No question: The last 12 months have been difficult for parts of Northern California; if fires weren't threatening beloved zen retreats, floods were causing massive evacuations and destroying critical infrastructure. (Sharp readers, by the way, will be forgiven for conflating the first two items, since washed-out roads forced staff and guests at Esalen to be ferried away by helicopter just last week.)
Keep a lookout for locusts, because they're probably next.
Such expensive, disruptive and harrowing ordeals defy the application of the silver-lining theory, but we'll say this: If we didn't fully appreciate our usually unfettered access to places like Big Sur or the Russian River previously, we may now. And this season's waterfall hikes are going to be epic ... as long as the backcountry surrounding said waterfalls survives the deluge.
We're more motivated than ever to enjoy, celebrate and support the second-to-none travel opportunities afforded to us, living in quite possibly the most beautiful spot on Earth. Below, five ideas for where to lay your head on your spring vacation of choice — and some attendant activities ranging from whale-centric kayaking trips to multi-day bike tours across Wine Country.
Dream Inn, Santa Cruz
If you're looking for a beach-front hotel in Santa Cruz, this is your best (and actually only) bet: Many rooms come with a balcony overlooking Monterey Bay, and staff can provide suggestions for setting up your own beach bonfire come evening. The 165-room hotel is just finishing up a massive renovation, both to rooms and to public areas like the lobby and pool — upgrades best considered from around one of the hotel's beachside firepits.
The Lodge at Edgewood, Stateline
Book now for the newest hotel at the lake: The Lodge at Edgewood Tahoe. It's classic high-end Tahoe, with a tweaked-for-modern design aesthetic. Think: (sculpted) mounted-deer-head wall art, geometric lighting fixtures, etc. The location can't be beat: Its lakefront access is enhanced by rooms (and hot tubs) with a water view.
While on the lake....
Send your kids off to Camp Edgewood, the on-site activity spot for the younger set ... Check out the weekend flea market, 10 minutes south of town ... Get some altitude at the top of Round Mound before taking your lake photos
SingleThread Inn, Healdsburg
You'll pay for the privilege of staying here — rooms start at $800. It is spectacular, though: The new SingleThread has just five guest rooms and a focus on the food. The breakfast menu is enough to make you weep, with options including a Persian Breakfast (with goat's milk feta, toasted flatbread, Meyer lemon marmalade, and more), the Japanese-style breakfast with grilled trout, or just a satsuma mandarin mimosa.
While in Healdsburg....
Book a massage at the Hotel Healdsburg ... Take your pick of wineries, from Dry Creek to Copain and Stonestreet ... Set off on a multi-day bike trip across Sonoma Country — starting with Bodega Bay, 40 miles away
Mountain Home Inn, Mount Tam
A hillside hotel rightly regarded as a local institution, the Mountain Home Inn is the best solution for staying on Mount Tam ... but not in a tent. It feels surprisingly remote, the views are killer, and Marin's best trails are almost literally at your door.
While at the Mountain Home Inn....
Walk out the door and hike to the 1904 West Point Inn, one-time terminus of the crookedest railroad on Earth ... Walk out the door and hike to Muir Woods, our favorite national monument ... Walk out the door and hike to the top of Mount Tam
The Inn at Newport Ranch, Fort Bragg
This 18-month-old guesthouse sits on a 2,000-acre private reserve and claims some of the best coastline views in the state. There's a variety of lodging options, but our favorite is Sea Drum, the owner's own four-bedroom vacation home, which sleeps 10, offers 180-degree ocean views, plus all the decking, hot tub, and fireplace action you could want.
While at the inn....
Sit on your deck and watch for blue and gray whales and orcas, who should be passing by from now ’til May ... Ride a horse (or an ATV) across the reserve land ... Head to Mendocino for Friday night jazz (and beer) at the North Coast Brewing Co.