by Alyssa Tidwell
AFM Fave! Best San Diego Resort or Hotel: Pendry San Diego
Located in the center of the historic Gaslamp Quarter, Pendry San Diego is a luxurious California hotel housing 317 guest rooms and 36 suites with luxuries like a fully-stocked mini bar, marble countertops in the bathrooms and an LCD television. Pendry also features a 6,200-sq.-ft. spa and multiple upscale dining options like Lionfish (seasonal ingredients and fresh catches), The Pool House (top-notch rooftop lounge embodying the essence of SoCal) and Oxford Social Club (a high-class nightlife experience with extravagant furnishings). pendryhotels.com.
Best San Diego Resort or Hotel: Bahia Resort Hotel
In close proximity to Mission and Pacific Beaches and premier shopping and dining options, Bahia Resort Hotel is a tropical paradise located on a 14-acre peninsula of Mission Bay. It’s the ultimate destination for comfort and adventure: rent sports equipment like bikes, surfboards, paddle boards and kayaks, or take a short drive to the San Diego Zoo, the vibrant Gaslamp Quarter or historic Old Town. Guests can also embark on a complimentary Mission Bay cruise aboard the Bahia Belle Sternwheeler, complete with cocktails and music. bahiahotel.com.
Best Orange County Resort: Montage Laguna Beach and The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel
Channeling the artistic style of 1900’s Laguna Beach, Montage Laguna Beach’s distinct design includes stone architecture, crown moulding, lavish hardwoods, copper gutters and a shingle-style roof. The resort itself, which offers sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean, has multiple dining options, a salon, a spa, and extravagant shimmering swimming pools. Something unique: As Montage is situated in one of the most artistic communities in the country, the resort showcases a fine art collection inspired by the early California Arts and Crafts movement. The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel blends the luxe accommodations of a top-tier resort with the casual vibes of the Laguna Beach community. Kick back at the Ritz’s 180blu, an oceanfront dining lounge with craft cocktails, take a dip in the on-site Salt Creek Beach, or go on a scuba diving adventure. montagehotels.com, ritzcarlton.com.
Best Sedona Resort or Hotel: Arabella Hotel Sedona
Located in the heart of Sedona right next to the Hillside Sedona Shopping Center, Arabella Hotel is an adobe-style sanctuary offering stunning views of those classic red rocks. Guests can relax at one of two pools in Arabella’s family-friendly oasis, enjoy fresh complimentary breakfast every morning or cuddle up in front of the fire pit at the “sunset overlook” spot, which provides idyllic views of the setting Arizona sun upon the colorful Sedona landscape. And an extra perk for dog lovers: there’s an eight-acre dog park so your fur baby can have just as great a time as you. arabellahotelsedona.com.
Best Sedona Spa: L’Apothecary Spa
L’Apothecary Spa at L’Auberge de Sedona, A Destination Hotel calls upon the natural forces of the Arizona earth, incorporating various herbs and healing botanicals, like lavender flower, white ceremonial sage and juniper berry, to create custom body and skin care products. Guests can relax in the tranquility of fresh, crisp air and the sounds of rushing water with several different nature-based spa treatments designed to balance and awaken the senses. Treatments include Feet in the Creek, where guests dip their feet ankle-deep in Oak Creek before a foot reflexology treatment, and Forest Bathing, where certified instructors guide guests through a walking meditation practice through the forest. lauberge.com/spa.
AFM Fave! BEST Orange County Resort or Hotel: The Resort at Pelican Hill
The Resort at Pelican Hill is a five-star, five-diamond luxury destination located in a serene, coastal enclave in Southern California. Its 504 acres overlook the Pacific Ocean in the hip town of Newport Beach. In addition to bungalow guest rooms and suites, Pelican Hill offers villas ranging from 2,200 to 3,581 square feet with spellbinding ocean views, expansive balconies and even personal butlers, so you can really treat yourself to the most lavish experience. pelicanhill.com.
Best Southern Arizona Adventure: Tucson Botanical Gardens
The Tucson Botanical Gardens is a major part of the rich culture and history of Tucson. Built on the grounds of the historic Porter Home dating back to 1929, the gardens feature thousands of plant species in 17 different “pocket gardens,” featuring all kinds of flora from desert dwellers to tropical varieties. This botanical attraction also integrates art pieces throughout the gardens creating a sort of “living museum” for guests to enjoy. Past exhibits include Nature Connects (Lego sculptures of plants and animals) and Frida Kahlo: Art, Garden, Life (including a recreation of Frida’s pyramid and other aspects of her own Mexico City garden). tucsonbotanical.org.
Best Southern Arizona Winery: The Village of Elgin Winery
This family-run winery is all about sourcing locally—they use grapes only grown in Southern Arizona in the Sonoita and Willcox American Viticultural Area (AVA), Kansas Settlement and Bowie. One of the largest wine producers in the Sonoita AVA, The Village of Elgin Winery ages its wines in fine European and American wood and offers a wide range of varieties to suit customers’ tastes. The winery also uses an automatic bottling line, capable of running from 250 to 750 cases of wine per hour. elginwines.com. Also a 2017 Winner!
Best Northern Arizona Adventure: Bearizona
Bearizona, located in historic Williams, gives visitors the most immersive, up-closeand-personal experience with North American wildlife as one can possibly get. Visitors embark on bus tours with incredibly knowledgeable guides through more than three miles of Ponderosa Pine Forest, observing animals like bears, tundra wolves and bison in their natural habitats. A 20-acre walk-through area lets guests view even more critters like red foxes, bobcats and North American river otters in a more zoo-type environment. bearizona.com.
Best Northern Arizona Winery: Alcantara Vineyards
Family-owned and -operated Alcantara Vineyards is located in the gorgeous foothills of the Verde Valley. Between the lush vineyards, grassy green picnic area and views of the Verde River, connoisseurs can have the ultimate in tranquil wine-tasting experiences. Sustainably-farmed, Alcantara Vineyards has 12 different varietals and also offers opportunities for guests to hold weddings and events. alcantaravineyard.com. Also a 2017 Winner!
Best Arizona Ski Resort: Arizona Snowbowl
One of the oldest continually operating ski resorts in the country founded in 1938, Arizona Snowbowl features 52 trails to shred your way through, as well as the largest beginner terrain in the Southwest. Snowbowl is located on the San Francisco Peaks 14 miles north of Flagstaff and offers great backcountry access and tree skiing in the winter, as well as scenic chairlifts in the summer with staggering views of the Grand Canyon rim and the red rocks of Sedona. snowbowl.ski. Also a 2017 Winner!
With secluded white-sand beaches and crystal blue waters, The Cape is the ultimate luxury experience in the Cabo San Lucas region of Baja California Sur. The English translation of “el cabo,” The Cape is named for its unprecedented location on one of Los Cabos’ gorgeous seaside points. This luxury resort features an infinity pool with a swim-up bar, a rooftop lounge and garden with ocean and city views, a spa and fitness center with two private outdoor cabanas and so much more. thompsonhotels.com/the-cape.
Best Arizona Lake Escape: Lake Pleasant, visitarizona.com; Lake Powell, lakepowell.com.
Best Northern Arizona Annual Event: Sedona Arts Festival, sedonaartsfestival.org.
Best Northern Arizona Hike: West Fork of Oak Creek Canyon, fs.usda.gov.
Best Southern Arizona Hike: Colossal Cave Mountain Park, colossalcave.com; Sabino Canyon Trail, sabinocanyon.com.