7 California Boutique Hotels to Visit in Your Dreams
With travel limited once again as Covid-19 cases are on rise, we’re left to dream about the places we wish we could visit. We asked the people behind the scenes at CABBI—staffers, board members, and blog contributors—to share memories of the California boutique hotels they most wish they could visit right now. We hope to provide a bit of armchair travel inspiration until we can all resume our journeys.
After hunkering down in the country during the pandemic I yearn to spend time in San Francisco at my favorite “go to” hotel. The Hotel Drisco is nestled in the quiet and beautiful Pacific Heights neighborhood. Surrounded by stately homes and incredible views, I always feel like I am coming home when I visit the Drisco. Pulling up to the front door I am greeted by the friendliest doorman who not only takes my luggage and parks my car, but will move my car every four hours so that I don’t get a ticket in the residential area. The hotel underwent a complete remodel a few years ago and they did a fantastic job of keeping the charm and architectural details of the historic building while making it current and so comfortable. The suites are spacious, the beds and furniture exquisite, and the amount and variety of free amenities is staggering. The general manager has thought of every possible thing that a guest might desire and has provided. Oh, and did I mention that each suite has a Nespresso machine and a complete tea service? Every night a reception is held with a generous variety of appetizers and exceptional wine. The wine served at the Drisco is better than any wine I buy for myself and it is always fun to try new varietals. Breakfast at the Drisco consists of literarily a 100 different breakfast items all displayed beautifully and tasting incredible. If I desire, I can also order smoothies, coffee drinks, and gluten-free toast made to order. The thoughtfulness and the level of details is unsurpassed, but what puts this hotel in a league of its own is the staff who anticipates my needs, makes me feel so comfortable and important, and is genuinely happy to have me stay.
El Morocco Inn & Spa
Rodney G. Williams
I’ve long been in awe of the El Morocco Inn & Spa, particularly its ability to transport visitors so effectively from the mid-century modern aesthetic of the Coachella Valley to the dreamy opulence of a Moroccan palace. Of all the inns I’ve been to, few are able to conjure a fantasy so rich. I love the way the entire property faces inward to a quiet but dramatic scene, with authentic details that include rich, colorful fabrics blowing in the breeze and Moroccan treasures brought back from the innkeepers’ travels. The centerpiece is a central pool fed by the warm waters of the area’s natural mineral springs, along with a pool bar that serves refreshing “Morocco-tinis” each evening. The overall effect is both exhilarating and memorable. After months of staring at my own four walls and not much else, I can’t wait to be whisked away to some place exotic. I know I can count on a visit to El Morocco to do just that.
Nick’s Cove & Cottages
Seeking an escape from our current world, Nick’s Cove is one of the places I most wish I could return to with my husband. On a remote stretch of Highway 1 north of San Francisco, Nick’s Cove features a handful of elegantly-restored 1930s cottages nestled along the water’s edge at Tomales Bay. To enter through the door of one of the cottages is to step back in time. Strains of big band jazz float through the air. A cozy fire crackles in the wood stove. Warm-hued rugs, glowing lamps, handsome antiques, and vintage photographs imbue the cottage with nostalgic charm. I would mix drinks from the generously-stocked honor bar and step out onto the private deck to taste the salt-tinged air and marvel at the moody winter skies. Afterwards, I’d draw a warm bath in the reclining claw foot tub, dry off with plush towels while enjoying the warmth of the heated tile floors, and then dive into the king-sized bed draped in luxurious sheets and a lofty down duvet. My husband and I would snuggle beneath the covers and watch the glowing flames from the fire dance across the ceiling. Years ago, he proposed to me on a beach not far from Nick’s Cove. The place will forever be entwined with romance for me. And after this past year, I yearn to visit Nick’s Cove to indulge in a private hideaway and shut out the rest of the world.
Elk Cove Inn & Spa
I’ve visited Elk Cove Inn & Spa once and the memory is one I will dream about the rest of my life. I had arrived at dusk, tired from a day of traveling and not taking much notice of my surroundings before melting into the bed in exhaustion. After a great night’s sleep in one of the inn’s oceanfront suites, I made a fresh cup of coffee and sat out on the deck gazing towards the white gazebo and the shores of Greenwood State Park Beach while the sun finished rising. The waves were crashing, the air was crisp and clean, and the view of the ocean as the world woke up for the day was absolutely breathtaking. It was one of those moments of peace and calm when all felt right and a memory that brings me a little bit of joy every time I think about it.
Grand Reserve Inn
The sound of pounding hammers, beeping trucks, and other annoyances of a residential construction site wear on me as I try to work from home. As my future neighbors’ homes are being built, I dream of escaping somewhere peaceful and relaxing. One place keeps surfacing in my thoughts: the Grand Reserve Inn in Plymouth, California. My husband and I once visited the inn’s winery, Wilderotter Vineyards, and I’ve been wanting to go back and stay overnight ever since. During the wine tasting, we experienced stellar service by friendly staff who were both knowledgeable and passionate about their wines. There aren’t many wineries that include artisan cheese pairings with their tastings anymore, but they did, and it was fabulous. Friends of ours who have stayed at the inn raved about the sheer tranquility of the setting, the impeccable attention to detail, and the modern opulence of the rooms. I look forward to the day when I can enjoy the inn’s views of the gently rolling vineyards, awaken to a freshly-cooked breakfast served with mimosas, and luxuriate in the linens and bath products that are far better than what I have at home. I always enjoy exploring the Shenandoah Valley’s great wineries and shops, but at the Grand Reserve Inn, I could see myself checking in and never leaving the property… well, maybe just a short ride on one of their bicycles around the vineyards. This beautiful inn is less than an hour’s drive from our home, but it’s a world away from our current construction zone. But for now, I’ll choose to block out the sounds and be thankful for our home and our new neighbors who will be arriving in the coming weeks and months.
Simspon House Inn
Rodney G. Williams
At the top of the list of inns I’m dying to visit again is the Simpson House Inn. 20 years ago, I attended a weekend intensive for aspiring innkeepers in Santa Barbara. It was my first time visiting the city, and I immediately fell in love with its near-perfect climate, lively pace, cultural sophistication, and intimate vibe. It wasn’t until a few years later that I took my now-spouse on a weekend getaway to the Simpson House, one of our earliest dates. A few years later, we ended up married and innkeepers, a testament to the magical experience we had there. There’s not a single detail that doesn’t exude luxury and seclusion at the Simpson House, and when I’m there I can’t help but pretend I’m a wealthy land baron vacationing at my summer estate. Maybe that’s another reason the Simpson House is at the top of my list of dream destinations: its oh-so-civilized sophistication is the perfect antidote to a year that has at times felt anything but civilized or sophisticated.
Brewery Gulch Inn
I haven’t seen the ocean in months, but when I close my eyes to imagine it, I imagine myself sitting on the deck of the Brewery Gulch Inn in Mendocino. From this redwood perch high above the rugged coastline, I can see the shimmering waters of Smuggler’s Cove stretching out to the horizon while the waves crash below. The whole scene is bathed in an ethereal golden light. Birds flit among the trees. A pair of deer emerge from the pines at the edge of the lawn. I could sit here all evening, wrapped in one of the inn’s cozy wool throws, watching the stars come out in a blaze against the night sky. I first visited the Brewery Gulch Inn 15 years ago at a major turning point in my life. My parents met me at the inn and we spent the weekend exploring Mendocino’s redwood forests and rocky headlands. Each evening, we returned to the inn’s cocoon of luxury where I played chess with my dad by the fire and sipped wine with my mom overlooking the ocean. The vastness of the Pacific made the decision I had wrestled with for months seem nearly effortless.