People check in to hotels for two primary reasons: business and sex. Maybe you’re in the doghouse and need to redeem yourself, or you’re in love, or you just plain need to get laid. Whatever your motivation, here are my top-ten favorite hotels to hit the sack in style. All are within a four-hour radius of SF. Note: Most of these are top-end hotels—you don’t need me to help you find bang-the-headboard no-tell motels. If you can’t swing high-season rates, wait till winter when prices plummet, especially in Wine Country.
1) If you love sex but have a bad back, book a room with a platform bed at the spiffy, new Cedar House Sport Hotel ($$$) in Truckee (no, I’m not kidding; really, it’s the new Aspen…well, sort of). The leather-edged platform beds and butter-soft leather sofas both have removable modular pieces, positionable into all sorts of configurations. Following your lumbar-supported athletics, drift to sleep beneath a feather-light duvet wrapped in supple German linens. Rooms are in several small, satellite buildings designed with a nod to green: nearly the whole place was constructed of recycled materials. Cedar House is for active travelers who want style by night: Wake up to for a morning hike around the Mt Judah Loop, and make out with your babydoll as you take in top-of-the-world vistas above Donner Pass. For details on the hike, read our Truckee guide.
2) Why confine yourself to the bed when you can lie (or should I say lay?) on a heated floor in Napa? The idea behind Carneros Inn ($$$$+) was to build a sort of village with a fashion-forward ag theme and barn style architecture—think corrugated-tin horse-trough fountains. Rooms are in freestanding cottages that look like itinerant housing with million-dollar landscaping. Don’t waste time in public view on your rocking-chair front porch. Instead retreat to your private back patio, where you can sprawl naked while sipping pinot. Cherry-wood floors, poured concrete fireplaces, and sleek contemporary furniture set a sexy, yet functional backdrop. But the main attraction—for our purposes—is the giant bathrooms, with their thermostatically controlled, heated tile floors, ideal for l’amour par terre (warning: avoid silicone-based lubricants; they render the highly polished tile dangerously slick; alternatively carry some Dawn dish soap and spare the poor housekeepers). Connecting indoor-outdoor showers have Frisbee-sized shower heads, and the tubs have room for two. Shock-absorbing Ultrasuede headboards provide excellent head protection. When you’re ready to reemerge from your nest, head to the gorgeous upper pool and soak in thousand-acre views of rolling pastureland, before falling asleep in the sun.
3) Mendocino Victorian B&Bs are charming for old folks, but you can’t make a move without the neighbors hearing. I much prefer the privacy—and potential for anonymity—at the Stanford Inn ($$$$). High on a hill, surrounded by lush flowering gardens abutting the Big River estuary, Stanford Inn is Mendocino’s only real resort and has the acreage to prove it. Rooms have wood-burning fireplaces, retro-rustic knotty-pine walls, balconies with blue-water ocean views, and best of all, excellent soundproofing. Throw open your French doors, and lie in bed with the ocean roaring in the distance. The indoor swimming pool—a rarity on the Mendocino coast—is gigantic and open 24 hours; I’ve shimmied out of my swimsuit here many times during the wee hours. Town is ten minutes away by foot, but free bicycles get you there lickety-split. The inn’s organic gardens provide produce for the all-vegetarian dining room, the Ravens, which also serves one of Mendo’s best breakfasts.
4) I hate to give away the secret, but Pescadero, on the San Mateo Coast, has a kick-ass romantic retreat called the Pescadero Creekside Barn ($$). There’s only one room, a giant loft on the second floor of an old whitewashed barn, filled with a sweet collection of homey, unfussy country-antique furnishings, including a claw-foot tub in the kitchenette. Throw open the barn-style windows, and stand naked while watching the townsfolk make their morning rounds. Privacy is the order of the day: the owners program the lock in advance, and you’ll never see them unless you want to. I can’t wait to come back—if I can even get a reservation, now that I’ve told the world about it. Book far in advance for weekend visits.
5) Is your PDA coming between you and your lover? My top-favorite escape on the entire California Coast (and I wrote the book on it), Mar Vista Cottages ($$$) has ten, vintage-1940s hideaway cottages on ten acres of land on the inland side of Hwy 1, 35 miles south of the village of Mendocino—and it’s entirely out of cell-phone range. You’ll find only the things you need and nothing you don’t. Beds have top-of-the-line mattresses and feather-light duvets with high-thread-count sheets; bathrooms have thick cotton towels and handmade oatmeal soap, but no little bottles of shampoo cluttering the vanity (b.y.o.). There’s an old-fashioned kitchen, a couple of overstuffed chairs with homemade slipcovers, a collapsible painted-wood dining table, and a fireplace. That’s it. No phones, no TVs. In the morning, the owners deliver freshly laid eggs to your room; take your morning coffee to the organic grazing garden—which guests are expected to feed themselves from—and snip fresh herbs for your omelet. I can’t say enough about this little Shangri-La, and I hate to give away the secret, but it’s just too good not to share. Leave your high heels at home. To find hidden beaches to stroll hand-in-hand at sunset, read our Sonoma-Mendocino Coast guide.
6) When you need physical—and psychological—distance from your day-to-day world, cross the San Andreas fault to Point Reyes, and check in to the fabulous Manka’s Inverness Lodge ($$$$), which is still open—at least partially—following a fire last December that burned the 80-year-old main lodge (Jake Gyllenhaal, a guest that night, helped firemen douse the blaze; Joel Cohen and Frances McDormand were also apparently there, but no word on whether they grabbed hoses). The outlying rooms and cabins remain standing—good news because these are some of the most sumptuous hideaways in Marin County, all styled in woodsy Pendleton chic, with log furniture, thick wood paneling, and delicious float-away beds, some of which stand a good three feet off the floor, ideal for bending over comfortably while standing on the floor. Book a room with a fireplace for maximum mood lighting. If you’re loud when you get fired up, reserve a cabin; the lodge rooms share walls. After a soak in the giant tub, rinse off in the outdoor shower while choruses of birds chirp all around you. If you like to hole up during the winter rains, this is the place.
7) If you want to hop in and out of water—and bed—all weekend long, book a spa suite at the Gaige House Inn ($$$$), at the north end of Sonoma Valley. Five of the inn’s 22 rooms are in a grand 1890 Victorian house restyled with a smart collection of European and Asian furnishings, but the spa suites are where it’s at. Built a couple of years ago, they overlook a shaded creek and have all the requisite top-flight amenities, as well as dimmer switches on perfectly positioned halogen lights, and zillion-thread-count linens. Bathrooms are the focal point, with tubs of hollowed-out granite boulders, their interiors polished to a mirror shine, their exteriors left rough as rock. They’re so enormous that you need a step stool to get into them. Between the glass-walled bathroom and the glass-walled bedroom is a Japanese meditation garden, perfect for zoning out nude after a scalding-hot soak. A chef prepares the lavish, two-course breakfast, served at well-spaced individual tables, saving your from having to deal with chatty strangers before your first cup of coffee.
If high heels and a spritz of expensive perfume are part of your rituals, book a night at Milliken Creek Inn ($$$$+) , one of the cushiest inns in Napa. A former stagecoach stop on the banks of the Napa River, the inn’s ten rooms sport a vaguely British-Colonial style, with rattan and leather, Indonesian hardwood furnishings, soothing putty-colored walls, and fabulous linens. And oh, those enormous bathtubs. Book an upstairs room overlooking the river. Don’t be surprised when you come back from your fancy-pants dinner in Yountville to find mood-setting tea lights burning in your room. In all my years as a travel writer, I’ve never seen that anywhere, and I loved it—it felt so dangerously romantic. In the morning, breakfast is delivered to your room on a tray at whatever time pleases you; the pastries all come from Bouchon Bakery, Thomas Keller’s French patisserie. There’s also a small onsite spa that does couples massages.
9 and 10) When you’ve done wrong by your lover and must make serious amends fast, break open your piggy bank and head to Big Sur, location of two of California’s most famous properties, the Post Ranch Inn and the Ventana Inn. Both are ideal for a redemption shag, but each has its own flavor. I love the Ventana’s Japanese soaking tubs and clothing-optional pool, but the rooms lack the jewel-box quality of those at Post Ranch. For a complete primer on which to choose, read my essay “Five Star Face-off: Post Ranch v. Ventana Inn.”
More sexy travel spots on Trazzler.