In an area often referred to as the “American Riviera,” is the Spanish colonial city of Santa Barbara. From a base here at the beachfront Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore or at the sunning El Encanto, a Belmond resort in the hills overlooking the city, you’ll enjoy winding coastal rides along the Pacific Ocean to surrounding charming towns like the laidback Goleta and celebrity hot spot Montecito.
Northeast of Santa Barbara lies the wine country of the Santa Ynez Valley. Once a stop along a Chumash Indian trading route, and then along a stagecoach path, this area is now a stellar wine-making region. The valley’s sweeping landscapes of rolling vineyards and horse farms, as well as its quiet roads, have earned Santa Ynez a golden reputation among cyclists. (Lance Armstrong and his team trained here before many of his Tour de France races.) The towns that dot the valley’s bike routes make great way stations: The Danish-style Solvang is the most developed in the small region, while Santa Ynez itself has a fun Wild West feeling to it, and, nearby, the smaller Los Olivos features several must-visit galleries, shops, restaurants and wine-tasting rooms. Best of all, our favorite rides can be accessed right from the elegant Fess Parker Wine Country Inn & Spa — the place to stay in the area.
Further north, we recommend a few nights in charming Paso Robles where the elegant Hotel Cheval is well located for rides among the vineyards and down to the coast.
Moving north of San Francisco, Sonoma County stretches from the Pacific coast to the Mayacamas Mountains, and is home to more than 400 wineries. Taste, sip, savour and spin right from the 25-room Farmhouse Inn ultimate basecamp. Its driveway leads right to quiet vineyard roads that take you to picture-perfect wine country town of Healdsburg. Beyond, you can cycle through towering redwood forests or along the rugged Pacific coastline to see sea lions sunning on the beaches in Jenner or Bodega Bay. Not to be left out is the more famous Napa Valley, a mere 45-minutes away, whose busier roads are compensated by chic towns and a plethora of luxury hotel options including Relais & Chateaux's Auberge du Soleil and Las Alcobas.