Leave the whirlwind of warm-weather parties, barbecues and family vacations behind with a little luxe “me time.” Savor the last of the summer rays with a solo road trip to some of our favorite coastal California hideaways. Let sumptuous spas, delicious fine dining and restful resorts guide your way on a high-end adventure guaranteed to leave you feeling refreshed.
DAY ONE: San Diego
No adventure through California is complete without a stop in San Diego. Instead of hitting the more frequented destinations such as downtown, Del Mar or La Jolla, head 40 minutes north of San Diego International Airport to Park Hyatt Aviara Resort in Carlsbad in the North County region. It is a Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star resort with an Arnold Palmer-designed 18-hole golf course with clubhouse, a blissful spa and delicious food.
Upon arrival, make your way to the spa to unwind from the drive in. Loosen your limbs with four-hands massage, during which two therapists synchronize to give you the ultimate stress-releaser.
Afterward, linger in the light-filled solarium. Perch yourself on a lounge chair near the inviting fireplace or the trickling fountain and curl up with a magazine.
After this relaxation ritual, have lunch and lounge in one of the well-appointed cabanas, which are outfitted with a daybed, two chaise lounges, a bowl of fresh fruit, a stocked mini-fridge of nonalcoholic drinks and more. When you need to cool off, take a dip in the Adult Pool, which overlooks the Batiquitos Lagoon and the Pacific.
Another form of relaxation can be found with a good drink. When in San Diego, don’t miss a beer tasting, as the area is known for its breweries. Pop into Mother Earth Brew Co., which sits 16 miles from the hotel and emulates the North County vibe that you’ll see throughout the area.
With your first spa day out of the way, head to Forbes Travel Guide Recommended Vivace, Park Hyatt Aviara’s fine-dining Italian restaurant. Indulge in rich comfort food made with fresh ingredients, including handcrafted burrata, housemade pastas and the braised short rib Bolognese with rigatoni and Parmesan. Be sure to get accompanying pours from the excellent wine list.
Retire for the evening to the property’s spacious, coastal-inspired accommodations and take in the sunset from your private balcony or terrace.
A nice pit stop between San Diego and L.A. is the coastal enclave of the South Bay. It takes about two and a half hours to get there, but once you pull into Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star Terranea Resort in Rancho Palos Verdes, you should hand the keys over to the valet with no intention of moving for at least 24 hours. The focus here is on the natural seaside environment that is best enjoyed on your private balcony overlooking the gardens and the ocean.
Pass the day away by sampling a few of the eight restaurants on offer at the coastal California resort. For lunch, opt for fresh New American fare with a California flair at Catalina Kitchen. Accompany your meal with an exquisite glass of vino and ocean breezes.
Spend the rest of your day lounging however you choose — play a round on the nine-hole golf course, check out the spa or take a dip in either of the four swimming pools. Time drips away, putting you in the right frame of mind to mentally check out for a few precious hours before getting back to the hustle and bustle of a road trip.
Though onsite dinner spots such as Nelson’s and Mar’sel are always good options, we wouldn’t judge you if you decided to make the call for in-room dining before enjoying a refreshing night’s sleep in your stylish Mediterranean-inspired room.
DAY THREE: L.A. and San Francisco
Take a detour through always-happening West Hollywood for an indulgent brunch. If the call of the day is stargazing, go to Catch, one of the hottest tables in Los Angeles. The New York import is a favorite of the celebrity set, and the menu is packed with globally influenced seafood preparations that transport you around the world in one sitting.
If that isn’t quite your scene, head over to Norah for more decadent fare. The open, bright space bubbles like a freshly poured glass of champagne. Chef Mike Williams packs unforgettable flavors into brunch specialties such as buttermilk biscuits and a crispy fried chicken sandwich.
After feasting and some frolicking, get back on track and depart Los Angeles to make the five-hour drive — and longest leg of this this adventure up the coast — to San Francisco.
In the evening, check into a classic California beauty, lavish Four-Star The Ritz-Carlton, San Francisco, perched high atop Nob Hill on Stockton Avenue. You’ll be immersed in the elegance of a bygone era almost immediately, as the opulent marble lobby dates back to 1909.
For a superb experience, book a deluxe king room on the Club Level and receive access to one of the Ritz-Carlton brand’s top perks — its exclusive lounge. Inside, a concierge is available for all booking needs and there is continuous food and beverage service for noshing when the mood strikes. Enjoy samples from cuisine of the neighborhoods — The Mission, Fisherman’s Wharf, Chinatown and North Beach — that have made San Francisco famous.
If you’re visiting on a weekend, be sure to take advantage of the hotel’s Vintner Wine Series, where you’ll sip pours of the best of Northern California vintages on Fridays and Saturdays in addition to a caviar presentation with all of the accoutrements.
DAY FOUR: San Francisco
The fourth and final day of this road trip is one dedicated to the good life. At The Ritz-Carlton, check out the Spa L’Occitane by the Bay for the hour-long Immortelle Secret of Youth facial that removes signs of aging and makes the skin more smooth and youthful. L’Occitane treatments blend Provencal-inspired rituals with its signature products enriched with ingredients from the South of France.
After some down time at the intimate spa, liven up your afternoon with a stop at the crown jewel of the San Francisco hotel’s social spaces: The JCB Tasting Lounge from winemaker Jean-Charles Boisset. A jewel box of a space nestled in the lobby, this is the spot to taste rare and exclusive wines from the Boisset collection.
After lunch, work off the calories with a three-block walk to Union Square, a retail mecca with more than 200 shops, departments stores, more restaurants and an event calendar stuffed with all sorts of fun (The Graduate screens at the park on September 9).
For those who like to plan ahead, aim for dinner at Mina Test Kitchen, one of the most coveted spots in town, to venture out from the confines of the incredibly comfortable hotel. A space for Michael Mina’s team to test new culinary concepts, the cuisines are revolving and currently feature the “Mi Almita” theme, which pays homage to the spirituality and tradition of Mexican cooking.
Expect ceviches, moles, tacos and empanadas featuring traditional, authentic ingredients. The menu is fixed but there are choices within the courses and two different levels of wine pairings.
At the end of the night, come back to a placid view of the city and relax under the rain shower in the full marble bath before climbing into a bed decked out in Frette linens and a 46-inch TV.
DAY FIVE: San Francisco
Before returning to a non-vacation mindset, brunch at Four-Star Parallel 37, The Ritz Carlton’s signature restaurant, is unmissable. Specialties include an offering of Chinese dim sum, avocado toast with Easter egg radishes and sprouted quinoa and Dungeness crab eggs Benedict. Fill up before heading back home with a refreshed view of coastal California.