There are so many ways to experience the West. Here is a roundup of the best of 2022.

Playa Viva Travel Awards 2022
© Kevin Steel / kevsteel.com

Consider this your guide to some of the most inspiring people, places, and activities worth a visit right now. With travel back in full swing, there’s plenty to discover—and not just the next great road trip, emerging foodie destination, or newly redesigned hotel. Exploration in the West is changing. People don’t want to just be tourists passing through; they want to immerse themselves in local culture and support community-run businesses. They’re seeking connection with strangers and their neighbors, whether around a table or on the trail. So, here’s to your next epic excursion. We’ve got plenty of ideas for making the most of your trip, even if it’s right next door.

We’re mapping out the latest trends, and you can jump to them here:

Coastal Gems | Wine Country Winners | The New Food Pilgrimage | Stress-Free Staycations | A Sense of Place and Purpose | Epic Outdoor Getaways

Or, you can keep scrolling to read more below. 

Want to see all 400+ entrants to this year’s Travel Awards? Check out our full directory here.

Coastal Gems

The salty sea air and rugged cliffs of the coast are calling. With many travelers looking to book stress-free trips at places they never have to leave, we predict a massive return to beachfront escapes. Here are some of our favorite coastal hot spots.

Beautiful Beach City: Huntington Beach, California

Huntington Beach, California

Alexandra Fisher/Unsplash

With a name like Surf City, it’s easy to see why the California town beckons families and surfers alike. We’re celebrating recent efforts to make the beach more accessible for all. Now visitors with disabilities, stroller-toting parents, and others can make their way down a pair of mats that serve as a stable pathway across the sand.

Classic Coastal Charm: Nick’s Cove

Nick's Cove

Kristin Loken

An iconic Tomales Bay hot spot recently got a refresh for the first time in 15 years. The cottages sport new furnishings and wallpaper, and the restaurant has an upgraded back bar. It’s Northern California coastal cooking at its best: lots of seafood, salads, Asian and Mexican influences, and a heavy dose of Alice Waters–style, produce-first deliciousness. 

Cool Coastal Getaways

Timber Cove
Timber Cove

Courtesy of The Nomadic People

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Stunning Seaside Renovations

Hotel June Malibu
Hotel June Malibu

Courtesy of The Ingalls

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Rad Mexico Resorts

Hilton Los Cabos Beach & Golf Resort
Hilton Los Cabos Beach & Golf Resort

Courtesy of Hilton Los Cabos Beach & Golf Resort

Learn more about the resorts

Wine Country Winners

It’s no easy feat making wine in the West. And yet the region’s growers and producers continue on the path of mindful cultivation, releasing innovative bottles in the face of a historic pandemic, wildfires, and drought. We’re ready for a viticulture renaissance. Here’s where you’ll find us amid the vines.

World-Class Wine Region: Santa Ynez Valley

Santa Ynez Valley

Courtesy of Craft & Cluster/Visit the Santa Ynez Valley

Let us name the reasons we keep returning to the fertile California valley: more than 100 wineries, an array of family farms, notable hotel openings, and a renovated open-air theater, among others. If you’re looking for rolling vineyards, this is the place to be. 

Outstanding Bakery: Bob’s Well Bread Bakery

Bob's Well Bread

Ali Beck

It doesn’t get any better than a brisket sandwich special on the patio of the beloved Los Alamos outpost. Pastries and loaves are baked fresh daily.

Wine Country Escapes

Hotel Ynez
Hotel Ynez

Thomas J. Story

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Top Wine Tasting Experiences

Roblar Winery
Roblar Winery

Rebecca Nuss

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Wine Country Classics

The Hitching Post 2 Restaurant & Tasting Room
The Hitching Post 2

Rob Stark

  • The Hitching Post 2 Restaurant & Tasting Room: Did you really go to the Santa Ynez Valley if you didn’t eat tri-tip at the Hitching Post? The legendary steakhouse recently installed a big top for outdoor dining, elevating the open-air vibes while you enjoy a rib chop from the wood-fired grill.
  • La Paloma Cafe: One of Santa Barbara’s most beloved restaurants recently reopened under new management, but the good eats stayed the same: Weekend brunch features seasonal selections on a gorgeous outdoor patio in the Presidio.

The New Food Pilgrimage

Experiential dining spaces and over-the-top tasting menus are en vogue. We don’t just want to share food with our friends; we want to commune with strangers amid a dining experience that ignites all of our senses. Here are some of our favorites.

Brilliant Brassiere: Chez Maggy

Chez Maggy

©2022 Marc Fiorito/Gamma Nine Photography

Michelin-starred chef Ludo Lefebvre takes on Denver at a hip, new French restaurant with staples like steak tartare, duck à l’orange, and bison bourguignon.

Standout Wine-and-Dine Region: Walla Walla, Washington

Walla Walla wine region

Brady Lawrence

No longer the new kid on the block, Washington’s fertile southeastern region is teeming with new restaurants and food trucks, a burgeoning arts scene, and more than 100 wineries that appeal to all types of palates. 

Best Dinner Spots with Epic Views

Salish Lodge & Spa - dining room
Salish Lodge & Spa

Courtesy of Salish Lodge & Spa

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Transcendent Tasting Menus

Rainbird restaurant
Rainbird

Aubrie Pick

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Drinks with a View

Treehouse Lounge at Paseo Hotel & Spa
Treehouse Lounge

Courtesy of the Meritage Collection

Learn more about the bars

Stress-Free Staycations

Your next great getaway could be right in your backyard. Fueled by an increase in local exploration, more people are finding rest and rejuvenation close to home, whether that’s a nearby metropolis or a wellness resort. Luckily, the West is home to myriad hospitality groups constantly creating innovative spaces to discover throughout the region.

Architectural Gem: Line Hotel San Francisco

Line Hotel San Francisco

The Line Hotel

A hotel, private residences, four dining experiences, a nonprofit theater space, and a rooftop solarium all converge in this expansive project designed by Bjarke Ingels Group and Handel Architects. It’s slated to open this year.

Most Inspiring Hotel: Hotel Figueroa

Hotel Figueroa

Tanveer Badal

This downtown Los Angeles hotel’s history in the women’s movement remains apparent, with a revolving art series featuring female artists and a custom suite outfitted with eye masks, candles, and more from women-owned businesses. 

Superlative Spa Retreats

Castle Hot Springs Arizona desert view
Castle Hot Springs

Thomas J. Story

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Great Hotel Groups

Pendry West Hollywood

Christian Horan

Learn more about the hotel groups

A Sense of Place and Purpose

Travelers want to be intentional about where they spend money and who’s guiding them on the journey. Whether taking in a piece of history or getting tips from a bonafide local outfitter, we’ve got ideas.

Standout Southwest Culture Trip: Santa Fe

Denis Tangney Jr/Getty Images

You won’t find pueblo and adobe architecture like this anywhere else in the U.S., not to mention the city’s unique topography that lends itself to stargazing, hiking, and hot spring dips

Sublime Arts Center: Oregon’s Patricia Reser Center for the Arts

Patricia Reser Center for the Arts

Jeremy Jeziorski

A creekside 550-seat theater recently opened to bring regional arts organizations, international performers, and educational exhibitions to Beaverton.

Consummate Classics

The Little Nell
The Little Nell

Jeremy Swanson

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Top Tour Guides

Heritage Inspirations
Heritage Inspirations

Amanda Powell

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We Did Our Market Research

At State Street Market, you can grab a bite from Ostro Oysters & Raw Bar.

Isabel Baer

  • The Barlow: Sonoma County’s open-air market fills four blocks with dog-friendly glass studios, olive oil tastings, a concert series, and an annual beer run.
  • State Street Market: Step into this Los Altos food hall for global cuisine at its best. There’s Californian-Indian comfort food, Taiwanese-Korean dishes, a raw bar, and more.

Motels with the Most

Skyview Los Alamos
Skyview Los Alamos

Courtesy of Visit the Santa Ynez Valley

  • Egyptian Motor Hotel: Make a pit stop at a brand-new Phoenix inn that’s been thoughtfully restored, all the way down to the original turf and old-school amenities like retro refrigerators and Magic 8 Balls.
  • Skyview Los Alamos: Pull off Highway 101 and into a 1950s hillside motel that still has the original pool, a working vineyard, and fleet of Linus bikes to explore the Santa Ynez Valley.

Epic Outdoor Getaways

More people than ever are venturing out into Mother Nature—and they’re showing no signs of slowing down. Whether you’re hitting the open road, hiking solo, or camping with a group, here’s how to live your best outdoor life this year.

Remarkable Outdoor Recreation Region: Wyoming’s Wind River Country

Wyoming Wind River Country
Red Canyon in Wyoming’s Wind River Country

Jennie Hutchinson

The red desert and Wind River Mountain Range play host to an array of opportunities in the great outdoors, from rodeos to road trips through Grand Teton and Yellowstone national parks, plus a new public access point on the Popo Agie River. 

Best Transit: Sequoia Shuttle

Visalia Sequoia Shuttle
Visalia Sequoia Shuttle

Sequoia Shuttle

Avoid parking headaches at Sequoia National Park with an eco-friendly shuttle that departs from most Visalia hotels. Even if you’re headed to the backcountry, the shuttle offers a one-way ride to spots including the Pacific Crest Trail. 

Jewels of Alaska

Sheldon Chalet
Sheldon Chalet

Courtesy of Sheldon Chalet

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Off-Grid Luxury

Dunton River Camp
Dunton River Camp

Courtesy of Dunton Destinations

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Beautiful Basecamps

Wylder Hope Valley
Wylder Hope Valley

Ren Fuller

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Transporting Tables

Takibi
Takibi

Marielle Dezurick

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Amazing Outdoor Activities

REI Grand Canyon & Lake Powell Adventure
REI Grand Canyon & Lake Powell Adventure

© REI

Learn more about the activities

Rad Ranches

Brasada Ranch

Brasada Ranch

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