Feature Photo: Stephanie Russo/Flamingo Resort
I’m not exactly sure why, but I’ve been late to the girlfriend getaways concept. Maybe it was the threat of getting stuck in a no-win debate on bangs vs. Botox, my inability to sit for more than thirty minutes, or I just am not very fun in a group when I don’t want to do what the rest of the group wants to do. Thankfully, this summer changed it all. All it took was a global pandemic to remind me of what is important in life: family and friends. And there is no bigger carrot to hold up to my daughters than, “hey, let’s do a spa day.” Hence, this summer, we decided to do some “research” on cabana options in the Sonoma/Napa Wine Country. While we will be adding to this list, here are a few of our favorites.
If you haven’t been to the iconic destination on Hwy 12 in a while, it’s time for a visit. Originally built in 1957 and rumored to be named for the leggy, redheaded girlfriend of one of the owners (who may or may not have had ties to the mob) this roadside property has been a popular destination for decades. When it opened, it was the place to be and be seen by the Hollywood elite. The wagon wheel layout built around a large central pool, with ample group meeting rooms, eventually became a go-to destination for conference planners, wanting the convenience of Santa Rosa the Wine Country’s largest city, along with the lure of the nearby wineries. Fast forward to 2021, and this ten-acre campus has been reimagined once again to bring back the fun flamingo flare, an immersive wellness program with access to a 20,000-square-foot fitness club and spa, and some of the best food and drinks in the county (stiff competition).
The lobby has been designed as more of lounge than the traditional reception with the check-in counter resembling a kitchen table. A wall of Heath Ceramics compliments the bold floor to ceiling mural by San Francisco artist Serge Gay Jr., who was commissioned during the Black Lives Matter protests to bring together both the old, Copacabana vibe with a modern twist. I’d say he pulled it off. His floor-to-ceiling homage to kitsch, depicts a multi-ethnic androgynous receptionist, juggling rotary phones, and palm fronds, as if to say, “Welcome to the new normal.” I’m hoping they have an aloha shirt with this pattern soon. Walking throughout the property we noticed the various art pieces like a pendant chandelier by HYBYCOZO and rope sculpture by Windy Chien — an audible art tour is in the works, according to the attendant at the front desk.
I loved the signs of sustainability around the property, water stations and refillable lotions and potions from EO products. Also be sure to stay long enough to get through the menus at the Lazeaway Club restaurant and Wild Bird & the Watering Hole poolside dining created by restaurateurs, Benson Wang and Anderson Pugash of Palm House Hospitality. We had planned on leaving campus for a couple meals, but really, why? We each found our favorite lunch items, mine was the beach bird, grilled organic chicken, lettuce wrap, yuzu aioli, pink peppercorn pickles, cabbage slaw. And the locally-sourced, cocktails curated by bar manager, Carl Revelle were a crowd pleaser as well.
Cabanas here are very casual are available seasonally and don’t offer much sun protection, but as the bridal party proved the day we were there, they can be the focal point of fun. For $150 for the day during the week or $250 on weekends and holidays, includes use of the cabana from 10am, to 6pm, a fruit platter, non-alcoholic drinks and pool toys. If wellness is part of the plan, aim for a Self-Care Sunday, which happens every second Sunday of the month. The neighboring Montecito Health Spa has a full-service spa and fitness center, available to hotel guests. No day passes for the pool for non-hotel guests.
If you are planning a group getaway, book one of the fourteen ground floor suites on the property, for easy access to and from the pool area, and be sure to reserve a cabana, which comes with a few extra lounge chairs. Rooms range from $185 midweek to $600 for a suite.
Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn
An overnight at Sonoma Mission Inn had been on our calendar for about a month. Goal: three moms, seven daughters, all surrounding one pool on a Monday in June. By the time the date came up our party had dwindled to two moms, two daughters and a dog. Good news for dog owners — this place is a pooch friendly, for an extra hundred dollars, we could bring Whiskey, our adopted doodle along. We chose Sonoma Mission Inn because my friend Kristen, the other mom, said she had always dreamed of bringing her daughter Skye here for the day — it’s that kind of place. While the price point was a bit higher than other options, the four of us easily shared a room along with Whiskey.
I’m a sucker for history and so here’s a quick dive into how this property came to be thanks to Historic Hotels of America. The resort is built around natural hot springs which had been enjoyed by the Native Americans for centuries. In the 1840s it ended up in a land grant deeded to Doctor Thaddeus Leavenworth, by Mexican governor, Juan Bautista Alverado. Leavenworth built a sweat lodge, along with a bathhouse and water tank and called it Agua Rica Farm, which he sold to Captain Henry E. Boyes in 1883 who was looking for a place to heal his ailing wife. And he did. He opened Boyes Hot Springs Hotel in 1902, which became a popular destination for socialites from San Francisco and the East Bay. The main building built in 1927, and was intended to replicate some of California’s most iconic pieces of architecture — the Spanish Missions — with its bell towers, arcaded entrance, beamed ceilings, and red tiled floors. This historical significance didn’t impress the others in my group as much as the wine tasting we happened upon in the lobby, and the array of dogs parading by as we sipped a local Pinot Noir.
The on-site Willow Spa built around the aforementioned natural hot springs have been the girlfriend-go-to for decades, and because of this popularity, it could be quite crowded. However, in a positive pandemic twist, the new spa director Jane Fellows decided to dramatically reduce access to guests with spa appointments, and a handful of first-come-first-serve, day passes for guests. Great news, if you make the cut.
Cabanas here are an extra splurge with ample room for a group. They are like an extra room offering a respite from the heat with televisions, refrigerators, and lounge chairs — and curtain can be drawn for privacy.
A variety of lodging options allows for various price points, from double room for four, to a king suite for a queen, there are plenty of group gathering places to gather, including the lobby around happy hour. A midweek spa package starts at $850 and includes a 60-minute massage or treatment per day, plus breakfast.
Located south of Napa’s downtown, Meritage Resort has been a popular group getaway for occasions such as weddings, yoga, and corporate retreats since opening fifteen years ago. Built to handle group functions, this is an easy, one-stop option. When I saw a summer special come into my inbox, offering a one day wellness retreat, I forwarded the offerings to my girls. My eldest daughter worked at a wine bar in Santa Barbara, so the eight on-site tasting rooms next door at Vista Collina sealed the deal. Driving to the property the girls were silent, not sure what to expect as we passed through an industrial section of town, south of downtown Napa. “Can we come back here?” asked Grace, worried she was leaving the fun of Oxbow Market place and other Napa hot spots behind. Her worries soon vanished once we checked into our room, and settled in. We never left the property. There are plenty of trails through the onsite vineyards, pools, spa and shopping.
My favorite part of the property is the luxurious wine cave Spa Terra located below the estate vineyards.
Meritage has two cabana experiences available — the Meritage Cabana package includes day passes for up to eight adults, complimentary sparkling wine, water. The Hideaway Cabana is located steps away from the adult only pool in a private gated area, and includes day passes for four adults, sparkling wine and beverages.
Rooms vary in size and price starting around $324 The Vintner’s Suite, with over 600 square feet of space, a large private balcony with views of the vineyard — ideal for happy hour — starts at $1,200 a night. There are three more wellness days left on the calendar this year; September 19 ancient awareness modern rituals October 17 soul journey retreat and trusting your intuition on November 21 which includes a guided sound journey, tarot card reading and a guide to understanding your intuition. Retreats are $99 per person.