If you travel back and forth to the west coast for work, play or family time, Passported correspondent Paula Franklin recommends skipping the red-eye on your next trip and checking in at her favorite SF and LA escapes: The Ritz-Carlton Half Moon Bay and Four Seasons Santa Barbara. Read on for her insider take and what to know before you book.
An easy drive south from San Francisco, The Ritz-Carlton Half Moon Bay is home to one of the most scenic locations on the rugged California coast, overlooking stunning, if not easily swimmable, beaches. The sleepy town of Half Moon Bay offers a few highlights like Pasta Moon restaurant and the Oddyssea shop and activity garden, but really most people staying at the Ritz check in and stay put.
- Location, location, location. From every corner of the hotel, there's a view of the dramatic coastline. The tables in each restaurant and outdoor patio have been placed for optimum sunset viewing and most rooms have an ocean view.
- We love a good spa day and this wellness center does it up with facilities that include two hot tubs, a steam room, sauna and relaxation area that are all free to use for guests.
- Kids will love the Very Important Kid program, which keeps the gifts going for the whole stay. The Ritz Kids Day Program is a half- or full-day excursion for youngsters age 5 - 12 and includes beach activities, swimming in the Colony Pool, board games, s'more making, a movie and more.
- The newly renovated guestrooms are smartly appointed, if a bit small, with window-front sitting areas and plush beds. A separate and smaller cluster of buildings near the golf course offer pet-friendly rooms and direct access to the pool.
- The Ocean Terrace is the best place to view the sunset and roast marshmallows, but as it is open to the public, prime spots by the fire pits can be hard to come by. The breezes can be chilly, but just order more local wine to warm up.
- There are two restaurants: upscale Navio and the more casual The Conservatory, along with munchies served on The Ocean Terrace and a large room service selection.
The absence of an international airport in Santa Barbara has kept it relatively quiet and peaceful, making it one of my favorite LA getaways. It’s an easy 100-mile drive from LA, but take the slightly longer route from Santa Monica through Malibu and up Highway 1 to enjoy the famed California coastline. Grown-ups come for the award-winning restaurants and famous wines from the Santa Ynez Valley, while kids love the zoo and botanical gardens and, of course, the miles and miles of beaches. The beachfront Four Seasons The Biltmore is a Spanish-style retreat that would easily be a destination unto itself, but is made all the better by easy access to downtown Santa Barbara.
- The Four Seasons is attached to Coral Casino Beach and Cabana Club, which looks straight out of 1940s Hollywood, and offers pool and beach service. Note: Access to beach club is only included with larger rooms, otherwise it's a hefty $200 charge.
- The surrounding cabana buildings guard the walled outdoor hotel pool, so families can enjoy a swim in the main pool or kid-friendly hot tub, even on cooler days.
- Strange but true, the hotel is home to North America's largest collection of rare kentia palms and over 48 other rare and indigenous plants. Guests can tour the grounds on their own or on a guided tour with the landscape manager.
- Choose from a mix of hotel rooms and bungalows. Many cabana rooms can be connected to create large two- and three-bedroom suites. The bungalow rooms and many lower-floor guest rooms have private and spacious courtyards, with just enough space to play a game of catch.
- The numerous dining options range from the upscale Bella Vista and oceanfront Tydes, to pool and terrace dining in the main hotel.
- Butterfly Beach is directly in front of the hotel and is famous for swimming and sunsets. If you want real beach service, you'll need to use the next-door Coral Casino Beach and Cabana Club.