Crashing waves, breathtaking views, gourmet restaurants, and luxury hotels make the California coast perfect for romance.
Pack up a bottle of wine and a blanket for a long walk on a secluded beach. Towards the upper end of the North Coast, Trinidad State Beach is a picturesque place to picnic. Farther south, Manchester State Park’s beach offers miles of uncrowded coastline and large beached logs perfect for watching the sunset.
Rent one of the four private Victorian cottages at Eureka’s Carter House Inns. Or spend a night at the lovely Elk Cove Inn, where you can walk down to a beautiful cove. Another option is the Sea Ranch Lodge, where every room has a view of the serene Sonoma Coast. The village of Mendocino has a variety of romantic bed-and-breakfasts including the Glendeven Inn and the Blue Door Inn.
San Francisco and the Bay Area
Have a wonderful meal together at a fine San Francisco restaurant like Fleur de Lys or Michael Mina and then take in an opera at the War Memorial Opera House. End the night by sipping a cocktail and looking at the lights of the City from Harry Denton’s Starlight Room. If you can really splurge, check into a room at the high-rise Mandarin Oriental San Francisco.
Just north of San Francisco, the Cavallo Point Lodge feels a world away from the city but still has all the amenities for a romantic evening, including a fine restaurant, a spa, a pampering staff, and stunning views of the Golden Gate Bridge and the Bay.
Down the coast, the Half Moon Bay area offers nice romantic retreats. Spend the night at the castle-like Ritz-Carlton Half Moon Bay or the comfy Pescadero Creekside Barnc.
Wineries, superb restaurants, and a multitude of spas all conspire to make Wine Country a romantic environment. Spend a few hours tasting sparkling wine at Sonoma’s Gloria Ferrer or Rutherford’s Mumm winery, then splurge for a couples massage at Spa Terra. Treat your loved one to a meal at the revered French Laundry or Auberge du Soleil, with its wonderful views of Napa Valley.
Romance can blossom on a sunset walk on Carmel Beach, followed by a lovely French meal at La Bicyclette. Stay the night in one of Carmel’s luxurious accommodations, like the coast-side Colonial Terrace Inn By The Sea or the East-meets-West-themed Tradewinds Carmel. Or drive a few miles north to Pacific Grove to spend an evening at the Seven Gables Inn, an ornate Victorian bed-and-breakfast with a view of the aptly named Lover’s Point protruding into the bay.
Detour inland to Carmel Valley to visit one of the valley’s many wine tasting rooms at the luxurious Bernardus Winery or the unassuming Heller Estate Organic Vineyards with its outdoor sculpture garden. Then relax together at Refuge Spa, a collection of hot, warm, and cool water tubs nestled under the Santa Lucia Mountains.
Big Sur and the Central Coast
Big Sur is a great place for romantic walks, whether to Pfeiffer Beach or to see Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park’s McWay Waterfall plunge into the Pacific. Post hike, a posh night at the Post Ranch Inn or Ventana resort will definitely impress your significant other. A less pricey but cozy alternative is Deetjen’s Big Sur Inn.
South of Big Sur and inland, visit Paso Robles for wine-tasting and a growing foodie scene. Taste the fine wines at Eberle Winery and then have a fine meal at Artisan. Spend a night at the boutique Hotel Cheval or the Paso Robles Inn, where you can snuggle in a private hot springs mineral pool on the deck of your room.
Back on the coast, a romantic evening will come easy with a night at the historic Cass House Inn, a luxury bed-and-breakfast in the tiny beach town of Cayucos. Another option is to reserve one of the rooms with a natural hot springs water tub on the deck at the Sycamore Mineral Springs Resort.
Santa Barbara and Ventura
Filled with fragrant flowers and beautiful Spanish-influenced architecture, Santa Barbara is one of the coast’s finest spots for romance. Take the Urban Wine Trail to wine-taste within the city and then have dinner at fancy French restaurant Bouchon or enjoy Middle Eastern food on the garden patio at Zaytoon.
The Canary Hotel is a luxury hotel with a rooftop deck and a fireplace for a romantic evening under the stars. Another option is the elegant Cheshire Cat Inn, a Victorian bed-and- breakfast; some rooms have soaking tubs.
Los Angeles and Orange County
Is there anything more romantic than heading out to an island together off the coast? Find out on a trip to Catalina Island, where you’ll spend the night in the small harbor city of Avalon. Once there, enjoy a romantic dinner at Avalon Grille or Ristorante Villa Portofino. Then splurge for a night’s stay at the Pavilion Hotel or Villa Portofino.
In Orange County, Dana Point’s Blue Lantern Inn has luxurious rooms and a deck out front to take in the sunset over the scenic harbor below. In nearby San Clemente, South of Nick’s serves up creative upscale Mexican food and cocktails.
San Diego is a great place for relaxing, recharging, and romance. After enjoying the sun on one of the city’s many fine beaches, head to the scenic coastal community of La Jolla for an afternoon of shopping. If you get hungry, enjoy a meal with ocean views inside George’s at the Cove.
End the day with cocktails and seaside views at the historic Hotel del Coronado. Or opt for a drink at the Grant Grill, a restaurant and bar within the historic US Grant Hotel, located in the city’s Gaslamp Quarter.
Excerpted from the Fourth Edition of Moon Coastal California.