Just in time for the holidays, here are our choices for short escapes—pre-emptive strikes against the anxiety of gift-buying and family togetherness—to wedge into your schedule like a piece of pumpkin pie on an overcrowded plate.
Instead of stressing about turkey brines or decking the halls or spreading good cheer, we encourage you to go forth and bikini while it's 82 and sunny on Lanai. Puff up with goose down for a brisk sunrise hike to the Kachina Woman vortex in Sedona. Wrap up in a robe and slippers during an easy-breezy weekender at Las Alcobas in Napa. Wherever you choose, do it in the name of preserving your soul. Don't worry, once you get back, the holidays will still demand every last bit of patience. The only difference is that this year, you'll be able to approach the season armed with a real-life happy place to which you can retreat to in your mind once the grinch starts rearing its ugly head.
LET'S GET METAPHYSICAL
ENCHANTMENT RESORT IN SEDONA, ARIZONA
The Casitas at Enchantment Resort (Courtesy Enchantment Resort)
Nestled among the monumental red rocks of Sedona's Boynton Canyon, Enchantment is a luxe wellness resort beautifully enmeshed within its unique desert environment: While sprawling, the low-profile red adobe buildings seem to be indiscernible from the surrounding sandstone, at least to the local deer that lope down from the canyon walls to comfortably wander and feed on the grounds. Enchantment's sister property, the acclaimed destination spa, Mii Amo, recently introduced a new menu of offerings that are also closely intertwined with the local culture, from Native American-inspired treatments (Inner Quest aims to loosely recreate the purification ritual of a traditional sweat lodge) to metaphysical sessions (if you've ever wanted to connect with your past life as a temptress of Wild West outlaws, or relive your glory days as a deaf composer of classical music, you can try here).
Got 48 hours? Be sure to:
- Relax in your casita: The Southwestern decor is sophisticated (think hide-covered ottomans and serape-striped pillows), but bear in mind that once you've got that kiva fireplace blazing, extracting yourself from your cozy desert hideaway might be on the order of a mission impossible. This task is best suited for post-excursion interludes.
- Eat at Tii Gavo: While there are plans to tie the food at the resort more closely to the seasons and the native surroundings (an onsite orchard is in the works), for now revel in the impossibly tasty and comforting Southwestern fare, which includes guacamole that is a-chunk with pepitas, corn, roasted jalapeños, and cotija cheese. Heed our warning on the portions: A skillet of gooey chicken-chile verde enchiladas, intended to be a single serving, could theoretically feed a table of six. Of course, the prickly-pear margarita is a must-order, if only for its gorgeous fuchsia color and candied gelée garnish.
- Take a 20-minute sunrise hike up to the Kachina Woman vortex and let its whorl of electromagnetic waves super-charge your spiritual intentions for the day. Upon return, stop by Mii Amo's juice bar for a fresh-pressed Kachina Woman watermelon refresher, and then head to the dirt-floored (and thus ideal for Gwyneth Paltrow's "earthing" obsession) Crystal Grotto, where the Morning Ritual takes place daily at 8:15 am. During this short ceremony, you can reiterate your intention for the day while the practitioner fans cleansing sage smoke through your aura with a large feather wand.
- If you're up for another ramble, schedule a Native American Teachings hike with George, a local elder in the community (and Enchantment's resident mountain-bike instructor). He'll pick a nearby trail where you'll learn about how the Native Americans used the plants in the area medicinally (piñon tree sap works to seal small wounds), domestically (yucca needles and fibers are great for sewing), and gastronomically (if you are inclined to harvest prickly pears, just be sure to burn off their skin fuzz before juicing or puréeing).
- Go on a Pink Jeep tour. There is no better way to see Sedona's otherworldly terrain than to traverse it in a customized 4WD Jeep with an expert driver at the wheel. You'll attempt a couple of hair-raising 45-degree inclines (the vehicles are cleared to go even steeper at 60 degrees) and stop at a rock-top viewpoint less accessible to mere hikers. All the while, your tour guide will give you the 411 on everything Sedona.
LA ISLA BONITA
FOUR SEASONS RESORT, LANAI, HAWAII
Tropical gardens at Four Seasons Lanai (Courtesy Four Seasons Lanai)
If bunking at the recently remodeled Four Seasons Resort Lanai feels a bit like staying in a super-sumptuous guesthouse on someone's 88,000-acre ranch, that's because it is. Oracle CEO Larry Ellison bought 98% of the Hawaiian island in 2012 for $300 million, which seems like NBD given his current estimated wealth of, oh, $61 billion. We love this resort for the lush tropical gardens, its secret nooks outfitted with comfy Dedon pods, some of which have been enchantingly overtaken by flowers on the vine. The gorgeous, royal-size oceanview rooms are kitted out with Polynesian-inspired textures and patterns, marshmallowy beds, and TVs that can be streamed to the bathroom mirror so that when you're soaking in the tub you won't miss a beat of that Law & Order SVU rerun.
Got 48 hours? Be sure to:
- Sunbathe, body surf, or snorkel at the Hulopoe Bay Beach and Marine Reserve, which is located two minutes on foot from the resort. Look out for—but don't touch—the turtles (spotting one is considered good luck) and spinner dolphins. From this beach, you might also glimpse some breaching humpback whales, which migrate through the islands during the winter months.
- Hold on for dear life during a UTV tour in an open-air Polaris RZR. This two-hour excursion, booked through the resort, is not for the faint of heart; the mischievous tour guides love to go full throttle over the red-dirt terrain. They'll stop at a couple of viewpoints, maybe a heiau (ancient Hawaiian temple) or two, show you some time-faded petroglyphs, tell you the history of pineapple farming on the island and why, everywhere you look, shreds of black plastic peek through the dirt, and why there are so many Norfolk pines on the island (every year, each one captures roughly 100,000 gallons of moisture from the rain or fog, using it to replenish the water table). It's as much an educational outing as it is an utterly thrilling ramble through the hills of Lanai.
- Take a leisurely 90-minute horseback trail ride with Si, a highly experienced and uncannily intuitive horsewoman who wears beautiful turquoise jewelry, through the ironwood forests with their ghostly veils of needles. You'll pick some guava off the trees right from your saddle. You'll see views of Maui in the distance from a hilltop at sunset. Back at the stables, don't forget to say hello to the miniature horses.
- When on Lanai, eat venison from deer hunted on the island. While we enjoyed the venison loin at the resort's signature restaurant, One Forty, served with a sherry reduction, parmesan shavings, and a roasted-tomato polenta cake, we were partial to the homey satisfaction of the venison pappardelle at the Sports Bar & Grill. Because who doesn't love a meaty, long-stewed bolognese over hand-cut pasta? We do, but we love it even more with dollops of housemade ricotta. Lucky for us, that's how the dish arrives at the table.
HOUSE OF SAND AND FOG
TIMBER COVE RESORT, JENNER
Timber Cove Resort (Courtesy Timber Cove Resort)
The wonderful thing about the Sonoma Coast is that it's near enough to require only a couple hours' drive from the city and wild enough to feel like you're a world away. Such is the allure of Timber Cove Resort, located between Jenner and Sea Ranch. The renovation of the historic 1960s lodge, designed in the style of Frank Lloyd Wright (think gorgeous A-frame made of redwood and stone), was helmed by Gensler and the Los Angeles design firm Novogratz. Unveiled last spring, the new digs seems to be of the PNW hipster lineage, what with the vintage-style record players in every room (there's a library of vinyl in the lobby), the plaid Pendleton blankets, the tree-stump side tables, and the pour-over coffee setup in the mini kitchen. The modern update is fresh and unfussy, and as such remains in service to the spectacular view of the ocean. Come here to feel ensconced in a cocoon of cozy-cool, listen to the waves crash, and clear your head.
Got 24 hours? Be sure to:
- Spin Morrissey or Cat Stevens on vinyl before or after dinner: Light the "wood-burning" stove, pour a glass of Merry Edwards sauvignon blanc, and croon along to some slightly off-kilter or peace-loving lyrics. We implore you, however, to spend 10 minutes a day on the balcony in silence, breathing in the fresh air, taking in the bigness of the ocean, and contemplating your utterly insignificant existence in comparison. It's an equally humbling and restorative exercise.
- Take a stroll along the coast and visit the 93-foot-tall peace sculpture by Beniamino Bufano. If you're so inclined, grab some minibar provisions from the Smeg refrigerator in your room and park it on one of the bluffs' strategically placed benches for a picnic with a jaw-dropping view.
- Time your dinner at the resort's on-site restaurant, Coast Kitchen, with the sunset. Through the west-facing full-height windows, you'll watch the sun inch closer to the horizon while the chefs fire up your juicy mid-rare ribeye with chimichurri and whipped potatoes (be sure to have your dining companion order the slow-cooked short ribs so you don't miss out on any delicious iron-rich food sources). Coast Kitchen is also hosting Thanksgiving dinner this year, a three-course prix-fixe that doesn't have to include turkey and all the fixings or pumpkin pie, and could instead comprise a grilled Kurobota pork chop and chocolate crème brulée. Skipping the family affair is widely regarded as the first step to maintaining mental health over the holidays. Booking here would be the second.
- Play bocce on the oceanview court. Bring along a hot toddy from the bar in the lobby—better aim through alcohol is not unheard of.
If aesthetically you prefer in a Wine Country resort less overdone grape-leaf ornamentation, more sleek luxury and all-you-can-raid minibar, look no further than Las Alcobas in St. Helena, the second outpost of a Mexico City-based luxury hotel brand that thankfully escaped the recent fires with nary a chartreuse pool towel out of place. (Though the property, both the hotel and its signature restaurant, Acacia House, did close for a week due to smoke and road blocks, reopening on October 23. So maybe the chartreuse towels were out of place, put away for safekeeping. But we digress.) Now that Wine Country is officially back in business, even as it endeavors to recuperate, we can't think of a better way to kill two birds with one stone: Operation Banish Holiday Stress, meet #NapaValleySpirit.
Got 24 hours? Be sure to:
- Take a moment to relish in the voyeurism built into the design of this hotel. The airy rooms in the main building all have full-height windows overlooking an actual Beringer Winery vineyard, which means that when it's time to tend the vines, the views go both ways. There are heavy privacy curtains to be utilized by the modest among us; exhibitionists can still take cover under the crisp Rivolta Carmingna linens (or not).
- Get a treatment from Atrio Spa that's rooted in wellness traditions dating back thousands of years. A 3,000-year-old Balinese massage, for example, uses percussion and kneading to balance energy. The Hawaiian lomi lomi, a ritual that emerged more than 2,000 years ago, is rhythmic and fluid, and good for removing energy blocks. Much to the pleasure of the mystical-minded in our midst, the treatments also include a traditional Native American sage smudging, which goes a long way toward fostering holiday goodwill to all.
- For dinner at Chris Cosentino's Acacia House, located in a restored Georgian-style manor, start with the most sophisticated chips and dip on the planet: perfectly crisp gaufrette-style potatoes (read: waffle cut!) and labneh (a Middle Eastern yogurt cheese) mixed with caviar. Continuing on your decidedly un-Wine Country fried-food frenzy by ordering the Iberico pork schnitzel, elevated with a caviar dressing. Or you could opt for the #NapaValleySpirit menu, a three-course prix-fixe for $50—ten dollars of each dinner goes to Napa Valley Community Disaster Relief Fund.
- Fireside chats on your private balcony are entirely possible thanks to gas fire pits. For maximum relaxation, this is best embarked upon wrapped in your robe after a long steep in the soaker tub. The house amenities, an all-natural apothecary-style New York line called Naturopathica, include a grapefruit-and-fir–scented body scrub and lotion, so once you come to this well-deserved point in your mini-vacation, you'll pretty much be baby-soft in addition to having the structural integrity of a puddle.
Room rates start at $595. Use your GPS and allow 90 minutes' drive, door to door, from San Francisco.
CLASS IN SESSION
STAYCATION OPTION: PROPER HOTEL, SAN FRANCISCO
The lobby at the Proper Hotel // Courtesy Proper Hotels and Residences
Got 12 hours? That's all you need for an antidotal getaway from the holiday madness. Take cover from the office White Elephant gift exchange or cranberry-sauce recipe swap in one of the modern pieds-a-terre in the newly opened Proper Hotel, located in a historic mid-Market flatiron. L.A. design doyenne Kelly Wearstler, who was putting the finishing touches on the lobby during our recent visit, is the taste behind the brand, and as such the look is daring and poetic, with many divergent styles of art and furniture comprising a sublime tableau. The art hanging salon-style on the gallery walls, the oversize mirrors, midcentury sculptures, and mix-and-match seating look as though they were sourced from funky bazaars in Paris or the southern US. For the hotel's gritty location, the design is a harbinger of the polish to come, a more considered step up from other hotels that have commandeered turn-of-the-century buildings in San Francisco's grungier 'hoods.
While the Proper's rooms are petite (pre-destined by the old architecture), every square inch is made the most of with clashing patterns—from bold florals to houndstooth—united by a simple black-and-tan color palette. It's a beautiful space in which to channel surf in peace, wearing the Japanese yukata-style bathrobes, hunker-down mode in full effect. Once hunger calls, however, head to the signature restaurant, Villon, a quiet sanctuary by morning and a bustling scene at night. Executive chef Jason Franey's menu is thoughtful and refined, channeling his global perspective through locally sourced ingredients. Don't miss the housemade Hawaiian sweet rolls, which taste great with the chicken liver mousse and fruit jam, nor the okonomiyaki, a spin on the traditional Japanese veggie pancake that uniquely incorporates pickled red cabbage and chorizo. Order a cocktail from their "7x7" menu (no relation), which features 49 carefully curated libations including our favorite, the Billy Le Kid, a French take on a classic margarita (tequila, Lillet, peach, and lime) that's served the only way a self-respecting inebriate would drink it—up.
Room rates start at $350. Take a Lyft to the entrance at 45 McAllister.