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Help with California Hotels - San Fran, Monterey/Carmel & Santa Barbara

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Hi all,

Working on the details of our 10-year anniversary trip (with no kids!) in September. Planning on spending 3 nights in San Fran, 2 in Monterey/Carmel, 1 near Hearst Castle & 3 in Santa Barbara. Need some help with hotels and was hoping the Fodorites could lend a hand.

My husband and I tend to be on the picky side and are not a big fan of "chain" hotels. Looking for hotels with nice decor and a balcony / deck so we can spend cocktail hour with a view. In the coastal locations it would be a HUGE plus to be able to see boats from our room (husband is a big boat enthusiast). We also usually like to stay somewhere that is within walking distance to dinner/nightlife and we enjoy upscale dinners, "foodie" type meals, wine bars, etc. Would love to stay under the $400 a night range, but am willing to go up to $700 for the perfect place. That said, here are my questions….

1. San Fran -- where do I even start? So many choices.
2. Monterey/Carmel - which town to stay in? Would either offer more boats? Would either offer better dinner options?
3. Santa Barbara - love El Encanto, but seems very out of the way. Looking for a splurge room here as it will be at the end of our stay.

Thank you!!

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