypress wood, weathered steel, and reclaimed tufa stone, while the lobby ceiling is constructed of redwood wine barrel staves. Sustainability is key in the restaurant, as well, where simple preparations rely on locally sourced meat and fish and produce from the hotel's own gardens. The only sign of opulence having lost out to eco-friendliness is in the stiff recycled-material couches, which rustle like packing peanuts when you sit down.

$400 or more
Editor's Pick
Hotel Photo
Bernardus Lodge
415 Carmel Valley Road
Carmel Valley , California
Tel: 831 658 3400
Tel: 888 648 9463
Fax: 831 659 3529
www.bernardus.com

Gourmands and oenophiles tend to choose this place, an extension of the eponymous winery. Here, it's all about the grape: Each of the 57 rooms has a "wine grotto," with several complimentary bottles, and the first order of business at check-in is wine tasting, not credit-card swiping. The rooms occupy nine two-story stucco buildings that sit around a central croquet lawn and flowering gardens. The white-walled interiors are a bit stark, but lines are crisp and the fabrics soft (beds are dressed in Italian linens), and there are plush sofas by the fireplaces. Alas, bathroom lighting relies too heavily on fluorescents, but the oversize soaking tubs compensate, as do the signature handmade tangerine and lavender soaps. Upstairs rooms have more privacy, with vaulted wooden ceilings and decks; downstairs rooms have patios. All face either the croquet lawn or the vineyards and forested hills surrounding the lodge. The pluses here include a top-notch spa, the excellent Marinus restaurant, and frequent culinary- and wine-education events, especially during lavender and tomato seasons.

$400 or more
Editor's Pick
Hotel Photo
The Beverly Hills Hotel and Bungalows
9641 Sunset Boulevard
Beverly Hills , California
90210
Tel: 800 283 8885 (toll-free)
Tel: 310 276 2251
reservations@beverlyhillshotel.com
www.thebeverlyhillshotel.com

The legendary "Pink Palace" opened in 1912, and the city of Beverly Hills literally grew around it. Today, the landmark Spanish Colonial building, still painted a garish Pepto-Bismol pink, sits on 12 acres of landscaped grounds filled with palms, banana plants, azaleas, and bougainvillea. Discreetly dotted about are the bungalows where stars like Elizabeth Taylor have from time to time taken up residence (she honeymooned with six of her husbands here). Phones are no longer carried by staffers to the booths of the Polo Lounge—sadly, cell phones have replaced that glamorous practice. Still, the chaise-surrounded pool, where Hollywood hopefuls once paid to have themselves paged in hopes of being noticed, still looks like the place where a young Marlene Dietrich used to lounge. (She would have liked the modern-day private treatment cabanas of the La Prairie spa.) Another sign of the times? The hotel's time-honored tearoom has recently been revamped into the swank Bar Nineteen 12, a stylish watering hole filled with beautiful people and young industry types. The 204 rooms, which differ in size and shape, are all furnished in plush, classic style, many with four-poster beds and marble-and-granite bathrooms with TVs. The 21 bungalows have fireplaces, separate living rooms, and dining rooms; some have pianos or treadmills. The one to book, though, is Bungalow 5, with its own private lap pool.

$400 or more
Editor's Pick
Hotel Photo
The Beverly Wilshire
9500 Wilshire Boulevard
Beverly Hills , California
90212
Tel: 800 427 4354 (toll-free)
Tel: 310 275 5200
res.rbw@fourseasons.com
www.fourseasons.com/beverlywilshire/

This historic landmark at the foot of Rodeo Drive has recently reverted to its original name (for the past 21 years, it was known as the "Regent Beverly Wilshire"). It was given a massive transformation a couple of years back, adding a spa with blue glass sinks and dramatic light effects (even the steam room has electric "stars" on the ceiling), six poolside cabanas with plasma TVs and iPods, and two stunning see-and-be-seen spots—CUT, a Wolfgang Puck steak restaurant designed by Richard Meier (where celebs like Jennifer Aniston, Vince Vaughn, and Brangelina have dropped in—though probably not at the same time), and Sidebar, the lounge across the entry-way. Facing Wilshire Boulevard, with a few outdoor tables on the sidewalk, is Blvd, the chic-casual dining restaurant with a 180-foot-long onyx bar. The 395 luxurious hotel rooms have butterscotch-colored leather headboards on the beds, and dark-wood furniture.

$400 or more
Editor's Pick
Hotel Photo
Calistoga Ranch
580 Lommel Road
Calistoga , California
94515
Tel: 800 942 4220 (toll-free)
Tel: 707 254 2800
concierge@calistogaranch.com
www.calistogaranch.com

From the folks who brought you Auberge du Soleil comes the Calistoga Ranch. Set amid tall pines and gnarled oaks in a narrow canyon southeast of downtown Calistoga in Napa Valley, the 46 private guest lodges have open layouts, private patios, indoor/outdoor showers, fireplaces, and large, well-placed windows that overlook dense woodlands. Because it's zoned as a trailer park, though, the property had to fit the existing footprint: Rooms are close together, small, and built on blocks—and though they're adorned with copper trim and cedar shingles, they still look like side-by-side storage boxes from the outside. To compensate and provide extra floor space, designers connected each suite's interior rooms with big outdoor decks under the canopy of oaks. On the grounds are walking trails, bocce courts, and an outdoor pool; the guests-only dining room overlooks Lake Lommel. The Bathhouse Spa gets its water from local hot springs, and all the treatments use indigenous ingredients such as bay laurel and eucalyptus. Some decry this property as garish and showy, and service isn't as tight as it should be at this price, but Calistoga Ranch still makes a great hideaway for a romantic retreat.

$400 or more
Editor's Pick
Hotel Photo
Campton Place Hotel
340 Stockton Street
San Francisco , California
94108
Tel: 866 332 1670 (toll-free)
Tel: 415 781 5555
reservations@camptonplace.com
www.camptonplace.com

Refined The refined Campton Place, which was purchased in spring of 2007 by the Taj hotel group, has only 110 rooms, which means that service is personal as well as polished. Rooms are decorated in sand and cinnamon hues, with old-fashioned leather-topped writing desks and pear-wood paneling. A stay here is as soothing as a cup of hot chocolate and as serene as a weekend at a country house, thanks to insulated glass windows that block out urban noise. Standard rooms can be a bit cramped, and not all have bathtubs (request one if it matters to you); better to upgrade to the deluxe category, which will give you an extra 100 square feet, enough space to accommodate a fully opened room-service table and two chairs. The in-room dining is courtesy of the attached Campton Place Restaurant, which serves up Cal-Med cuisine that highlights local produce and is executed with French-style precision. The guests, mostly high-flying executives and couples on romantic getaways, tend to keep to themselves.—Updated by John Vlahides

$400 or more
Editor's Pick
The Canary
31 West Carillo Street
Santa Barbara , California
93101
Tel: 805 884 0300
reservations@canarysantabarbara.com
www.canarysantabarbara.com

The Canary (formerly the Hotel Andalucia) is the sister hotel to Shutters and Santa Barbara's newest downtown luxury hotel after reopening in 2008 following an extensive renovation. The secret weapon here is the location, a user-friendly spot just blocks from the beach and steps from the town's main drag, State Street. Like the name, the hotel's decor (nicely handled by designer-to-the-stars Michael Smith) is a riff on the Canary Islands. Think ethnic and eclectic—hand-painted Spanish tiles, Indonesian ikat-upholstered chairs, and regal four-poster beds of spiral-carved walnut. For the price ($400 and up a night), the standard rooms seem a little snug, and the service could use a little finessing, but there are plenty of thoughtful and unexpected touches, from the yoga DVDs and mat in the closet to the electrolyte-enhanced jelly beans in the minibar. Just don't expect any breezy ocean views: This 97-room property is more city than seaside, and chances are your room will offer restricted vistas of one of the nearby parking lots. For a peek at the Pacific, you'll have to head up to the rooftop pool.

$400 or more
Editor's Pick
Hotel Photo
Carneros Inn
4048 Sonoma Highway
Carneros , California
94559
Tel: 888 400 9000 (toll-free)
Tel: 707 299 4900
info@thecarnerosinn.com
www.thecarnerosinn.com

If you prefer Wallpaper over Town & Country, and Minis over Bentleys, you'll love the modernist-meets-farmhouse aesthetic of the Carneros Inn, located in one of Napa Valley's least-developed areas. The inn was designed to reflect its agrarian surroundings, with 86 tin-roofed cottages grouped around flower-filled courtyards and rocking-chair front porches surrounded by orderly rows of grapevines, bucolic fields, and rolling hills. Interiors are idyllic in a very different way, with iconic Eames and Le Corbusier loungers, heated slate floors in the bathrooms, indoor-outdoor showers, and wood-burning fireplaces. Unlike most wine country retreats, kids are welcome here and even have their own pool. The inn's Euro-Cal dining room, Farm, has plush velvet booths, dark-wood floors, and high ceilings that give it the look of a converted dairy barn. Guests gather at the fire pits outside to sip wine at day's end. There's also the more casual Boonfly Cafe, as well as an on-site spa that puts local ingredients to good use—try the mustard-seed massage or the soothing goat butter wrap.

$400 or more
Editor's Pick
Hotel Photo
Casa Palmero
1518 Cypress Drive
Pebble Beach , California
Tel: 800 654 9300 (toll-free)
Tel: 831 622 6650
Fax: 831 622 6655
www.pebblebeach.com/page.asp?id=1385

Live to golf? You won't get closer to the game than at this grand 1927 Mediterranean-style villa: It sits right on the first fairway of Pebble Beach Golf Links. The hotel's 24 rooms are in newer, two-story buildings with hidden doorways and soundproof walls, so you won't have to hear fellow enthusiasts shouting "Fore!" Casa Palmero is the most luxurious of Pebble Beach's three lodging options; it's more chic and sophisticated than the Lodge at Pebble Beach (where the bars are crowded with noisy golfers at the end of the day), and more intimate than the sprawling Inn at Spanish Bay. Here, downstairs rooms have private gardens with Jacuzzi pools; upstairs rooms have oversized window seats as big as twin beds. All have wood-burning fireplaces. The furnishings are predictably fancy/stuffy—lots of rich fabrics, plush carpets, and linens from England—but the bathrooms are supermodern, with rainfall showerheads in marble stalls and heated slate floors. The property has a 25-room spa offering facials and massages, and evening cocktails are served fireside every night in the main villa's salon. For a spot of privacy, you can also take drinks in the billiard room or wood-paneled library.

$200-$299
Editor's Pick
Hotel Photo
Catamaran Resort Hotel
3999 Mission Boulevard
San Diego , California
Tel: 877 646 3726
www.catamaranresort.com

Originally the Scripps family's summer estate, this property was sold and converted into a hotel in 1958. The new owners opted for colonial Hawaiian–style architecture that's still in place today. Mahogany woods and South Pacific–inspired furniture outfit the 315 rooms. Yes, the theme can get a little stilted, especially when it comes to the luau nights, the lei-making table, and the the canoe hanging in the fake waterfall–equipped lobby. But hokey or not, the activities and the relaxed and welcoming vibe keep the Catamaran on the short list for families. The location is great too: a narrow spit of land between the Pacific Ocean and Mission Bay, good for swimming, kayaking, and sailing. The beach and boardwalk are just across the street, and Belmont Park and SeaWorld are also nearby.

$300-$399
Editor's Pick
Hotel Photo
Cavallo Point
601 Murray Circle
Fort Baker
Sausalito , California
94965
Tel: 888 651 2003 (toll-free)
Tel: 415 339 4700
info@cavallopoint.com
www.cavallopoint.com?chebs=concierge_dec08

A national park lodge that trades the elk antlers and log beams for modern art and bamboo ceilings, Cavallo Point is a rare species. The footprint of the property hasn't changed much from its days as an Army post, and half of the rooms are in the former officers' quarters. Built in 1909, these historic accommodations have a homey feel, each with its own quirks of the original Colonial-Revival architecture. The newly built accommodations are the most visible aspect of Cavallo Point's bid for LEED certification: Think solar panels and denim insulation (how refreshing, too, to enter an empty hotel room where every light isn't on). Staff don't yet have service down to a science, but their charm offsets any hiccups you might encounter. Best of all, this spit of land hidden at the Marin-side foot of the Golden Gate Bridge, has the loveliest view of San Francisco—although the earplugs stashed in every room suggest that foghorns could be an issue. Guests can perfect their running stride or their knitting stitch in one of the multi-day learning programs. And chef Joseph Humphrey oversees the delicious dishes at Murray Circle, the clubby Farley Bar, and the Healing Arts Center's healthy Tea Bar.

$199 or less
Editor's Pick
Chase at Palm Springs
200 West Arenas Road
Palm Springs , California
92262
Tel: 760 320 8866
chasehotelps@aol.com
www.chasehotelpalmsprings.com

Pricey new boutique hotels may be getting all the attention, but the cheap and chic Chase has quietly become one of the hottest tickets in town. The mid-century motel, formerly Holiday House (a glamorous retreat for Hollywood royalty), has a quaint old-California vibe. Just one block off the main Palm Canyon drag, it features 26 large, blond-wood rooms with comfy contemporary furnishings, free breakfast, Wi-Fi, and full kitchens or kitchenettes. The heated saltwater pool is a popular hangout, as are the shuffleboard deck and courtyard BBQ grill. Reserve early—this place is always sold out.

$400 or more
Editor's Pick
Hotel Photo
Château du Sureau
48688 Victoria Lane
Oakhurst , California
Tel: 559 683 6860
www.chateausureau.com

There is no front desk and no TVs in guest rooms, and when you check out you'll get a handwritten bill at this stucco, turreted inn near Yosemite. Chambermaids in white linen aprons bring tea—"the ambience and service are so proper." All accommodations have fireplaces and are filled with antiques, tapestries, and nineteenth-century art. At Erna's Elderberry House, sit on Provençal furnishings, take in views of the Sierras, and eat French dishes like braised rabbit or roasted duck breast.

(10 rooms)

$300-$399
Editor's Pick
Hotel Photo
Chateau Marmont
8221 Sunset Boulevard
Los Angeles , California
90036
Tel: 323 656 1010
Fax: 323 655 5311
www.chateaumarmont.com

Jean Harlow carried on an affair with Clark Gable while honeymooning here with her husband, Harold Rosson—that's just one of many rendezvous the Chateau has supposedly played host to. Built in the late '20s in the style of a Loire Valley mansion, it was falling into disrepair by the time John Belushi overdosed and died there in 1982. In the early '90s, though, haute hotelier André Balazs took over, and it's been a hot spot ever since. Although it sits at the eastern end of the Sunset Strip, it's set so high up from the road and surrounded by such dense vegetation that it feels like a secret oasis. You never know who you'll spy sitting in the garden or lounging in a chair amid the Gothic arches of the colonnade. The 50 rooms and suites, four cottages, and nine bungalows are all unique. Suites in the main building have dressing rooms, kitchens, and dining areas; a few have working fireplaces. The decor is a mix of eras: Stickley coffee tables and Deco headboards share space with wicker chairs and Oriental rugs. The infamous Room 64, the two-bedroom penthouse in the main building, has a 1,500-square-foot terrace, where Colin Farrell was once caught making out with Britney Spears by the paparazzi. Over-the-top amenities include chauffeur-driven cars, personal trainers, 24-hour shoeshine service, and Frette baby linens.

$200-$299
Editor's Pick
Hotel Photo
Colony Palms Hotel
572 North Indian Canyon Drive
Palm Springs , California
92262
Tel: 800 557 2187
reservations@colonypalmshotel.com
www.colonypalmshotel.com

Following a $16 million renovation—courtesy of Cher's interior designer Martyn Lawrence Bullard—the Spanish-style Colony Palms is redeeming itself after stints as a brothel and a mobster-owned speakeasy back in the 1930s. The 56 rooms in this Moroccan-chic boutique are small but lovingly appointed with high-tech goodies (flat-screen TVs, Wi–Fi, iPod docking stations), seven-foot tall Turkish tapestry headboards, and swank touches such as Dean & Deluca nibbles in the mini-bar. The tropical-inspired restaurant bar, The Purple Palm, is a comfortable place to sip cocktails by the pool or take in the purple mountain vistas, all of which makes this casually cool retreat feel worlds away—somewhere between Casablanca and Ibiza—from its convenient downtown Palm Springs setting.

$300-$399
Editor's Pick
Hotel Photo
CordeValle
One CordeValle Club Drive
San Martin , California
95046
Tel: 408 695 4500
cordevalle@rosewoodhotels.com
www.cordevalle.com

This Craftsman-style resort by the Santa Cruz Mountains has perfect-scoring bungalows with a "modern yet rustic atmosphere," Frette linens, leather armchairs, and fireplaces. Guests appreciate the "secluded corners of the grounds" surrounded by tree-topped hills. New Italian cuisine at Il Vigneto emphasizes seasonal produce. Play a course with vineyard views, or sample treatments like a grapeseed and cherry bark scrub at Sense Spa.

(45 rooms)

$200-$299
Editor's Pick
Crystal Pier Hotel and Cottages
4500 Ocean Boulevard
San Diego , California
Tel: 858 483 6983
Tel: 800 748 5894
www.crystalpier.com

Want oceanfront? We'll do you one better: How about ocean-top? This small hotel's 23 Cape Cod–style cottages are perched atop Pacific Beach's historic fishing pier. Built in 1927, some of the cottages were remodeled as recently as 2005, but they're still nothing special, with white wicker furniture, kitchenettes, and a Jimmy Buffett meets West Palm Beach vibe. Of course, with porches like these, you won't be sitting inside. The Crystal Pier is perfect for vacationing families, groups of friends, and pretty much everyone else, too. The only trick is getting a room. A SoCal classic and annual tradition for many folks, the hotel is regularly booked solid all summer long. Book at least six months in advance for June–August, or better yet, visit in the fall, when the air is crisp and the boardwalk more peaceful, and powerful west swells thundering below the pier lull you to sleep. When booking, keep in mind that the hotel's six oceanfront suites are on the beach, not on the pier like the cottages.

$200-$299
Editor's Pick
Hotel Photo
El Dorado Hotel
405 First Street West
Sonoma , California
95476
Tel: 800 289 3031 (toll-free)
Tel: 707 996 3220
info@eldoradosonoma.com
www.eldoradosonoma.com/el_dorado_hotel.html

The 27 rooms may be tiny, but what they lack in space they make up for in style, price, and prime location on Sonoma's historic town plaza. Each room has a steel four-poster bed, Miró-esque paintings, and a small wrought-iron balcony. The bathrooms are also small, and nothing special, but they're spotless. The hotel's common spaces are more spacious: a popular restaurant that serves contemporary Californian dishes, a swimming pool flanked by lounge chairs, a lush courtyard with intertwining grapevines and a 150-year-old fig tree, an on-site café bakery, and a lobby with hip decor that would be equally at home in a W hotel. If you require more space for lounging than a bed and a single chair, you'll feel cramped (opt for one of the hotel's four suite-like bungalows). But if you spend your days out and about, you'll appreciate economizing on your room and having the extra money to spend buying wine. Book early: The hotel's bargain prices are no secret.

$200-$299
Editor's Pick
Hotel Photo
Estancia La Jolla Hotel & Spa
La Jolla
San Diego , California
Tel: 858 550 1000
www.estancialajolla.com

The hacienda-style Estancia sprawls along the bluffs north of La Jolla. Setting the Spanish Mission mood are red-tile roofs, faux-adobe walls, and 210 rooms and suites set around arcaded courtyards. Interiors are equally inviting—an eye-pleasing array of apricot, avocado, and pumpkin hues set against Mexican reproduction antiques and Indonesian wicker. The Adobe restaurant blends fresh-off-the-boat San Diego seafood with traditional ranchero dishes such as grilled rib-eye steak. The after-dinner crowd adjourns to The Library for a quiet Cognac or strolls across the rose garden to the Mustangs & Burros bar, where drinks are served alfresco in front of a roaring fire and accompanied by a flamenco guitarist. The Spa at Estancia offers citrus body scrubs and outdoor massages.

$400 or more
Editor's Pick
Hotel Photo
Fairmont San Francisco
950 Mason Street
San Francisco , California
94108
Tel: 800 441 1414 (toll-free)
Tel: 415 772 5000
sanfrancisco@fairmont.com
www.fairmont.com/sanfrancisco

Perched atop Nob Hill, the venerable Fairmont is the hotel where Tony Bennett first crooned, "I left my heart in San Francisco." The lobby dazzles with gilded opulence: gold-framed mirrors, potted palms, impressive columns, and the building's original marble floors from 1907. Rooms are high-end business-class in style; most feature Asian antique reproductions and rose-marble bathtubs. Those in the original building have high ceilings and a rich sense of place, but not all have views; rooms in the vintage-1961 tower have jaw-dropping vistas yet feel more generic. The Fairmont also has San Francisco's most fabulous presidential suite, built circa 1926, complete with outdoor terrace and a movable bookcase in the library that conceals a secret staircase to the rooftop helipad. Downstairs, the sublimely kitschy Tonga Room offers Asian food and cocktails, and the Laurel Court Restaurant serves California cuisine. The Fairmont is perfect for a romantic weekend, especially if you're looking for a place wreathed in San Francisco history.—Updated by John Vlahides

$199 or less
Editor's Pick
Hotel Photo
Farmer's Daughter Hotel
115 S. Fairfax Avenue
Los Angeles , California
90036
Tel: 800 334 1658 (toll-free)
Tel: 323 937 3930
www.farmersdaughterhotel.com

You won't find actual farmers here, but the famous Farmers Market is just a short walk from this cute, family-owned hotel. It's also across the street from CBS Television City, where The Price Is Right is taped—lots of contestants stay here, and there's an altarlike photo display of recent prize-winning guests in the lobby. Sixty-six rooms and suites are done up in country-chic style: denim bedspreads, exposed wood floors, and small farm-themed paintings. The pool is merely adequate (don't expect lush landscaping or a view of anything, and watch out for a floating leaf or two), but the staff's helpfulness, the great location, and the price more than make up for it. Assuming, of course, you're the game-show type. Breakfast at Tart, the hotel's restaurant, doesn't hurt, either: Try the French toast stuffed with mascarpone and berries.

$300-$399
Editor's Pick
Farmhouse Inn & Restaurant
7871 River Road
Forestville , California
95436
Tel: 800 464 6642 (toll-free)
Tel: 707 887 3300
innkeep@farmhouseinn.com
www.farmhouseinn.com

This is the quieter side of wine country, where the Russian River rambles beneath tall redwoods and pinot noir grapes flourish. Built on a 19th-century farmstead, the Farmhouse Inn's cottages have the cozy feel of a favorite sweater, with wood-burning fireplaces, double-size soaking tubs, and in-room saunas. The rooms to book are in the barn, built in 2009, which are styled with a nod to the region's agrarian roots. These include double-sided fireplaces with mantles made from reclaimed century-old redwood wine vats, furniture upholstered with naturally dyed linen, and beds dressed with throws made from local wool. Upstairs barn rooms also have vaulted ceilings and private sun-dappled decks. The two-and-a-half-acre grounds have flowering gardens, a heated pool, and a fire pit where guests roast s'mores after dinner. Unlike other wine country hotels, the Farmhouse doesn't nickel-and-dime you: Minibar snacks and Italian sodas are free (and wines are reasonably priced). You can also stock up on (free) locally made soaps and bath salts in the lobby. The small spa uses house-made organic products, such as carrot-oil purée skin toner. The on-site restaurant is one of Sonoma's best.—John A. Vlahides

$199 or less
Editor's Pick
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Figueroa Hotel
939 S. Figueroa Street
Los Angeles , California
90015
Tel: 800 421 9092 (toll-free)
Tel: 213 627 8971
unofig@aol.com
www.figueroahotel.com

The Figueroa is one of the best deals in L.A. Where else can you get a one-bedroom suite with a wet bar, a silk-canopied ceiling, and handwoven Afghani kilims for under $200 per night? The downtown hotel—which began its life in 1925 as a YWCA—was decaying and depressing when the current owner, Uno Thimansson, began renovating the Andalusian-style architecture in 1976. Now, the 285 guest rooms have walls and cement floors painted in jewel tones, with handpainted tiles and Persian rugs scattered about. Some have conventional chairs and couches, others simply have pillows on the floor; the whimsical art on the walls might come from Iraq or India (or someone's idea of them). Enough with the  iPod docking stations—your room here is more likely to have a record player and a stack of 33s. The walled-in pool area is surrounded by a cactus garden and has a beautifully tiled bar.

$400 or more
Editor's Pick
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Four Seasons The Biltmore
1260 Channel Drive
Santa Barbara , California
Tel: 888 424 5866 (toll-free)
Tel: 805 969 2261
Fax: 805 565 8323
www.fourseasons.com/santabarbara/index.html

In privileged Montecito, this exclusive Spanish colonial–style 207-room resort is more than a beachfront Four Seasons—it's been a glamorous Santa Barbara institution since opening as the Biltmore in 1927. A place where Greta Garbo, Errol Flynn, Lana Turner, Bing Crosby, and other Golden Age movie stars once played croquet on the front lawn, the hotel is now a gathering spot for locals (the Sunday brunch, oceanfront dining, and bar with live entertainment are big draws) and the resort of choice for visitors who want Santa Barbara's toniest beach getaway. Sweeping archways, heavy carved entry doors, colorful imported Spanish tile, and carved woodwork are renovated features of the original hacienda, but modern amenities abound, too, including a 10,000-square-foot spa. Only a sprawling green lawn and a road separate the hotel from Butterfly Beach. Revamped rooms feature Mission-style antiques, local art, more Spanish tile, decorative ironwork, rain showers and deep soaking tubs, 42-inch plasma-screen TVs with surround sound, DVD players, and broadband Internet. A botanical guide to the 44 exotic and rare plants in the resort's 22 acres of tropical and subtropical gardens is available at the concierge desk. Normally, guests are also allowed access to the private Coral Casino Beach & Cabana Club next door, but the club is closed for renovations until summer 2007.

$400 or more
Editor's Pick
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Four Seasons Hotel San Francisco
757 Market Street
San Francisco , California
94103
Tel: 800 332 3442 (toll-free)
Tel: 415 633 3000
world.reservations@fourseasons.com
www.fourseasons.com/sanfrancisco

The superluxurious Four Seasons San Francisco is a sanctuary so serene it's hard to believe it's in the heart of downtown. The 277 large rooms have soft beds, marble bathrooms, and deep soaking tubs; the suites have stunning views of the city. Though the understated greige decor successfully straddles the line between contemporary and traditional, with clean lines and zero clutter, it lacks color and splash: If you like fringe and chintz, choose the Ritz-Carlton instead. The Cal-Med restaurant, Seasons, offers a sophisticated spin on surf and turf, and the vast Sports Club/LA, the city's top health club, has a gym, fitness classes, a pool, a full spa, a basketball court, and even Gyrotonic and Budokon studios. The hotel's $2 million Bay Area art collection is so prestigious that it merits a podcast tour, and service can be so obsequious it's almost embarrassing.—Updated by John Vlahides

$400 or more
Editor's Pick
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Four Seasons Los Angeles at Beverly Hills
300 S. Doheny Drive
Los Angeles , California
90048
Tel: 310 273 2222
Fax: 310 859 3824
www.fourseasons.com/losangeles

A straw-yellow, 16-story high-rise accented with white balconies, the Four Seasons looks less like a hotel and more like one of the apartment buildings that surround it. Inside, though, it's all luxury. Rooms are decorated traditional Four Seasons–style, with rich fabrics in florals and stripes; sunlight pours through French doors that open onto Juliet balconies. The views from the fifth floor on up are spectacular, ranging from the jewel-box lights of the Hollywood Hills to panoramic city views. The fourth-floor spa and pool area is one of L.A.'s prettiest: The tiered pool is ringed by shrubs and flowers, and the green-and-white-striped cabanas are outfitted with plasma TVs, Wi-Fi, and mini-refrigerators. Downstairs, the lobby opens onto a lush garden, where the hotel's Culina Italian restaurant has a discreet patio set among the greenery. During awards season, the bar overflows with recognizable faces, but star sightings (yes, that is John Malkovich having dinner) are common year-round.

$400 or more
Editor's Pick
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Gaige House
13540 Arnold Drive
Glen Ellen , California
95442
Tel: 800 935 0237 (toll-free)
Tel: 707 935 0237
gaigeconcierge@jdvhospitality.com
www.gaige.com

There's plenty to love about the Gaige House: the bucolic Sonoma Valley setting near Jack London State Park; the chef-prepared three-course breakfasts, gratis (think artichoke and pistachio blini with house-smoked salmon, asparagus, and saffron cream—yes, that's one course); and the 15 original rooms, with a Victorian-Asian mix of antique armoires, feather-light bedding, clean lines, nature-inspired artwork, and cozy fireplaces. And now there are eight significantly larger spa suites in two freestanding buildings fronting a creek—sumptuous riffs on traditional Japanese ryokan inns. The cedar-shingled, U-shaped quarters are built around private courtyard gardens, with Zen interiors (shoji screens, orchids, Buddha statues), huge soaking tubs carved from a single chunk of black granite, and showers built for two. Spa treatments, such as chocolate mint body scrub and Lomi Lomi Hawaiian massage, are offered outdoors in a pavilion beside the Calabaza Creek (in summer) or in the privacy of your room.

$200-$299
Editor's Pick
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Glorietta Bay Inn
1630 Glorietta Boulevard
Coronado , California
92118
Tel: 800 283 9383
Fax: 619 435 6182
www.gloriettabayinn.com

Situated across the street from the famed "Hotel Del," the Glorietta Bay Inn often gets billed as the poor man's version of the grande dame, but this 11-room charmer has much to recommend it. It's substantially less expensive than its fancy neighbor, it offers free Wi-Fi and breakfast, and it doesn't nickel-and-dime with resort fees (the Del charges for all of the above). The former home of San Diego land baron John D. Spreckels, the lushly landscaped property is situated right on the bay, within walking distance to Coronado's shops and cafés. There are two sections: Opt for the historic 1920s mansion with its original brass cage elevator, marble staircase, and guest rooms brimming with antiques and nostalgia; the newer, motel-style buildings are decidedly less charming. The downside of the older rooms? Smaller and slightly dingy bathrooms, which would benefit from a spruce-up. Still, the exceptionally friendly service (waiters remember your name and the kind of scone you like at breakfast) keeps Glorietta Bay Inn fans coming back.—Audrey Davidow

$400 or more
Editor's Pick
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Grand Del Mar
5300 Grand Del Mar Court
Del Mar , California
92130
Tel: 855 314 2030
Tel: 858 314 2001
www.thegranddelmar.com

The Grand Del Mar is an opulent gem located in the serene hills of the Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve. A sprawling estate complete with four swimming pools, two outdoor tennis courts, a 21,000-square-foot spa, and an equestrian center, the North County hotel feels more like a luxe villa ripped right out of the Tuscan countryside. Past the burbling horse-head fountains, the lush gardens, and spiffy doormen is a marble-and-crystal lobby with ornate columns and archways overlooking the Tom Fazio–designed golf course. Some of the 249 rooms and suites feature dining rooms, outdoor fireplaces, and extended verandas with stunning views of the fairway; all include nice touches such as hand-stenciled ceilings, steam showers, and Pratesi linens. Among the dining options is Addison, SoCal's only five-star/five-diamond restaurant. The hotel offers numerous complimentary perks, too—daily shoe-shines, gym classes, guided hikes through the nature preserve, and limo jaunts into the storybook-sweet village of Del Mar.—Audrey Davidow

$300-$399
Editor's Pick
The Grande Colonial
910 Prospect Street
La Jolla , California
92037
Tel: 858 866 9014
info@gclj.com
www.thegrandecolonial.com

The casual, understated elegance of the Grande Colonial hotel, a 93-room Euro-style boutique in the heart of La Jolla, lies somewhere between the buttoned-up La Valencia and the chic Hotel Parisi. Completely refurbished in 2000, this historic hotel was built in 1913 and is comprised of three buildings: the five-story main structure; the ten-suite extended-stay Garden Terrace; and the eight-suite Little Hotel by the Sea. All three are decorated in subtle shades of pale blue, yellow, or green, with striped drapes that have a beachy vibe. You won't find a minibar in the main building's rooms (though the garden suites have them), nor an on-site gym (though you can pick up a $25 day pass to a nearby facility). The bathrooms are more basic than luxurious, but there's a simplicity here that makes you feel at home (well, at a very wealthy friend's home, outfitted with impeccable taste and an exceptionally friendly staff). The suites in the Garden Terrace and the Little Hotel come with kitchens and are closest to the water, but if it's prime Pacific views you're after, ask for an ocean-facing room on the upper floors of the main hotel. Don't miss the bustling restaurant, Nine-Ten (but skip the dining room and grab a seat at the bar, where the short rib panini and homemade potato chips steal the show).—Audrey Davidow

$200-$299
Editor's Pick
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Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel
7000 Hollywood Boulevard
Los Angeles , California
90028
Tel: 800 950 7667 (toll-free)
Tel: 323 466 7000
reservations2hrh@thompsonhotels.com
www.hollywoodroosevelt.com

The buzz was considerable in 2005 when Thompson Hotels took over this landmark Mediterranean-style hotel, where the first Academy Awards ceremony was held in 1929. One reason: The 300 rooms and suites were redesigned by Dodd Mitchell—L.A.'s pet designer for the last decade. The other reason: The poolside Tropicana Bar and interior club Teddy's were taken over by nightlife impresario Amanda Demme, and quickly became the hottest spots in town. But though the marriage with Demme ended in a high-profile divorce in spring of 2006, the hotel still has plenty to recommend it. Mitchell's decor in the main hotel, as well as in a newer, separate building that surrounds the pool, is undeniably chic: Beds have draped-fabric headboards that look like Roman shades; the streamlined furnishings in shades of taupe and black seem both brand-new and retro; framed photographs of celebrities hang on the walls; and cement showers (a Mitchell trademark) are in some of the bathrooms. Lower-floor units have patios that open onto the pool, while upper floors have balconies with tables and chairs. The nightlife scene has cooled; while Teddy's is still filled with young Hollywood starlets, the Tropicana has quieted into a romantic, relaxed place for drinks.

$200-$299
Editor's Pick
Horizon Hotel
1050 E. Palm Canyon Drive
Palm Springs , California
92264
Tel: 760 323 1858
info@thehorizonhotel.com
www.thehorizonhotel.com

Built in 1952 as a desert retreat for Hollywood mogul Jack Wrather and actress-wife Bonita Granville, this low-slung mid-century modern on two and a half manicured acres was rebuilt from the ground up by owner Dave Scharf in keeping with the original William Cody design. Horizon reopened in May 2006, and all 22 rooms follow the simplicity and clean lines of the exterior, with minimal black-on-white decor, pillow-top beds, Italian linens, flat-screen TVs, and Wi-Fi. There are also a pool and bar, spa services, yoga classes, and a separate three-bedroom residence with floor-to-ceiling windows and its own private pool.

$200-$299
Editor's Pick
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Hotel Angeleno
170 N. Church Lane
Los Angeles , California
Tel: 310 476 6411
hotelangeleno.com

An extreme makeover has turned an aging Los Angeles icon, the 1971 circular tower at the 405 freeway's Sunset Boulevard off-ramp, into a sleek 209-room property, the first SoCal foray for Bay Area–based Joie de Vivre hotels. A thick steel-and-glass barrier minimizes the endless whoosh of traffic, and even during rush hour the intimate pool area with its outdoor fireplace feels as private as a Bel Air estate. Low ceilings and ice machines in the hallways recall the building's previous incarnation as a Holiday Inn, but the overhauled rooms pick up considerable height, and the masculine-toned space is softened by pillowtop beds and lots of sunshine. There's free Wi-Fi, and chauffeured Cadillac Escalades offer guests free lifts to the immediate surroundings, including the hilltop Getty Center. Staff are unfailingly friendly, including at the top-floor West restaurant.

$199 or less
Editor's Pick
Hotel Bohème
444 Columbus Avenue
San Francisco , California
94133
Tel: 415 433 9111
Fax: 415 362 6292
www.hotelboheme.com

Smack dab in the heart of North Beach, San Francisco's Little Italy, the Hotel Bohème nods to the neighborhood's Beat era heyday. What the 12-room boutique hotel lacks in amenities, it compensates for with a strong sense of place. A climb up the thickly carpeted, creaky wooden staircase (there's no elevator) reveals an old-fashioned, pensionelike inn. The hallways are lined with gallery-quality black-and-white photographs of North Beach in the '50s and lamps shaded with decoupage sheet music and poetry by Allen Ginsberg (a frequent guest back in the day). Done in burnt orange and sage green, rooms are simple and cozy, with armoires, gingham bedspreads on cast-iron beds, bistro tables, and rattan side chairs with Chinese-motif cushions. Bathrooms are tiny and have no tubs, but they're spotless and sport sunny yellow tile. We're not convinced of the mosquito netting doubling as a crown canopy over the bed, but such touches add to the hotel's funky charm. Outside, the colorful neighborhood is chockablock with sidewalk cafés, indie boutiques, and Italian pastry shops, but the street scene gets loud. The hotel has double-pane windows, but if you're a light sleeper, book a room in the back.—John Vlahides

$400 or more
Editor's Pick
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Hotel Casa del Mar
1910 Ocean Way
Santa Monica , California
90405
Tel: 310 581 5533
Fax: 310 581 5503
www.hotelcasadelmar.com

After a $50 million renovation, the Hotel Casa del Mar opened in 1999 next to its sister hotel, Shutters on the Beach. But while Shutters has a beach-house aesthetic, the 129-room Casa, which was a private beach club in the 1920s, is done up in grand Mediterranean style. There's a stately marble lobby and a pool suspended above the sand on a wide terrace; rooms have overstuffed toile sofas and bamboo-and-wood headboards, and each has a plush chaise at the end of the bed. The white marble bathrooms with big whirlpool tubs have frosted-glass windows that can be opened onto the bedrooms (each room's "Chill Bar" includes toiletries like gel masques and bath crystals—although they'll cost you extra). The three duplex penthouse suites all have fireplaces; one has its own exercise room. On the fourth floor is the Murad Spa—although massages can also be had in poolside cabanas—and the 75-seat, first-floor restaurant, Oceanfront, has spectacular sunset views. The hotel's once mediocre service, like the decor, seems to have undergone an overhaul—staffers are now attentive and solicitous.

$300-$399
Editor's Pick
Hotel Photo
Hotel Del Coronado
1500 Orange Avenue
Coronado , California
Tel: 619 435 6611
Tel: 800 468 3533
www.hoteldel.com

It's gotten knocked recently for being a bit tired, but this 1888 landmark is still packing 'em in for vacations, weddings, dinners, and conference…but especially vacations. Yes, the Del is showing its age, but an ongoing series of facelifts is improving the rooms and adding (by summer 2007) a new spa and fitness center and a modern wing with cottages on the sand. Yup, this is the hotel from Some Like It Hot (it stood in for Miami, actually), so you can revel in the Del's iconographic status: a white, palm-fringed Victorian with picturesque red spires and gables on prime beach real estate on Coronado Island. Or you can just appreciate the benefits of staying at a vast (688-room) resort: Great beaches (with surfing instructors on hand), two pools, bikes for hire, take-out delis, a bakery that opens at 6 a.m., and an exceptionally child-friendly attitude, down to supplying swim diapers at the pool.

$300-$399
Editor's Pick
Hotel Photo
Hotel Healdsburg
25 Matheson Street
Healdsburg , California
95448
Tel: 800 889 7188 (toll-free)
Tel: 707 431 2800
frontoffice@hotelhealdsburg.com
www.hotelhealdsburg.com

The 55-room Hotel Healdsburg has stark, unfussy interiors done in warm woods and greens with bright-white bedding and Tibetan rugs covering hardwood floors. (The best rooms have balconies overlooking the buzzing Healdsburg plaza.) Bathrooms are likewise minimalist in design, with poured-concrete vanities and giant soaking tubs for two. The look is sleek and contemporary, but with so many hard surfaces, rooms can be echoey. The lobby is a happening gathering spot and a great place to warm up with a glass of zin on a chilly afternoon, especially beside the fire sculpture in the hearth. Come morning, the lobby becomes the breakfast room; the extensive buffet is included in the rate (the smoked salmon is delicious, but the accompanying bagels will disappoint New Yorkers). There's also an outdoor lap pool, fitness room, and spa with regionally inspired treatments, such as a wine-and-honey wrap and seasonal fruit scrub. Even if this weren't northern Sonoma's smartest address, the well-dressed crowd would probably still flock here for co-owner and chef Charlie Palmer's Dry Creek Kitchen, where most ingredients and all the wines come from Sonoma County, some from as close as the garden out back.

$200-$299
Editor's Pick
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Hotel Monaco
501 Geary Street
San Francisco , California
94102
Tel: 800 546 7866 (toll-free)
Tel: 415 292 0100
Fax: 415 292 0111
www.monaco-sf.com

The Hotel Monaco, one of several Kimpton properties in the vicinity of Union Square, manages to achieve a certain swank despite the rooms' slightly dated dot-com–era decor. Still, the look—a riot of mismatched stripes and checks—remains fun, and there are some quirky touches that set the hotel apart: Pets are welcome, a goldfish is delivered on request to keep guests company, and bathrobes are emblazoned with leopard and zebra prints. The on-site spa, intended to evoke a contemporary Roman bath, includes a sauna, steam room, and hot tub, plus a 24-hour gym and various massage treatments. The Grand Café serves French brasserie food in a beautiful turn-of-the-century ballroom. A complimentary wine and cheese reception is held nightly in the sumptuous lobby, which has a frescoed ceiling, a large fireplace, and a sweeping marble staircase.—Updated by John Vlahides

$199 or less
Editor's Pick
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Hotel Oceana
202 W. Cabrillo Blvd.
Santa Barbara , California
Tel: 805 965 9776
Fax: 805 965 9937
info_sb@hoteloceana.com
www.hoteloceanasantabarbara.com

This beachfront hotel may only be a motel makeover, but it's a good one, with perky, beachy decor by model-turned-furnishings-maven Kathy Ireland. Created from four vintage motor inns, Hotel Oceana has 122 airy rooms with whitewashed walls and furnishings tastefully decorated in cheery red, yellow, green, and robin's egg blue. It's not without its perks—two pools, a Jacuzzi, a small spa—but all said, it's a place where you sacrifice a bit of luxury for a good rate and a prime spot facing the waterfront.

$300-$399
Editor's Pick
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Hotel Palomar
12 Fourth Street
San Francisco , California
94103
Tel: 866 373 4941 (toll-free)
Tel: 415 348 1111
sales@hotelpalomar.com
www.hotelpalomar.com

Snappy art installations add a contemporary touch to the lobby of this soigné downtown hotel, tucked away in a historic 1905 building. The Palomar's comfortable bedrooms have simple, clean lines with some bold bursts of color and crocodile-print carpets. Art is a recurring theme here, from the Escher-like geometric parquet in the lobby to the Magritte Suite, a tribute to the great Surrealist artist that includes a cloud-painted ceiling and a bowl of green apples. The eager-to-please staff sets a genial atmosphere, and the swanky Fifth Floor restaurant serves seasonal California cuisine.—Updated by John Vlahides

$300-$399
Editor's Pick
Hotel Photo
Hotel Parisi
1111 Prospect Street
La Jolla
San Diego , California
Tel: 858 454 1511
www.hotelparisi.com

You could walk along swanky Prospect Street without ever noticing Parisi—and that's the point of this quietly aloof 20-suite retreat. Rooms, arranged according to feng shui principles, are tastefully appointed with walnut furniture and original abstract oil paintings, all of which helps deflect attention away from the disappointing views. (The best suites only have obstructed glimpses of the ocean.) Parisi is within easy reach of the sea caves at La Jolla Cove, but its guests (couples, businessmen, and Hollywood's elite, including Madonna and Cindy Crawford) tend to gravitate toward shopping and take advantage of the on-site acupuncturist, massage therapist, certified yoga instructor, or even the on-call clinical psychologist. If you haven't guessed already, this is not the place to bring Junior.

$300-$399
Editor's Pick
Hotel Photo
Hotel Solamar
435 6th Avenue
San Diego , California
Tel: 619 531 8740
Tel: 877 230 0300
www.hotelsolamar.com

A block from the new Padres home at PETCO Park in the Gaslamp Quarter, the first Kimpton hotel in San Diego displays the brand's playful decor (here, a lot of chocolate brown, aqua blue, giant polka dots, and stripes), warm welcome for doggy guests, and good restaurant, Jsix. Opened in April 2005, the 235-room hotel is aimed squarely at the hipper end of the business market, with full-sized desks, ergonomic chairs, and free Internet access (wired and Wi-Fi) in all rooms, plus a 9,000-square-foot function space and three blocks to walk to the San Diego Convention Center. Come kickback time, there's a pool on a 13,000-square-foot deck with three fire pits to encourage the consumption of signature "passiontinis."

$300-$399
Editor's Pick
Hotel Photo
Hotel Vitale
8 Mission Street
San Francisco , California
94105
Tel: 888 890 8688 (toll-free)
Tel: 415 278 3700
bookvitale@jvdhospitality.com
www.hotelvitale.com

The flagship property of the Joie de Vivre chain, the Vitale promotes California-style serenity with free daily yoga classes—often held in the penthouse studio—and private soaking tubs in the spa's rooftop garden. The 199 rooms have a Zen aesthetic, with a sprig of lavender outside every door; a palette of soft blues, greens, and beiges; and streamlined modern furnishings. Extras like mud masks in the minibar help inspire a meditative mood. For the best views, it's worth springing for a waterfront room, with sweeping vistas of the Bay Bridge. At happy hour, head downstairs to the lounge at Americano, the hotel's restaurant, which has a thriving singles scene.Updated by John Vlahides

$200-$299
Editor's Pick
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Hotel Yountville
6462 Washington Street
Yountville , California
94599
Tel: 707 967 7900
info@hotelyountville.com
www.hotelyountville.com

A down-to-the-studs overhaul turned the modest Yountville Inn into a place worthy of its Napa's many Michelin-starred restaurants. The design doesn't stray far from wine country's beloved French farmhouse look. The hotel has expanded by 40 rooms, a spa, and a restaurant, and the new buildings mimic the originals' cobblestone-like exteriors. The details—hammered-silver lamps, ostrich-leather footstools, and the like—are well curated, and the sizable guest rooms are gratifyingly light-filled and low-tech. No remote-controlled light switches here, no instruction manual required for the dual-headed shower. Gas fireplaces done in Napa fieldstone keep the place warm when it's cool, and a swimming pool provides cool when it's hot. The standout Hopper Creek Kitchen serves only breakfast, but the menu is as much of an eye-opener as the coffee, with dishes like risotto and maple pork consommé. The hotel has loaner bikes and iPads and is only a short walk from some of the most sought-after dinner spots in Napa Valley.

$200-$299
Editor's Pick
Hotel Zoso
150 South Indian Canyon Drive
Palm Springs , California
92262
Tel: 760 325 9676
concierge@hotelzoso.com
www.hotelzoso.com

Opened in December 2005, Zoso—which means balance—lives up to its name with funky, in-your-face furnishings offset by a laid-back California vibe. An angular taupe exterior also belies the plush appointments within. The 165 guest rooms have plasma TVs, Aeron chairs, faux fur throws, and custom artwork. But it's the pool that's really making a splash on the Palm Springs boutique hotel scene, with free-standing sunshades, double chaises, cabanas, misters, a poolside bar, hot tub, and fire pit. Plans are also in the works for a high-end spa, set to open in early 2009.

$300-$399
Editor's Pick
Hotel Photo
The Huntley
1111 Second Street
Santa Monica , California
Tel: 310 394 5454
Fax: 310 458 9776
info@thehuntleyhotel.com
thehuntleyhotel.com

The reincarnated Huntley is one of those rare Southern California hotels that provide both eye candy and genuine savoir faire. An arty, sea-inspired lobby has coral motifs and a stingray-hide front desk, and the outdoor seating area with its roaring fireplace is an urbane take on the beachside bonfire. Guest rooms, reminiscent of late 1940s Japanese Deco, are equipped with 42-inch flat-screen TVs, DVD players, safes wide enough to hold a laptop, and wireless Internet access. The view from the penthouse restaurant and lounge—soon to be relaunched with a pan-Asian menu—is a 360-degree panorama of nearly everything that locals hold sacred: the Malibu coast, Venice Beach, and far-off Hollywood. There's no pool, but the Santa Monica strand is a block away—ask for a towel at the concierge desk.

$400 or more
Editor's Pick
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Hyatt Carmel Highlands
120 Highlands Drive
Carmel-by-the-Sea , California
Tel: 831 620 1234
Fax: 831 626 1574
highlandsinn.hyatt.com/hyatt/hotels/

This Craftsman-style property is "a short drive from the heart of town." Rooms have color schemes of taupe, caramels, and steel blues, along with wood and metal accents, and all have balconies or patios, and binoculars for whale watching. Pacific's Edge combines "quite good food"—California coastal fare like Monterey Bay red abalone—and "extraordinary views" of the coast.

(48 rooms)

$200-$299
Editor's Pick
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Hyatt Regency Century Plaza
2025 Avenue of the Stars
Los Angeles , California
90067
Tel: 310 228 1234
Fax: 310 551 3355
centuryplaza.hyatt.com

Located in the high-rise Century City complex, built in the 1960s on the west side of L.A, the Hyatt Regency isn't only well priced and well placed, it also has enough charm to lift it way above your average business hotel. (Perhaps that also helped endear it to the National Trust for Historic Preservation, which recognized the hotel's importance by adding it to the 2009 list of Most Endangered Places in America.) Yes, there's the fully equipped business center and on-site Hertz desk, but there are also resortlike amenities, including X bar, a hip watering hole frequented by the CAA agents who work across the street; an in-house restaurant with a surprisingly good sushi bar; and a new infinity pool located in the hotel gardens, surrounded by six cabanas with ceiling fans, free Wi-Fi, sound system, and plasma TV ($75 per weekday, $150 on weekends). The fitness chain Equinox runs the hotel's full-service spa and fitness center, and the Century City Mall, a favorite local shopping haunt, is just across the street. The boutiques and restaurants of Beverly Hills aren't far, either, but the reasonable prices at this urban retreat make it seem worlds away from the $500-a-night minimums in 90210. The 726 generously sized rooms outdo the typical business hotel with warm hues and big closets, complete with plush robes. And if you have kids in tow, a trio of wading pools in the outdoor gardens will keep toddlers happy for hours.

$400 or more
Editor's Pick
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Inn at Spanish Bay
2700 17-Mile Drive
Pebble Beach , California
Tel: 831 647 7500
Tel: 800 654 9300
www.pebblebeach.com/page.asp?id=1383

This red-roofed coastal inn overlooking the Pebble Beach golf course has rooms with fireplaces, decks or patios, gold fabrics, and ocean or forest views. "Staff arranged luxury rental cars and handled special requests for orders off the menu effortlessly." The resort's five restaurants, including Roys—where the "Hawaiian-Asian dishes" are served overlooking the dunes—favor local produce and sustainable seafood. Take your drink "outdoors or in front of the fireplace" at the Lobby Lounge.

(270 rooms)

$200-$299
Editor's Pick
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Inn of the Spanish Garden
915 Garden Street
Santa Barbara , California
93101
Tel: 866 564 4700 (toll-free)
Tel: 805 564 4700
info@spanishgardeninn.com
www.SpanishGardenInn.com

Hidden in a quiet residential neighborhood three blocks from State Street, this white adobe boutique hotel with a red-tile roof has a plain exterior that doesn't quite prepare you for what's inside—a charming fountain courtyard surrounded by 23 luxurious rooms and one- and two-bedroom suites with private balconies or garden patios. Rooms have gas fireplaces, vaulted ceilings, those ubiquitous but always welcome Frette linens, deep soaking tubs, and Wi-Fi. Within the courtyard, there's a heated pool and sundeck for lounging during the day and a fire pit to warm up beside at night while having an evening cocktail. Leave your car in the hotel's free underground parking and get around by foot, trolley, electric shuttle, or bicycle.

$300-$399
Editor's Pick
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InterContinental Mark Hopkins
1 Nob Hill
San Francisco , California
94108
Tel: 800 662 4455 (toll-free)
Tel: 415 392 3434
sanfrancisco@interconti.com
www.ichotelsgroup.com/h/d/ic/1/en/hd/sfoha

This gothic hulk of a building in neighborhoodtk Nob Hill is named after Mark Hopkins, the Central Pacific Railroad co-founder whose mansion previously stood here. After being acquired in 1973 by the InterContinental chain, the hotel lost some of its character and now attracts a buttoned-up business clientele. But nearly every room has a stunning view and some luxe touches, like Frette linens. Splurge on a Terrace Suite to enjoy the ultimate perch above the city, complete with solarium, and feel like a tycoon. If you plan to spend much of your time in the hotel, consider paying an extra $60 per couple ($40 per individual) for club access, which includes hotel-wide Wi-Fi, five daily food services, and an open bar in the evening. The Nob Hill restaurant serves California cuisine, and the 19th floor houses the Top of the Mark, famous for its nearly 360-degree panorama. Although the bar is typically full of tourists, there's nothing quite like enjoying a martini (they serve 100 varieties) while listening to live jazz and watching the sun set over Babylon by the Bay.—Updated by John Vlahides

$300-$399
Editor's Pick
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The Keating
432 F Street
San Diego , California
Tel: 877 753 2846
thekeating.com

Model T meets Maserati is an apt description of this newcomer in downtown San Diego, a welcome splash of Euro chic in a neighborhood of brash Americana. The Romanesque revival facade dates to the 1890s, but with legendary Italian design house Pininfarina at the wheel, the interior design is about as late-model as it gets—a fusion of faux glass, stainless steel, and a color scheme dominated by flashy swaths of racing red. The 35 guest rooms are wired with plasma TVs, iPod docks, and (Pininfarina-designed) espresso machines. The basement has been transformed into a semiprivate lounge, bar, and wine cellar fashioned from the building's Victorian-era bank vault, while more substantial fare can be had at Croce's Restaurant, a longtime area favorite that has forged a culinary joint venture with The Keating which includes providing room service to hotel guests.

$400 or more
Editor's Pick
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Kenwood Inn and Spa
10400 Sonoma Highway (Hwy. 12)
Kenwood , California
95452
Tel: 800 353 6966 (toll-free)
Tel: 707 833 1293
www.kenwoodinn.com

Styled after a Tuscan villa, with stucco walls, meandering gardens, and fountains and waterfalls at every turn, Kenwood Inn is by far Sonoma Valley's most beautiful and romantic property. Even when the inn is full, there's a marvelous sense of seclusion. You'll rarely see other guests—or hear them—thanks to all that gurgling water. Each of the 27 rooms and suites is different, but most have oversize antique wooden armoires, wood-burning fireplaces, sumptuous fabrics, and heavy wooden privacy shutters on the big French doors. Televisions are conspicuously absent, keeping your attention squarely on your companion. The facility itself is gorgeous, but a recent change in ownership—to nonhoteliers—stripped the rooms of many of their extra amenities, such as wine and fresh-cut flowers. Service has taken a hit as well, but the sheer beauty of the space still makes it worth a look. Hopefully the new management will pay more attention to detail and restore the property to its former level of near-perfection.

$200-$299
Editor's Pick
Korakia Pensione
257 S. Patencio Road
Palm Springs , California
92262
Tel: 760 864 6411
Fax: 760 864 4147
www.korakia.com

In 1989 architectural preservationist Douglas Smith faithfully restored the former hideaway of Scottish painter Gordon Coutts, built in 1924 as an homage to his beloved Tangier, and later restored the Mediterranean villa of early screen actor J. Carrol Naish next door. Today the two villas comprise a posh B&B that's a popular backdrop for fashion shoots and romantic trysts, with its Moorish carved wooden doors, citrus blossoms, olive trees, oleander bushes, bougainvillea vines, and Moroccan fountains. The 29 unique rooms, split between the simply romantic Moroccan villa and more eclectic Mediterranean villa, have been enjoyed by Alicia Silverstone, Laura Dern, Jennifer Jason-Leigh, and Chris O'Donnell. Most have fireplaces, French doors, and antiques, as well as kitchens, sunken bathtubs, and four-poster beds. The secluded 1918 Orchard House—with, as its name suggests, a private orchard, three fireplaces, a stone Jacuzzi filled by waterfall, and indoor-outdoor baths—is the most in demand and must be booked months in advance. The resort shows outdoor classic and foreign films nightly, such as Cinema Paradiso.

$400 or more
Editor's Pick
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L'Auberge Carmel
Monte Verde at Seventh Avenue
Carmel-by-the-Sea , California
93921
Tel: 831 624 8578
reservations@laubergecarmel.com
www.laubergecarmel.com

Built around a flower-filled brick courtyard with a fountain, this classic Carmel inn has hidden staircases, gabled windows, and a tiny dining room that's one of the best restaurants between San Francisco and Los Angeles. In the tradition of great French country auberges, the point is to come for dinner and stay the night—and the 20 rooms here have an elegant hominess to them. The cherrywood beds have 600-thread-count Egyptian cotton sheets, and bathrooms have heated marble floors and elaborate chrome fixtures buffed to a mirror shine (ask for one of the four rooms with a two-person Japanese soaking tub). A few details might not be perfect—like the wall-mounted electric heaters with noisy fans—but after a sumptuous eight-course meal paired with wines, you probably won't even notice.

$300-$399
Editor's Pick
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L'Auberge Del Mar Resort and Spa
1540 Camino Del Mar
Del Mar , California
Tel: 858 259 1515
Tel: 800 245 9757
www.laubergedelmar.com

Once a tony retreat for stars like Bob Hope, Lucy and Desi, and Clark Gable, L'Auberge Del Mar was renovated in 2008 but still retains an elegant Old Hollywood air. It's a family-friendly 5.2-acre spread with two nice pools, spacious decks, and terraces with Pacific views. Visit on a summer evening, and you'll find amorous young couples and baby boomers dining alfresco while a troupe of kids plays games nearby. Although it's not truly oceanfront, the beautiful cliff-lined beach of Del Mar is just a five-minute walk away on a private footpath. The 120 guest rooms have fireplaces, private patios or balconies (some with a slice of ocean view), and gorgeous marble bathrooms. The decor is an elegant mix of pale yellows and greens, with pattern used sparingly in the upholstered chairs and pillows. In mid-summer, L'Auberge's collective energy picks up when horseracing season begins at nearby Del Mar Thoroughbred Club and mint julep–fueled race fans descend on the hotel.

$300-$399
Editor's Pick
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Langham Huntington Hotel & Spa
1401 South Oak Knoll Avenue
Pasadena , California
Tel: 626 568 3900
pasadena.langhamhotels.com/PPC/Brand.htm?cid=2007-tllax-g-new-brand

Rooms at this Pasadena landmark displaying Pueblo Mission Revival architecture are decorated with rich woods and furnished with chaise longues; those on the ground floor have French doors opening onto patios. The Terrace serves contemporary California cuisine in a "poolside setting," while small dishes are the norm at The Bar. The 11,000-square-foot spa was renovated in 2010 and has treatments based on traditional Chinese medicine.

(380 rooms)

$400 or more
Editor's Pick
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La Quinta Resort and Club
49-499 Eisenhower Drive
La Quinta , California
92253
Tel: 800 598 3828
resinquiry@laquitaresort.com
www.laquintaresort.com

Located 19 miles southeast of downtown Palm Springs in the shadow of the Santa Rosa Mountains, this 1920s resort was a favorite of Greta Garbo, Clark Gable, Katharine Hepburn, Errol Flynn, and other Tinseltown stars. In 1934, Frank Capra came here to write the script for the romantic comedy It Happened One Night. Once the film won five Oscars, superstition drove him back to the same bungalow year after year, and you can still rent it, complete with the original typewriter and desk. The whitewashed, red-roofed bungalows, or casitas, are huge, and the 45-acre resort does a booming family business; 800 guest rooms are clustered around 42 pools with companion hot tubs. All rooms have pillow-top mattresses, Egyptian cotton sheets, TVs, and iPod docking stations with preloaded soundtracks; most rooms have a sunken bath and a fireplace. In addition to its many bougainvillea-fringed pools, La Quinta has 23 tennis courts, croquet, gym, a spa, five championship golf courses designed by the likes of Pete Dye and Jack Nicklaus, flower-filled gardens, and fresh fruit always at your fingertips—everything, in fact, to discourage guests from leaving the property. Being the oldest and largest resort in Palm Springs, rooms are constantly being updated, so ask for one of the redone units.

$400 or more
Editor's Pick
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La Valencia
1132 Prospect Street
La Jolla
San Diego , California
Tel: 858 454 0771
Tel: 800 451 0772
www.lavalencia.com

When it comes to location, it doesn't get much better than the venerable La Valencia. Opened in 1926, this pale-pink stucco and Spanish-tile-roofed hotel is perched just above the Pacific at famous La Jolla Cove. Meanwhile, its front door opens right onto the boutiques and art galleries of Prospect Street, San Diego's version of Rodeo Drive. Several towering palms stand guard as you enter the lobby, which is appointed with wrought iron, hand-painted ceilings, intricate Spanish tiling, and a stunning postcard view of the crashing waves below from a floor-to-ceiling picture window. The guest rooms are comfortable though the decor is a bit dated: Think grandmotherly printed upholstery with brass accents. The hotel is doing renovations here and there and recently unveiled 15 new terraced Ocean Villas with grade-A ocean views done up in subtle shades of brown with marble floors. La Valencia also has three restaurants and a pair of bars, all of which attract a mix of tourists and hip locals. It's extremely family- and pet-friendly, yet the hotel manages to maintain an air of casual grace.

$199 or less
Editor's Pick
Les Artistes
944 Camino Del Mar
Del Mar , California
Tel: 858 755 4646
www.lesartistesinn.com

Right off Highway 101 as it slices through the quaint coastal hamlet of Del Mar, you'll find Les Artistes. Built in the 1940s, the structure is your classic roadside motel, but ten years ago new owners transformed it with funky, imaginative decor. Ten of the 12 rooms have distinct artist themes. "Monet" is, of course, done in French Country style; "Gauguin" has a Polynesian shtick and an oversized tub; "Furo" has shoji screens and a Japanese soaking tub; while "Erte" does (remarkably inauthentic) Art Deco. Each of the ground floor rooms has its own mini courtyard, perfect for a breezy afternoon cocktail. Overall, Les Artistes channels a decidedly laid-back, almost hippie feel that, for some, will be a pleasant antidote to the area's other expansive resort properties. Others may find it a bit too cozy and won't appreciate the slight road noise during rush hour. Still, for the location—strolling distance to the beach and downtown Del Mar—you can't beat the rates.

$400 or more
Editor's Pick
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Les Mars Hôtel
27 North Street
Healdsburg , California
95448
Tel: 877 431 1700
info@lemarshotel.com
www.lesmarshotel.com

With its limestone facade, wrought-iron detailing, and solid zinc dormers, Les Mars (a Relais & Châteaux property) feels like an 18th-century French country house plunked down on a quiet street just off Healdsburg's main drag. But the building is actually brand-new (opened in March 2005) and firmly grounded in the present. You'll find flat-screen televisions and wireless Internet in the rooms, and antique books in the walnut-paneled library. And that flickering light? It's coming from computer-controlled sconces, not candles. Owners David and Sarah Mars conceived of their Sonoma County inn during trips to Europe, and their experience as travelers shows in the thoughtful details. The 16 plush, oversize rooms are decorated with silk-draped four-poster beds, fine Italian linens (the same ones the Pope sleeps on), and 17th- and 18th-century antiques; you'll find toile lining in every drawer, fresh-cut flowers in each bedroom, and Bulgari amenities in the bath. Les Mars is not for everyone. It's very formal—some say too formal for an ag town—and there are no gardens or grounds to roam. If you're looking to get under the earthy skin of wine country, choose somewhere else.

$400 or more
Editor's Pick
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Lodge at Pebble Beach
1700 17-Mile Drive
Pebble Beach , California
Tel: 831 647 7500
Tel: 800 654 9300
www.pebblebeach.com/page.asp?id=1375

Expect a "postcard-perfect location on Carmel Bay" at this white lodge that hosted the 2010 U.S. Open golf championship. Oceanfront accommodations pair dark-wood furnishings with soft-yellow bedding and balconies that overlook "the hypnotic surf." Club XIX serves a contemporary French menu offering dishes like seared foie gras and roasted Dover sole. The Tap Room draws golfers with its "clubhouse vibe" and memorabilia.

(161 rooms)

$400 or more
Editor's Pick
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Lodge at Torrey Pines
11480 North Torrey Pines Road
La Jolla
San Diego , California
Tel: 858 777 6620
www.lodgetorreypines.com

A shining example of early 20th-century California architecture, this 170-room hotel was meticulously modeled after the Gamble and Blacker houses in Pasadena, a pair of classic Arts and Crafts structures built in 1907 and 1908. Its construction is said to be so faithful to the Craftsman tradition that guests will be unable to find even a single nail used on the property. The Lodge's exterior of shingle, sandstone, and clinker-brick complements the pines, wild grasses, and sandstone bluffs of its ocean-view location north of downtown La Jolla. It's all quite grand—more so after being renovated and reopened in 2002—yet it's still homey: Both the common areas and the rooms are earth-toned, with exposed posts and beams, rich leather couches, Stickley furniture, and Tiffany lamps (some real, some not). Even the smallest guest rooms are comfortably large; those on the west side face the manicured golf course, while those with eastern exposures look out onto a somewhat unkempt-looking natural landscape that includes the namesake Torrey pines. Requisite resort-style amenities, a pool with classical music piped in underwater, beach cabanas (in summer), and a full day spa please the families, romantic couples, businessmen, and golfers who stay here. It's notoriously tough to get a tee time at the Torrey Pines Golf Course, home of the 2008 U.S. Open, but the Lodge reserves 20 a day for its guests.

$300-$399
Editor's Pick
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Loews Coronado Bay Resort & Spa
4000 Coronado Bay Road
Coronado , California
92118
Tel: 619 424 4000
coronadoreservations@loewshotels.com
www.loewshotels.com/en/Coronado-Bay-Resort

At the quieter end of Coronado, about four miles from the shops and cafés downtown, you'll find the sprawling Loews Coronado Bay resort. With three outdoor pools, five tennis courts, an exercise club, and a private 80-slip marina with rentals galore—sailboats, paddleboats, WaveRunners, surf skis, and beach equipment—there's enough going on here to make it a good bet for a family vacation. Since it's set on a private 15-acre peninsula, it's tough to get a room without a view at this 438-room property. The decor is upmarket beachy, in pale greens and blues, with wicker furniture and subtle striped accents. We recommend the cluster of bungalows right on the bay with views of the Coronado bridge and kayakers bobbing by. The Commodore Kids Club program keeps children ages 4 to 12 busy with swimming, seashell hunting, and wildlife-focused nature walks while parents escape to a chaise on the pristine stretch of sand or enjoy the hotel's spa gondola experience—a gondola cruise of the Coronado Cays, followed by a 40-minute massage, Champagne, and chocolate-covered strawberries.—Audrey Davidow

$200-$299
Editor's Pick
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London West Hollywood
1020 N. San Vicente Boulevard
West Hollywood , California
90069
Tel: 866 282 4560
Tel: 310 854 1111
www.thelondonwesthollywood.com

The coolly sophisticated design of the London West Hollywood comes courtesy of Irish designer David Collins, the man behind such lauded interiors as London's Wolseley restaurant and the Connaught hotel bar. Even the entry-level options among the 200 all-suite accommodations are nicely sized, and many come with terraces that overlook the Sunset Strip, while the One-Bedroom Suites—complete with a fully stocked wet bar, lounge, and dining area—seem tailor-made for civilized cocktail parties. Mod furnishings include velvet chaise sectionals and a breezy palette of bleached oak, pale greens, and whites. Not from the Noël Coward era, however, are the amenities: All rooms are equipped with flat-screen TVs, iHome players, free Wi-Fi, and complimentary phone calls to London—a subtle nod to the hotel's British origins. Brit chef Gordon Ramsay runs two restaurants at the London: a beautifully done fine-dining room known for top-notch tasting menus as well as the more casual Boxwood Café. While it's certainly not a theme hotel (don't expect to find any Beefeaters manning the door), there's a heavy Anglophile vibe to the place, as at its East Coast counterpart, London NYC. Tea is served every afternoon in your suite or by the rooftop pool, and twice a week, the hotel's English bulldog, Garbanzo, greets guests in the lobby.—Audrey Davidow

$200-$299
Editor's Pick
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Luxe Hotel Sunset Boulevard
11461 Sunset Boulevard
Los Angeles , California
90049
Tel: 866 589 3411 (toll-free)
Tel: 310 476 6571
reservations@luxehotels.com
www.luxehotelsunsetblvd.com

Stretching out on a chaise by the Luxe's pool gives you a perfect view of the white travertine Getty Center just up the hill; the leafy hillside property is peaceful enough to make you forget that the hotel's actually just a stone's throw from the massive 405 Freeway. The 161 rooms are similarly serene, with a minimalist aesthetic outfitted in shades of chocolate, taupe, and cream. All have iPod docking stations, flat-screen TVs, and Wi-Fi, and many rooms have private terraces (although some abut the hotel's parking lot, visible through the shrubbery). The Café Bel-Air is inviting, with an outdoor seating area soothed by the sound of a wall cascade and shaded by a rollaway canvas. The spa offers Naturopathica facials and 16 types of massage.

$300-$399
Editor's Pick
MacArthur Place
29 E. MacArthur Street
Sonoma , California
95476
Tel: 800 722 1866 (toll-free)
Tel: 707 938 2929
info@macarthurplace.com
www.macarthurplace.com

MacArthur Place is set on the grounds of a 19th-century estate surrounded by the original white picket fencing. Sixteen whitewashed wood-shingled satellite buildings house the 64 rooms, which range in style from country inn to contemporary spa to Victorian with chintz, gingham, and wicker. But it's the Garden Spa suites that really get our attention, with their cathedral ceilings, fireplaces, and oversize whirlpool tub separated from the bedroom by plantation shutters. Each has its own private Japanese garden, with a teakwood soaking tub in an open-sided, teahouse-inspired cabana—an ideal retreat during the rainy off-season (late October through April, when you can also score the best rates). On the six-and-a-half-acre grounds are sculpture gardens, a heated pool big enough to swim laps, and a Western-style steak house and bar with stools fashioned from recycled equestrian saddles. The inn is within easy walking distance of historic Sonoma Plaza, and you can borrow free bicycles for winery hopping. Plus, there's a nightly fireside wine and cheese reception in the library.—John A. Vlahides

$400 or more
Editor's Pick
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Mandarin Oriental, San Francisco
222 Sansome Street
San Francisco , California
94104
Tel: 800 622 0404
Tel: 415-276-9888
mosfo-reservations@mohg.com
www.mandarinoriental.com/sanfrancisco/&kw=general&htl=mosfo&eng=concierge&src=cpm

San Francisco's best hotel with a view, this Mandarin Oriental property occupies the top 11 floors of the city's third-tallest building. The apex of the Transamerica Pyramid rises at eye level, and the Golden Gate Bridge looks like a child's toy in the distance. The 158 contemporary rooms are subtly Asian-style, with Chinese-inspired furnishings and a bold palette of gold and cinnamon red. The smallest rooms are a bit tight on space and have only a view of downtown's towers, but the big windows make them feel larger than their 350 square feet. For the best sightlines and more elbow room, request a corner location—these have bridge-to-bridge vistas. For pure indulgence, it's hard to beat the Golden Gate Mandarin King rooms, which have a bathtub perched in the window. Service is the hallmark of the Mandarin Oriental chain, and here it doesn't disappoint. Need a new charger cord for your iPod? Call the concierge, and it will be in your room before you're back from Alcatraz. Downstairs, Silks restaurant serves Pacific Rim cuisine in one of the city's most intimate white-tablecloth dining rooms; the MO Bar serves full afternoon tea.—John Vlahides

$400 or more
Editor's Pick
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Meadowood Napa Valley
900 Meadowood Lane
St. Helena , California
94574
Tel: 800 458 8080 (toll-free)
Tel: 707 963 3646
info@meadowood.com
www.meadowood.com

Built as a country club in the early '60s, Meadowood still retains a gracious sense of propriety. There's an afternoon wine-tasting hour by the grand piano in the reception lodge, seven tennis courts, a wooded nine-hole golf course, and a pair of croquet lawns where players are still required to wear white. The grounds are huge, with giant trees and four and a half miles of walking trails in the high hills ringing the property. But the vibe is more summer camp than finishing school. Khaki-and-white cottages house 85 down-to-earth rooms and suites with exposed timber ceilings, sumptuous beds dressed with white matelassé bedspreads, and roman blinds in a green-and-white ticking stripe. Many have wood-burning fireplaces. Some of the rooms need upgrading, and they're slowly getting a facelift; for the maximum experience, book one of the gorgeous new Estate rooms. If you can't swing the hefty price tag for that category, take time on the phone with the reservationist to discuss your likes and dislikes. If you want privacy, book one of the cottages high in the hills; if you have kids, consider the rooms near the pool or croquet lawns. Remember, this is a gigantic property. Families are welcomed and kept busy with kid-friendly pools and regularly scheduled children's programs in summer (call ahead for dates and details). There are two dining rooms: a casual one for everyday meals and a formal one that bests the celebrated Auberge du Soleil.

$199 or less
Editor's Pick
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Millennium Biltmore Hotel
506 S. Grand Avenue
Los Angeles , California
90071
Tel: 213 624 1011
biltmore@mhrmail.com
www.millenniumhotels.com/millenniumlosangeles/index.html

Set in a neighborhood of striking architectural landmarks (including MOCA and the Walt Disney Concert Hall), the 1923 Biltmore is a sprawling hodgepodge of Mediterranean, Spanish, and Italianate influences—designed to elicit awe rather than to represent any one style. What's truly awesome, though, are the hotel's dramatic interior common spaces. The lobby has golden travertine walls, soaring ceilings of gold leaf and coffered wood, ornate rococo bas-reliefs, and an enormous fountain (surrounded by tables where high tea is served in the afternoons). The Gallery Bar and Cognac Room, with their wood-and-brown-leather decor and faintly erotic murals, resemble an exclusive gentlemen's club; and the basement health club manages to evoke both a majolica-tiled Egyptian temple and a cruise ship. Unfortunately, the 635 guest rooms and 48 suites are relatively uninspired. Though generous in size, with seating areas and large closets, they're furnished a bit frumpily, with overly ornate antique reproductions and heavy swagged drapes. Bathrooms are on the small side, and the art on the walls is hopelessly cheesy. Still, if old-school grandeur is what moves you, you'll get a lot of bang for your buck here.

$400 or more
Editor's Pick
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Milliken Creek Inn and Spa
1815 Silverado Trail
Napa , California
94558
Tel: 800 822 8418 (toll-free)
Tel: 707 255 1197
info@millikencreekinn.com
www.millikencreekinn.com

For a romantic getaway, it's hard to beat Milliken Creek. Set along the meandering Napa River, this former stagecoach stop attracts doe-eyed couples with its peacefulness (guaranteed by a no-kids policy), seclusion (on the outskirts of Napa Valley), and exclusivity (high season books up months in advance). It's the little things that make the hotel so special. Expect to find candles glowing on the mantle and sweets by the venerable Woodhouse Chocolates on the bedside table. In the morning, breakfast is delivered to your room and includes pastries from Bouchon Bakery. The 12 rooms—over half of which have balconies or terraces overlooking the river—are done in a sophisticated palette of browns and creams, with fireplaces, palm-frond ceiling fans, L'Occitane bath products, and large whirlpool tubs complete with rubber duckies. Sun umbrellas and chaise longues dot the grassy lawn on the river. In lieu of a bar, local winemakers pour their favorite selections in the lobby each evening.

$300-$399
Editor's Pick
Miramonte Resort & Spa
45-000 Indian Wells Lane
Palm Springs , California
92210
Tel: 800 237 2926 (toll-free)
Tel: 760 341 2200
miramonteres@destinationhotels.com
www.miramonteresort.com

Though not as glamorous or retro-chic as some of its Palm Springs counterparts, Indian Well's Miramonte Resort & Spa is a comfy landing pad if you're looking for a quiet, laid-back getaway—the kind of place where you can lounge by the flagstone-tiled pool without worrying about sucking in your stomach. The property was built to look like an old Tuscan village with red-roofed casitas and 11 acres of fountain-filled citrus gardens. The neutral, desert-inspired decor in the 215 guest rooms is a little bland, but the private terraces are a nice touch. The main draw here is The Well, a 14,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art spa. Since opening in 2004, The Well has earned a rep as one of the desert's best and most unique Zen zones. There are nine indoor and five outdoor treatment rooms, four mud bars, a handful of waterfall grottos, and a whole host of offbeat treatments—the Pittura Festa, for instance, is a mud painting party for couples followed by a Swiss shower and massage.

$400 or more
Editor's Pick
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Mondrian Los Angeles
8440 Sunset Boulevard
West Hollywood , California
90069
Tel: 323 650 8999
Fax: 323 650 5215
www.mondrianhotel.com

The attitude problem at this once insanely hot hotel has gone down a few notches, perhaps in keeping with the recent unveiling of a softer design. The owners of the famously forbidding Mondrian, originally designed by Philippe Starck, tapped up-and-comer Benjamin Noriega-Ortiz to help warm up its icy image with a refresh and redesign. The once white-on-white lobby is now home to the ADCB lounge, a much-needed overflow option for the packed Skybar. It's a glamorous spot, with billowy chiffon curtains and fuzzy orange couches that beg to be sunk into. The 237 rooms, once sparely furnished, feel a lot plusher thanks to an earthy new color scheme, curvaceous headboards, and a mischievous touch or two. Every room comes with a giant Alice in Wonderland–inspired looking glass; on one side you'll find a full-length mirror, on the other a mirrored plasma TV (perhaps aimed at narcissistic industry types who want to see themselves and watch TV at the same time?). Most rooms have floor-to-ceiling plate-glass windows with inimitable views of the city or the Hollywood Hills. The best vistas, though, are from the pool area, which morphs into the Skybar lounge at night. It's no longer the center of the universe, but it's still a super-sexy spot that attracts, well, the super-sexy.

$400 or more
Editor's Pick
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Montage Beverly Hills
225 N. Canon Drive
Beverly Hills , California
90210
Tel: 888 860 0788 (toll-free)
Tel: 310 860 7800
mbh@montagehotels.com
www.montagebeverlyhills.com

A small fortune was spent trying to give Beverly Hills' newest luxury hotel a stately, Old Hollywood luster—but the terra-cotta roof and Mediterranean facade give it more of a McMansion-y feel than a glamorous Spanish Colonial look. The interiors, however, with their rich fruitwood floors and copper ceilings, are at once intimate and elegant. The 201 guest rooms are spacious and understated, and while the traditional dark woods and gold-and-white palette are meant to evoke bygone days, the proprietors haven't forgotten about high-tech musts like LCD screens in the marble bathrooms. Here, at Beverly Hills' first new luxury playground in nearly two decades, it's the little things that count: VIPs get their initials monogrammed into their pillowcases; cabana boys come around to clean your sunglasses at the pool; and there's a chauffeured Maybach at your disposal for dashing over to Neiman's. There's also a trio of top-notch dining options, including the tasting-menu dining room Muse. All food is overseen by John Cuevas, who comes from swanky sister property the Montage in Laguna Beach. And what would a 90210 hotel be without a hopping rooftop pool, cabana scene, and the 20,000-square-foot Spa Montage? This is the hotel for Peninsula and Regent Beverly Wilshire faithfuls looking for a something new, with the added benefit of a sprawling spa. It's all very "Mister" this and "Sir" that, which can feel a tad stuffy, but if it's an old-school kind of place you're after, perfect for traditional afternoon tea, you've come to the right spot.

$400 or more
Editor's Pick
Hotel Photo
Montage Laguna Beach
30801 S. Coast Highway
Laguna Beach , California
Tel: 866 271 6953
Tel: 949 715 6000
Fax: 949 715 6100
www.montagelagunabeach.com

"Everything is focused on the scenery" at this 30-acre oceanfront Craftsman resort between Los Angeles and San Diego. All rooms face the water and have "elegant turn-of-the-nineteenth-century decor," with dark-wood furnishings and California artwork. "The hotel prides itself on its service, and, for the most part, they live up to it." American cuisine like shallot-crusted salmon or veal tenderloin is served at The Loft.

(250 rooms)

$400 or more
Editor's Pick
Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa
400 Cannery Row
Monterey , California
93940
Tel: 800 334 3999
Tel: 831 646 1700
www.woodsidehotels.com/monterey

The Plaza is the only large-scale full-service hotel right on the water in Monterey. The decor of the Mediterranean villa–style buildings is tasteful but ho-hum, with Biedermeier-style furniture, thick carpeting, and lemon-yellow striped walls. You're really here for the view, so be sure to book an oceanfront room. Fall asleep to the sound of waves crashing just below your window, and in the morning, peer over the edge of your balcony and spot starfish clinging to the rocks while you sip your coffee. Though service overall needs to be tightened up, the rooftop spa, complete with Vichy showers and couples' whirlpool baths for two, is the best in town. Even if you don't book a treatment, leave time for a soak in the outdoor hot tub overlooking the bay.

$400 or more
Editor's Pick
Hotel Photo
Mosaic Hotel Beverly Hills
125 Spalding Drive
Beverly Hills , California
90212
Tel: 800 463 4466 (toll-free)
Tel: 310 278 0303
www.mosaichotel.com

Just down the street from busy Wilshire Boulevard, the 49-room Mosaic is a refreshingly relaxed, low-key oasis in a neighborhood of trendy self-consciousness. There's a peaceful garden courtyard with a small heated pool, and an airy restaurant-bar area that's romantically candlelit at night. The mosaic motif is used subtly in the decor, which is otherwise of the streamlined cream-and-earth-toned school. Rooms have super-comfy beds with down comforters and Fili D'oro linens, iPod docking stations, and—why don't more hotels have this?—safes that can accommodate laptops. Bathrooms have rainfall showerheads and Bulgari toiletries. The four one-bedroom suites have 42-inch plasma TVs. In short, the property has all the amenities of trendier hotels, but none of the attitude.

$400 or more
Editor's Pick
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Oceana Santa Monica
849 Ocean Avenue
Santa Monica , California
90403
Tel: 310 393 0486
Tel: 800 777 0758
info_sm@hoteloceana.com
www.hoteloceanasantamonica.com

Snuck in among the posh apartment buildings on the north end of Santa Monica's beachfront boulevard, the revamped Oceana looks and feels more like a home. This palm-shaded complex—set around a heart-shaped pool—is an unassuming 70-room seaside retreat that attracts a mix of couples, families, and showbiz execs. Stuffed with brightly colored sofas and offbeat artwork, no two rooms are exactly alike, and most are fairly roomy. While all the usual mod cons are there (flat-screen TV, Wi-Fi), someone has also taken the time to outfit each room with books that one might actually pick up. Guests can relax alfresco around a fireplace beside the pool or in an Ocean Lounge that does triple duty as library, restaurant (the menu is a blend of traditional steak and lobster, and New Age bites like hamachi tuna carpaccio), and bar (whose trademark milk shakes are infused with vodka or rum). But Oceana's trump card is location: Palisades Park and the beach are across the street; Santa Monica Pier and the shop-filled Third Street Promenade are within walking distance.

$300-$399
Editor's Pick
Old Monterey Inn
500 Martin Street
Monterey , California
93940
Tel: 831 375 8284
Tel: 800 350 2344
Fax: 831 375 6730
www.oldmontereyinn.com

The best place to stay in Monterey is—surprise!—not the Monterey Plaza. In fact, it's this ten-bedroom Scottish Tudor mansion, built in 1929 for Monterey's first mayor. The inn sits in a residential neighborhood, shaded by century-old oaks and surrounded by gorgeous, meandering gardens. The interiors are done in classic English country manor style, with Oriental rugs, wide-plank floors, and beamed wood and plaster ceilings. Fabrics lean toward the floral, but they're not overly frilly. All ten have fireplaces (most wood-burning) and rich color schemes, from sunny yellow to navy blue. We have a few minor quibbles with the decor (think Renoir lithographs), but the new owner is slowly upgrading all rooms, with an eye toward simple elegance. Privacy is respected here: Though there's a wine-and–hors d'oeuvres hour, there's no pressure to join—nobody is going to make you pet the cat. And if you want to avoid other guests entirely, take the lavish breakfast in your room instead of in the formal dining room.

$300-$399
Editor's Pick
Hotel Photo
Orbit In
The Oasis
562 W. Arenas
The Hideaway
370 W. Arenas
Palm Springs , California
92262
Tel: 760 323 3585
mail@orbitin.com
www.orbitin.com

Designed by Herbert Burns in 1947 as an "ultramodern motor court," the Orbit In is really two hotels in one—the Hideaway, a private complex available for group rental only, and the Oasis, a nine-room retro-futuristic hotel. George Jetson would feel right at home at the Oasis, a chic, space-age boutique, where neo-hipsters pose around a saltwater pool (under cooling misters) and sip free "orbitinis" at the lava-lamped Boomerang Bar. Next door, the Hideaway has nine rooms, with matching retro-chic decor, available to rent as a group on a nightly basis (three-night minimum). The rooms at both are classier and more comfortable than their mid-century cousins popping up all over the desert, with vintage designs from Eames, Noguchi, and Saarinen, wet bars, original kitchens and baths, oldies CD mixes, plush robes, and free Wi-Fi. A separate '70s town house across the street sleeps four.

$200-$299
Editor's Pick
Hotel Photo
Orchard Garden Hotel
466 Bush Street
San Francisco , California
Tel: 415 399 9807
theorchardgardenhotel.com

From an in-room key card system that controls lighting and temperature (reducing energy consumption by 20 percent) to whimsical drapes and carpets fashioned from recycled materials, this 86-room hotel's eco-friendliness scored a hallowed LEED rating from the U.S. Green Building Council, one of only a handful of U.S. hotels to receive one. Still, Orchard Garden doesn't sacrifice environment in the name of environmentalism: The Egyptian cotton bedspreads are silky soft, the attractive furnishings are constructed of maple harvested from a sustainable forest, and sleek modern fixtures hold compact fluorescent light bulbs. While the service is still working out some kinks, Roots, the on-site eatery, offers a tasty menu of naturally raised meats and sustainably caught seafood. Best of all, this Union Square hotel saves not only the planet but also your wallet.

$200-$299
Editor's Pick
Palace Hotel
2 New Montgomery Street
San Francisco , California
94105
Tel: 415 512 1111
Fax: 415 543 0671
www.sfpalace.com

The Palace is San Francisco's most storied hotel. The original opened in 1875, then burned in the fire following the 1906 earthquake. In 1909, the hotel reopened in its current incarnation in the Financial District. President Woodrow Wilson gave his League of Nations speech here, and President Warren Harding died upstairs. Today, the lobby glows with the original Austrian-crystal light fixtures. A $7 million stained-glass dome covers the opulent Garden Court, one of Northern California's most spectacular rooms, which is lined with a double row of Italian marble columns and 20 enormous lead-crystal chandeliers. Guest rooms have less of a wow factor, with colonial-style wood furniture, predictable beige color schemes, and chintz bedspreads. But details like high ceilings and heavy crown moldings distinguish them as historic, and beds are sumptuous. The fitness center has a glass-enclosed, heated rooftop swimming pool—a rarity in foggy San Francisco. Off the lobby, don't miss the bar at Maxfield's, which is adorned with an eerie Maxfield Parrish mural depicting the Pied Piper luring children to their demise.—John Vlahides

$400 or more
Editor's Pick
Hotel Photo
The Parker
4200 East Palm Canyon Drive
Palm Springs , California
92264
Tel: 760 770 5000
reservations@theparkerpalmsprings.com
www.theparkerpalmsprings.com

California's first Holiday Inn, later owned by Gene Autry (who called it Melody Ranch) and Merv Griffin (Givenchy), the Parker Palm Springs has a new lease on life as the city's swankiest resort thanks to designer Jonathan Adler's makeover. Although the exterior still suffers from mid-century blahs, there's a riot of postmodern design behind its orange doors: zebra-print rugs, suits of armor, bearskin-lined chairs, wild red and brown prints, and whitewashed cinder-block walls. All 144 rooms have vintage Hollywood photos, eclectic furnishings, and designer toiletries. The 13 acres of landscaped gardens are reminiscent of Versailles, updated for a cool crowd that congregates on the hammocks and around the four pools (not to mention two pétanque courts). A 16,500-square-foot spa offers everything from deep-tissue massage to yoga. Reserve in advance for dinner at the popular retro brasserie, Mister Parker's, for updated French classics like sautéed duck confit with truffled potatoes, and don't miss the chocolate banana waffles at the popular brunch spot Norma's.

$300-$399
Editor's Pick
Park Hyatt Aviara
7100 Aviara Resort Drive
Carlsbad , California
92011
Tel: 760 448 1234
sanpa-reservations@hyatt.com
www.parkaviara.hyatt.com

This Carlsbad hotel offers all the luxury resort requisites—top-notch food, meticulously maintained grounds (with an 18-hole Arnold Palmer golf course and six tennis courts), 329-room spacious rooms plushly decorated and with newly spiffed bathrooms (ask for a room overlooking the Batiquitos Lagoon), and a first-rate spa with alfresco treatment cabanas. But what really sets the property apart is the bend-over-backwards service. Room service is delivered at precisely the promised time. The staff, from concierge to pool boy, cater to your every whim, and pint-sized guests are treated with the same doting consideration. Camp Hyatt offers storytelling, crafts, and games, and there's even a sweet picnic area sized perfectly for the wee ones.—Audrey Davidow

$400 or more
Editor's Pick
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The Peninsula Beverly Hills
9882 S. Santa Monica Boulevard
Beverly Hills , California
90212
Tel: 866 382 8388 (toll-free)
Tel: 310 551 2888
pbh@peninsula.com
beverlyhills.peninsula.com/

Tucked away amid quiet gardens just west of Beverly Hills' main drag, this hotel has the impeccable and invisible service you'd expect from a Peninsula outpost—everything is anticipated and attended to. Many a power breakfast has taken place in the dining room, and the open-air rooftop restaurant and lounge, with its huge open fireplace, is a fantastic place to be at sunset. In addition to 144 opulent rooms decorated with a tasteful mix of floral and striped upholstery and pale-yellow walls, there are 16 private garden villas with fireplaces and terraces. Suites have hardwood floors and expansive balconies. The lavish new spa has striking textured-glass-covered walls, lavender sachets in each locker, and French doors that open off the treatment rooms to views of the hills.

$199 or less
Editor's Pick
Hotel Photo
Petite Auberge
863 Bush Street
San Francisco , California
94108
Tel: 800 365 3004 (toll-free)
Tel: 415 928 6000
petiteauberge@jdvhopitality.com
www.petiteaubergesf.com

The Petite Auberge feels like a tranquil country inn. The decor is rustic French, with white-painted shutters and a ubiquitous floral motif. Eighteen of the 26 rooms (all nonsmoking) have gas fireplaces, great for those foggy San Francisco summers. Attentive employees do everything they can to make you cozy, from serving afternoon wine and hors d'oeuvres in the parlor to placing a bottomless cookie jar in the lobby. They'll also arrange for a Golden Gate Greeter—a local who takes you on a tour tailored to your interests (ask when booking). If you don't have a friend to show you around town, this is the next best thing.

$200-$299
Editor's Pick
Hotel Photo
Petit Ermitage
8822 Cynthia Street
West Hollywood
Los Angeles , California
90069
Tel: 310 854 1114
Fax: 310 657 2623
www.petitermitage.com

An oasis of quiet just off the Sunset Strip, this Mediterranean-inspired West Hollywood boutique hotel is a great low-key (and lower-priced) alternative to the scenier scene just down the street at the Chateau Marmont. Like the Chateau, the Petit Ermitage is located just a few steps from the action, making it ideal for walking out and stumbling back. Previously an apartment building (don't judge it by the not-so-snazzy 1970s exterior), the decor is pure boho-chic, with antique gramophones piping in French crooners, artwork from the owner's collection, and beautiful Italian mosaic tiling. Each of the 80 generously sized suites feature hand-woven Turkish rugs, antique furnishings, sheets with astronomically high thread counts, and complimentary Wi-Fi. Some also have fireplaces, balconies, and kitchens. A fitness center, in-suite spa service, and sofa beds in many rooms are welcome extras for the largely European clientele, but it's the gorgeous rooftop that seals the deal. The heated saltwater pool there is framed by Moroccan-inspired lounges, cabanas, and a bar where you can catch some of the best views in town. By sunset, when the place turns into a magical, candlelit retreat, you're likely to find the idea of heading off-site not so appealing.—Audrey Davidow

$199 or less
Editor's Pick
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Phoenix Hotel
601 Eddy Street
San Francisco , California
94109
Tel: 800 248 9466 (toll-free)
Tel: 415 776 1380
phoenixhotel@jdvhospitality.com
www.thephoenixhotel.com

If you're looking for a romantic hideaway, the Phoenix is not for you. If you want to party like a rock star, you've found the place. Popular with visiting celebs, such as Keanu Reeves, the Phoenix is a funky boutique hotel with tropical bungalow decor and an outdoor heated pool (check outnote the mosaic-tiled mural on the bottom). Think retro-cool motor lodge built around a central courtyard, with art installations among the landscaping. Some of the furnishings could definitely use upgrading (namely the foam pillows, too-thin carpeting, and nothing-special bed sheets), but the look is cool in a rattan-and-tiki kind of way. The Bambuddha Lounge downstairs can be noisy and overrun by drunk 20-twentysomethings on a Saturday night, but that won't be a problem if you're partying partying, too. The Tenderloin neighborhood looks shabby but is perfectly safe if you exercise common sense (don't flash your cash). —Updated by John Vlahides

$400 or more
Editor's Pick
Hotel Photo
Poetry Inn
6380 Silverado Trail
Stags Leap , California
94558
Tel: 707 944 0646
visitus@poetryinn.com
www.poetryinn.com

Owned by Cliff Lede (his namesake winery, tasting room, and art gallery are a stone's throw away), this three-room inn sits high on a vineyard hillside overlooking Napa Valley's Stags Leap District. The vistas are the very best in Napa. Spacious Craftsman-inspired rooms (named after famous American poets: Robert Frost, e.e. cummings, Robert Louis Stevenson) are done in a soothing palette of whites and tans, with dark wooden beds, feather duvets and fine Italian linens, wood-burning fireplaces, buffed Douglas-fir floorboards, and nubby sisal rugs. Gargantuan marble bathrooms have heated limestone floors, deep soaking tubs, and not one but two showers (a sexy, glass-enclosed one inside and an open-air shower on the deck). Breakfast is an elaborate, three-course affair, served on the veranda off the lounge (or in bed, by request). Though the service is gracious and the rooms sumptuous, the staggering view of the valley from your private balcony is ultimately why you're here.

$400 or more
Editor's Pick
Hotel Photo
Post Ranch Inn
47900 Highway 1
Big Sur , California
Tel: 831 667 2200
Tel: 800 527 2200
reservations@postranchinn.com
www.postranchinn.com?chebs=concierge_dec08

The hype is true: This place really is spectacular. It sits on a narrow ridgeline 1,200 feet above the crashing surf, and its architecture brings out the best in the setting. The buildings are all made from organic materials such as slate, glass, wood, and rusting metal to blend with the landscape; rooflines are stepped to mirror the distant mountains. Of the 30 rooms available, the best are the five Ocean Houses, whose roofs are covered in wildflowers and whose walls of glass overlook the sea. The seven Tree House rooms, built on stilts in the canopy of hundred-year-old gnarled oaks, are also excellent choices. The Post Ranch is a place to escape in privacy; no one under 18 is allowed, and there are no clocks or TVs in the rooms— although there are wood-burning fireplaces, massage tables, walking sticks, bird books, binoculars, and complimentary minibars. Bathtubs lined with unfinished gray marble and beds with denim bedspreads reinforce the luxe-rustic vibe. The three pools (including a cliff-top infinity pool) are open round the clock, so you can follow up your morning yoga, afternoon guided walk, or evening spa service with a soak.

$400 or more
Editor's Pick
Hotel Photo
Raffles L'Ermitage
9291 Burton Way
Beverly Hills , California
90210
Tel: 310 278 3344
Fax: 310 385 5392
beverlyhills.raffles.com

A favorite of fashion designers during awards season, L'Ermitage is tucked discreetly away at the edge of downtown Beverly Hills (where celebrities and designers can agonize over what to wear in private). The 119 rooms are serenely modern, with blond sycamore paneling and minimalist platform beds covered in down duvets. All have 40-inch flat-screen TVs, complimentary Wi-Fi, bedside climate and lighting controls, and (slightly creepily) an in-room motion sensor that allows the front desk to know when you're in your room but don't want to be disturbed. The rooftop pool area has glorious 360-degree views of the city and mountains, as well as cabanas and lounge chairs; the equally relaxing Living Room lounge is a perfect place for drinks and canapés in front of the fire. A major plus here is that the hotel refrains from the usual nickel-and-diming; local and 800 calls are complimentary, and there's no big markup on room service.

$400 or more
Editor's Pick
Hotel Photo
Rancho Valencia
5921 Valencia Circle
Rancho Santa Fe , California
Tel: 858 756 1123
Tel: 800 548 3664
Fax: 858 756 0165
www.aubergeresorts.com/hotels-resorts/rancho-valencia/

Casitas of various sizes—49 of them—are secreted within 40 acres of citrus groves and flowers in this quiet, relaxed, and luxe resort 25 miles north of downtown. Wood-beamed cathedral ceilings, terrazzo tiles, ceiling fans, and fireplaces lend the open-plan living quarters a rustic air. The newer, bigger Grove Suites also have patios with Jacuzzis, steam showers, and jetted tubs in the bathrooms. Tennis coaching is first-rate, spa treatments are excellent, and the beaches of Del Mar and La Jolla are close at hand. There's also a croquet lawn, and the eponymous restaurant is a local destination.

$300-$399
Editor's Pick
Hotel Photo
The Redbury
1717 Vine Street
Hollywood
Los Angeles , California
90028
Tel: 877 962 1717 (toll-free)
Tel: 323 962 1717
info@theredbury.com
theredbury.com

This funky apartment-hotel smack bang in the center of Hollywood is the latest offering from hospitality honcho Sam Nazarian (sushi fave Katsuya and the Colony nightclub). Each of the generously sized 57 rooms comes with its own washer/dryer and kitchen, and an eclectic boho-chic decor that's part Old Hollywood, part Parisian flea market—throws and pillows galore, paired with record players and rock 'n' roll posters. A bonus is that guests get VIP treatment at Nazarian's nightlife and dining hot spots. Not that you have to venture out. Downstairs restaurant Cleo serves up tasty Mediterranean dishes, and the outdoor courtyard lounge, the Glade, is a lantern-lit enclave perfect for knocking back a bottle of wine and gazing at the stars—both human and celestial.—Audrey Davidow

$199 or less
Editor's Pick
Hotel Photo
Red Victorian Bed, Breakfast & Art
1665 Haight Street
San Francisco , California
94117
Tel: 415 864 1978
reservations@redvic.com
www.redvic.com

A shrine to the Summer of Love, the Red Victorian is the place to go if you're sick of chain hotels and want some local color—psychedelic color, in this case. Each room is decorated according to a hippie theme: The exuberant Flower Child Room has a rainbow and sun painted on the ceiling; the Summer of Love Room has a lava lamp, tie-dyed bed canopy, and '60s posters. The Peace Café offers delicious vegetarian food, and customers are encouraged to mingle at family-style breakfasts. The clientele is international and down-to-earth, and the amiable staff radiates peace, love, and the scent of patchouli. Note: Some rooms share a bath; ask when you book.

$400 or more
Editor's Pick
Hotel Photo
Resort at Pelican Hill
22701 Pelican Hill Road South
Newport Coast , California
92657
Tel: 800 315 8214 (toll-free)
Tel: 949 467 6800
www.pelicanhill.com

This 2008 "adaptation of Palladian architecture" has bronze and wood doors and windows, brickwork replicating that found in Siena's main square, and wrought iron Italian lanterns. "Incredible and comfortable" bungalows and villas with limestone fireplaces range in size and design and have wood-beam ceilings and terraces with Pacific views. The "especially good" food at Andrea is heavy on Tuscan influences, while two additional restaurants offer casual dining. Staff are "responsive and friendly."

(332 rooms)

$300-$399
Editor's Pick
Hotel Photo
Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay
1 Miramontes Point Road
Half Moon Bay , California
Tel: 650 712 7000
Fax: 650 712 7070
www.ritzcarlton.com/resorts/half_moon_bay/

Atop bluffs looking onto the Pacific, this six-story lodge has an "ambience reminiscent of the Scottish moors." Rooms and villas blend into the natural setting using sea-colored accents on the carpets and beds. Navio, whose design re-creates a boat interior, has a show kitchen serving "surprisingly high-quality West Coast food." Segway tours along the Coastal Trail are a new addition.

(261 rooms)

$400 or more
Editor's Pick
Hotel Photo
Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel
1 Ritz-Carlton Drive
Dana Point , California
Tel: 949 240 2000
Fax: 949 240 0829
www.ritzcarlton.com/resorts/laguna_niguel/

Fifteen minutes south of Laguna Beach, this sprawling Mediterranean-inspired resort sits on a 150-foot bluff with panoramic vistas of the Pacific. Rooms have "mirrored closets and marble baths, soft towels and softer linens, and stunning views." Restaurant 162, located 162 feet above sea level, "might be the best restaurant on the West Coast," with "succulent swordfish" and "Ritz-Carlton's signature macaroni and cheese with truffle oil. Yum."

(396 rooms)

$300-$399
Editor's Pick
Hotel Photo
Ritz-Carlton, Los Angeles
900 W. Olympic Boulevard
Downtown
Los Angeles , California
90015
Tel: 213 743 8800
Fax: 213 743 8801
www.ritzcarlton.com/en/Properties/LosAngeles/Default.htm

It's a Ritz, so you know the drill: 123 elegant rooms done up in sophisticated neutral palettes, marble bathrooms with rain showers and flat-screen TVs, and a staff that bends over backward to please. Because of its downtown location next to the convention center, the clientele can feel all-business, but it's certainly not all about work here; the rooftop pool club, Blue, has some of the best views in town. And the hotel is home to WP24, serving power chef Wolfgang Puck's sleek spin on pan-Asian cuisine (don't miss the pork belly dumplings and the Peking duck rolls). And if you're in need of some therapeutic deliverance, head to the small but opulent spa, where you can sip some bubbly in the lounge and then have it rubbed all over your body (courtesy of a Champagne and citrus sugar scrub).—Audrey Davidow

$400 or more
Editor's Pick
Hotel Photo
Ritz-Carlton, San Francisco
600 Stockton Street
San Francisco , California
Tel: 415 296 7465
Fax: 415 291 0288
www.ritzcarlton.com/hotels/san_francisco/

Inside an iconic, 100-year-old columned Nob Hill landmark, the Ritz-Carlton is San Francisco's most formal luxury hotel. Polished marble floors, Oriental carpets, and crystal chandeliers greet your arrival, and Victorian-era oil paintings make the lobby feel more like a museum than a hotel. Because of the building's historic status, hotel designers weren't allowed to make major structural alterations when the hotel opened in 1991, so each room is different in size and shape: Plan to spend time with the reservationist to choose the right one for you. The traditional decor marries walnut, mahogany, and rosewood; beds are dressed with Egyptian cotton sheets and tasseled silk throw pillows. But more than anything, it's service that sets the Ritz-Carlton apart—prompt and courteous, personable and never presumptuous, with your every need anticipated. The Dining Room, helmed by celeb chef Ron Siegel, serves dynamic Japanese-influenced French cuisine worthy of a splurge. The Lobby Lounge draws gray-at-the-temples CEOs and society matrons for evening cocktails.—John Vlahides

$200-$299
Editor's Pick
Hotel Photo
The Ritz-Carlton Highlands, Lake Tahoe
13031 Ritz-Carlton Highlands Court
Truckee , California
96161
Tel: 800 542 8680
Tel: 530 562 3000
rnorz.leads@ritzcarlton.com
www.ritzcarlton.com/en/Properties/LakeTahoe/Default.htm

This mid-mountain lodge—Lake Tahoe's first new-build hotel in decades—hangs its hat on service, starting the moment you pull into its roundabout. While one bellhop whisks your snowboard to the ski concierge, another attends to your bags; and as the valet pulls your car into heated underground parking, still another escorts you to check-in. The main entry is equally impressive: Imagine you've pulled back the boughs of a giant pine and entered a posh tree house, the trunk of which is the 55-foot-high granite fireplace column. Tiers extend from this anchor like branches, creating comfy landings with plush couches (perfect spots for après-ski drinks). In the upper tier, 25-foot-tall windows offer stunning forest views and flood the room with natural light. The autumny hues found here and in the 170 spacious accommodations are nature-inspired, but there's more eco to this hotel than just the color palette. Old trees were left untouched during construction, and boulders unearthed for the foundation were used in rock walls. Guest rooms are mountain oases, with floor-to-ceiling windows, gas fireplaces, dark leather chairs and ottomans, and spa-like bathrooms with deep-soaking tubs. Completing the package is Manzanita, featuring the France-meets-California creations of San Francisco chef Traci Des Jardins.

$400 or more
Editor's Pick
Hotel Photo
San Ysidro Ranch
900 San Ysidro Lane
Santa Barbara , California
Tel: 800 368 6788
Tel: 805 565 1700
Fax: 805 565 1995
www.sanysidroranch.com

Welcoming guests since 1893, San Ysidro Ranch has long been an elite hideaway: John and Jacqueline Kennedy honeymooned here, and it was the wedding site for Vivien Leigh and Sir Lawrence Olivier, and (more recently) Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin. Owned by Ty Warner, the founder of Beanie Babies, who also owns the local Four Seasons, San Ysidro Ranch has just completed an extreme makeover—a full renovation of its 40 white clapboard cottages at a cost of $150 million. Changes include hand-cut stone fireplaces, a mix of antiques and contemporary furnishings, four-poster beds, Frette linens, Wi-Fi, plasma-screen TVs, and private gardens with hot tubs. The Stonehouse Restaurant has emerged anew, with chef John Trotta using fresh produce from the resort's organic garden. He also has a hotline to a local fisherman to check on the catch of the day, before he decides on his daily menu.

$300-$399
Editor's Pick
Hotel Photo
Sè San Diego
1047 5th Avenue
Fort Baker
San Diego , California
92101
Tel: 619 515 3000
Tel: 877 515 2211 (toll-free)
www.sesandiego.com

Though the Sè is very much a visual feast—with a massive bronze front door, a grand staircase framed by faux sand dollars, lamps covered in gray stingray, an entire wall at the spa covered in tiny green Chinese teacups—it's more than just a pretty face. The staff seem to be genuinely thrilled to help you, and the 184 rooms, in a steel-and-glass building perched atop a Victorian-era structure, are small but well appointed. Yet the thing that really sticks in your mind (and belly) is the complimentary breakfast in bed with chocolate croissants, serrano ham and melon, and granola. All of this from chef Christopher Lee, whose Suite & Tender restaurant is surf and turf with a twist: pork belly and scallops, hamachi fish tacos, carpaccio of Kobe beef. The spa, too, is a pleasant surprise—especially the harem-style lounge, where you can curl up with a good book (or another warm body).

$300-$399
Editor's Pick
Hotel Photo
Shade
1221 N. Valley Drive
Manhattan Beach , California
Tel: 866 987 4233
shadehotel.com

Shade is a sun-drenched blend of by-gone beach scene and daring West Coast design aesthetic in a habitual L.A.-area hot spot. The 38 rooms are both ultracomfy and intriguing, with goose-down duvets, two-person hydrotherapy bathtubs, and state-of-the-art margarita blenders; some have tubular fireplaces for those chilly winter nights at the beach. The lobby and Zinc Lounge offer a modern take on maritime decor, with seafoam-green fabrics and chandeliers fashioned from sea urchin shells. There is no restaurant per se, but Shade's kitchen turns out tasty small plates like Brie-and-artichoke fondue. Head up to the rooftop Skydeck, where a tiny pool affords views that extend from Catalina Island to the Malibu mountains.

$400 or more
Editor's Pick
Hotel Photo
Shutters on the Beach
1 Pico Boulevard
Santa Monica , California
Tel: 800 334 9000 (toll-free)
Tel: 310 458 0030
Fax: 310 458 4589
www.shuttersonthebeach.com

Shutters feels like a rambling seaside villa that's been plucked from Martha's Vineyard and dropped onto the boardwalk below Santa Monica Pier. Though the beachfront location is matched by that of its next-door sister, Hotel Casa del Mar, Shutters has a much breezier, more casual vibe. The lobby is like an oversized living room, with comfy couches around a fireplace for evening drinks, reading, and sunset-watching. The 186 rooms, while certainly plush—all have Oriental carpets; high, pillow-top beds; flat-screen TVs; and iPod docking stations—also have a sort of beachy aesthetic, with blue-and-white upholstery and white shuttered French doors you can open to the salt air. Some of the dozen one-bedroom suites have their own fireplaces. The bathrooms are large, with whirlpool tubs and a fun assortment of toiletries (available for a price), including rubber duckies. The downsides: Some ocean-view rooms actually look over an ugly rooftop before the Pacific comes into focus; a few others overlook the street or a parking lot. And the small, charming pool area on the third floor is always crowded. A better bet: Head to the beach and people-watch at Pedals Café instead.

$400 or more
Editor's Pick
Hotel Photo
Simpson House Inn
121 E. Arrellaga
Santa Barbara , California
Tel: 805 963 7067
Tel: 800 676 1280
Fax: 805 564 4811
info@simpsonhouseinn.com
www.simpsonhouseinn.com

More than 20 years ago, Linda Sue and Glyn Davies turned their 1870s Italianate Victorian home into a B&B, raising the bar for inns everywhere. While the Simpson is pretty grand, with French antique armoires, wood-burning fireplaces, and an acre of flowering gardens, it still feels like a home. There are 15 rooms and suites—spread out among the main house, four garden cottages, and four rooms in the original carriage house—featuring private patios, stone fireplaces, and English country decor. Every day, they serve a gourmet vegetarian breakfast, an afternoon tea buffet, and wine and appetizers from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. There is Wi-Fi throughout the property and bicycles to borrow for a quick zip into downtown Santa Barbara, only a short ride or walk away.

$400 or more
Editor's Pick
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SLS Hotel at Beverly Hills
465 S. La Cienega Boulevard
Los Angeles , California
90048
Tel: 310 247 0400
somethinglovelystarting@slshotels.com
www.slshotels.com

Sam Nazarian, the nightlife wunderkind behind some of L.A.'s buzziest venues (Katsuya, Area) has splashed onto the hotel scene with SLS, his 297-room shrine to high design and high jinks. Nazarian tapped design god Philippe Starck to give the former Le Méridien a $230-million gussying up that's both whimsical and clever. Love it or hate it, there's no denying that the details are impressive. The lobby is decked out with hundreds of mismatched chairs and chandeliers, quirky artwork, and acrylic-glass deer heads above the fireplaces. In addition to seven fitness suites (each with its own personal fitness center), there are 32 allergen-resistant rooms that come with air purifiers and charcoal-filter showerheads. The standard rooms are generously sized and (compared with the boisterous public areas) nicely restrained, with a muted green-gray palette. If you find the 40-inch Sony plasma TV is getting in the way of your room's aesthetic, it can be folded away behind a sleek mirrored wall. A communal pool table on every floor is the perfect place for party people to mingle. SLS guests—a mix of high-end scenesters and creative types—have their own private lobby entrance and dining room, safely tucked away from the hoi polloi. The public lobby is a bustling party space anchored by the hotel's restaurant (helmed by El Bulli alum José Andrés) and a retail space curated by Moss. The Bazaar—as this retail/dining point is called—is frequented by The Hills cast members and the people who can afford to buy them drinks. If sipping on liquid nitrogen cocktails and nibbling cotton-candy foie gras dispensed from custom-designed street carts isn't your scene, you can always hit the town. Guest status at the hotel means you get preferential ressies at Nazarian's other hot spots, including S Bar, Foxtail, and Hyde.

$400 or more
Editor's Pick
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Sofitel LA
8555 Beverly Boulevard
Los Angeles , California
Tel: 310 278 5444
www.sofitel.com/sofitel/lien_externe.svlt?goto=fiche_hotel&code_hotel=0937&code_langue=en&sourceid=tig-sl-la-con-hotelist&merchantid=Int-usa&xtor=ADC-43

One look at the platoon of valets in black berets, the barely lit lobby, and the bouncer stationed at the cocktail lounge and you'd be forgiven for thinking that the $40 million renovation did little more than turn this 17-year-old former faux-château into yet another slick and soulless hostelry. But once you leave the ground floor, the hotel's entire character changes. The 295 rooms are flooded with light, and the decor—buttery yellow walls, blond wood accents, ivory lacquered chests—is a grown-up take on California style. The service is just as polished. The decor at the restaurant, Simon LA, may border on over-the-top—tented cabanas and chartreuse leather banquettes—but the food doesn’t disappoint. All the more proof that though the hotel's address may officially be Beverly Hills, it's all Hollywood.

$400 or more
Editor's Pick
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Solage Calistoga
755 Silverado Trail
Calistoga , California
94515
Tel: 866 942 7442
www.solagecalistoga.com/

After populating Napa Valley with a series of romantic retreats, Auberge Resorts lets loose with an eco-luxe escape for the stylish, hybrid-driving, biodynamic wine-swilling set. This 89-room resort underwhelms at first glance simply because the stand-alone studios are surrounded by scrubby young plantings instead of more mature vegetation. But that is the one weak point of this otherwise polished property. After settling in for a few hours, you feel as though you are ensconced in a sweet utopia, where guests bicycle to morning yoga, nibble on fruit and granola at the open-air Solbar restaurant, and lounge by the long pool lined with sago palms. The homey, light-filled guesthouses are done in cooling taupe and sage tones and have huge slate-floor bathrooms, spare dark-wood furniture, complimentary bicycles, and shaded patios (which will be infinitely more appealing once the trees grow in to afford more privacy). The service is helpful and practiced, and there are fun details such as welcoming cupcakes and full-sized coffeepots and bathroom amenities.

$400 or more
Editor's Pick
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St. Regis Resort, Monarch Beach
1 Monarch Beach Resort
Dana Point , California
Tel: 800 722 1543
Tel: 949 234 3200
Fax: 949 234 3201
www.stregismonarchbeach.com/

This Tuscan-inspired oceanfront property has "beautiful, spacious rooms," decorated in warm earth tones, with marble bathrooms and oversized bathtubs. Service vacillates from "beyond efficient" to "subpar at times." Stonehill Tavern serves a contemporary American menu by Michael Mina listing items like Maine lobster, Berkshire pig, and California lamb chops. "The resort has an agreement with the tennis club across the street, but you have to pay for court times."

(400 rooms)

$400 or more
Editor's Pick
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St. Regis San Francisco
125 Third Street (at Minna Street)
San Francisco , California
94103
Tel: 415 284 4000
01511.strsf@stregis.com
www.stregis.com/sf

Staying here can feel a little like you've discovered how to control others with your mind: Your desires are often fulfilled before you knew you had them. Need a shirt ironed before that meeting? The butler is at your service. Broke the strap on your bag? The concierge desk will have it fixed. Touch screens control the lighting, temperature, window drapes, and alarm clocks in the 260 rooms, all of which are outfitted with minimalist modern furnishings, plasma TVs, abstract art, and neutral colors. The slightly sterile aesthetic can make the place seem a little like a futuristic airport lounge, but its location makes it a good bet for business travelers and art lovers (it's close to the Financial District and next door to SFMOMA). Our only regrets: The rooms' giant picture windows don't open, and there's a fire station next door. Request a room not facing Third Street if you're a light sleeper, though you'll sacrifice the gorgeous west-facing view of Twin Peaks. For those seeking a spa experience, the St. Regis does not disappoint. Remède Spa—with whirlpool, steam room and sauna, an infinity pool overlooking the city, and chocolate truffles and Champagne in the waiting lounge—is among the most lavish in town.—Updated by John Vlahides

$199 or less
Editor's Pick
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The Standard, Downtown L.A.
550 S. Flower Street
Los Angeles , California
90071
Tel: 213 892 8080
downtownla@standardhotel.com
www.standardhotel.com

An affordable bastion of cool aimed at the business traveler, the Standard is nothing if not amusing. Once headquarters of Superior Oil, the 12-story, 207-room hotel starts its room categories with "Cheap" (for the future mogul) and works through "Humongous" to "Wow!" and so on. All rooms have platform beds with down comforters and minimalist decor offset by wildly swooping op-art stripes, and many have baths fit for exhibitionists—with tubs in the rooms or showers walled in clear glass. Down in the marble lobby, a 150-foot-long, Schiaparelli-pink couch has different sections set at different heights—and, of course, a photo booth. These days the bar scene on the roof is mostly downtown professionals working out the kinks of a day at the office, but there's also a smattering of artists and other cool types.

$300-$399
Editor's Pick
Hotel Photo
Sunset Tower Hotel
8358 Sunset Boulevard
West Hollywood , California
90069
Tel: 800 225 2637 (toll-free)
Tel: 323 654 7100
Fax: 323 654 9287
www.sunsettowerhotel.com

This landmark 1929 art deco apartment tower was the on-and-off home of everyone from Howard Hughes to John Wayne to Truman Capote. After narrowly escaping demolition, it was revived in the late '80s as a hotel with kitschy Deco reproductions—until Jeff Klein of New York's City Club saved it again in 2006. Now, the hotel has brand-new modern interiors that quietly compliment the building’s great bones, and a low-key glamour that appeals to the discreetly rather than flamboyantly fashionable. Most of the 74 restful rooms in shades of cream and soft brown have floor-to-ceiling casement windows and fantastic views of the strip, while some suites have balconies hidden behind the building's gargoyles. A bit sceney in the early evening, the walnut-paneled Tower Bar (in what was once Bugsy Siegel’s apartment) is straight out of old Hollywood with private nooks, old-school service, and a jazz pianist. The terrace restaurant, overlooking the small but pretty pool, has wicker furniture, limestone floors, and lots of light—and Capote would definitely have approved of the bustling spa with its white marble hammam and plush, private treatment rooms.

$300-$399
Editor's Pick
Hotel Photo
Terranea Resort
100 Terranea Way
Rancho Palos Verdes , California
90275
Tel: 866 802 8000
Tel: 310 265 2800
terranearesort@destinationhotels.com
www.terranea.com

Out-of-towners don't typically find themselves in Rancho Palos Verdes, a moneyed burb 20 miles south of Los Angeles airport, but with the opening of this sunny and sophisticated resort that's quickly changing. From its perch above the Pacific, Terranea tumbles across 102 acres scented with sage scrub and pine trees, and consists of 582 accommodations, from honey-colored guest rooms in the main building to stand-alone casitas with three bedrooms and your very own outdoor fire pit. The decor throughout is a mix of Spanish hacienda (elaborately tiled floors, graceful archways, even valets dressed like gauchos) and seaside lodge (rooms have seashell lamps and bleached-wood furnishings), with a splash of California modernism (the stark serenity of the adults-only pool is the essence of SoCal cool, while the family pool has rainbow-striped cabanas and even a modest waterslide). For fun, there's a huge spa, a small beach, and guided kayaking and hiking expeditions. Of the resort's two formal restaurants, the Catalina Room is the more popular, but the waitstaff's kindness and enthusiasm are more impressive than the food. Opt instead for the local brew and the avocado burgers at Nelsons, the clifftop pub with spectacular views.

$199 or less
Editor's Pick
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Tower 23
4551 Ocean Boulevard
San Diego , California
Tel: 866 869 3723
reserve23@t23hotel.com
www.t23hotel.com

Opened in July 2005 and the first luxury oceanfront hotel to be built in San Diego in a decade, Tower23 is a splashy glass oblong of a design statement with 44 mostly ocean-view rooms and suites. Named after its neighbor, Lifeguard Tower #23, the three-story minimalist building wants to be an urban beach resort for attention-deficit adult kids. Suites have that latest in questionable relaxation equipment: chromatherapy baths. There are also Xboxes, flat-screen TVs, Bose sound systems, and Wi-Fi access that stretches to the beach. Jordan, the 10,000-square-foot restaurant, and the boardwalk/beach Tower Bar promise to become new centers of hip.

$199 or less
Editor's Pick
Hotel Photo
Treebones Resort
71895 Highway 1
Big Sur , California
Tel: 877 424 4787
www.treebonesresort.com

Green is the watchword at this cushy Mongolian yurt camp, set on a steep hillside midway between San Simeon and Big Sur. The 16 yurts have been constructed with an eye toward sustainability: They're temporary structures, with wooden floors and canvas walls stretched across lattice frameworks. Each has a comfortable bed gussied up with a patchwork quilt, a couple of chairs, heat, sinks, and electricity. There are no private baths—instead you wander down a path to a sparklingly clean bathhouse—and meals are prepared in a simple lodge building (dinners are generally barbecued, and you make your own waffles at breakfast). The place appeals largely to do-it-yourself travelers who pack their own beach towels, who prefer hiking and kayaking to golf and tennis, and who come for unadulterated contact with the landscape. After all, Los Padres National Forest sits behind the property, and the ocean stretches out in front. The one nod to luxury here is the heated pool and hot tub, a welcome relief after a long day of communing with nature.

$200-$299
Editor's Pick
Hotel Photo
Upham Hotel
1404 De la Vina Street
Santa Barbara , California
93101
Tel: 805 962 0058
innkeeper@uphamhotel.com
www.uphamhotel.com

A fixture in Santa Barbara history books, this downtown Victorian hotel has been operating continuously since 1871. No doilies, frills, or flowered wallpaper here: The beautifully restored Upham has a stylish vibe, with antiques and contemporary furniture, flowering gardens, and a charming wraparound porch with outdoor seating. While the original hotel advertised "hygienic food for invalids," today's guests eat very well at Louie's, known for its tuna Caesar salad and halibut with wild-mushroom risotto. There are 50 rooms and suites, including five garden cottages that have working fireplaces. Choose the master suite, which comes with a private yard and whirlpool tub. Nightly wine and hors d'oeuvres are served between 4 and 7 p.m., followed by bedtime milk and Oreo cookies for the kids.

$400 or more
Editor's Pick
Hotel Photo
US Grant
326 Broadway
San Diego , California
Tel: 866 837 4270
www.usgrant.net

When the son of President Ulysses S. Grant opened this hotel in 1910 in the heart of downtown, it became an instant landmark, favored by presidents and the social elite through an extended heyday. You know the rest of this story: fading beauty, unfortunate makeovers, and finally, an unlikely savior. In this case, the heroes are the Sycuan Band of Kumeyaay Indians, who used capital from their nearby casino to buy the hotel and pour $56 million into its renovation. Unveiled in October 2006, the new-again U.S. Grant echoes the stately grandeur of its past without feeling dated. The 317 rooms are appointed with reproduction antique furnishings, basin sinks, and flat-screen TVs, and nearby Spa Velia partners with the hotel for in-room treatments. Downstairs, just off the opulent lobby, the new Grant Grill traded in its formerly dark, clubby vibe for light woods and mirrors, its traditional afternoon tea for "Tea and 'Tinis"; and steaks for lobster corndogs and blue-fin tuna tartare. If you're in San Diego for a beach vacation, this isn't for you, but it is close to the convention center, and attracts a lot of guests with business there.

$400 or more
Editor's Pick
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Ventana Inn & Spa
48123 Highway 1
Big Sur , California
Tel: 800 628 6500
www.ventanainn.com

Given that Ventana sits right across Highway 1 from Post Ranch Inn, it's hard not to compare the two—and though they're equally wonderful, they're also quite different. Here the architecture is chunkier—decidedly high-end '70s—and rather than being tucked away among the trees and cliffs, the buildings sit on wide-open, rolling grounds (which means more expansive vistas, and also that you'll see more strolling guests than you will at the ultraprivate Post Ranch). Ventana sits higher up, so the fog clears sooner, making it better for sunbathing; the spa here is also larger, although it's also open to nonguests. There are hiking trails that crisscross the property, yoga, and "photo safaris" with the resident photographer—but there are also hammocks where you can lollygag all day. The 60 guest rooms are bigger, and the furnishings made with leather, redwood, and rough-hewn cedar give them a woodsier aesthetic. Other unique Ventana amenities are the cedar-walled Japanese-style baths open to the sky, and the clothing-optional pool (there's another for those who are more modest). Kids are not allowed.

$200-$299
Editor's Pick
Hotel Photo
Viceroy Palm Springs
415 S. Belardo Road
Palm Springs , California
92262
Tel: 800 670 6184
Tel: 760 320 4117
reservations@viceroypalmsprings.com
www.viceroypalmsprings.com

This mid-century boutique set on four manicured acres is another link in the chain of super cool Viceroy hotels. Once the famed Estrella, which counted among its guests Bing Crosby, Joan Crawford, and Ann Miller (she loved room 106), it's now a hipster hang bearing the irreverent mark of designer Kelly Wearstler (who styled the Viceroy Santa Monica in funky British rococo). Her updated "Hollywood Regency" look is not for everyone, particularly the sunglass-worthy yellow armchairs and accents, gaudy mirrors, and shag carpets. But the fashion-forward clientele seems to thrive on this edgy design, which extends to the 68 rooms and the see-and-be-seen pool. Citron restaurant is always hopping, as is the sexy Estrella spa for indoor-outdoor treatments. Located at the foot of San Jacinto Mountain in the heart of the desert, it's just steps from Palm Springs shopping, restaurants, theater, and nightlife.

$400 or more
Editor's Pick
Hotel Photo
Viceroy Santa Monica
1819 Ocean Avenue
Santa Monica , California
90401
Tel: 310 260 7500
Fax: 310 260 7515
www.viceroysantamonica.com

This 162-room hotel was so hot when it opened in 2002 that it immediately became the Viceroy Group's flagship hotel. (To capitalize on its popularity, they even rebranded their Palm Springs property a Viceroy.) The hotel lobby and pool area, where renting one of the striped cabanas for the evening is a major investment, became the only place to be during weekends on the West Side; getting in required being a guest at the hotel or being on the exclusive V.I.P. list. These days, although the hotel is still a see-and-be-seen spot, it's no longer the circus it was. Throughout, Viceroy Group designer Kelly Wearstler's fresh, sophisticated decor is white and black, with bright-green accents (both of the plant and upholstery variety); even the slightly kitschy details in the guest rooms (basket-weave-print wallpaper; porcelain dog-shaped lamps) are somehow tastefully incorporated. The best rooms are on the upper floors, with views of the ocean a couple of blocks away—but all have glass coffee tables and chairs, high beds with Italian linens, flat-screen TVs, and CD and DVD players. There's no spa, but in-room treatments are offered from trendy Fred Segal Beauty; the restaurant, Whist, is excellent though needlessly pricey.

$200-$299
Editor's Pick
Hotel Photo
W Hollywood Hotel
6250 Hollywood Boulevard
Hollywood
Los Angeles , California
90028
Tel: 323 798 1300
reservations.hollywood@whotels.com
www.starwoodhotels.com/whotels/property/overview/index.html?propertyID=1789

The iconic corner of Hollywood and Vine is glam again, thanks to a $350 million gussying-up courtesy of the W Hotel's ambitious new high-rise hotel and residential complex. The 12-story hotel offers upscale French dining at Delphine and all-night partying at Drai's (the popular megaclub was imported from Vegas), plus next-day detox at the 6,000-square-foot Bliss Spa. Suits will appreciate the ample meeting space, 24-hour business center, and complimentary Wi-Fi; those here to see the sights will love the proximity to Hollywood landmarks like the Pantages Theater and the Capitol Records building. The 305 studios and suites are done up in a modern palette of whites and grays, but it's the Hollywood location that sets this hotel apart. Upstairs, the 25-yard rooftop lap pool comes with private cabanas and amazing views of the Hollywood Hills. At street level, Station Hollywood, named for the Hollywood and Vine subway stop located beneath the building, is a split-level outdoor bar with a drop-down cinema screen, while the Living Room is the swanky indoor bar frequented by hotel guests and Hollywood fashionistas.—Audrey Davidow

$300-$399
Editor's Pick
Willows Historic Palm Springs Inn
412 W. Tahquitz Canyon Way
Palm Springs , California
92262
Tel: 760 320 0771
Fax: 760 320 0780
www.thewillowspalmsprings.com

Back in the day, the Willows was a hideaway for Old Hollywood stars: Gloria Swanson, Clark Gable, Marion Davies, and Carole Lombard. Today, couples hole up for romantic weekends in this 1924 Mediterranean B&B villa. Eight unique rooms are lavishly decorated with antiques, handmade tiles, fireplaces, hardwood floors, chandeliers, claw-foot tubs, and plenty of Hollywood nostalgia. The Rock Room is the most unusual; a huge boulder sits dead center in the bathroom. Gable and Lombard slept in the magnificent Library Room, which has a private patio, fireplace and coffered ceiling. The public areas are equally dramatic, with wood beams in the great hall, ceiling frescoes on the veranda and a 50-foot waterfall that spills into a pool outside the dining room. Rates include a gourmet three-course breakfast and afternoon wine with hors d'oeuvres. Room service is from Le Vallauris, one of the city's top French restaurants.

$300-$399
Editor's Pick
Hotel Photo
W San Francisco
181 Third Street
San Francisco , California
94103
Tel: 415 777 5300
Fax: 415 817 7823
www.whotels.com/sanfrancisco

The San Francisco outpost of the W hotel chain is popular with conventioneers for its proximity to the nearby Moscone Center; it also attracts skimpily clad twentysomethings who pose in the lobby bar pretending they're in L.A. or Miami. But the hotel is comfortable as well as trendy: All 410 rooms and suites have fluffy goose-down comforters, a carafe of water on the bedside table, and a Munchie Box containing wasabi peas and other goodies. The dramatic three-story octagonal lobby is stocked with specially designed board games and game tables. If you're planning to join the party downstairs, consider bookinga facial and manicure first at the 5,000-square-foot Bliss Spa. The XYZ restaurant offers contemporary American cuisine, and you can get a cocktail or light fare in the adjoining café. Outside, look up to see the giant metal-mesh sculpture of a woman reclining on top of the fourth-floor terrace.—Updated by John Vlahides

Information may have changed since the date of publication. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip.