California is one of those rare places in that it’s so famous - and so full of famous places - it can feel like you’ve lived there your entire life even though you’ve never set foot in America. That’s what happens when you take the power of Instagram and throw it into a cocktail shaker full of San Francisco’s streetcars, Malibu’s beaches, the Golden Gate Bridge, Hollywood Sign Alcatraz and Joshua Tree.
But what if you want to experience the California you don’t see in glossy magazines? What if you’re craving the kind of one-of-a-kind, totally-unique, like-nowhere-else-on-the-planet sort of Californian experience?
That’s where we get to step in. Yup. We’ve been busy looking for the most breathtaking boutique hotels The Golden State has to offer. From Napa Valley’s vineyards to desert ranches, we’ve found the quaintest of the quaint.
1. Post Ranch Inn
There is something so special about Big Sur and something absolutely magical about this super-luxurious retreat that’s managed to blend into the staggering landscape. Rustic, chic and organic architecture, this ranch seems to almost grow out of the ground. Unique eco-friendly rooms, wood-burning fireplaces, ocean views and mountain vistas - this place is made for relaxation.
2. San Ysidro Ranch
When it comes to rustic-romance, you could travel the world four times over and still never find a place that compares to this luxurious yet low-key retreat, which is probably why John F Kennedy and Jackie picked this paradise to spend a portion of their honeymoon. Set in 500-acres of gorgeous landscapes, this paradise boasts English gardens, two restaurants and cottages for hire. It’s the getaway you’ve always dreamed of.
3. Mirabelle Inn
Found in the picturesque city of Solvang, the Mirabelle Inn promises magic from the moment you catch sight of it. That’s its charm. The classic Renaissance-style design found dotted about Northern European, the kind that embraces the sort of part-timber facade that makes your eye’s light up. And the beauty doesn’t stop there because the inside is the best kind of magic, as the soaring lobby proves from the outset.
For some, the quintessential Californian experience means getting lost in a boutique hotel somewhere in the heart of the Napa Valley wine region, so imagine how it must feel to stumble across this five-star gem, complete with luxurious rooms, private spa service, farm-fresh meals, rooftop pool, bike tours and, yes, some of the most delicious wine in the world. Mmmmm.
5. Garden Court Hotel
Palo Alto is one of those places so stunning it falls into the category of otherworldly. It’s staggering; the standout boutique building in a corner of the world that is not short of romantic architecture. It’s everything you hope it would be, from the classic American style to the French doors, to the beautiful balconies overlooking the charming courtyards. There is an allure to this place like nowhere else, like stepping back into a time and space that was simpler; more magical.
California has been done a billion times and a billion times again, and yet there are so many hidden secrets that will snatch your breath in the best way possible.