For some, Paris is the ultimate place for romance. But to me, California is a quintessential setting for love. It’s a state made for winding, scenic drives along crashing surf with nostalgic tunes blaring, hair tousled from open windows — or even better, a convertible’s open top — and frequent stops to cuddle, picnic, or snap photos that capture the moment. It’s where there are mountains topped with snow, trees so gargantuan a car can drive through them, and the Pacific Ocean where dolphins and sea lions frolic. It is a destination with some of the world’s very best wine and food, not to mention hotels and art.

It was during the pandemic, with my fiancé-turned–new husband, that after years of circling the globe I was finally forced to discover the tremendous amount of magic held by this West Coast jewel. As a longtime Angeleno, I’d ventured out a bit, of course, but not nearly as in depth as when international travel was less possible and road trips felt the safest way to explore. One of my sweetest revelations: virtually everywhere in the great state of California offers an opportunity to be swept off your feet. So here, eight havens that should do just that.

Oceana Santa Monica, Santa Monica, California

the pool at oceana santa monica california
Courtesy, Oceana Santa Monica

There’s just something about being able to see the ocean from your bed. At this sumptuous seaside boutique-sized resort — where every room is a suite, decorated like the home you always wanted — in tony Santa Monica, the Pacific is on full display night and day. That goes for the complimentary morning yoga classes on the sunset terrace and also the house beach cruisers couples can borrow to ride along the iconic coastline. Plenty of tourist faves are nearby — shopping, the Santa Monica Pier, world-class dining, Malibu — but perhaps the most seductive way to spend a day is by booking a beach butler to create the sweetest experience for just the two of you in the sand.

Montage Healdsburg, Sonoma, California

vintner's table at montage healdsburg, california
Courtesy, Montage Healdsburg

Just far enough outside charming Healdsburg to feel a world away from everything, but close enough to easily make your long-awaited Michelin-starred booking at SingleThread, this resort epitomizes wine country bliss. It has its own vineyard — 15-plus acres of juicy grapes ready for renowned winemaker Jesse Katz to work his magic and bottle at his nearby Aperture Cellars Winery. Indulge in private tastings, seasonal meals, spa treatments using the skin and seeds of the resort’s own Sauvignon Blanc, archery, and hot air balloon rides. All that romance is possible onsite, but you’d be doing yourself a disservice to not venture out for even more divine vino and cuisine since highly walkable Healdsburg is a mecca of both.

Château du Sureau, Yosemite, California

the romantic chateau du sureau, yosemite, california
Courtesy, Château du Sureau

Two words: no children. With an adults-only policy and just ten sophisticated fireplace-accoutered accommodations plus a honeymoon-worthy private villa, Chateau du Sureau makes Yosemite all the more appealing for nature-addicted lovers looking to celebrate a special occasion or simply revel in an absurdly peaceful environment. It’s a Relais & Chateaux getaway, so you know the fine-dining restaurant Elderberry delivers scrumptious menus all day long. Of course, in Yosemite National Park, there are countless breathtaking sights to make you swoon — try Bridalveil Fall for a guaranteed rush, a stroll through gargantuan sequoia trees, and maybe a guided tour or photography class, if you find the Ansel Adams Gallery inspiring.

The Inn Above Tide, Sausalito, California

water views at the inn above tide, sausalito, california
Courtesy, The Inn Above Tide

This luxurious retreat in Sausalito — complete with wide San Francisco Bay panoramas — is essentially California’s answer to an overwater bungalow. With the wide wooden decks of some suites and rooms hovering right over the water, it feels as if you’re floating on an elegant boat that just happens to have a see-through fireplace. You could quite literally fish off your balcony in a plush bathrobe, then retreat to bed with a bottle of wine. Sausalito is a lovely town for a wind-swept walk, and there are activities like kayaking, hiking in the Marin Headlands, and visiting Muir Woods. But at Inn Above Tide it’s equally tempting to stay in with your person, savoring the privileged perch to watch the sea and shifting mist over San Francisco in the distance.

Rosewood Miramar Beach, Santa Barbara, California

romantic rooms at rosewood miramar beach, santa barbara, california
Courtesy, Rosewood Miramar Beach

There’s a reason so many A-listers and celebrities are spotted at this Santa Barbara–adjacent Montecito resort. Well, several. For one, its location on Miramar Beach is straight out of a Nancy Meyers movie. Then there are the beachfront rooms and suites where you’re guaranteed to be lulled to sleep by the crashing waves mere feet away. And Caruso’s, the signature restaurant, which just earned both a Michelin star and Michelin Green star. It’s also glamorous but also quaint, which sums up Montecito. The resort offers an experience in its apiary for lovers who wish to learn the art of beekeeping, while the town and region beyond is ripe for vineyard tours, wanders through the awe-inspiring botanical garden Lotusland, paddle boarding excursions, and e-bike rides.

Post Ranch Inn, Big Sur, California

post ranch inn, big sur, california
Courtesy, Post Ranch Inn

Big Sur is one of the most legendary romantic destinations in the world. And its most beloved icon is Post Ranch Inn, where singular rooms and treehouses offer ample seclusion and privacy alongside epic vistas. There’s a decadent spa, fine-dining restaurant, and heated infinity pools where you can while away a blissed-out day, but with 100 acres of redwoods, it takes very little effort to feel like you and your partner are the only two people on Earth. As for spending time off property, fairytale hikes, secluded beaches, and waterfall picnics may just compel you.

Conrad Los Angeles, Downtown Los Angeles, California

romantic offerings at conrad los angeles, california
Courtesy, Conrad Los Angeles

An energetic urban center isn’t everyone’s idea of the most romantic place on the planet, but it can be perfect for couples stimulated by architecture, art, and fine food. Take the Conrad Los Angeles, a hotel inside one of famed architect Frank Gehry’s latest buildings, across the street from his masterpiece: Walt Disney Concert Hall. The sculptural wonder is on full view from inside many of the polished guest rooms and suites (the  360-degree vistas from the swimming pool are fabulous, too), and a pair of preeminent art museums, MOCA and The Broad, are within a five-minute walk. And what’s more special than admiring one-of-a-kind art hand-in-hand before a meal at one of LA’s very best restaurants, all without getting in a car?

Ojai Valley Inn, Ojai, California

ojai valley inn, california
Courtesy, Ojai Valley Inn

For 100 years sweethearts have been flocking to this 220-acre resort in the Topatopa Mountains, a secretive little enclave between Santa Barbara and Los Angeles that feels equal parts Provence and California. It’s a bucolic hideaway with a choose-your-own-adventure vibe, thanks to robust offerings — think championship golf, horseback riding, paddleboarding, art sessions, yoga, cooking classes, and spa rituals.  In town you can channel Ghost with a pottery workshop, shop the farmers market, take a guided hike, bike and picnic, peruse galleries and New Age-y shops, and eat very, very well — it’s somewhat of a theme in Ojai.

Cover image, courtesy, Ojai Valley Inn.