3 Summer Escapes

1. Fore! for under $500

By M. L. Lathan  My passion for golf came on as a complete surprise. After years of looking at this sport as a waste of a perfectly good day, I suddenly couldn’t think of a better way to spend my time. This turn of events started innocently on a weekend away with the girls at the CordeValle Resort in the Santa Cruz Mountains. And now I’m hooked on both golf and CordeValle.

While golf is the raison d’être of this 1,700-acre property, originally built as a private golfing club, the remote setting is also exceptional. It was built in the late ’90s to accommodate the Silicon Valley’s growing appetite for high-end golfing clubs; a clubhouse and then bungalows were added later. Robert Trent Jones Jr. designed the 7,169-yard, par 72 course to extend through the coastal mountain canyons and hillsides. Golf.com rated the course number four in the Bay Area; Golfweek ranked it seventh in California.

As space is not an issue here, the rooms are generous and well-appointed, with original artwork, wireless access and flat-screen TVs; some have private outdoor whirlpool tubs with views of the surrounding hills. The spa, only open to club members and resort guests, is popular as well, equipped with a steam room, fitness center and indoor whirlpool. While all meals are on property—unless you want to lose the zen vibe and drive into Gilroy—Clos LaChance, a family winery, is an easy golf cart ride away. As a sort of siren call, a complimentary bottle from the winery awaits every guest on arrival.

In light of my newish hobby, we are soon heading down once again to CordeValle. This time I booked the Golf Getaway package, which includes overnight accommodations and two rounds of golf, including cart rental per day, and a generous breakfast for two, all starting at $495. Considering a round of golf costs at CordeValle generally costs $360 a pop, the girls and I couldn’t pass up this deal.

2. A Shore Thing

By Mimi Towle   Half Moon Bay, 40 minutes south of Marin by car, has my two favorite elements for an escape: great fresh local food and water activities along wild, remote beaches. When I had the chance to get away for the night, I booked a room at the oceanfront Beach House. This Cape Cod-esque hotel is on Highway One just north of downtown and a five-minute walk to the Pillar Point Harbor. Oh, and it’s right next to Sam’s Chowder House, home of the lobster roll—voted one of the top five sandwiches in America by NBC’s Today Show. Pillar Point Harbor is an active commercial fishing hub featuring restaurants and a retail center, where offerings range from kayak rentals to a new day spa called Oceana.

Perched on a bluff just above the beach, the Beach House has 54 suites, each designed as an open studio with sitting area, fireplace, mini-kitchen and wireless access. It also sits at the beginning of the mostly paved eight-mile coastal path that ends at the Ritz-Carlton. Fridays and Saturdays there’s wine tasting in the lobby, and continental breakfast service starts every morning at 7:30. Considering the location, the $185 to $415 rates are pretty reasonable. A $275 Seaside Escape Package includes a standard suite on weekdays (Sunday included) with a complimentary bottle of signature Half Moon Bay wine, a $75 gift certificate toward dinner at Sam’s Chowder House and two complimentary glasses of California chardonnay. 

Our agenda for the weekend was simple: relax and be near the ocean as much as possible. This was easy to achieve. Sea Horse Ranch and sister stable Friendly Acres have been offering a beach riding experience for over 40 years. The rides last for an hour and a half and cost $75; we opted for the 8 a.m. early bird special for $45. The next beach adventure was an at-least two-mile barefoot stroll spent looking for that elusive great white shark fin. None spotted. Another way to explore the ocean is via Half Moon Bay Kayak Co., a quick walk or drive from the hotel. The owners, veteran kayakers, offer rentals, classes and three-hour harbor tours, full-moon paddles, kayak surfing, stand-up paddleboarding and more. Given the proximity to organic and family farms and a commercial fishing port, field- or boat-to-fork cuisine is prevalent throughout town. Half Moon Bay Brewing Company, our choice for lunch, reminds me of Tiburon’s Sam’s Anchor Cafe.

On sunny days a table on the deck is coveted by locals and tourists alike; inside seating offers sweeping water views and a respite from UV rays. For dinner we met up with friends who came up from Santa Cruz at It’s Italia! on Main Street. We sat at an outdoor table (with its own fireplace) and enjoyed the local award-winning pizza and Italian fare made with local produce, cheese, meats and seafood, as well as a sampling of the locally produced wine.

3. Unwind in Wine Country

By Grant Griffith  For most of us, earning a living in Marin is hectic but luckily, serious R&R is only a quick drive away. Last month, I booked a room at our favorite spot in Yountville, Villagio Inn & Spa, which is offering a 25 percent off best rate special through July. There are a few other lodging options in town, but this has become our go-to spot, because of the great beds, private rooms with balconies, wireless access (including in the cabanas by the pool) and breakfast buffet. It’s centrally located in town, has a 13,000-square-foot spa, and did I mention the web specials?

Yountville’s present-day acclaim as culinary capital of Napa shouldn’t be too surprising considering its namesake, George Yount, is credited with establishing the first vineyard in the valley. Yount came to Sonoma in 1831 as a contractor for General Vallejo, and as the first white settler he received a large land grant, which he named Caymus Ranchero after a neighboring Indian tribe. Signs of these pioneering days are visible throughout the 1.6-square-mile town. One hard to miss is the stately V Marketplace, originally built in 1870 by German-born vintner Gottlieb Groezinger as the base for his family winery. Today’s renowned French Laundry, nearby, was built as a saloon in the 1900s, and after Prohibition and new ownership it became a French steam laundry; hence the name. And for even more history on the town and beyond, the Napa Valley Museum is just across Highway 29.

One of the quickest roads to relaxation is via the Spa Villagio’s newish spa suites. The Tuscan-style rooms include an indoor/outdoor fireplace, oversize sunken jetted soaking tubs, steam showers, wet bars, flat-screen TVs, state-of-the-art surround sound and private terraces. Best yet, lunch or dinner can be served in the suite. Menu items include salads, chicken lollipops (not exactly low calorie but delicious), chili verde with braised pork shoulder and fruit cobbler.

Choosing a place for dinner in Yountville is like choosing which friend’s 50th birthday party to attend. This trip we made late reservations at Bardessono so we could enjoy oysters and the dwindling sunlight on the rooftop bar. Rested, relaxed and recharged, we savored the sunset and decided that these weekends can easily be rationalized as therapy, therefore important for survival.