- Hotel Bohème (San Francisco; tel. 415/433-9111): This hotel is the perfect mixture of art, style, class, romance, and location -- just steps from the sidewalk cafes of North Beach. If Bette Davis were alive today, this is where she'd stay.
- St. Orres (Gualala; tel. 707/884-3303): Designed in a Russian style -- complete with two Kremlinesque, onion-domed towers -- St. Orres offers secluded accommodations constructed from century-old timbers salvaged from a nearby mill. One of the most eye-catching inns on California's North Coast.
- Albion River Inn (Albion; tel. 800/479-7944): One of the best rooms with a view on the coast, the Albion River Inn is on a cliff overlooking a rugged stretch of shoreline. Most of the luxuriously appointed rooms have Jacuzzi tubs for two, elevated to window level. Add champagne, and you're guaranteed to have a night you won't soon forget.
- River Ranch Lodge (Lake Tahoe; tel. 866/991-9912): Alongside the Truckee River, the River Ranch has long been one of our favorite affordable inns around Lake Tahoe. It has everything you'd want in a mountain lodge: rustic decor, a great bar and outdoor deck overlooking the river, and a restaurant serving wood-oven-roasted Montana elk loin and other hearty dishes.
- Gunn House Hotel (Sonora; tel. 209/532-3421): Built in 1850 by Dr. Lewis C. Gunn, this was the first two-story adobe structure in Sonora and is now one of the best moderately priced hotels in the Gold Country. It's easy to catch the forty-niner spirit here, as the entire hotel and grounds are brimming with quality antiques and turn-of-the-20th-century artifacts.
- Mount Shasta Ranch B&B (Mount Shasta; tel. 530/926-3870): Built in 1923 as a private retreat and thoroughbred horse ranch for one of the country's most famous horse trainers and racing tycoons, this B&B offers one of the best deals anywhere. Rates start at $60 a night and include a full country breakfast.
- Evergreen Lodge (Yosemite; tel. 800/935-6343): Scattered through a grove of towering pines near the entrance to Yosemite, Evergreen's rustic cabins, with a beautiful old bar and restaurant, afford easy access to dozens of outdoor adventures. Enjoy a pitcher of beer and a game of Ping-Pong on the patio, or sit around the campfire telling stories and roasting marshmallows.
- The Mosaic (Beverly Hills; tel. 800/463-4466): This Beverly Hills boutique is an ideal blend of art, luxury, service, location, and value. Huge rainforest shower heads, Frette linens, Bulgari bath products, Wolfgang Puck refreshments, and piles of pillows will leave you wondering if you checked in at the pearly gates.
- Huntley Santa Monica Beach (Santa Monica; tel. 310/394-5454): Tucked away on the edge of a quiet Santa Monica neighborhood is my favorite Santa Monica hotel, one that combines a superb location with excellent service and strikingly stylish decor. The Huntley's 18th-floor Penthouse restaurant, bar, and lounge has one of the best views in Santa Monica.
- Casa Malibu (Malibu; tel. 800/831-0858): This beachfront motel will fool you from the front; its humble entrance on Pacific Coast Highway belies the quiet, restful haven within. Bougainvillea vines festoon the rooftops and balconies of the motel's 21 rooms around a courtyard garden. Many rooms have private decks above the sand, and one suite was reportedly Lana Turner's favorite.
- Olallieberry Inn (Cambria; tel. 888/927-3222): This 1873 Greek Revival house, furnished in Victorian style, is an ideal base for exploring Hearst Castle. The gracious innkeepers will provide directions to Moonstone Beach, restaurant recommendations, a scrumptious breakfast, and more.
- Marriott's Desert Springs Spa & Resort (Palm Desert; tel. 800/331-3112): In the spirit of Disney-esque resorts, this oasis welcomes guests with a lobby featuring a 60-foot bar, tropical birds, and gondolas that tour the fairways and gardens. Once settled, kids will revel in the lagoonlike pools and play areas (with supervised children's programs). And grown-ups can luxuriate on the golf course, tennis court, or 30,000-square-foot day spa.
- Casa Cody (Palm Springs; tel. 800/231-2639): You'll feel more like a houseguest than a client at this 1920s Spanish-style casa, blessed with peaceful, blossoming grounds and two pools. The southwestern-style rooms are large and equipped for extended stays, and the hotel is just a couple of easy blocks from the heart of the action.
- La Pensione Hotel (San Diego; tel. 800/232-4683): In Little Italy, on the fringe of downtown San Diego, this find feels like a small, modern European hotel, with tidy lodgings at bargain prices. Great dining options abound in the surrounding blocks, and you'll be perfectly situated to explore the rest of the city and region by car or trolley. The immediate neighborhood is filled with boutiques and some of the city's most dashing new architecture.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.