Now that the Oscars are over and the 2022-23 awards season has ended (at least until Emmys campaigning starts in earnest in June), you may be searching for realness as you set vacation plans. Travelers increasingly crave authentic experiences that allow them to connect with nature, local culture and wellness. The trend towards connectivity and experiential travel has only accelerated since the pandemic, as people get back out on the road seeking a sense of discovery of self and place. Here’s where to travel truly and deeply in California.
Four Seasons Resort and Residences Napa Valley, Calistoga, Calif.
The 85-room resort is set within the working Elusa Winery and surrounded by 4.7 acres of organic vineyards. Guests can do more than gaze at the vines: wine tastings and winery tours connect guests to Napa’s grape-to-glass winemaking process. Truss Restaurant and Bar is the hotel’s all day- to-night dining option at heart of the resort; it overlooks the main pool and vineyards with views that stretch to nearby Palisades mountains. Opened in October, Auro, under executive chef Rogelio Garcia, has a five-course prix fixe menu that showcases the region’s seasonally changing bounty.
Four Seasons Resort and Residences Napa Valley, 400 Silverado Trail, Calistoga, Calif.
Desert Glamping: AutoCamp Joshua Tree
At the year-old AutoCamp Joshua Tree, 10 miles from the west entrance of Joshua Tree National Park, the 47 permanently moored, custom-built Airstream trailers (plus four tiny home style suites and four accessible suites) do just that. The trailers are sited for privacy and lights are kept low at night for dark sky compliance. The dining area is purposefully outside next to the firepit where guests are encouraged to cook out using provided cast iron cookware. Socializing is encouraged via daily morning yoga and nighttime fireside chats, star-gazing and live music on weekends. During peak season, a two-night minimum stay is required.
AutoCamp Joshua Tree, 62209 Verbena Rd.
Ultimate Wellness Retreat: Sensei Porcupine Creek, Rancho Mirage, Calif.
Once a private estate, Sensei sports only 22 suites and villas on 230 landscaped acres. Sensei’s co-founders Larry Ellison (Oracle’s co-founder and co-founder of Sensei Lanai) and physician and wellness expert Dr. David Agus aim to facilitate optimal well-being. There are fitness, yoga, nutrition and mindset practitioners, plus a menu of workout classes, spa treatments and private tennis or golf sessions with pros at championship-level facilities. Exclusivity is a given as Porcupine Creek is only open to Sensei’s guests; even the onsite Nobu restaurant and sushi bar are restricted to guests. A two-night minimum stay is required; there’s also a 30-day Sensei sabbatical option.
Sensei Porcupine Creek, 42765 Dunes Rd., Rancho Mirage, Calif., sensei.com
Settle into Artsy Ojai: Capri Hotel, Ojai, Calif.
A Hollywood getaway spot since the 1920s, Ojai is an idyllic, mostly rural town, a mere 80 miles from Los Angeles. It’s here the team from Shelter Social Club, along with dedicated artists and artisans, revamped the Capri, a mid-1960s roadside motel into something fashionable and mindfully detailed. “Our ethos and philosophy from the beginning is to give our guests an experience rather than just a place to stay and connect with them on a more personal level,” explains Kenny Osehan, Shelter Social Club’s CEO and founder. It’s an easy walk to Ojai’s downtown and restaurants like Rory’s Place, Ojai Rotie and the Duchess of Ojai. There is a two-night minimum stay on weekends and holidays.
Capri Hotel, 1180 E. Ojai Ave.
Ocean adventures: Waldorf Astoria Monarch Beach Resort & Club, Dana Point, Calif.
Surf’s up and so are the stand-up paddleboarders (window-bottomed stand-up boards at the ready) and boogie boarders off the private access beach club at the freshly renovated Waldorf Astoria Monarch Beach Resort & Club. Resort guests are ferried down to the beach in sporty electric carts that recall vintage Woodie station wagons. On the sand is the private Monarch Bay Beach Club complete with fire pits, bar, ocean view restaurant and everything needed for a day at the beach. Book a “No Fail Surf Lesson,” for a true Cali moment. Michael Mina’s Bourbon Steak is the resort’s fine dining restaurant; it features one of the most extensive wine lists in Orange County and classic cocktails to complement the upscale steakhouse menu.
Waldorf Astoria Monarch Beach Resort & Club, 1 Monarch Beach Resort, Dana Point, waldorfastoriamonarchbeach.com