Mr Hudson's top 10 boutique hotels in California

Whether you base yourself in a romantic Napa Valley ranch or minimal Hollywood hideaway, your Californian hotel is the most important thing to get right. From spa facilities and buffet breakfasts right down to his & his bathrobes, your choice of lodging has the power to make the vacation. We’ve whittled down the daunting list of options to a top ten selection of the best boutique hotels California has to offer, covering poolside resorts in Palm Springs, Spanish-style haciendas in wine country, and beyond. Before you get on the El Camino Real to embark on the ultimate Californian road trip, let us give you a rundown of our top places to stay.

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Photo: Rancho Valencia Resort & Spa

1. Rancho Valencia Resort and Spa

The name should give you an inkling of what’s in store at the Rancho Valencia Resort and Spa, but this inland property – on 43 acres of manicured lawns and lush olive groves – definitely has the capacity to surprise. Stay in one of a cluster of Spanish-style bungalows where a number of outdoor hot tubs (both public and private) benefit from grove-side views in proximity to croquet, bocce and tennis facilities. Inside meanwhile, guests have a choice of the yoga pavilion, fitness centre or of course the spa, finishing up the day with on-site shopping or sunbathing by the pool. The hotel comes committed to both sustainability and wellness, operating two restaurants as well as al fresco dining throughout the year so there’s little need to ever leave the hotel!

Photo: Rancho Valencia Resort & Spa

Photo: Rancho Valencia Resort & Spa

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Taking advantage of California’s epic coastline scenery is the adults-only Ventana Big Sur, a holistic spa resort based on 200 acres of oceanfront woodland

2. Ventana Big Sur

Taking advantage of California’s epic coastline scenery is the adults-only Ventana Big Sur, a holistic spa resort based on 200 acres of oceanfront woodland. Both rustic and luxurious, the Ventana Big Sur allows guests to stay in any of its 62 lavish cabins, each featuring high-end amenities and luxe shower rooms with soaking tubs. Make the most of the redwood surroundings by joining the resort’s discovery walks and hiking tours, or opt for ultimate relaxation at the on-site Japanese baths before bathing beside the clothing-optional pool. Otherwise, there are also a great many holistic activities to get involved in, including yoga classes, wine & cheese evenings and even glamping retreats for those looking to get even closer to nature. At night, stay cosy around the fireplace in common areas or on the huge lawn in view of the ocean and the stars. One of the most indulgent properties on the Big Sur, Ventana will cater to your every need, with five-star Cliffside restaurant and wedding services also on offer.

Photo: Ventana Big Sur

3. Auberge du Soleil

Our next choice is the adults-only Auberge du Soleil, an exclusive boutique resort built on the dream of French restauranteur Claude Rouas in the rolling hills of Napa Valley. Not only is Auberge du Soleil set to wow you with its Michelin-star cuisine, but you also won’t mind its never-ending vineyard views best seen from your suite’s terrace hot-tub. Enjoy time in your room, noting the gorgeous exposed-wood design and fireplace detailing, moving to the outdoor pool, spa or fitness centre before a Mediterranean-style dinner on site. While the spa and yoga pavilion will keep you busy, borrow the keys to Rouas’ Mercedes for a leisurely drive across wine country and beyond.

4. Post Ranch Inn

Another of the unique hotels on the California coast goes by the name of Post Ranch Inn, a cliff-side wonder built from recycled redwood trees and nestled within redwood forest. With a number of cabins and cottages to choose from, Post Ranch Inn brings total seclusion and impressive landscape views with wood-burning fire features to keep you nice and cosy while stargazing. Your room has everything you need, from complementary wine to a personal library, but outside you can also find the shared spa, gym and multiple infinity pools. Post Ranch Inn is eco-lux at its best; as well as solar panelling throughout, the inn strives to protect native flora and fauna, such as the Western Pond Turtle and the California Condor. The inn’s range of Lexus Hybrid cars are also on offer, should you wish to venture out after breakfast at the resort’s award-winning restaurant, Sierra Mar.

Post Ranch Inn | Photo: Kodiak Greenwood

Post Ranch Inn | Photo: Kodiak Greenwood

5. Bardessono Hotel and Spa

There’s more conscious vacationing to be had at Bardessono Hotel and Spa meanwhile, a 62-room resort completely powered by sunlight and fed by geothermal wells, in the heart of Napa Valley. As well as its sustainable credentials, Bardessono is very much a luxury resort, complete with in-room spa services (as part of the Spa Therapy Centre) and a rooftop pool and hot tub overlooking the surrounding hills. Built-in high-end contemporary styles with softening driftwood accents, Bardessono is both chic and subtle, welcoming guests with wine and gourmet fare from its farm-to-table restaurant. By day, take advantage of free yoga classes and loaner mountain bikes, test driving the hotel’s hybrid Lexus if you so wish. Other activities include hiking in the hills, touring the vineyards or hot air-ballooning across the region.

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6. The Francis House

One of the more historic gay resorts California has to offer is The Francis House, a Calistoga property close to some of Napa Valley’s most sought-after wineries. Less than four kilometres from both Castello di Amorosa and Chateau Montelena, The Francis House provides guests with the perfect end-of-day retreat, fitted with outdoor swimming pool, infrared sauna and salt room, as well as its own library. Based in downtown Calistoga, The Francis House benefits from better nightlife than most Napa Valley resorts, though there is also the option to spend the night stargazing beside the garden fire pit. Either way, this small hotel is sure to amaze with its fusion of French colonial and contemporary architectural styles, complemented by European herb garden and antique Parisian suites. All crystal chandeliers and brass knobs yet also with heated toilets and floors, The Francis House is sure to surprise at every turn as the pride of Calistoga since 1886.

Photo: The Francis House

Photo: The Francis House

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Named among the best gay resorts Palm Springs has to offer, The Hacienda at Warm Sands is a clothing-optional experience serving gay couples and honeymooners in a dreamy palm-strewn setting, all backgrounded by the San Jacinto Mountains

7. The Hacienda At Warm Sands

Named among the best gay resorts Palm Springs has to offer, The Hacienda at Warm Sands is a clothing-optional experience serving gay couples and honeymooners in a dreamy palm-strewn setting, all backgrounded by the San Jacinto Mountains. In Palm Springs you’re never far from desert wilderness and national park wonders but staying at The Hacienda at Warm Sands will ensure you have the best chance of relaxation in good company after a sweaty day of exploring. Your wish is their command, as Warm Sands has a staff to guest ratio of one to one, providing anything from cocktails to flowers as and when you need them. In addition, the daily complimentary breakfast and lunch service can be served in your room or poolside in serene natural surroundings.

Photo: The Hacienda At Warm Sands

8. North Block Hotel

One more notch on the Napa Valley bedpost is made by the North Block Hotel situated in the north end of Yountville, Napa’s foodie mecca. As well as being surrounded by world-class vineyards, Yountville has a high concentration of five-star dining options, where wine connoisseurs come to line their bellies whilst sampling the region’s finest grapes. The North Block Hotel then is a great option for those in search of a place to stay with one foot in town and another in the valley, as guests are able to explore the region by car or by on-loan GenZe bicycles, before retreating to Mediterranean-style rooms overlooking the mountains. Enjoy a glass of California red from your private terrace, or socialize in the communal courtyard over signature cocktails around the fireplace, moving to pool and hot tub later on. Also, beyond the courtyards, the fitness centre, spa, café, restaurant and tasting rooms are all yours to discover.

9. Hotel Joaquin

A windswept beauty atop Shaw’s Cove on the Pacific coast is the beach-chic Hotel Joaquin, an oceanfront bungalow decked out with curated artwork and vintage furniture in playful contemporary styles. Just an hour outside of LA, Hotel Joaquin melds both Hollywood luxury and Cali surfer spirit to create a space that is as equally vogue as it is down to earth. From its in-room record players to its vaulted spa, the hotel breathes luxury, while the saltwater pool and kitchen garden show off the owners’ sustainable credentials. Relax with poolside cocktails or walk to the ocean for the perfect Cali getaway.

Photo: Hotel Joaquin

10. The Paramour Estate

Beginning life in the 1920s as a Mediterranean Revival mansion before becoming both a girls’ school and Franciscan convent, The Paramour Estate most definitely has a storied history. Since re-envisioned as a luxury boutique, the space now serves as both a film set and event venue, as well as a stylish hotel with an additional cluster of suites and cottages in the heart of LA’s trendy Silver Lake. Suite services are minimalistic and unobtrusive, allowing guests to live like they’re LA locals while taking advantage of the full cleaning service and Butler’s Pantry breakfasts. Stay within the mansion for that little bit extra, reclining in king-size canopy beds and custom-made copper bath tops, leaving your room for the added appeal of the 65-foot pool and Hollywood hill views.

Photo: Ventana Big Sur

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