Head south for a weekend retreat that takes in Palo Alto, Menlo Park, Los Altos, and Half Moon Bay.
So close to the East Bay yet just far enough away, the Peninsula is the weekend retreat you didn’t realize you needed.
While Silicon Valley companies and laid-back suburban towns dominate the South Bay, it’s an unexpected source for a restorative staycation. Cradled by coastal hills, redwood forests, and sweeping farmland, remote villages such as Pescadero give way to dense towns such as San Mateo where international restaurants and cultural experiences are packed into walkable downtowns. It doesn’t take long to confirm that the Peninsula isn’t merely tech space. Pockets of retreat await, many of them new.
Longtime grand dame The Ritz-Carlton Half Moon Bay sits atop a rugged bluff of expansive green hillsides and dramatic cliffs. This stretch of coast recalls Scotland, confirmed by the blessed nightly ritual of a kilted bagpiper playing tunes as the sun sets on the sea. While it’s impossible to top that, bonfires (you can order a s’mores package) line the resort lawn as waves crash below.
Nor need you suffer on the food front. Half Moon Bay’s restaurant Navio boasts ocean views and a decadent weekend brunch with meat-carving station, sushi, dim sum, and caviar, while chef Jason Pringle highlights local seafood and farm produce. The restaurant’s Global Cuisine Series (for Marriott Rewards and SPG Rewards members; free to sign up) runs all year with guest chefs offering cooking classes, intimate lunches, and special menu items. Guest chefs this year include Suzette Gresham of two-Michelin-starred Acquerello, James Beard Award-winning Belinda Leong of B. Patisserie, and Michael and Meichih Kim of Palo Alto’s fine-dining Korean restaurant Maum. En route to the hotel, grab a grassfed hamburger sandwich at Scott Clark’s charming Dad’s Luncheonette in a train caboose along Highway 1.
In downtown Palo Alto — within walking distance of shops and classic films at The Stanford Theatre — The Clement Hotel pampers with minisuites and all-inclusive food and service: tips, valet, drinks, etc. Chefs are available around the clock to cook up snacks — including poke nachos — and full meals to eat in the dining room, guestrooms, or by the rooftop pool. Raid well-stocked fridges at any hour, packed with Fever Tree tonic (to accompany local 209 Gin), cheese and charcuterie, yogurts, or It’s-It ice-cream sandwiches. Choose a vintage electric guitar from the owner’s personal collection to jam on, or book packages with local partners such as Woodside Vineyards or Stanford Shopping Center.
In chill Menlo Park, newcomer the Park James is a boutique hotel with modern-chic design (think Irish marble and local leathers), pet-friendly rooms, and the in-house Oak + Violet restaurant. Downtown Menlo Park is just a couple blocks away, studded with gems such as The Refuge for Belgian beers and pastrami sandwiches or Coffeebar for third-wave coffee.
The cozy town of Los Altos is walkable and under the radar. French-chateau-style boutique hotel Enchanté has 19 rooms lush with antiques and rich fabrics, plus nightly live jazz, and complimentary wines with generous charcuterie and cheese plates for guests. Within blocks, dine on authentic Japanese yakitori or donburi at Sumika, or East-meets-West fine dining at Ambience.
AC Hotel by Marriott Sunnyvale Cupertino opened just this year and is walkable to downtown Sunnyvale, which offers standout Indian fare at Sri Ananda Bhavan, Madurai Idli Kadai, AappaKadai, and Chaat Bhavan. Paying homage to the region’s orchard fields in its decorative art and natural materials, this LEED Silver Certified hotel promises fun with an outdoor fireplace and ping-pong table, while staying Silicon Valley-current with robotic housekeeping and food-delivery elements. A signature cocktail (Sunnyvale, Then & Now — comprising Tullamore D.E.W. Irish Whiskey, Cherry Heering, Lustau Palo Cortado Sherry, and Vermut Rojo) employs molecular “spherification.”
When You Go
The Clement Hotel: 711 El Camino Real, Palo Alto, 650-322-7111, TheClementPaloAlto.com
Park James Hotel: 1400 El Camino Real, Menlo Park, 650-304-3880, ParkJames.com
Enchanté: 1 Main St., Los Altos, 650-946-2000, EnchanteHotel.com
Ritz-Carlton Half Moon Bay: 1 Miramontes Point Road, Half Moon Bay, 650-712-7000, RitzCarlton.com/en/hotels/california/half-moon-bay