Twenty-five hotels captured our hearts for this year's annual roundup.
THE LODGE AT TIBURON
Tiburon, Northern California
Across the bay from San Francisco, the tony Marin County village of Tiburon merits more than a day trip, especially now: Built in 1965, The Lodge at Tiburon recently emerged from a sorely needed interior/exterior makeover. The resulting 102 tastefully styled rooms and landscaping are designed to attract discriminating guests and business clientele. Outside, private poolside cabanas shelter visitors from the afternoon sun; fireplaces and teak seating allow them to relax with a glass of wine or enjoy alfresco dining at the hotel's Three Degrees Restaurant and Bar. At breakfast, a waiter will gladly whip up a frothy latte to go with specialties such as the Dungeness crab omelet. Tiburon's many shops, cafés, and fine dining establishments await within walking distance of the full-service hotel. Details: $149 to $399; 415/435-3133 or thelodgeattiburon.com.
San Francisco, Northern California
Elegance rides high in one of the Bay Area's tallest buildings, where 158 guest rooms occupy the 38th to 48th floors. Small wonder the Mandarin Oriental chose San Francisco for its first U.S. location (in 1987). Windows frame a dazzling waterfront panorama: the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz and Angel islands, North Beach, Russian Hill, and Nob Hill. Ignore the bustle of the Financial District, far below, while you sip a complimentary jasmine infusion delivered to your room at check-in. Fresh, sophisticated fabrics, upholstery, and colors were part of a $4 million restyling completed in 2006. Plan on dinner (Tuesday through Saturday) at Silks, the hotel's showcase for Chef Joel Huff's culinary art. Details: $605 to $3,100; 415/276-9888 or mandarinoriental.com.
San Francisco, Northern California
Aptly named Panoramic Suites make the most of this stylish hotel's prime spot on the revitalized Embarcadero. Each features a bay window pumped up to room size, capturing a 180-degree vista from the Oakland Bay Bridge to the landmark Ferry Building and beyond. The spacious accommodations have modern furnishings in restful hues and―for a spectacular soak―windowside tubs for two. Separate, limestone-clad baths hold rainfall showers. Fitness buffs can start the day on a waterfront jogging path or in complimentary morning yoga and stretch classes. The ground-level Americano Restaurant & Bar draws a lively evening crowd from the nearby financial district. But you'll be tempted to order room service and dine in your suite while gazing at the city lights below. Details: $299 to $599 (penthouse, $1,500); 888/890-8688 or hotelvitale.com.
Carmel-by-the-Sea, Central California
Pets are invited to bring their humans to this legendary overnight oasis a few minutes' walk from the beach and Ocean Avenue shopping. The 1929 white-stucco, Spanish Colonial inn reflects the style and personality of its owner―actress, singer, and animal advocate Doris Day. She lives in nearby Carmel Valley and pays occasional visits to the hotel. Even if you don't see her in person, nicely framed posters in the lobby and bar depict Pillow Talk and other classics starring the plucky gamine of 1950s and '60s films. With or without Fido, you can choose among 44 handsomely furnished guest rooms―two with water views. The hotel is fastidiously maintained, and no animals are allowed unattended in rooms. But with the concierge's list of vetted petsitters in animal-friendly Carmel, there's always a companion at the ready. Details: $145 to $575; 800/443-7443 or
VICEROY SANTA MONICA
Santa Monica, Southern California
Noted Los Angeles designer Kelly Wearstler should be crowned for the regal decor she brought to this proper hotel in a casually hip beach town. British Regency-style furnishings fill every room and public spaces. The hotel entry features an eye-catching 14-foot sculpture and elaborate fine-china display, and the on-site restaurant (try the splendid crab croquette) is named Whist, after the vintage British card game. The Viceroy can arrange hair and beauty treatments by a celebrity stylist. Better yet, you might spot George Clooney sipping wine with his agent at a terrace cabana or overhear, say, Kirsten Dunst chatting at the trendy Cameo Bar. Details: $359 to $1,500; 800/670-6185 or viceroysantamonica.com.
CASA LAGUNA INN & SPA
Laguna Beach, Southern California
On a hillside overlooking Pacific Coast Highway and the ocean beyond, Casa Laguna Inn & Spa enchants guests with Mission-style architecture and lush landscaping. Paths of Catalina tiles weave among fountains and bougainvillea to 10 different styles of accommodations. The higher the room, the better the view. Or, from the Bell Tower, all guests catch spectacular sunsets and a Pacific vista. Rooms fronting the highway may not buffer all traffic noise, but the setting makes up for that. If you must leave the inn's verdant courtyard and ocean-view pool, you're just a short stroll from the beach and a quick bike ride from downtown. Details: $250 to $590; 800/233-0449 or casalaguna.com.
MOANA SURFRIDER, A Westin Resort
For civilized calm amid bustling Waikiki, the Moana Surfrider embodies the best of Old Hawaii. Despite its size (793 guest rooms), the hotel makes each visitor feel at home. New arrivals are greeted with a fresh lei, a chilled towel, and a glass of tea. Suddenly, the long flight seems completely worth it. The beloved Moana, this area's first hotel, opened in 1901―on the same pristine oceanfront location it commands today―and underwent a $50 million renovation in 1989. Its plantation-style porch, lined with rocking chairs, opens onto a courtyard canopied by a soaring banyan tree. After snorkeling, surfing, or lazing about, visitors enjoy live island music beneath the banyan. Small, tidy guest rooms feature plush bedding―ask for a courtyard or oceanfront room to avoid nighttime street noise. Details: $395 to $710; 808/922-3111 or moanasurfrider.com.
Only 11 years after the devastating Galveston hurricane of 1900, Hotel Galvez rose majestically from a site directly across from the sturdy new seawall. Built in the style of the grand hotels of its time, the Galvez enjoys new life today thanks to Texas preservationists George and Cynthia Mitchell, who bought it in the mid-1990s. All 226 rooms have been handsomely redone, and a new 8,000-square-foot spa was completed in 2007. The eight-story hotel's U-shape design allows ocean views from most of the guest rooms. From the hotel, it's a short drive to world-renowned Moody Gardens or a quick trolley ride to the historic Strand neighborhood for shopping, dining, and nightlife. Details: $99 to $595; 409/765-7721 or galveston.com/galvez.