Deserts don’t seem particularly hospitable these days. Gov. Brown has declared our region a “tinderbox,” Barbara’s Lake in Laguna has been reduced to a broad expanse of cracked earth, and we’ll be lucky if a single acre of South Coast desert chaparral survives the summer. Just last month another “xeric shrubland”—in Iran, different hemisphere but the same latitude as Orange County—endured a 115-degree day with a dew point of 90 degrees, amounting to an apocalyptic heat index of 163 degrees. We know we should be recommending a final summer fling on a tropical beach, but we can’t bear the thought of more hot sand. So here’s to cool, damp air, dappled sun on calm waters, and the first flickers of fall.
At heart, the luxurious Kayotei is a traditional Japanese ryokan: a quiet inn. Nestled among ancient trees in a small hot-springs village, this ryokan offers ten spacious, serene suites, with a tea ceremony pavilion at the center of each. Floors and walkways are covered by fragrant tatami mats, and the Japanese aesthetic of rustic simplicity governs all aspects of Kayotei’s design. It’s difficult to determine the point at which the refined interiors end and the delicate gardens begin. Kayotei offers the traditional onsen experience: long soaks in the hot baths, surrounded by forest views, are a primary draw. More than anything, Kayotei Ryokan is a place to marvel at the pairing of minimalism and indulgence: stone walkways through lush, sculpted gardens, uncluttered expanses of polished ash and maple, glowing rice paper lanterns, and pillowy futon mattresses. The bathroom amenities differ from suite to suite; we recommend the $700 Japanese Junior suite, which lacks a shower but boasts a private open-air bath. A reasonable tradeoff. Visit for more information.