2408 Bay View Ave., Carmel-by-the-Sea
Staying at Villa Mara feels like staying in a luxurious private home—one that’s beautifully designed, adults-only, and 100 yards from the Pacific Ocean. There’s really no better place to land in Carmel, whether you’re there for a week or for a weekend: The location is notable for its proximity to the beach, yes, but also for being just far enough from the part of town that can feel crowded with tourists. In the mornings, the guests-only hotel bar serves juice shots, pastries, quiches, and excellent coffee. In the evening, it’s a relaxing place to gather for a cocktail or a glass of wine. Secluded firepits and cypress trees give the property magical—and elite—coastal grandmother vibes.
29 E MacArthur St., Sonoma
A meal at the restaurant at Sonoma’s MacArthur Place, Layla, feels like you’re dining in a friend’s beautiful backyard. The indoor dining room is in an airy, light-filled modern barn, but you’ll want to snag a seat on the patio, where you’re surrounded by lush trees and greenery. That’s to say: For an upscale hotel restaurant, Layla is as stunning as it should be, yet it remains warm and inviting—a pillar of dining in Sonoma Valley. The Mediterranean-focused menu leans on locally sourced ingredients and bright, fresh flavors, like the crispy Spanish octopus paired with black risotto and tender lamb chops served with roasted baby artichokes and fava beans.
29 E MacArthur St., Sonoma
Founded over a century ago as family estate, vineyard, and working ranch, this newly remodeled property is a bucolic, low-key-luxurious landing spot for visiting oenophiles. Each of its sixty-four rooms—which are nestled in private (socially distanced!) farmhouse-style cottages—is appointed with custom furnishings, cloudlike linens, art by local artists-in-residence, and in some cases: a stunning outdoor shower. But the true beauty is in the grounds, which boast lush lawns and gardens, winding flagstone paths, verdant archways, and cozy firepits to unwind by after a day of tastings. Don’t skip the on-site dining at Layla (locals flock to this Mediterranean-meets-farm-kitchen spot every day of the week) or the spa, which offers an extensive menu of relaxing facials and massages featuring essential oils made from local flowers, herbs, and plants.
Mojave Desert Skin Shield Spa
Enquire upon booking
You’ll come upon Mojave Desert Skin Shield Spa about a mile off Twentynine Palms Highway. And this desert spot lives up to our sanctuary-in-the-middle-of-the-nowhere expectations: zero cell service but plenty of peace, quiet, and quality treatments. Spa offerings include sound bath healing sessions, tao tea meditation, and their signature 100-minute facial healing session (a deep fascial massage accompanied by breathwork and meditation). We come here for a deeply relaxing, nurturing two hours and leave with a bagful of in-house blended skincare tinctures like their detoxifying pulling oil and the Ayurvedic eye rinse (sweet manna after too many hours behind the screen).
This mid-century, ranch-style home was built in 1962. A recent restoration by Los Angeles-based design studio Mini Inno transformed this desert sanctuary into a Japanese-inspired retreat. The saltwater soaking tub, outdoor firepit (pure magic at night), tea room, and cactus garden are imperfectly perfect, in line with the wabi-sabi aesthetic that anchors the property. But, before thinking you’ll spend all your time soaking and stargazing outside, the pared-back white walls and warm wood interiors are so soothing and functional you’ll want to cook in the kitchen and read from every comfy corner before (reluctantly) heading home with a bevy of interior upgrade ideas...we did.
Palihouse Santa Barbara
915 Garden St., Santa Barbara
The new Palihouse Santa Barbara is, in a word, dreamy. Located in the heart of the historic Presidio neighborhood, the hotel is perfect for a quiet, relaxing getaway with the cozy feel only a boutique property can deliver. We love the Spanish Colonial-inspired architecture, warm textiles, and pretty pool area. The swish hotel bar is a great spot to grab a Palisade sangria—peaches and white wine—before heading out for a bite to eat at (die-hard pizza fans should hit up Bettina). Thoughtful amenities like complimentary Linus bicycles, a Palisociety-curated neighborhood guide, Smeg toasters, and hot water bottles (nights can be chilly!) on-demand adds to the boutique, home-away-from-home feel. Next time we’re in town, we’ll be staying here.
The Anchovy Bar
1740 O'Farrell St., Fillmore
If you’re as obsessed with State Bird Provisions as we are, add Anchovy Bar to your SF roster. This slick, slate-gray space dishes up tasty platters of salty anchovies waiting to be smeared onto toasted ciabatta and topped with crisp radishes and crème Fraiche. This is the spot to dip into with a date or a friend to split grilled oysters, a few variations of those tiny, oily fish, and the unmissable Meyer lemon-miso clams. Images courtesy of Patricia Chang.
3340 E. 12th St., Oakland
Nyum Bai is all about contemporary takes on Cambodian classics with a soundtrack of sixties, Khmer rock and roll for the hungry diner. Savory clams in lemongrass broth, Khmer fried chicken, zingy shrimp, and what feels like a million spicy-salty-sweet-sour soups and sauces crowd the casual tables. Don’t leave without trying a Thai iced tea (the perfect ratio of black tea to cream to condensed milk) and the durian crème brûlée.
Quince at the Farm
615 Horseshoe Hill Rd., Bolinas
Chef Michael Tusk lives and breathes the farm-to-table philosophy. So much so that his San Francisco staple Quince has expanded its restaurant into a regular pop-up on Fresh Run Farm outside Bolinas. This expansion makes sense, given Fresh Run’s farmers are behind the dozens of heirloom varietals grown especially for Quince, Cotogna, and Verjus. How does it work? Lunch kicks off with a tour of the farm, followed by several courses of California’s bounty paired with Quince cellar wines. Afterward, wander, relax, and socialize with fellow diners around the lush grounds. Tusk’s pop-up is hugely popular, so snag a reservation early or commandeer a gang of friends and book a private gathering. Images courtesy of Dora Tsui.
528 Washington St., Jackson Square
Verjus is San Francisco’s answer to a contemporary Parisian wine bar. Think Septime, but in Washington Square. The owners are the duo behind Cotogna and Quince, so you already know the food will be fabulous. French-inspired plates like cheesy croquettes and duck confit dominate the sit-down restaurant menu (at the back of the space), while the tasting area is all about lighter bites, cheese, and tinned fish on toast. The wine list is, in two words: extensive and impressive. You could dine and drink at Verjus every week of the year and try something new each time. We love it here, and you will too.