- The Ritz-Carlton, San Francisco (Nob Hill; tel. 800/241-3333): This is the sine qua non of luxury hotels, offering near-perfect service and every possible amenity. Even if you can't afford a guest room, come for the mind-blowing Sunday brunch.
- The Mandarin Oriental (San Francisco; tel. 800/622-0404): The Mandarin Oriental is perched so high above the city that the fog rolls in below you. It's surreal. Maybe you really did die and go to heaven?
- Calistoga Ranch (Calistoga; tel. 707/254-2800): Napa Valley's latest upscale hotel blows away the competition, with individual luxury cabins stocked with every imaginable luxury. In a secluded canyon, it's where nature meets nurture, with a fabulous pool, spa, gym, and guest-only restaurant overlooking a lake.
- The Ritz-Carlton Highlands (Truckee; tel. 800/241-3333): The most anticipated opening of the past year was the chateaulike Ritz-Carlton, perched high in the Sierra Nevada Mountains alongside Lake Tahoe. The sprawling resort began welcoming guests just in time for the 2010 ski season, and with ski-in, ski-out access to the Northstar slopes, a lavish spa and fitness center (17,000 sq. ft., to be exact), two outdoor swimming pools and hot tubs, and even a golf course, it didn't disappoint.
- Château du Sureau (Oakhurst; tel. 559/683-6860): Near Yosemite, the Château du Sureau and Erna's Elderberry House restaurant stand out for their European attention to quality and detail. Room furnishings are exquisite, and the cuisine is worthy of the stars.
- Casa Palmero Resort (Pebble Beach; tel. 800/654-9300): A small, ultraluxury resort on the first tee of the Pebble Beach Golf Course, Casa Palmero has 24 intimate and private cottages and suites. Is $2,550 per night okay with you?
- Post Ranch Inn (Big Sur; tel. 800/527-2200): Twelve hundred feet above the sea, the elevated wood-and-glass guest cottages at this romantic cliffside retreat give guests the illusion that they're living at cloud level.
- Four Seasons Resort (Santa Barbara; tel. 800/819-5053): Open since 1927, this Four Seasons operation, on the grounds of the historic Biltmore Hotel, has palm-studded formal gardens and prime beachfront along "America's Riviera." Wander the elegant Spanish-Moorish arcades and walkways, accented by exquisite Mexican tile, and then play croquet on manicured lawns or relax at the Coral Casino Beach and Cabana Club. The rooms are the epitome of refined luxury.
- Shutters on the Beach (Santa Monica; tel. 800/334-9000) and Casa del Mar (Santa Monica; tel. 800/898-6999): If an oceanfront room at either of these hotels doesn't put a spring in your love life, we don't know what will. Shutters is dressed up like a rich friend's contemporary-chic beach house, while glamorous Casa del Mar is an impeccably restored Art Deco-era delight.
- Beverly Hills Hotel and Bungalows (Beverly Hills; tel. 800/283-8885): A deep dent in your credit card is a small price to pay for the chance to take afternoon tea next to Ozzy Osbourne, swim laps in the same pool Katharine Hepburn once dove into fully clothed, and eat pancakes in the fabled Fountain Coffee Shop.
- La Quinta Resort & Club (La Quinta; tel. 800/598-3828): This mecca for serious golfers has morphed into an upscale family hotel without disturbing the quality of service. While Dad is putting away, Mom can luxuriate in one of more than 35 spa treatment rooms, and the kids can splash in one of the 41 outdoor pools and Jacuzzis or exercise on one of the 23 tennis courts. The property is designed to reduce the feeling of a megaresort, and the service exceeds expectations. Fido is welcome also, for a fee ($100 a night).
- The Grand Del Mar (Del Mar; tel. 888/314-2030): This resort nestled in the foothills of San Diego's North County is a faux Tuscan villa padded with ornate, Vegas-style luxury. Liberally accented with fountains, courtyards, sweeping staircases, and outdoor fireplaces, it's so grandly European that you'll feel as if you are visiting the doge at his country estate. Its signature restaurant, Addison, is one of the city's most sumptuous dining rooms, with cuisine to match.
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.