After one look at the pristine pools packed with toys, and it’s no surprise why La Petite Baleen’s four San Francisco–area swim facilities are so popular with kids. What may be surprising, however, is that the flourishing network of schools started humbly in the backyard pool of John Kolbisen and Irene Madrid.
In 1979, the public school teachers were brainstorming ways to integrate their passion for educating kids with their love of the water. Starting with their own three children, some neighborhood kids, and their logo–Waverly the Whale, John and Irene began teaching swim lessons with a rather progressive philosophy: They approached swimming not just as an extracurricular activity, but as a means to boost self-confidence, build friendships, and learn to overcome fears.
More than 30 years later, La Petite Baleen has become a renowned family of schools, partnered with the U.S. Swim School Association and the Swim for Life Foundation. Part of the success has to do with how children are grouped. In weekly sessions, pods of tots of similar age, skill level, and personality evolve at a similar pace—earning individual achievement ribbons as they do. Kids make friends in the group, and the recurring scheduling means that they can stay enrolled with their new buddies indefinitely or until they grow their own dorsal fins. Each location’s indoor pools are kept at an inviting 90 degrees, in an attempt to make even the most timid student to feel comfortable in the water. Perhaps most importantly, the teachers participate in ongoing training designed to encourage empathetic, yet firm teaching methods.
Located in Half Moon Bay, The Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay is by the ocean, minutes from Half Moon Bay Golf Links, and close to Poplar State Beach. This 5-star hotel is within the vicinity of Miramar Beach and Pillar Point Harbor. n Rooms
Make yourself at home in one of the 261 air-conditioned rooms featuring iPod docking stations and LCD televisions. Wired and wireless Internet access is complimentary, while DVD players and satellite programming provide entertainment. Private bathrooms with separate bathtubs and showers feature makeup/shaving mirrors and designer toiletries. Conveniences include laptop-compatible safes and desks, as well as multi-line phones with free local calls and voice mail. n Rec, Spa, Premium Amenities
Relax at the full-service spa, where you can enjoy body treatments and facials. While the golfer in the family is out on the course, you can enjoy above-par recreational amenities such as a golf course and a health club. This hotel also features complimentary wireless Internet access, a concierge desk, and supervised childcare/activities. n Dining
Grab a bite at one of the hotel's 2 restaurants, or stay in and take advantage of 24-hour room service. At the end of the day, relax with your favorite drink at a bar/lounge. Buffet breakfasts are available for a fee. n Business, Other Amenities
Featured amenities include limo/town car service, business services, and audiovisual equipment. Event facilities at this hotel consist of conference/meeting rooms and banquet facilities. Parking (subject to charges) is available onsite.
At Maloney's Horses and Ponies, majestic steeds graze and buck in open pastures backed by a landscape of picturesque rolling hills and whispering ocean waves. Standing in the sea breeze is Cheryl Maloney, the proprietor and head riding instructor. Before opening her school, Cheryl taught throughout the United States and England, most recently directing the Stanford Riding School for 12 years. She is joined by fellow instructors Sara Williams, Sarah Platshon, and Jack Gosse-Fuchs; together, the team leads lessons in English-style riding for students of all ages and skill levels.
During lessons, students learn the fundamentals of riding—from sitting in a basic balancing position to standing while singing the horse anthem—along with necessary horsemanship skills such as grooming and tacking. The lessons take place in Maloney's all-weather back sand arena, where picturesque ocean views frame a colorful jumping course, and a front arena dedicated to dressage and flat exercises. The school also has access to more than 7 miles of beach trails that lead riders on explorations of the bluffs or trots down to the surf. The school also boards horses, sells and leases new mounts, and holds summer camps for riders up to 15 years old.
At 2,600 feet up in the Santa Cruz Mountains, one might expect to find sprawling views of the ocean and surrounding forest and not flourishing vineyards. Yet there are more than 70 wineries dappling the hills at various altitudes, privy to the dewy, cooling breezes of the sea and the richness of the rocky soil. The San Francisco Chronicle speaks to their scattered presence, deeming them "less a cohesive wine region than a patchwork of vineyards." Still, this characteristic isolation has resulted in "a perfect laboratory for winemaking not held hostage to fashion"—no one style dominates in this rustic setting.
Pinot noirs and chardonnays populate the western front, and the east yields cabernets, merlots, and zinfandels. The majority of the vineyards are small and family owned—a fact reflected in their meticulously bottled libations and the matching sweaters of their holiday photos—but though they exist in chosen hermitage, many of them welcome visitors to their scenic sites. They host weddings, festivals, and open events such as Pathway to Pinot Paradise, a self-guided tour of the pinot noir hotspots.
With a stay at Cypress Inn On Miramar Beach in Half Moon Bay (El Granada), you'll be minutes from Miramar Beach and close to Pillar Point Harbor. This beach hotel is within the vicinity of Poplar State Beach and JV Fitzgerald Marine Reserve.
Treat yourself to a stay in one of the 18 guestrooms, featuring fireplaces and flat-panel televisions. High-definition televisions with satellite programming provide entertainment, while complimentary wireless Internet access keeps you connected. Conveniences include desks and complimentary newspapers, as well as phones with free local calls and voice mail.
Rec, Spa, Premium Amenities
Make use of convenient amenities such as complimentary wireless Internet access, concierge services, and tour/ticket assistance.
A complimentary manager's reception is served for your convenience. A complimentary cooked-to-order breakfast is included.
Business, Other Amenities
Featured amenities include complimentary newspapers in the lobby and coffee/tea in the lobby. Free parking is available onsite.
At La Costanera, Peruvian-born Chef Carlos Altamirano adds contemporary twists to traditional South American dishes that earned the restaurant a 2012 Michelin Star. A variety of ceviches whet appetites amidst a dining room that the San Francisco Chronicle called "breathtaking by day and almost mystical at night," filled with the soft sound of the surf. Free-range chicken and slow-cooked pork shoulder thrive beneath what a reviewer for the Pacifica Tribune applauds as "dramatic presentation.” Imported Peruvian beers and pisco cocktails clink to toast potatoes reclaiming exoticness by arriving in shades of purple and green, and even simple favorites take on the gleeful elegance of a solid-teak waterslide with the aid of truffle oil or saffron. La Costanera’s 10,000-square-foot space opens onto an open-air patio and glass-enclosed rooms. Windowpanes soaring from floor to ceiling arch high overhead, admitting cascades of sunlight as diners gaze out and give each rolling wave a name and backstory.