To tell the truth, we're not the biggest fans of Valentine's Day. But we're always up for romantic getaways to beautiful places with our honeys, so we'll tolerate the commercial holiday if it's an excuse for a luxurious love fest.
When the amorous mood strikes, Northern California delivers with a wide range of options for first-class resorts, stylish boutique hotels, and charming inns for staycations and weekends away. This season, we're checking in at historical stays with modern intrigue thanks to recent renovations at three beloved properties in San Francisco, Sonoma, and Carmel.
Chemistry, poetry, and indulgence await.
La Playa Hotel, Carmel: A Century of Poetry
A marble fireplace warms one of a few plush and cozy seating areas in the lobby at La Playa Carmel.
It doesn't get much more romantic than the coastal hamlet of Carmel-by-the-Sea, where impossibly charming cottages have storybook names instead of street numbers and only the stars light your way through the streets at night. The village has all the trappings of an romantic getaway, with calla lilies blooming absolutely everywhere and bougainvillea bursting from the facades of quaint eateries, art galleries and boutiques (many of them pet-friendly in case your one true love actually has four legs). Plus, of course, the exquisitely windswept Carmel Beach.
To best enjoy it all, tuck in at La Playa Hotel, a retreat originally founded upon the marriage of art and chocolate. First home to landscape painter Chris Jorgensen and heiress Angela Ghirardelli, who hosted the likes of Jack London and Ansel Adams here in the early 1900s, the property was converted into a hotel in the early 1920s and expanded over subsequent decades. Today, La Playa is luxuriating in a $15 million spruce-up by Post Company, thanks to new owners Marc & Rose, showing off its bohemian past through all the architectural period details regulars will remember plus common spaces so warm and intimate they feel designed for canoodling.
Stroll arm in arm among La Playa's iconic gardens, then propose a toast to love with a martini in the moody, wood-clad bar at Bud's. Venture out for dinner at picturesque Casanova or Michelin-recommended Chez Noir.
// Starting at $500 per night;La Playa Hotel, Camino Real at Eighth Ave. (Carmel-by-the-Sea), laplayahotel.com
Inn at the Presidio, San Francisco: Natural Chemistry
Tree huggers can get in bed with nature at the Inn at the Presidio, where spacious suites have views of the national park's leafy surrounds.
You'll feel right at home at the Inn at the Presidio, which began its life in 1903 as quarters for the army's bachelor officers. Newly revamped by LC Interiors, the old Georgian Revival residence embraces its history with suites still spacious enough to accommodate top brass (and their SOs), plus intimate common spaces including a hearth-warmed lobby, a sunny buffet room that serves wine and cheese at happy hour, and a fire pit out back ringed by aromatic eucalyptus. The inn's art collection nods to local landmarks and landscapes past and present.
With private fireplaces, well stocked bars and smart furnishings, the inn's 17 suites are cozy enough to hole up for the evening, but as there's no restaurant here, you'll want to plan for dinner out. One of the city's best new eateries is just a five-minute walk away: At Dalida, the welcoming dining room feels like a far cry from a foggy SF night, and modern Eastern Mediterranean dishes are meant for sharing. Head back to your suite to enjoy Champagne and chocolates—if you've booked the inn's "Adore and Explore" package (starting at $399, through February 28th) they'll be delivered to your deluxe king room.
In the morning, help yourself to breakfast back in the buffet room or walk over to the Presidio's new cafe, Il Parco, for Equator coffee drinks and pastries. Once fueled, you and your babe are perfectly positioned for a day of awe and exploration among the park's 1,500 acres of outdoor wonders, including the new Presidio Tunnel Tops with a view of the Golden Gate. Of course, for the most romantic staycation, you'll want to take a stroll down Lovers' Lane.
// Inn at the Presidio, 42 Moraga Ave. (Presidio), presidiolodging.com
MacArthur Place: A Spa Day in Sonoma
MacArthur Place's spa and wellness sanctuary is now a Wine Country destination all its own.
(Courtesy of MacArthur Place)
Depending on your priorities, one might say that the most recent achievement in MacArthur Place's ongoing, multimillion-dollar renovation was its most meaningful: In Fall 2023, the iconic property down the road from Sonoma Plaza unveiled its completed wellness oasis designed by Kes Studio. Comprised of an outdoor heated pool, jacuzzi, fitness center and, of course, a luxurious spa, this final installment to MacArthur Place's new look and offering is the one after our romantic hearts.
Pretty new treatment rooms (both indoor and out) are plush and cozy for couples to indulge in farm to table massages, facials and flower rituals, while the new relaxation garden is primed for solitary meditation or quiet tête-à-têtes. In warmer months, you can snuggle up poolside in a private cabana.
While Sonoma is packed with wonderful restaurants and wineries, we recommend mostly laying low on the historic property, which was first built in 1869 as the private estate for David Burris. Take advantage of the bright new restaurant Layla, where dinner highlights locally sourced products like Tsar Nicoulai caviar and Schramsberg bubbly, or have classic cocktails in the buzzy bar. Then, make the most of your suite where indulgent amenities include fireplaces, deep soaking tubs, private patios, and outdoor showers.
But before you check in, get warmed up with a vodka and chocolate pairing inside Hanson of Sonoma's sexy tasting room. On your way out of town, stop for one last toast and a nibble at Kivelstadt Cellars' Bloom restaurant and wine garden.
// Receive 25 percent off accommodations and a $100 resort credit when you book the Sonoma Sanctuary Escape; MacArthur Place Hotel & Spa, 29 E MacArthur St. (Sonoma), macarthurplace.com.