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13 Top-Rated Resorts in Northern California

Written by Freddy Sherman and Carri Wilbanks

The rugged natural beauty and sheer variety of settings in Northern California makes it an ideal vacation destination. Although there are large cities like San Francisco, nature is always close by. The region is filled with destination resorts set in spectacular natural landscapes. Northern California is home to rustic luxury lodges, like Tenaya Lodge at Yosemite, and cliff-top beachfront resorts, like The Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay. There are secluded properties like the gorgeous Calistoga Ranch in Napa Valley, which hosts miles of hiking and biking trails, and freestanding villa accommodations and urban retreats, like The Claremont Club and Spa, which overlooks San Francisco from across the bay in the Oakland hills. Whether you're looking to plan the ultimate romantic getaway or the best family vacation ever, Northern California has a place for you to make it happen. Choose the best place to stay with our list of the top resorts in Northern California.

1. Meadowood Napa Valley

Meadowood Napa Valley

Photo Source: Meadowood Napa Valley

If you're looking for a romantic getaway, check out the luxe Meadowood Napa Valley, which sits on 250 secluded acres filled with hills and ancient oaks and is a wonderful destination resort. Choose from rooms, suites, or cottages, which are modern and elegant and feature fireplaces and private porches. A great escape for nature lovers, the resort features four miles of hiking trails on-site, as well as a 9-hole golf course, croquet, a spa, two swimming pools, and a few dining choices including a restaurant with three Michelin stars.

Accommodation: Meadowood Napa Valley

2. Calistoga Ranch, An Auberge Resort

Calistoga Ranch, An Auberge Resort

Photo Source: Calistoga Ranch, An Auberge Resort

This 157-acre resort is in California's Napa Valley, about three hours north of San Francisco. The luxury resort has 50 freestanding villa accommodations, both one- and two-bedroom units. Each has its own outdoor living space and is quite luxuriously appointed. Aside from the plush accommodations, the resort offers a wide range of activities for adults and families, too. There are nature hikes, miles of bike trails, painting and photography classes, and gardening classes as well. There's even a beekeeping course with the resident beekeeper (and resident bees). Food is another highlight here, with a fine-dining restaurant called The Lakehouse, a lobby lounge, and a pool terrace cafe.

Accommodation: Calistoga Ranch, An Auberge Resort

3. Post Ranch Inn

Post Ranch Inn

Photo Source: Post Ranch Inn

The adults-only Post Ranch Inn is perched high on a ridge above the crashing waves of the Pacific Ocean in wildly beautiful Big Sur. The property is known for its fabulous design and modern style with rooms and suites in small buildings that feature fantastic accents, like tiled baths in some suites that are built for two and come with amazing ocean views from floor-to-ceiling windows or walls with salvaged redwood paneling and sheet metal art. There are also luxe treehouse accommodations. Perks here include complimentary use of a Lexus convertible, a complimentary mini-bar in your room, and classes like meditation and star-gazing. There is also a restaurant with ocean views, a spa with an infinity pool, and a gym.

Accommodation: Post Ranch Inn

4. Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa

Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa

Photo Source: Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa

In the heart of vibrant Monterey, The Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa has views over the bay and is within walking distance from Cannery Row, the Monterey Bay Aquarium, and Fisherman's Wharf. A popular choice with families, it has a mix of rooms and suites, which are spacious and comfortable with a contemporary look and modern amenities. If you're on a romantic getaway, upgrade to one of the suites that come with Jacuzzi tubs and a fireplace along with ocean views from a private balcony. Away from the rooms, you'll find a few restaurant choices, including one that serves fresh seafood and has a breezy patio for dining. There is also beach access, loaner bikes, a fitness room, spa, and a complimentary local car service.

Accommodation: Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa

5. Rosewood CordeValle

Rosewood CordeValle

Photo Source: Rosewood CordeValle

In the scenic Santa Clara Valley, Rosewood CordeValle is a contemporary golf resort and spa that makes for a lovely weekend retreat. It offers stylish rooms and suites, which are spacious and comfortable with a luxury country vibe and come with jetted tubs and fireplaces. The best come with private hot tubs and direct golf course views. Away from the rooms, amenities include an 18-hole golf course, tennis courts, an outdoor pool, day spa, fitness center, and two restaurants - one is a casual grill; the other is an upscale Italian eatery. The property is also pet-friendly.

Accommodation: Rosewood CordeValle

6. Carmel Valley Ranch

Carmel Valley Ranch

Photo Source: Carmel Valley Ranch

A little less than three hours south of San Francisco (along one of the most beautiful drives in the world), Carmel Valley Ranch brings elements of a working ranch into a luxury resort. The property is a good place to stay for couples or when traveling as a family as it offers plenty of experiences and amenities, including destination weddings. They also offer all-suite accommodations, including suites with one, two, and three bedrooms, which are great for families. There's tennis and a championship golf course, as well as hiking through the property's more than 500 acres of gardens and pastureland. There are three large pools, one for adults (ages 16 and older). Two pools are saltwater, while the other is a kids' Splash Zone. There are also three large saltwater hot tubs. The spa is a 10,000-square-foot luxurious retreat, with treatment rooms that have their own private outdoor terraces.

Accommodation: Carmel Valley Ranch

7. The Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay

The Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay

Photo Source: The Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay

This luxury resort hotel rises from a cliff positioned dramatically above the Pacific, about an hour south of San Francisco. The Ritz-Carlton is a modern building but was designed to look like a grand Victorian seaside hotel. It has an award-winning restaurant, a casual cafe, 24-hour room service, and even a seaside hot chocolate stand (it can be chilly here even in the summer). Perhaps the best feature is the grand lawn between the hotel and sea. There are various seating areas; fire pits; and an evening bagpiper, who celebrates the beautiful sunset. Rooms and suites are luxurious with a Cape Cod style. A local beach sits directly below the hotel, and miles of hiking trails thread along the cliff tops. For families, the hotel has a Ritz Kids program, with a range of activities that take advantage of the oceanside setting. For everyone there's also horseback riding and surfing, with programs for beginners to experts. There's an indoor pool and an outdoor pool, along with two championship golf courses at the hotel.

Accommodation: The Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay

8. The Lodge at Pebble Beach

The Lodge at Pebble Beach

Photo Source: The Lodge at Pebble Beach

Located along the world famous 17-Mile Drive, between Carmel and Monterey, Pebble Beach is home to some of the country's best golf. The Lodge at Pebble Beach is the golf resort's main accommodation, a luxurious yet relaxed hotel. At the resort, guests have five different restaurants to choose from, as well as access to the private beach and tennis club and the Spanish Bay Club (a country club). This pet-friendly resort offers amenities like doggy day care and a special canine room service menu. Aside from golf, there's tennis, bike rides, and nature walks. The resort has an award-winning, wellness-focused spa with a large pool. The beach club has another pool, as does the Spanish Bay Club.

Accommodation: The Lodge at Pebble Beach

9. Claremont Club & Spa, A Fairmont Hotel

Claremont Club & Spa, A Fairmont Hotel

Photo Source: Claremont Club & Spa, A Fairmont Hotel

Perched high in the Oakland hills, this resort, originally a Gold Rush millionaire's mansion, is only 30 minutes from downtown San Francisco. The Claremont Club and Spa was first opened as a hotel and spa in 1915 but has been totally updated and refreshed by Fairmont. It's on 33 acres, with beautiful views of the city, and the accommodations look as good as the views. There are three distinctly different restaurants on the property, all using fresh, locally-sourced ingredients. The Claremont is also home to a world-class spa with a wide range of treatment rooms, options, and services. There's also a 10,000-square-foot fitness center, tennis courts, and three swimming pools. San Francisco and its attractions, restaurants, and museums are only a 30-minute car (or train) ride away.

Accommodation: Claremont Club & Spa, A Fairmont Hotel

10. Timber Cove Resort

Timber Cove Resort

Photo Source: Timber Cove Resort

This beautiful resort is on 25 acres along the Sonoma Coast (almost three hours north of San Francisco). The luxury resort has 46 rooms and suites, along with an oceanfront restaurant. This stylish property is better for romantic getaways, as couples can appreciate the mid-century style and attention to detail found at this newly renovated resort. Two miles of hiking trails weave around Timber Cove, with designated picnic areas along the way. There's a retro vibe here, and all guestrooms have record players with a large vinyl record collection. There's a communal outdoor living room with billiards, ping pong tables, and fire pits with complimentary marshmallows for roasting. There's no spa at Timber Cove, but there is a fitness center, yoga, and wellness classes, and a focus on healthy living.

Accommodation: Timber Cove Resort

11. The Stanford Inn by the Sea

The Stanford Inn by the Sea

Photo Source: The Stanford Inn by the Sea

This pet-friendly eco-resort is about three and a half hours north of San Francisco and sits right on the raw, unspoiled Mendocino Coast, overlooking Mendocino Bay. Each wood-paneled room and suite has its own wood-burning fireplace, and the entire resort embraces a healthy, vegan, wellness-focused lifestyle. The hotel even has its own certified-organic gardens. Northern California's only environmentally sustainable resort is a great place to stay for romantic getaways or family adventures. There's also a spa, which offers the Inn's unique "Massage in the Forest," done (for one or for couples) in a secluded forest clearing. There are plenty of activities, from sea kayaking to canoeing on a lake, as well as hiking, yoga, and biking.

Accommodation: The Stanford Inn by the Sea

12. Tenaya Lodge at Yosemite

Tenaya Lodge at Yosemite

Photo Source: Tenaya Lodge at Yosemite

Set within Yosemite National Park, this rustic, yet luxurious lodge resort offers mountain fun twelve months a year. The rooms, suites, and individual cottages are nicely designed in a mountain chic style without being overly fancy. Tenaya Lodge has five different dining options, including an outdoor barbecue, a pizzeria, deli, and a family-friendly fine-dining restaurant. When it's time to work off all that food, there are three outdoor pools and one indoor one, great for winter guests. During the summer, there's golf and archery. In the winter, you can go sledding and ice-skating. Skiing is only 45 minutes away at the Badger Pass Ski Resort. When you're ready to explore the sites of Yosemite National Park or hit the hiking trails, the lodge also offers private, full-day tours led by the hotel's resident naturalist.

Accommodation: Tenaya Lodge at Yosemite

13. Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa

Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa

Photo Source: Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa

Located about an hour north of San Francisco, The Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa is a large resort in the town of Sonoma. Go for one of their signature Mission Suites, large open-plan spaces with working fireplaces, balconies or patios, and large freestanding whirlpool tubs. There's a gourmet restaurant on-site, as well as a small cafe. The Fairmont is also home to the Willow Stream Spa, a large 40,000-square-foot facility offering a luxurious range of treatment options, including four geothermal spa pools (heated by naturally hot spring water). There's also a large fitness center and several swimming pools, including an outdoor saltwater pool. All the hotel's pools and spas are naturally heated by the mineral springs located right on the property. The Sonoma area offers a range of activities, including horseback riding or golf on the championship course a few minutes down the road.

Accommodation: Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa

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