California is for couples
By Sydni Ellis
If the popular travel quote “Love is the food of life, travel is the dessert” by Amanda Jane Sturges is to be believed, then taking a vacation with your significant other is an even sweeter gift than chocolates this Valentine’s Day. Who can resist the temptations of warm beaches, quiet bed and breakfasts, luxurious spas and beautiful nature scenes just begging to be explored?
This winter, take your loved one on a romantic getaway to California! The Golden State offers plenty of activities for couples, from enjoying the delights of Wine Country to exploring charming architecture, admiring the city by helicopter and hiking in secluded woods, you will be entertained for days. Blue water, red wine, green cliffs and orange-and-pink sunsets it’ll be a wonderful experience even more colorful than even the prettiest heart-shaped card.
Begin your romantic rendezvous in Carmel-By-The-Sea, voted the third best city for romance in the world by Travel & Leisure. It’s the perfect place to fall in love: charming inns, crystal clear water fairytale-inspired architecture, almost 100 art galleries and more await you.
Start your day on Carmel Beach, located on Ocean Avenue. Here, the white sand and blue water is only outdone by the majestic cypress trees dotted along a scenic trail on the coast. Lay on a beach towel next to your sweetheart and just soak it all in. Or, go swimming and try to spot dolphins and otters playing in the water. Later, dry off and go hiking at the Point Lobos State Reserve, where you will discover hidden coves and overlooks–perfect for taking pictures or spending some alone time with your partner.
For lunch, try the famous French bistro, La Bicyclette. You can enjoy farm-to-table food prepared in wood-fired ovens in a European-style atmosphere. (We’re talking gnocchi, pizza, swordfish, steak, burgers and more prepared in an exotic way!) After filling your stomach, fill your
heart by seeing romantic art, shopping for beautiful gifts and going on a Carmel Walk, where you can explore some of the 42 hidden pathways, courtyards, gardens and storybook-like cottages that fill the village.
In the evening, retire to one of the cozy inns located here. The Carmel Country Inn is a great choice for lovebirds. This charming place features tastefully decorated rooms, each including a warm fireplace and luxurious bath designed for ultimate relaxation. If you want to make your stay even more special, book a Romance Package, which includes a bottle of sparkling cider, two 60-minute serenity massages, a spa pamper basket and the breakfast buffet.
If you prefer a more active getaway, head to Big Sur instead. Located just 150 miles south of San Francisco, Big Sur includes a 90-mile stretch of coastline where you can see the dramatic Santa Lucia Mountains on one side and the stunning rocky coast of the Pacific Ocean on the other while driving down California State Route 1. This area is known for its beauty (obviously, you should bring your camera) and its fantastic backpacking, hiking and driving trails. One of the most amazing spots is the Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, where you will be amazed at the gorgeous McWay Falls waterfall and the impressive 300-foot redwoods that are over 2,500 years old. If your love is wild or you just love the wilderness then you have to visit Big Sur this month, where the weather will be absolutely perfect for spending time outdoors.
When you are done for the night, what could be better than sleeping in your very own treehouse? Seriously, Treebones Resort is billed as a “Premier Glamping Experience,” where you can rest your head in the yurt village situated among the trees. Staying in a yurt will help you really commune with nature. These tent-like structures are reinforced with wooden beams and feature hardwood floors, furniture and a comfortable queen size bed, as well as plenty of natural lighting to admire the world around you. For the really daring, stay inside the Human Nest. This is exactly what it sounds like; a hand-woven nest with a full-sized futon pad inside that you can relax in for the ultimate tranquil experience.
For a serene California getaway, head to Catalina Island, aka the Island of Romance. Located just a short ferry ride or a 15-minute helicopter ride from Long Beach, Catalina Island is the perfect place to relax in your own private cabana, get a massage for two in the luxurious Island Spa Catalina, go dancing or gambling at the famous Catalina Casino, or dress up for a show at the legendary Avalon Theatre, which is the first grand movie palace in the U.S. designed to show talking motion pictures.
Have dinner at the Harbor Reef Restaurant, where you can fill up on delicious burgers, steaks, ribs and the daily fish offerings (they are famous for their swordfish). On Valentine’s Day, they even offer a Sweetheart Dinner, including a special menu and chocolate-covered strawberries for your love. Afterward, visit the Harbor Reef Saloon next door, where you can twirl your girl under the stars and try the world-renowned Buffalo Milk cocktail. Stay for the night at Hotel Atwater, a 100-year-old establishment that has recently been renovated to showcase a modern design and fresh décor. Wake up in the spacious rooms to views of the ocean, town of Avalon or impressive mountains. Staying here also gives you access to the Descanso Beach Club, where you can drink while on the sand (yes, really!). This island is so blissful, it’s hard to believe you’re still in the U.S.!
Finish your adventure in Sonoma County. Just 45 minutes north of San Francisco, Sonoma County is part of Wine Country and has more than 425 wineries, amazing local food and gorgeous views of redwoods, the Pacific coastline and charming towns. One of the most famous wineries is the St. Francis Winery and Vineyards, voted “Best Restaurant in America” by OpenTable. Executive Chef Trevor Eliason will serve you artisan wines paired with five small plates all while you gaze on unparallel scenes of the vineyard surrounded by mountains. Another must-see is the Ledson Winery and Vineyards, which is a magnificent wine castle known for its impressive gothic spires and archways, pretty courtyards filled with flowers and mountain views. And if you don’t like wine, don’t worry. You can order fresh sandwiches and treats inside and have an alcohol-free picnic on the lawn instead.
Rest for the night at Farmhouse Inn, where in addition to the gorgeous rooms and world-class resort amenities, you will also get a personally tailored wine country experience. If you can leave your cozy room complete with personal wine refrigerators and feather beds then you can enjoy the on-site winery and Michelin-starred restaurant. It’s a hotel fit for royalty, and you will leave feeling like the king or queen you are.
California was practically made for couples. A getaway here is exactly what you need to refresh your relationship, escape from the stress of life and relax in an unbelievably peaceful atmosphere. And if you’re a traditionalist and still want to get your beau a Valentine, consider writing this in it: “Roses are red, violets are blue; let’s go to California, and I’ll fall even more in love with you!”