As San Francisco heads into a dreary winter, we feel obligated to seek out a few more days of sunshine. Here are a few of the stops our editors made recently in search of sand, and good times.
Ko'a Kea Hotel & Resort
Although it's not said outright, the sentiment is loud and clear, even through the hotel's signature quietude: No kids allowed. A bunch of misbehaving rug rats would only negate the charm of this small, beachfront hotel on Kauai's south shore. As such, you'll find many honeymooners lounging by the saltwater pool and anniversary celebrants walking hand-in-hand at sunset along the beach path, which winds its way past a few neighboring hotels (you might even find a resident monk seal sunning in front of the J.W. Marriott). Once the home of the old Poipu Beach Hotel, destroyed by Hurricane Iniki in 1992, Ko'a Kea has midcentury appeal on the outside and the feeling of a modern island house on the inside—its cozy ocean-view rooms have vaulted wood ceilings, plantation fans, and marbled showers. (Although during our recent visit, we were so transfixed by the hundreds of rose petals strewn about the room and the pair of terry cloth swans on the bed, eerily locked in a heart-shaped embrace, that we almost didn't catch the design's finer points.) At the signature restaurant, Red Salt, named for Hawaii's signature gourmet export, we'd recommend the $50 burger, stacked with Snake River Farms Wagyu beef, butter-poached lobster, seared foie gras, smoked bacon, aged cheddar, and—because why not?—an edible gold leaf topper. —L.M.L. // 2251 Poipu Rd (Koloa), meritagecollection.com/koakea
Paséa Hotel & Spa
Huntington Beach, CA
Stay at this new laidback-luxe hotel if you're a surfer who's checking out the hometown swells for the Vans US Open of Surfing, which takes place each July; or, if you're like us, you're just a barney (surfer wannabe). Check into your oceanview room, where the headboard doubles as the anchoring piece of art—a large photograph of the water's surface in aquatic blues and greens—and the warm wood furnishings recall the sand. The hotel's Beach Butler can arrange a morning surfing lesson on Huntington Beach, just across the PCH, with the Clint Carroll Surf School. Boards and wetsuits are provided, of course, and hanging ten by the end of the 90-minute lesson is practically guaranteed. If you're wrecked after catching all those waves, spend a couple of hours zoning out with a Collection Massage at the onsite Balinese-inspired Aarna Spa—it's as effective a muscle relaxant as valium.
The property's signature restaurant, Tanner's, focuses on wood-fired cuisine—you can marvel at their pimpin' grill through the kitchen's long windows. As unapologetic meat lovers, we recommend the impressive 60-day dry-aged tomahawk chop, served with caramelized apples and onions. For lighter, but no less splendid fare, try the whole-roasted snapper, served with homemade tortillas for a make-your-own-taco experience. Finish your meal with nightcaps at the second-floor Treehouse Lounge, where the cocktails are stiff (try the Flowers on the Wall, made with Three Olives Vodka, lime, orgeat, pineapple, and creme de violette) and the sunsets are gorgeous. In fact, it seems like the entire hotel was designed to be Insta-famous: The rooms are Boomerang-worthy; an installation in the lobby is made with more than 4,000 Havaiana flip-flops; and near the cafe, a large work by Laguna Beach artist Katlin Evans features a week's worth of beach flotsam and jetsam, collected to make a bold blue statement on ocean pollution. —L.M.L. // 21080 Pacific Coast Hwy (Huntington Beach), meritagecollection.com/paseahotel
JW Marriott Los Cabos Beach Resort & Spa
San Jose del Cabo, Mexico
This quiet Mexican escape is decidedly un-Cabo. That is, you'll find no drunken frat bros clutching red Solo cups, no spring breakers in tiny bikinis and metallic temporary tattoos, and no questionable seafood buffets. What you will find is sun (via Baja's perennially good weather), sand (five stairs lead directly from the main pool onto prime oceanside real estate), and strong mezcal margaritas (brought to you poolside and immediately replaced the moment you sip the last drop). Opened in the fall of 2015, the bold, ultra-modern property, from Seattle design firm Olson Kundig, offers 299 elegant rooms with dramatic ocean views and butler service. A walk around the sprawling grounds reveals a multimillion-dollar art collection with several outdoor installations, plenty of nooks and crannies to selfie in, and more than 10 pools—including adults-only, waterfall, and saltwater options, heated for comfortable swimming at night, when the desert air cools and the stars come out. A guided early morning bike ride along the coast and through the nearby botanical garden, which showcases thousands of different succulent species, should immediately be followed with visit to the Jasha Spa and Salon. Sweat out impurities in the pre-Hispanic Temazcal sweat lodge and work out sore muscles with a Thai massage in one of the private suites. End the night with a mezcal old fashioned at the golden bar inside Cafe des Artistes before climbing into the plush bed. The butler may even tuck you in. —S.M. // Puerto Los Cabos, 23403 (San Jose del Cabo), marriott.com