Lifestyle

Relax at the Best Spas in California

Book one of these 11 spas with your bestie, your beau, or just for you.

Photo by Stephanie Russo Photography, courtesy of Carmel Valley Ranch
Photo by Stephanie Russo Photography, courtesy of Carmel Valley Ranch
Photo by Stephanie Russo Photography, courtesy of Carmel Valley Ranch

With gorgeous weather year-round, exciting terrain, and seaside escapes, California offers myriad ways to be active-and, thankfully, plenty of ways to rest up, too. Some of the nation’s most acclaimed spas are in the Golden State, each one bringing its own impressive array of offerings, from state-of-the-art treatments and amenities to wellness programming and nature immersions (plus any number of onsite perks, such as world-class dining and tranquil guestrooms). From a coastal R&R retreat to a wine country haven, here are 11 of California’s best spa getaways to book now-with your bestie, your beau, or just for you.

Photo courtesy of Alila Napa Valley
Photo courtesy of Alila Napa Valley
Photo courtesy of Alila Napa Valley

Alila Napa Valley

St. Helena
Situated amidst Beringer Vineyards, this adults-only Napa Valley retreat ensures plenty of respite by way of vineyard views, private fire pits, and engaging programming (not short of a culinary garden scent workshop). A calming colour scheme and custom artwork from Yabu Pushelberg greet guests at the spa, as does an indoor-outdoor relaxation room, steam room, and hydrotherapy cool plunge rain shower. Enjoy all of it before or after your service. Treatments range from the Alila Massage (60 or 90 minutes incorporating various massage techniques and the team’s signature massage oil) to the Glow, an hour-long facial that focuses on brightening skin complexion with whole-plant phytonutrients. Kick off the next morning with breakfast at Acacia House, enjoying nourishing orders like multigrain oatmeal alongside signature juices, such as herb tonic or carrot turmeric.

Photo courtesy of Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach
Photo courtesy of Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach
Photo courtesy of Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach

Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach

Huntington Beach
You may want to extend your stay at this sprawling beachfront property. Between four dining outlets, multiple pools, and dazzling sunset vistas, there’s a lot of goodness to fit in here around the clock. You’ll want to leave ample time to enjoy Pacific Waters Spa, the property’s 20,000-square-foot sanctuary that invites guests to unwind instantly, starting with the entrance’s calming koi pond. Treatments are inspired by the sea and based on botanical and organic ingredients, ranging from classic Swedish massages to detox scrubs and wraps, and call upon advanced skincare lines like Tuscany’s Seed to Skin or Biologique Recherche for them all. Opt for the Therapeutic Massage, a 50- or 80-minute treatment customized entirely to guest needs, and, for those seeking a true escape, the Coconut Island massage incorporates a full-body dry brushing and scalp massage. Once you re-emerge buffed and glowing, explore the property’s many other perks, such as dinner at Watertable, bonfire s’mores by the pool, and beach access via the area’s only pedestrian sky bridge.

Photo courtesy of Surf & Sand Resort
Photo courtesy of Surf & Sand Resort
Photo courtesy of Surf & Sand Resort

Surf & Sand Resort

Laguna Beach
Each of the 167 guest rooms and 13 suites at this Laguna Beach property boasts pristine views of the Pacific, and sounds, with waves functioning like a white noise machine, helping guests get their best sleep yet. Those R&R vibes extend to Aquaterra Spa, where guests can settle into a cozy waiting area before experiencing restorative treatments, such as the Surf & Sand Couples Escape. The side-by-side experience includes a comprehensive body treatment beginning with a lavender exfoliation and cocoon wrap and culminating in an 80-minute custom massage. Continue your day of self-care with time in the eucalyptus steam rooms or outdoor hot tubs, and then be on your way to dinner. Onsite restaurant Splashes offers elevated contemporary American fare accompanied by unrivalled sunset views.

Photo by Auberge Resorts Collection, courtesy of Solage
Photo by Auberge Resorts Collection, courtesy of Solage
Photo by Auberge Resorts Collection, courtesy of Solage

Solage

Calistoga
With nearly 90 thoughtfully appointed studios and suites, a signature restaurant, and 22 acres with surrounding mountain views, this luxury resort already had plenty going for it. But a $30 million renovation completed in recent years only enhanced matters, bringing renovated spaces, new suites, and fresh-faced Picobar, a favourite for modern Mexican fare and agave-based cocktails. The 20,000-square-foot, award-winning Spa Solage is a destination in and of itself, offering wellness options across 14 treatment rooms, a bathhouse with geothermal soaking pools, and a state-of-the-art gym. Guests can enjoy a variety of massages, scrubs, and facials, including the signature Mudslide service, a three-part detoxifying treatment that cleanses, nurtures, and restores. Spend the rest of the day relaxing, and come morning, enjoy any of the activities in the gym or movement studio. Whether your go-to is cycling, yoga, or Pilates, they’ve got you covered.

Photo by Kodiak Greenwood, courtesy of Post Ranch Inn
Photo by Kodiak Greenwood, courtesy of Post Ranch Inn
Photo by Kodiak Greenwood, courtesy of Post Ranch Inn

Post Ranch Inn

Big Sur
Perched atop the cliffs of Big Sur along California’s Highway One, this sky-high destination is one of the most romantic getaways in the country for its remote environs, epic views, and world-class luxury. Surrounded by state parks, beaches, and waterfalls, the inn has plenty of good neighbours in nature, and you can enjoy much of the outdoors from any of the 40 guest rooms, each offering views of the Pacific or the mountains. Continue to bring the outside in at the spa, a serene space of reclaimed wood and natural elements that offers its own floor-to-ceiling views of the Santa Lucia Mountains and redwood groves. Book their Aromatherapy Massage, a soothing, hour-long service that invites guests to select a signature oil blend for the full-body treatment. Check out yoga and meditation classes, guided nature hikes, and garden tours during your stay. Continue the good views with time in either of the infinity edge basking pools before capping off the day with dinner at Sierra Mar and catching some of the ultimate views with the property’s computerized 12-inch Meade telescope, which is at the ready for nightly stargazing.

Photo courtesy of Montage Laguna Beach
Photo courtesy of Montage Laguna Beach
Photo courtesy of Montage Laguna Beach

Montage Laguna Beach

Laguna Beach
Situated on a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean, this 30-acre flagship property is full of opportunities to unwind thanks to three pools, waterfront sports, exceptional onsite dining, and a 20,000-square-foot spa. This year marks its 20th anniversary, and the team is rolling out an array of events and programming throughout the property to celebrate-the spa being no exception. The Five Senses, for example, offers a signature, 150-minute treatment featuring Natura Biss√© VR+ (virtual reality) technology that transports guests into globally-inspired states of well-being while helping them stay grounded in the present moment with a full-body massage, facial, and methods of sensory activation. For a small taste of the VR+ experience, guests can incorporate portions of it in a Fusion treatment, the spa’s fully customizable offering. Post-service, check out the eucalyptus steam rooms, dry redwood saunas, ocean air whirlpools, and locker room perks, such as top-tier tools and products from Kerstin Florian. Consider it all prep for an evening at the Loft, where the R&R continues with ocean views, hyper-seasonal cuisine, and an impressive wine list.

Photo courtesy of Farmhouse Inn
Photo courtesy of Farmhouse Inn
Photo courtesy of Farmhouse Inn

Farmhouse Inn

Forestville
Just 25 guest rooms await at this upscale Sonoma County inn, helping the experience to feel intimate and personalized throughout, right down to your time at the spa. You’ll find it within the recently opened Wellness Barn, an open-air, stable-inspired structure complete with multiple indoor-outdoor treatment rooms and a spacious couple’s room that are perfect for offerings like the Love Languages, which invites pairs to pick their love language to help guide treatment customizations. Opt for the Skin You’re In 90-minute treatment featuring a full-body exfoliation, al fresco shower, and tailored massage, or the Nurtured by Nature, a two-hour ode to locally inspired ingredients (think sun-evaporated Pacific sea salt or coastal Redwood mist). Post-treatment, enjoy a trip to the pool and hot tub area, then retreat to your room to get ready for dinner. The Michelin-starred Restaurant at Farmhouse Inn recently reopened with a reimagined space and menu.

Photo courtesy of Rancho Valencia
Photo courtesy of Rancho Valencia
Photo courtesy of Rancho Valencia

Rancho Valencia

Rancho Santa Fe
The spa at this five-star SoCal resort recently underwent an all-out renovation, bringing a salon, an expanded retail boutique, and additional treatment areas, including three advanced facial rooms. Check into your room, then head to explore the hydrotherapy circuit, open-air Serenity Yoga Pavilion, adult’s-only Spa pool, and private sun gardens. Treatments range from the relaxing to the results-driven, as evidenced by options like the Biologique Recherche Facial (including boosters and specialized techniques) or the Kur, a 90-minute service with a cooling wrap and therapeutic massage (plus a soak in a private grotto). The treatment rooms here are as thoughtfully designed as the rest of the hotel-intricately tiled with private patios, and many with outdoor, deep soaking tubs and rain showers. If you’re coming with a plus one, spring for one of the couple’s rooms, featuring fireplaces and tubs for two, but be sure to plan ahead. Demand for spa time here is high. Bookings are full three to four weeks out, so it helps to reserve in advance.

Photo courtesy of Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel
Photo courtesy of Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel
Photo courtesy of Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel

Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel

Dana Point
This beachfront destination checks a lot of boxes on the getaway front with its innovative cuisine, exciting programming, and panoramic views of the Pacific. It maximizes that proximity by way of ocean-centric experiences throughout the property, and the spa is no exception. Treatments home in on the healing and restorative properties of water and show up in natural ingredients like marine collagen, sea salt, beach stones, and seaweed. Find them in services like the Laguna Wellness Experience, with a specially formulated seaweed body wrap and collagen facial mask, or the Coastal Illuminating Facial, with marine collagen and minerals. Those are just some of the ace products you’ll find throughout the spa menu (think ESPA and HydraFacial). After your treatment, slip into a robe and enjoy the relaxation lounge, some leisurely reads, and seasonal treats, such as this month’s sparkling cranberry-elderflower mocktail, complete with a red-heart ice cube. If you’re planning a group visit, let the spa team know. Whether it’s a birthday, bridal shower, or annual Galentine’s getaway, spa groups receive off-menu, tailored treatment suggestions and personalized gift ideas.

Photo by Stephanie Russo Photography, courtesy of Carmel Valley Ranch
Photo by Stephanie Russo Photography, courtesy of Carmel Valley Ranch
Photo by Stephanie Russo Photography, courtesy of Carmel Valley Ranch

Carmel Valley Ranch

Carmel-by-the-Sea
It’s easy to disconnect at this 500-acre luxury ranch, where a lineup of activities is carefully curated with play and discovery in mind via artist demos, cheesemaking classes, and falconry, to name just a few. The 10,500-square-foot Spa Aiyana furthers those self-care efforts with several treatment rooms, VIP suites, and a menu of immersive treatments, many of which call upon ingredients harvested in the resort’s gardens and beehives. A popular choice is the Bee Beautiful, featuring a warm lavender oil application, honey and calendula body buff, and facial massage. Schedule it well in advance to ensure you’re on the books, as appointments here get nabbed fast. Enjoy access to the spa’s saltwater pool, infinity hot tub, and warming room while you’re onsite, and if you’re craving activity during your stay, tap into the property’s wellness programming, which includes a well-rounded array of options like hiking or yoga atop a scenic outlook.

Photo courtesy of Rosewood Miramar Beach
Photo courtesy of Rosewood Miramar Beach
Photo courtesy of Rosewood Miramar Beach

Rosewood Miramar Beach

Montecito
Situated within Santa Barbara’s idyllic Montecito neighbourhood and home to a state-of-the-art fitness studio, two pool areas, and locally loved restaurants (Caruso’s, Revere Room, and AMA Sushi), this hotel is a favourite for those in the know. The five-star Sense spa reflects Rosewood’s “Sense of Place” philosophy, incorporating local ingredients and products throughout the menu. Take, for example, the Montecito Sage Purification treatment, with a wild sage, pine, and juniper body scrub and full-body massage, or the Rejuvenating Body Ritual, a two-hour, Lomi-Lomi-inspired head-to-toe massage. If you feel like dialling up the activity while here, there’s plenty of it. Guided hikes through Los Padres Mountains, sunset yoga, and an indoor-outdoor fitness studio are all on offer, and you can always follow it up with more downtime at Miramar Beach, where a dedicated service team awaits.

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Nicole Schnitzler is a contributor for Thrillist.

Lifestyle

The Best New Bookstores in LA are Curated, Specific, and Personal

Discover a new favorite book, join a book club, and maybe even do some karaoke at the new wave of LA bookshops.

Photo by Innis Casey Photography, courtesy of Zibby's Bookshop
Photo by Innis Casey Photography, courtesy of Zibby’s Bookshop
Photo by Innis Casey Photography, courtesy of Zibby’s Bookshop

A couple of years ago, the legendary Powell’s Books in Portland released a perfume designed to evoke the smell of a bookstore. The scent has notes of wood, violet, and the lovely and unusually precise word biblichor, the particular aroma of old books. The reality of the scent is what it is-mostly sweet and floral-but more important is the imagery it conjures. The best bookstores are both cozy and mysterious, familiar and surprising, with endless potential for discovery.

Los Angeles has a wealth of independent book sellers, including beloved legacy shops like The Last Bookstore, The Iliad, and Chevalier’s. But a new wave of bookstores has been growing over the last few years, shops that eschew the traditional one-of-everything mindset to focus on specificity, curation, and point of view. There are bookstores with themes, bookstores that double as event spaces, bookstores that reflect their neighbourhoods, bookstores that take inspiration from a specific person-whether that’s the shop owner, a historical figure, or a little bit of both-and so many more.

Like the niche-ification of the internet and the culture at large, these new and new-ish bookstores provide a space to discover books, ideas, and perspectives led by an expert, the kind of things that you may never have found on your own. They can also be a safe harbour for pure nerdiness, a place to dive deep into your favourite category or cause. To help you on your way, we’ve put together a list of some of the best new bookstores in LA, with a focus on curated shops with their own specific perspectives.

Photo courtesy of Octavia's Bookshelf
Photo courtesy of Octavia’s Bookshelf
Photo courtesy of Octavia’s Bookshelf

Octavia’s Bookshelf

Pasadena
Pasadena is a famously book-friendly city, with bookstore royalty in the form of legendary Vroman’s and its own literary alliance. Now it has one of the most exciting new bookstores too. Octavia’s Bookshelf is owner Nikki High’s tribute to the science fiction master Octavia E. Butler, who was a Pasadena native herself. The name of the shop provides a clue into High’s inspiration, titles she imagines Butler would have had on her shelves, with a focus on BIPOC authors. The storefront is small, but the collection is impeccably curated and the space is cozy and welcoming for readers of all backgrounds.

Photo by Mads Gobbo, courtesy of North Figueroa Bookshop
Photo by Mads Gobbo, courtesy of North Figueroa Bookshop
Photo by Mads Gobbo, courtesy of North Figueroa Bookshop

North Figueroa Bookshop

Highland Park
Vertical integration can be a beautiful thing, especially when it allows independent creators more control over their products. The new North Figueroa Bookshop is a shining example of the concept, a storefront built on a collaboration between two publishers, Rare Bird and Unnamed Press. North Fig features titles from those presses, of course, including lots of striking literary fiction and memoir, but it also features a curated collection of other books. They’ve made it a point of emphasis to serve the needs of the local Highland Park, Glassell Park, Cypress Park, and Eagle Rock community-there’s lots of fiction from fellow independent publishers, other general interest titles with a focus on California history and literature, and plenty of Spanish-language books.

Photo by Karen Cohen Photography, courtesy of Zibby's Bookshop
Photo by Karen Cohen Photography, courtesy of Zibby’s Bookshop
Photo by Karen Cohen Photography, courtesy of Zibby’s Bookshop

Zibby’s Bookshop

Santa Monica
Speaking of vertical integration, there’s another new combined publisher and bookstore on the other side of town. Zibby’s Bookshop is the brainchild of Zibby Owens, Sherri Puzey, and Diana Tramontano, and it’s the physical home of Zibby Books, a literary press that releases one featured book a month. That system is designed so that each book gets the full attention and resources of the press. Owens is an author, podcaster, and book-fluencer, and she has become something of a lit-world mogul with a magazine, podcast network, event business, and an education platform too. The shop has a unique sorting system, built around a feeling for each book-in store many of the shelves are labelled by interest or personality type, like “For the foodie,” or “For the pop culture lover.” On their webshop, you can browse for books that make you cry, escape, laugh, lust, or tremble. There are recommendations from Owens and the staff, sections for local authors, family dramas, and books that have just been optioned. If this all seems a little overwhelming, you should probably avoid the section dedicated to books that make you anxious.

The Salt Eaters Bookshop

Inglewood
Inglewood native Asha Grant opened The Salt Eaters Bookshop in 2021 with a mission in mind-to centre stories with protagonists who are Black girls, women, femme, and/or gender-nonconforming people. Over the last year and change that it’s been open, it has also become a community hub, a place for Inglewood locals and people from across town to drop in, to see what’s new and to discover incredible works in the Black feminist tradition. They also host regular events like readings, discussions, and parties.

Lost Books

Montrose
Thankfully, legendary downtown bookshop The Last Bookstore’s name is hyperbole, and owners Josh and Jenna Spencer have even gone so far as to open a second shop, Lost Books in Montrose. Instead of the technicolour whimsy of the book tunnel at The Last Bookstore, Lost Books has a tunnel of plants that welcomes you into the shop, which opened in the summer of 2021. They sell those plants in addition to books, and coffee and vinyl too, which makes Lost Books a lovely destination and a fun little surprise in the quaint foothill town just off the 2 freeway.

Photo by Claudia Colodro, courtesy of Stories Books & Cafe
Photo by Claudia Colodro, courtesy of Stories Books & Cafe
Photo by Claudia Colodro, courtesy of Stories Books & Cafe

Stories Books & Cafe

Echo Park
Ok, this one is fudging the criteria a little-Stories has been open for almost 15 years. But over those years the shop has become a pillar of Echo Park community life, hosting readings, discussions, and events, and their cafe tables function as a de facto office for about half of the neighbourhood on any given afternoon. After the tragic recent passing of co-owner and Echo Park fixture Alex Maslansky it seemed like the shop’s future was in doubt, but thankfully after a brief hiatus co-owner and co-founder Claudia Colodro and the staff were able to band together to reopen and keep the beloved cafe and bookstore going strong.

Page Against the Machine

Long Beach
The name alone makes it clear what you’re getting at Page Against the Machine-revolutionary progressive books, with a collection centred on activist literature, socially conscious writing, and a whole lot of political history. The shop itself is small but the ideas are grand, with fiction by writers like Richard Wright, Colson Whitehead, and Albert Camus next to zines about gentrification and compendia of mushroom varieties. They also host regular readings and discussions.

Photo by Viva Padilla, courtesy of Re/Arte
Photo by Viva Padilla, courtesy of Re/Arte
Photo by Viva Padilla, courtesy of Re/Arte

Re/Arte Centro Literario

Boyle Heights
Boyle Heights has its own small but mighty combined bookstore, art gallery, gathering space, and small press in Viva Padilla’s Re/Arte. Padilla is a poet, translator, editor, and curator, and as a South Central LA native and the child of Mexican immigrants, she’s focused on Chicanx and Latinx art, literature, and social criticism. Re/Arte’s collection has a wide range of books, from classic Latin American literature to modern essays and everything in between. Re/Arte is also now the headquarters for sin cesar, a literary journal that publishes poetry, fiction, and essays from Black and Brown writers. There are always community-focused events happening too, from regular open mics and zine workshops to film screenings and more.

The Book Jewel

Westchester
Most bookshops host events, but few host them with the regularity of The Book Jewel, the two- year-old independent bookstore in Westchester. Their calendar is so full with readings, several different book clubs, signings, and meet and greets that there are sometimes multiple events on the same day. The shop also hosts a ton of family-focused readings, with regular storytime on Sunday mornings often followed by a talk with the author. It’s a great fit for the relatively low-key (but not exactly quiet) suburban neighbourhood, and it’s no coincidence that storytime lines up with the Westchester Farmers Market, which takes place right out front.

Reparations Club

West Adams
Most bookstores lean into coziness, aiming to be a hideaway for some quiet contemplation or maybe a quick sotto voce chat-not so at Reparations Club, the exuberant and stylish concept bookshop and art space on Jefferson. Owner and founder Jazzi McGilbert and her staff have built a beautiful and vibrant shop full of art from Black artists, including books but also records, candles, incense, clothing, and all sorts of fun things to discover. There’s a perfect seating area to sit and hang out for a while, and they host a range of wild and fun events from readings to happy hours, panel discussions to karaoke nights and more.

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Ben Mesirow is a Staff Writer at Thrillist.

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