The clocks have been switched back, the election is (finally) over, and winter is breathing down our scarf-wrapped necks. Summer vacation sure feels like a loooong way off, doesn’t it? But winter doesn’t mean your wanderlust needs to hibernate. The San Francisco Bay Area is home to three airports (SFO, OAK, and SJC), and an easy drive to of some of the world’s best scenery, which means planning a few pick-me-up vacations is a no-brainer. Whether you enjoy wild animals or sophisticated tequila tasting, yoga or hip and trendy dining, these four hotels, all just a few hours from San Francisco, make whiling away the winter more bearable.
“Be Scene” Vancouver, B.C. OPUS
If trend-setting is in your blood then a short flight to Vancouver is a small price to pay to up your hip factor. You’ll want to book into OPUS whose superlatives read like a who’s who at the Hotel Academy Awards, were such an event to exist. Among the nods are Trendiest hotel in Canada 2012, 5th best trendy hotel in the world by TripAdvisor’s Travelers Choice Awards 2012, and Conde Nast Traveler’s Reader’s Choice- Top 20 Hotels in Canada 2012. No surprise, OPUS is located in Vancouver’s hottest downtown neighborhood of Yaletown, but tearing yourself away from the property is the hard part. With luxurious rooms, a convivial bar, and stellar Italian cuisine at La Pentola della Quercia, you’ll find it difficult to leave the OPUS oasis. The hotel is also the first to put iPads in each room for on and offsite use, as well as in room smart phones so guests can avoid those pesky roaming charges. Rates from $199. View the www.opushotel.com
Or check prices online at Hotels.com
“Family Time” Puerto Vallarta, Mexico CasaMagna Marriott Resort
With several airlines offering non-stop service to Puerto Vallarta from San Francisco (just over a 3 hour flight), there’s no excuse not to put a little olé! into your weekend, and for families, the CasaMagna is paradise. The sprawling resort is directly on the sea, with lush grounds and pink bougainvillea, an infinity pool, and surrounded by 433 guest rooms and suites. Dads, take note, CasaMagna is one of the only resorts in the world with its own brand of tequila, made from blue agave grown on site. Book a tasting with the tequilier (think sommelier) Audrey Formisano and your memories of that college “bad tequila experience” will be washed away by this divine Mexican elixir. Book a table at one of four restaurants where internationally recognized chef, Fred Ruiz, has designed menus of fresh and modern Mexican cuisine. Kids will love the sea turtle rescue program, created 10 years ago at the hotel. From June to December, each Tuesday at sunset, children (and grown ups too) staying at the resort are invited to name their tiny sea turtle babies then set them free back in the ocean. Offsite excursions can be tailored to your specific thrill level and include boat tours, fishing trips, and jungle treks—either on an ATV or over the top on a high adrenaline zipline. Rates start at $109 (May/June, Aug. – Oct.) to $359 during the busiest time (Dec./Jan). Check out the Escape Package that start at $279 a night and includes deluxe accommodations, three meals a day for two, all drinks, and kids (under 12) meals. www.casamagnamarriottpuertovallartaresort.com
“Short on Time” Santa Rosa, California Safari West
If you just can’t spare more than a day off, no worries—you can still enjoy the call of the wild! Just an hour north of San Francisco, in the heart of the wine country, Safari West takes you to Africa without the long flight and timezone shift. Set on 400-acres, this property is home to hundreds of exotic birds and mammals, including giraffes, zebra, and antelope. Come for a 2-hour driving tour around the preserve for an up close look at the animals, or go for the total experience with a sleepover in one of 30 luxury safari tents, complete with hot showers, plush beds, and the sounds of kookaburra out the windows. The on-site restaurant, the Savannah Café, offers scrumptious safari ranch style BBQ meals with ‘kid friendly’ selections menu selections. Try out the “Wild Nights in the Wine Country” package, which includes an overnight stay for two, dinner for two at the onsite restaurant, two vehicle tours of the preserve, and one bottle of Francis Ford Coppola wine with dinner, as well as a full tasting for two at the winery’s nearby tasting room. Package $550 for two. www.safariwest.com
“Health and Wellness” Tucson, Arizona Canyon Ranch
If a winter detox is just what the doctor ordered, then Canyon Ranch is calling. Just two hours south of Phoenix, and easily accessible from either Tucson International Airport or Phoenix’s Sky Harbor, this award-winning resort and spa in the Sonoran Desert has earned a reputation (a good one) for inspiring healthy living. The all inclusive Canyon Ranch offers tailor made packages for a healthy vacation as individual as you are. Hike, bike desert canyons, play tennis, refine your golf game, choose a fitness class, do yoga, enjoy healthy gourmet cuisine, and indulge in some of Arizona’s best spa treatments, this property has it all. Rooms range from deluxe or executive rooms, luxury suites, or the splendid Casa Grande, and are scattered around the well-appointed resort, equipped with pools and tranquil spaces to reflect or read. Rooms are equipped with the typical amenities of a luxury hotel such as feather beds and soft linens, internet access, a mini fridge, robes, and a TV. All inclusive packages include the room, three meals a day (plus snacks), access to fitness and wellness classes, hikes, bikes, four pools, workshops, and a credit towards the 80,000 square feet Spa. Try a 3-night sampler packages starting at $2,950 per person for deluxe double accommodations with a $135 service allowance each. This is valid through June 15, 2013. www.canyonranch.com
Kimberley Lovato is a freelance writer based in San Francisco who loves to escape for a long weekend every now and then.
All photos are courtesy of the hotels.