Finding myself unemployed and my mom on summer break as a teacher, we looked to find a destination for a socially distant getaway - a temporary escape from reality. After talking through the risks associated with traveling at this time, we landed on Wine Country as our destination. It’s somewhere that we’ve both wanted to visit for quite a while. Knowing that wineries had extensive distancing requirements and that there were several opportunities to spend time in the great outdoors of California; we snagged some cheap flights on Southwest Airlines, booked this property, and off we were!
Located in Santa Rosa, the Hyatt Regency is perfectly located to serve as a springboard for your trip to wine country. It’s conveniently placed at the heart of Sonoma County, just a hop away from Napa Valley and Anderson Valley and a skip away from some phenomenal State Parks and other outdoor recreation areas. Given its proximity to downtown Santa Rosa, you can reasonably walk to shops, restaurants, bars and other business - a real win in my book.
We booked directly with the hotel using my Hyatt Colleague Discount while I still had it - unfortunately I’ve been laid off due to the impact of COVID-19 on the hospitality industry. Using this, we achieved an excellent rate of $109/night when the going rate was $179/night; in the high season, this property can go for upwards of $300/night. I booked using my Chase Sapphire Reserve and earned 3x Points for the total cost of our hotel stay, but did not earn any World of Hyatt Points due to the stipulation of my rate. This hotel normally charges an additional Destination Fee, but it has been temporarily waived due to changes caused by COVID-19.
Arrival, Check In & Lobby
We landed at SFO around lunchtime and after doing some drive through sightseeing in San Francisco - including attempting the Golden Gate Bridge, but only seeing a dense wall of fog - we were on our way to the hotel with what proved to be an easy and scenic ride to wine country. Our GPS routed us to an out parking lot instead of the main entrance where signage was lacking on clear direction. We pulled a ticket and rolled into the lot which proved to be the beginning of our saga around parking - on one instance of trying to exit, we were stuck calling the front desk for several minutes and nearly late for our dinner reservation.
Despite the parking hiccups and an unfinished parking lot, the hotel itself has a pleasant appearance. It’s architecture could best be described as meditterranean influenced, and nicely dressed up a pretty standard building. The most striking feature, though, was the landscape that had soaring topiaries and a plethora of wild grasses and flowers that attracted many bees. Upon unloading our luggage and strolling up to the main entrance, we noticed that all of the front doors were locked, some with chains. By reading the posted signs, we continued to the far door where an employee happily welcomed us into the property.
At the front desk, folding tables were erected to provide additional space between staff and guests, hand sanitizer was available and plexiglass shields were present. Despite these social distancing measures, the gentleman who checked us in was incredibly friendly, warm and welcoming - a welcome reminder that COVID certainly can’t destroy genuine hospitality. The lobby itself was small, but very comfortable and cozy - a place at normal times that you could totally see yourself grabbing a glass of wine and relaxing near the fireplace. Its color palette was bright and airy with concrete floors, light finishes and faux wood beams on the vaulted ceilings. It was a nice blend of rustic and contemporary that seemed fitting for its setting.
Opposite the check in area was a small bar and a few communal tables that also opened up to the courtyard outside. In the middle of the space was a living room style seating arrangement centered around a fireplace. Just beyond was a series of doors that opened out into one of the hotel’s signature courtyards - this main one having a variety of lounge seating and a colossal gas fire pit where we spent time each evening with a beer from our room.
We booked, and were assigned, a standard guest room with two Queen Beds which was of a pretty typical size and had a nice simple design. Much like the lobby, it was light and airy with a little bit of rustic charm coming through in the furniture pieces through the use of light worn woods, leathers and exposed metals. The balance of rustic and contemporary again felt right, not at all kitschy.
The layout of the space was pretty simple. When walking in the room, you enter a small corridor with a space for luggage as well as a built in closet. Once through this space, to the right were two Hyatt Grand Beds dressed in incredibly plush white linens - I’m not sure if it was the bed or all of the wine that I consumed each day, but I’ve never slept so well. Each bed had a nice wood headboard with both USB and standard outlets built into each side; at the central nightstand were additional outlets in the lamp and alarm clock - I always appreciate an abundance of outlets when traveling. Unfortunately, I found a good deal of dust had collected atop the headboards.
Next to the beds was a lounge chair and lamp. Across from both of them, and near the windows, was a small round table and two task chairs with a lamp overhead - filling in for a desk in this resort style Hyatt Regency. Sliding just next to this was a millwork console that held a mini-fridge and coffee maker. The centerpiece, however, was the brand standard 65” TV with Chromecast capabilities - we really enjoyed using this each night to stream from my iPad which we used to watch none other than Wine Country and Bottle Shock.
Back near the entrance was the impressively sized bathroom which had an interesting layout that I’ve yet to see elsewhere on my travels. It had a large soaking bathtub with a rainfall shower head - the water pressure and temperature were totally sufficient. The best feature though, was the sizable corner vanity with lots of shelving. It provided plenty of storage for all of our things as my mom and I do not travel lightly… The bathroom was also stocked with single use Pharmacopia amenities, which weren’t my favorite scent, but got the job done.
Amenities & Features
This hotel being a resort style Hyatt Regency means that it offered elevated amenities to what one might expect in a property of its size. Unfortunately, many were reduced or eliminated due to COVID, which I’ll mention later in this piece.
In addition to the fabulous courtyard with the gas fire pit, the hotel’s primary amenity is its outdoor pool and jacuzzi. The pool was of a comfortable temperature and relaxing in the jacuzzi was a great way to unwind and relax after each day of chasing winery reservations - you can no longer just walk in unannounced without one. While it certainly felt unkempt with disheveled cushions and some garbage lying around, it had quite a bit of potential and was a nice space to relax in. For those more physically inclined, the hotel also had a very adequate fitness center with newer looking equipment and complimentary bicycle rentals to ride on the paths near the property.
This is a Hyatt Regency afterall, known as a meetings hotel, so a sizable amount of meeting and event space was available. In addition to the typical ballrooms, this hotel offers its courtyards as well as a large lawn and sculpture garden as event space. Unfortunately the sculpture garden was closed and appeared unkempt during our visit.
Typically, many more amenities such as welcome beverages, evening smores, frozen treats and activities are on offer as well, but these are postponed due to COVID-19.
Food & Beverage
The hotel has three food and beverage outlets, which were closed due to COVID-19 restrictions. The Lobby Bar would normally focus on light bites, local wines and craft beers - something we totally would’ve hit up while hanging by the fire due to its service window to the courtyard. There’s also a pool cafe for light entrees, sandwiches and cocktails. Finally, Staytion is a full service restaurant attached to the hotel.
Make no mistake, this was not your normal hotel stay. Despite a slight return towards normalcy, COVID was looming both in the background and in ways more visible. I feel as though the hotel did a great job of communicating expectations and ensuring a safe environment - especially with the requirement to wear face masks at all times on property unless eating or drinking or in the pool. There’s also a noticeable absence: housekeeping is suspended in its traditional form. Instead, guests can request towels and amenities from the front desk. Also missing was food and beverage service, which I never noticed contributed so much to the hotel experience until it was gone, but we managed fine by picking up our own drinks for the pool. A pleasant surprise was the waived Destination Fee, which was appreciated given that most of the amenities it included could not be provided.
Another interesting facet was that this hotel had many long term guests on property, something you don’t usually see with a full-service hotel. Up until the week we went, all hotels in the county were closed to leisure travelers to help house essential workers. This had no impact on us as everyone we encountered was courteous and polite - almost as though we were guests in their home.
I was satisfied with my stay given what we paid for it, but if I’d paid a high season rate I think I would’ve been sorely disappointed. Don’t get me wrong, this is a nice hotel, but it just felt disheveled, confused and in need of some polishing. Maybe it’s COVID induced, maybe it’s not, but there’s a few things I can’t get past - on being the dust in the room which is concerning in normal times and even more so now, but I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt given this hotel just reopened to leisure travel. The second trigger for me was the parking situation. I know that sounds so trivial, but it really was terrible! In the 20+ times we entered and exited the lot, it only worked twice and each time it didn’t it meant a call to the front desk and a delay in moving. It sounds small, but it was incredibly frustrating and a problem that shouldn’t exist - for their part, the staff didn’t charge us the daily parking rate due to this.
Now the hard question: would I return? Yes, when things go back to normal and if the price is right, I’d like to see this hotel in full swing. It was a pleasant stay with great staff and I’d be willing to give it a shot. That being said, I also want to give the ANdAZ Napa Valley a try, but this time it was off to Oakland International Airport to fly back to reality after a great little trip! Just a reminder, COVID is still a very real threat - more so in this region of the country than when we initially visited. Think long and hard about whether the potential risks of traveling are worth it to you and check out our piece on COVID Travel.