California resorts set near beaches and vineyards prove big draws for readers in our annual “World’s Best Awards” survey for 2023.
When voting for their favorite resorts in California, there are two aspects of the Golden State that T+L readers couldn’t seem to get enough of: the endless miles of Pacific coastline and the wine-country regions of Napa and Sonoma. Both display the beautiful landscapes, outdoor activities and amazing hotels that make California such a popular destination.
How Voting Works
Every year for our World’s Best Awards survey, T+L asks readers to weigh in on travel experiences around the globe — to share their opinions on the top hotels, resorts, cities, islands, cruise ships, spas, airlines, and more. Nearly 165,000 T+L readers completed the 2023 survey, an increase of nearly 25 percent over pre-pandemic voting levels. A total of more than 685,000 votes were cast across over 8,500 unique properties (hotels, cities, cruise lines, etc.).
Hotels were classified as either resort hotel, city hotel, or safari lodge based on their location and amenities, and they were specifically rated on the criteria below:
For each characteristic, respondents could choose a rating of excellent, above average, average, below average, or poor. The final scores are averages of these responses.
What Readers Loved
“A stunning location” is how one reader described the setting at Alila Ventana Big Sur (No. 15), which comprises 59 suites on 160 acres above crashing ocean waves. “The area is filled with natural beauty, and one can mix hiking and walking along the beach with the spa and hot tub.” Another reader declared this as “the most relaxing hotel in the U.S.” One highlight for visitors is the Sur House restaurant, where guests can have breakfast while, as one voter recalled, “watching the marine layer burn off.”
Farther south, near San Diego, Rancho Valencia Resort & Spa (No. 2) takes full advantage of its sun-soaked locale, with 18 tennis courts, two palm-fringed swimming pools (including one that’s adults-only), bocce and croquet, and Italian-made Pinarello bikes for riding around the tony enclave of Rancho Santa Fe. The Mediterranean-style resort’s grounds include trickling fountains, patios with fireplaces, and 49 hacienda-like guest suites. One reader enthusiastically proclaimed, “I’ve traveled to over 65 countries, and Rancho Valencia is my favorite hotel in the world.”
But it was a newcomer, Stanly Ranch in Napa Valley, that won the top spot. Read on for more about what made it the favorite and the full list of the best resort hotels in California.
Stanly Ranch, Auberge Resorts Collection: Napa, California
“They have rooms set in the middle of a vineyard. What could be more perfect?” declared a reader of this year’s winner. The property opened only in April 2022, but has quickly gained traction for its quintessential wine country atmosphere, setting, and culinary program, which makes full use of Northern California’s supremely fresh produce. “The gardens and grounds blew me away,” said another reader. “This is the most beautiful place I have ever stayed.” The modern farmhouse-inspired guest cottages, which include fire pits and outdoor showers, are decorated in calming, neutral tones that let the outdoors take center stage. There’s also a “huge, magnificent pool, and I loved every bite I had at the restaurant, Bear.”
“This is the most beautiful place I have ever stayed.”
The Full List
1. Stanly Ranch, Auberge Resorts Collection: Napa, California
Reader Score: 98.61
2. Rancho Valencia Resort & Spa: Rancho Santa Fe, California
Reader Score: 97.40
3. The Madrona: Healdsburg, California
Reader Score: 96.80
4. Farmhouse Inn: Forestville, California
Reader Score: 96.46
5. San Ysidro Ranch: Santa Barbara, California
Reader Score: 96.22
6. Montage Laguna Beach: Laguna Beach, California
Reader Score: 95.20
7. Post Ranch Inn: Big Sur, California
Reader Score: 94.78
8. Solage, Auberge Resorts Collection: Calistoga, California
Reader Score: 94.27
9. Rosewood Sand Hill: Menlo Park, California
Reader Score: 94.09
10. Montage Healdsburg: Healdsburg, California
Reader Score: 94.00
11. Olema House: Olema, California
Reader Score: 93.88
12. Blue Lantern Inn: Dana Point, California
Reader Score: 93.75
13. The Ranch at Laguna Beach: Laguna Beach, California
Reader Score: 93.09
14. Harvest Inn: St. Helena, California
Reader Score: 92.91
15. Alila Ventana Big Sur: Big Sur, California
Reader Score: 92.77
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