Wine. That is probably the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Napa Valley. Californian wine may seem like a new thing to many people, but viticulture has been well established in this particular region for a long time.
Some wineries here date all the way back to the late 19th and early 20th centuries. As a result, the wineries and vineyards here really know how to make a beautiful bottle of wine. They’re often housed in rustic buildings that exemplify the history of the region, which definitely complement the natural environment that also makes this part of the world so beautiful.
Whether you’re hiking through trails in state parks, clambering your way to the tops of peaks to get a better view of the tumbling landscapes, or simply strolling along the Napa River itself, experiencing slices of nature in the Napa Valley area is all too easy. And since it’s located along a valley – the clue is in the name – the best places to stay in Napa Valley are within easy reach of one another.
Drive the St Helena Highway between charming Napa in the south and wine-heavy St. Helena in the north and take your pick of where you’d like to stop off for a bite to eat – and maybe a little bit of wine tasting, too.
Map of Napa Valley
But of course, you won’t be able to drive on to your next destination if you’ve been enjoying one particular winery a bit too much. All that wine is first and foremost going to make you unable to drive (it’s against the law!), but it’s going to make you sleepy too. Luckily for you, there are a whole lot of places to stay in Napa Valley, most of which fall in the upper mid-range to high-end bracket. Expect boutique offerings, spas, and resorts, often housed in beautiful historic buildings, and all with a fantastic array of wine, naturally.
Napa is right in the heart of the Napa Valley – you can tell that from its name. Staying here means good connections to outlying areas – thanks to the Napa Valley Wine Train – and getting to stay in the pretty town itself.
But it doesn’t come cheap; the selection of hotels in Napa begin at mid-range and quickly becomes predominantly high-end. So be prepared to open your wallet if you choose to stay at Napa. However, it might well be worth it.
The Wine Train operates from here, using a historic, restored train and offering up delicious local cuisine while you tour the countryside.
The downtown area is filled with beautiful late 1800s buildings, there’s a lovely riverfront to stroll along, and plenty of restaurants to eat at. Swing by Oxbow Public Market for some tasty cheese to go with all that wine.
Where to Stay in Napa
- Candlelight Inn Napa Valley – For history fans, the Candlelight Inn Napa Valley is a great option. This charming hotel is set in a Tudor revival style building dating back to 1929. Within easy reach of a multitude of wineries and vineyards, as well as being around two miles from the center of Napa itself, this 5-star hotel is well located. There are even hiking trails at nearby Alston Park. Amenities include a swimming pool, a sundeck, and there’s also the option to have a three-course breakfast. Free parking is a major plus for road trippers, too.
- Embassy Suites Napa Valley – The 4-star Embassy Suites Napa Valley is an excellent place to base yourself if you are traveling the Napa Valley area with children in tow. Close by is the exciting Six Flags Marine World Theme Park, for a start. Those visiting for the wine can hop on the Napa Valley Wine Train tour, but there is also the option to hire bicycles from this hotel and explore the scenery at your own pace. The accommodation here includes charming gardens and a sun terrace as well as a gym.
- Hawthorn Suites – The rooms at Hawthorn Suites boast large beds and kitchenettes, as well as the bonus of being positioned along the Napa River’s banks. There is an indoor pool and hot tub for guests to enjoy here, too. The Napa County Fairgrounds are just a kilometer away from this 3-star offering, and the Napa Valley Wine Train isn’t too far away, either. Back at the hotel, you can look forward to a complimentary breakfast each morning. Roadtrippers rejoice; there is free parking on offer here as well.
St. Helena[SEE MAP]
Napa Valley is famous for wine – that much is obvious – but it is in St. Helena where you’ll find all 6,800 acres of vineyards, including 416 wineries. Needless to say, St. Helena is the place to stay in Napa Valley for wine, and plenty of it.
Alongside its accommodation, pretty B&Bs, and elegant inns, which are upwards of mid-range prices, there are elegant restaurants and boutiques to explore within the town itself.
There’s a little history, too; the stone built St. Helena Catholic Church dates back to the late 19th century. Plus, St. Helena is home to the oldest stone bridge in Napa County – the Pope Street Bridge built in 1894.
But really, you will most likely be here for the wine. It’s easy to tour the wineries that dot the nearby area. Or you could go for a stroll around nearby Lake Hennessey.
Where to Stay in St. Helena
- Southbridge Napa Valley – In its downtown setting, Southbridge Napa Valley is a chic hotel with a fantastic location: it’s right next to the Merryvale Winery. The rooms here are cozy and stylish, with a focus on feeling homely as well as design-led, letting in plenty of natural light. Some even come with fireplaces. Staying here means walking around the manicured gardens of this 5-star hotel, indulging yourself in a massage – thanks to the onsite spa – or just sipping on some (very) local wine. There’s even an outdoor pool if you fancy a dip.
- Harvest Inn – The setting of Harvest Inn is just too charming. It’s an old, rustic building surrounded by trees and grassy gardens – a natural place to stay for a Napa Valley adventure. The views from here are of nearby vineyards. The rooms are decorated with sophisticated, tasteful finesse and boast open fireplaces, huge baths, and high ceilings. Some even have outdoor hot tubs. Other than that, you can swim at the outdoor swimming pools, chill at the spa, and eat in the restaurant. Want some history? Napa Valley Museum is close by.
- El Bonita Motel – Featuring a relaxing outdoor pool area surrounded by tall trees and sun loungers, this budget-friendly hotel will certainly make you feel at home while you’re away; the warm ambiance certainly helps with that. The rooms come with a small kitchen – handy to keep costs low – and large beds, as well as outdoor terraces. The El Bonita Motel can arrange tours of the nearby area, which is very handy. It’s also near many Napa Valley vineyards to explore, such as Beringer Vineyards.
Further upstream from St. Helena is the even smaller city of Calistoga. Like other places to stay in the Napa Valley, the hotels here aren’t what you would call budget friendly, but there are still a few mid-range options; it’s not complete luxury, though that’s also easy to find here.
The hiking is good nearby. There’s the pleasant Oat Hill Mine Trail, for example, or Robert Louis Stevenson State Park, where you can hike to the summit of Mount Saint Helena for great valley views. There’s also the Old Faithful Geyser of California – Napa Valley’s answer to its famous Yellowstone counterpart – as well as hot springs and mud baths to enjoy in Calistoga.
Bale Grist Mill State Historic Park offers the chance to see a wooden, waterwheel driven mill dating back to 1846. Of course, there are plenty of wineries here – one even includes a medieval style castle, the Castello di Amorosa.
Where to Stay in Calistoga
- Indian Springs Resort & Spa – Indian Springs Resort & Spa is a very stylish place to base yourself in the Napa Valley area. This is, as the name suggests, a large resort; staying here means you’ll have access to everything you need on your trip. Rooms are fresh and cool, featuring natural tones, striped carpets, and quirky artwork. There’s plenty on offer here: tennis courts, multiple outdoor pools, yoga – just to name a few. Located near a geyser, you’ll have the chance to experience revitalizing mud baths if you stay here, too.
- Calistoga Spa Hot Springs – Located near the Vincent Arroyo Winery and the Old Faithful Geyser of California (not Yellowstone), this hotel claims to be one of the only remaining original hot springs of the town. There are four different mineral pools to choose from, plus a newly renovated spa and bathhouse where you can enjoy various treatments. The place to stay for pampering and relaxing, the Calistoga Spa Hot Springs may not have a restaurant, but it’s only a short walk to the downtown area for some dinner – and wine.
Yountville is famous for playing host to the Veterans Home of America. Founded in 1884, around one-third of Yountville’s population actually lives within the grounds of this idyllic spot.
For visitors, of course, there are hotels in Yountville to choose from. But don’t expect anything too wallet friendly; the hotels here come with spas, upscale facilities and are definitively high-end.
But it’s the proximity to Napa itself that makes Yountville a good destination; clustered around the St Helena Highway – between Napa and St. Helena – and not far from the Napa River itself.
When you’ve had your fill of wine tasting and touring the handful of wineries just outside town, you can head to the Napa Valley Museum to learn a little about the history of the area; it also puts on art exhibitions too.
Gourmet diners should head to one of two Michelin star restaurants in town – Bouchon Bistro and The French Laundry.
Where to Stay in Yountville
- Napa Valley Lodge – An elegant and upscale hotel, Napa Valley Lodge features refined, spacious rooms in neutral tones boasting large jacuzzi baths which overlook the gorgeous natural landscape. The hotel serves a tasty breakfast each morning, which you can enjoy on the outdoor terrace with views of the garden and vineyards. There’s also an outdoor pool – and if you want a game of bocce, you can do that here too. Hire a bicycle and pedal around the surrounding central area of town, complete with many restaurants, or see a show at the renowned Lincoln Theater.
- Hotel Villagio – Another high-end offering, Hotel Villagio has been decorated in sultry ash and charcoal tones for a polished finish throughout. The rooms are a stylish mix of classic and modern, with wood panel feature walls, dark wood floors, whitewashed walls, high ceilings, and open fireplaces. Relax in the outdoor soaking tubs, chill at the sauna, get active at the gym, or enjoy a delicious dinner at one of the hotel restaurants. With its central location, this 4-star option allows guests to discover the boutique shops and Michelin starred eateries of the area with ease.
North of Yountville along the St Helena Highway lies Rutherford. Boasting its very own American Viticultural Area – the Rutherford AVA – the soil here is particularly suitable for cabernet sauvignon. But like much of the Napa Valley, there are a lot of different wines produced here, making it perfect for any wine connoisseur.
In fact, there are some famous wineries in the area, such as Inglenook, St. Supéry Estate Vineyards & Winery (acquired by French fashion house Chanel in 2015), and Beaulieu Vineyard, which dates back to 1900. You can even see the charming Holy Family Roman Catholic Mission, a stucco building sitting by itself in the middle of vineyards.
In general, Rutherford isn’t packed with many different accommodation options. But there are a couple of famous places to stay, like Auberge du Soleil – a high-end restaurant and resort combination – and the historic Rancho Caymus Inn. Neither are good for anyone on a budget.
Where to Stay in Rutherford
- Auberge du Soleil – Auberge du Soleil is the final say in Napa Valley luxury. Dine on a terrace that overlooks 33 acres of olive groves, relax with a spa treatment and yoga courses, sit alongside the gorgeous pool area with a backdrop of mountains, or simply indulge in fine dining at the onsite restaurant – complete with extensive wine cellar. Rooms glisten with touches of gold and cream and come with large outdoor seating areas and spacious bathrooms. The center of Saint Helena is just ten minutes away by car, as is the Round Pond Winery and even the Napa branch of the famous Mumm.
Between Yountville in the south and Rutherford in the north, lies the little town of Oakville. Another stop along the St Helena Highway, Oakville doesn’t boast a great selection of accommodation options; you’re better off staying on the outskirts of the larger towns bordering it, like Napa Valley Lodge to the north of Yountville.
But besides the lack of hotels in Oakville, it is definitely still a good place to visit in its own right. For a start, here is where you will find the ‘Welcome to Napa Valley’ sign – the perfect photo opportunity.
There’s also the quaint Saint Stephen’s Episcopal Church, the Napa River flowing to the northeast, and plenty of rustic wineries to check out – all reachable thanks to the winding roads that lead from Oakville into the hills.