Honeymooning Highway 1

April 16, 2014
Words by Jennifer Stein
Photos courtesy of

Your honeymoon: the light at the end of the aisle. Romance and relaxation beckons as you make one final sprint to the airport. And if you can endure stuffing your carry-on beauty supplies into a sandwich bag, lost luggage, and racial profiling you’re a better woman than I.

I hate to fly. But because I’m cheap, when I fly, you will find me in coach. I grit my teeth for the 12 hours it takes me to get somewhere beautiful, weathering the newborns wailing, the 10-plus mini DVDs for tots (which makes the cabin sound like an arcade), try to read, and then scrap the idea altogether and realize that I am in limbo between two states: the ability to concentrate and the ability to sleep. I could start a tab with the flight attendant and keep ordering scotch, but being drunk in this type of environment only makes it worse. I channel the “thousand yard stare,” like someone straight out of a Sartre novel: angry, frustrated, and trapped.

On the other side: Paradise! We’re here! But I arrive cramped, sweaty, and in a vile mood. The jet lag will take 2 days to shake off, and there will be no surfing until I can see straight. The bright sun, blue skies, dusky maidens with leis and umbrella drinks, and the overall sense of wellbeing is all too heady, and just slightly annoying.
What a way to start a new marriage, hmmmm?
If it were up to me, I’d rather drive…
I live in the Golden State, a bounty of beauty in every direction: from Tahoe to Baja, you can’t go wrong. And with so many offerings up and down the coast, (each, individually, a crown jewel), the idea of stringing them together to make the most romantic road trip of all time was born.
Honeymoon on Highway 1 starts in San Luis Obispo and ends in Carmel. On our road to romance, we made new friends and were imbibed and feted like revelers in the courts of Louis XVI. The best part? Each property was so gloriously different — it was like having six honeymoons instead of one, because every three days we hit the road. We avoided the dreaded vacation blur: same beach/same restaurant syndrome. Another plus to the classic road trip is the sheer variety of style options; you can bring a trousseau of clothing that wouldn’t fit into one suitcase if you were flying (and thus be prepared for any conceivable activity): your cute hiking outfit, tennis whites, wetsuit, and your Manolos and smokin’ downtown dress. Hit Trader Joes and bring yummy snacks and fine wines. Throw the surf boards on the roof. Have a romantic beach picnic on the way down. Go wine tasting. Jump in the water on the way to lunch. Each town is just a few hours drive from the next, so the getting there is a breeze. The scenery on Highway 1 and the Pacific Coast Highway is breathtaking. Now are you sure you want to go to the Bahamas??
We didn’t think so! Let’s hit the road…

San Luis Obispo

The Sanitarium

If I am ever to be committed, please send me to The Sanitarium! Formerly the Hegeman Sanitarium established in the 1880’s as a place of health and restoration, this unique, creatively appointed guest house is located in San Luis Obispo’s wine country on California’s Central Coast, one block form the historic train station and a short walk to old downtown.
The Inn has a 1940s vibe: white walls, floors and furniture give it an ethereal quality, a fresh canvas upon which to pop color rendered in cool and kitschy vintage hospital décor, original artwork, antique furniture and art, Moroccan soaking tubs, fireplaces, and private balconies.
Rooms are themed by what they “administer” to the patient: Euphoriasm, Tranquilibrium, Illuminatory, etc….Over the next two days, I am diagnosed with the condition of “smitten.”
Our room, Alchemistic, had a white fur rug, and double fireplace seen from the living room and bathroom. A huge Moroccan soaking tub nestles between emerald walls; a huge red rosebud painting creates an atmosphere of sublime romance. Under a vintage crystal chandelier, we drink champagne and soak in Epson salts by the fire. Divine!
Morning brings a veggie scramble, French-press coffee, fresh OJ and zucchini muffins, and we plan the day: Laurent will surf and I will read uninterrupted for hours curled up on a backyard chaise.
At the stroke of 5, our host Susan Bliss (a name well deserved) brings out a bottle of Pinot Grigio and we all share in lively conversation and swap stories. Dinner at The Park, one block away offers eclectic California cuisine. Oasis, downtown, has exceptional Moroccan food.
It was with resignation that I was discharged as an outpatient after a yummy breakfast burrito and sparkling coffee drink. Consider me committed to The Sanitarium.

Big Sur

The Post Ranch Inn 

The Post Ranch Inn, is more than point of view property, it’s a state of being. Within minutes after check in, the majesty of Big Sur and the power of the Pacific several hundred feet below wash over you, and you begin to feel the Zen.
The Post Ranch is serenely quiet – like being in a very high end monastery with great food, wine and body treatments. But it’s got a spiritual side: it’s built in and around sacred Indian tribal grounds and you can really feel the power of history.
We check in and head over to our “tree house” a fabulous Adirondack-inspired room with a spectacular view of the ocean (from the bed, balcony and tub) and an over bed skylight that frames the moon perfectly.
We are shuttled to a Yurt where resident Shaman Jon Rasmussen performs a couples Destiny Retrieval and Divination (a newlywed must). After we find out what we did in our past life and what we’re going to do in this one, (it sounds new age, but it’s extremely cool), Laurent heads for the surf, and I continue on the psychic conveyer belt.
Kriston shows up for a private in-room massage with crystals, healing oils, and more mind expansion. Now, more relaxed and illuminated in one day than in recent memory, I’m sure I’ve transcended the need for food and sustenance…
No such luck…..
Chef Craig von Foersters’ Sierra Mar restaurant, is intensely dramatic, a true cliff hanger with a 360 degree view of the Pacific. A sumptuous four course menu meal hits every note. Satiated, and psychically calibrated, we head out for blissful star gazing in the infinity pool, located on the edge of the universe.
Romance, relaxation, pondering alternate galaxies from your treetop perch, and mystical, magical experiences await you at the Post Ranch Inn.

Big Sur

Tree Bones Resort

If the idea of perching “lightly on the edge of the world” to the sound of waves crashing and the bark of elephant seals on the beach below, and falling asleep to the twinkling of stars overhead through the skylight of your yurt sounds like heaven, then Tree Bones Resort is for you.
Genghis Kahn favored yurt living, so I knew I would! How cool is a circular domed tent of fabric stretched over a lattice framework originally used by the Mongol nomads of Siberia? Treebone’s version features insulated walls and ceilings and wooden framed doors for comfort and privacy.
Treebones offers high-end camping with all the trimmings: cabin comfort, polished wood floors, comfy beds and linens, electricity, hot/cold running water, wood-burning stoves, and shower/rest room facilities just a short stroll away.
The Handys are avid campers, and built Treebones to appeal to a signature traveler: a seeker of lo-fi luxury and privacy, who also wants to connect organically. To this point, the Lodge (blessedly, more rec-center than resort) is community central, where delicious, reasonably priced dinners are prepared nightly: Fresh salmon, wild rice, salad, homemade bread and key lime pie. Bring your own wine (or buy there), and afterwards, play a game of scrabble with that nice newlywed couple from Oregon. Complimentary breakfast waffles is old school fun. Dine in tee-shirts and truly relax.
Enjoy the pool and hot tub, or the beach just steps away. Unlike many beach towns, Treebones is more beach and less town, boasting wilderness: sea grass, trees, condors and seals, rather than boardwalks, pizzerias and arcades.
Treebones has a clean and lean policy: no more than two yurts can be booked as a group. Therefore, the zen dynamic of the place will not overtaken by college buddies, Big Chill reunions, or surfer dude group trips. It’s honeymoon friendly.
Make no bones about it: Treebones is one of the most unique resorts in captivity.

Laguna Beach

Casa Laguna 

Casa Laguna is a little piece of paradise in Laguna Beach, CA. A classic, terraced, Mission style inn reminiscent of an ancient Spanish village, this bellisimo inn enchants.
We arrive to meet owner and resident charmer, Francois LeClair, who greets us with champagne, chocolate dipped strawberries and a room of sumptuous comfort.
The property is a delight: twists and turns reveal fountains, lush gardens, secret alcoves for romantic musings, Catalina tiles, and a heart stopping view of the Pacific. Watch the sunset, propose, renew your vows or toast your good fortune in the Bell Tower.
The day begins with a sumptuous breakfast, prepared by Chef Joseph Termini, with hand crafted gourmet egg dishes, French toast, freshly baked breads, and mimosas. You can surf at any one of several hot spots, or soak up the local color by gallery hopping or shopping downtown. Throw on a sundress and flip flops and head out to dinner, the vibe is easy and breezy.
Come nightfall, enjoy local wines paired with hors de oeuvres, and artisinal cheeses and sit by the pool under the palm trees. Ah, heaven!
Enjoy an outdoor couple’s massage on the terraced deck, and follow up your bliss in a petal strewn soaking bath complete with champagne and watch the sun set.
Had enough pampering? Non? Then head over to the Montage or the Ritz and indulge in see and be seen glitterati dining. For lo-fi nibbles, try Sun Dried Tomato for drinks and apps.
End your perfect day in a double whirlpool tub, a fireplace and a nightcap on the balcony overlooking the ocean.
Voted best of the OC for its 9th consecutive year, Casa Laguna offers everything you want, (and some things you haven’t dreamed up yet).

San Clemente

Casa Tropicana

I’m in love with San Clemente: a classic 40s California surf town that time forgot. It’s a rare blend of Eichler architecture, families surf-bound after work, beautiful beaches (and attitude-free surf spots). Located next to the world-famous Trestles, preferred surf spot of Kelley Slater and company, San Clemente has something for everyone. If you visit, you’ll be looking for a real estate agent before you leave.
The Casa Tropicana is paradise found, perched across from the pier and overlooking the ocean, the best address on the block.
The Andersons created the unique design of each room to mirror the beauty of the California coast. Contemporary cabana-style casitas have original artwork, luxurious linens, and a fridge stocked with complimentary snacks, red and white wines, champagne, and beverages. The beds defy description: I have never slept in one of such sublime comfort: it was virtually impossible to extract myself from its clutches. Enjoy a libation as the sunset paints the sky orange and pink from your deck, or a Jacuzzi bath before you head out for a night on the town.

Don’t think that San Clemente goes to sleep when the sun goes down: it’s on fire.

Start your scorching evening at Beachfire Grill, with a Firestarter cocktail and Coconut Shrimp. For romantic dining head to Iva Lee’s, an intimate New Orleans inspired love letter to owner Lisa Wagoner’s’ revered grandmother. Sexy, spicy, Southern fare is served up by Chef Antonio Ramos amidst red-flocked, bordello-inspired décor. For less formal, still fabulous fare, head to Café 207, packed with locals for a reason.

Mornings are feast for the eyes as well as the palette. Enjoy a cooked to order breakfast, (we had an excellent Huevos Rancheros) fresh juice and coffee, and check out the waves from your ocean-view deck.

Casa Tropicana is rare find: indulgent touches, exceptional hospitality, great value, and true romance. A match made in heaven.

Carmel Valley

Bernardus Lodge

Located 10 minutes off Highway 1, nestled in the San Lucia Mountains, rests the perfect end to a perfect journey.
 Heading North from San Clemente to Carmel is a slightly longer drive (5.5 hours) but walking into the woody, amber-hued Bernardus felt like entering a luxurious Viking lodge with French country influences.
We are greeted by Christian, (who has “weary traveler ESP”), with two glasses of icy Chardonnay and an invitation to sit by the 12-foot stone fireplace while our bags are whisked to our honeymoon suite. Ahh! Luxury!
Our room is lovely, overlooking the blue-violet mountains, stocked with complimentary wine, tea, and snacks.
Founded by a European winemaker, Bernardus Pon, the lodge is also a winery and vineyard, and offers its excellent wines in the spectacular Marinus restaurant.
A Zagat top ten, fine dining never tasted so good. Chef Cal Stamenov offers breathtaking works of culinary genius from the fois gras to the sorbet. Sommelier and professional “nose,” Pete Ortiz leads us through each course with sublime pairings.
For informal dining, try Wickets for a perfectly grilled burger and a glass of Cab under the stars by the huge, outdoor wood burning fireplace. Each afternoon, enjoy complimentary tastings of Bernardus wines around the lodge.
A heated pool (open 24-7), warming room with fireplace and a hot tub big enough for 10 graces the spa. Hiking, surfing, and wine-tasting are minutes away.
An outdoor vineyard and garden is the perfect spot for a midnight kiss, a wedding or a commitment ceremony. Bernardus is large enough that another’s wedding would not encroach on your honeymoon experience.
For a luxe Carmel Valley experience that is surprisingly affordable for the amenities, the memories, and the romance, look no further than the Bernardus on your road to romance.

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