When looking for where to stay in Napa Valley, there’s no shortage of “Wine Country” towns to choose from where you can enjoy easy access to hundreds of sprawling vineyard estates that span from the foothills to the bay!
Famed for its hilly vineyards and gourmet culinary scene, California’s Napa Valley transports visitors to a land of endless summer just north of San Francisco.
Many of the best areas to stay in Napa Valley provide access to world-class vineyards, spas, restaurants, shopping, excursions and more.
When planning a Napa Valley vacation, it’s important to know how to get around because this destination is much more spread out than other parts of California.
Napa County has a fixed-route bus system called VINE that runs the length of Napa Valley daily with a starting point in Napa City. Terminating in the San Francisco Bay Area, VINE runs all the way to the ferry terminal in Vallejo.
There is also another transportation option called the Napa Valley Wine Train that brings you on a 36-mile trip to and from St. Helena on refurbished antique railway cars.
That said, most people who vacation in Napa Valley rent cars to make it easier to get from place to place.
Many of the region’s resort-style hotels are located at least a small distance from the center of the nearest town. However, some of the busier wine towns have major hotels attached to their downtowns.
Where to Stay in Napa Valley: 7 Best Areas
1. Napa City, where to stay in Napa Valley for first time
Known as the “heart” of Wine Country, Napa City is famed for having one of the loveliest historic downtowns in California.
Downtown Napa City is centered on a riverfront promenade that’s buzzing with restaurants and shops. You can even rent kayaks to paddle along the Napa River for a nice change of pace.
Some highlights of downtown include the famed Oxford Public Market and the historic Napa Valley Opera House. However, Napa City is best known for its collection of wine-tasting rooms.
While this city has a small, intimate feel, you’ll find no shortage of hotels to choose from. If you’re staying near the promenade, you’ll have your pick of major hotel chains right in downtown.
If you’d like to find something slightly cheaper, you can save up to a $100 by staying somewhere located within a five-mile walk of the city’s center.
You’ll also find a number of resort hotels peppered all throughout the city’s outskirts that offer views that are more open to the hills surrounding you.
2. St. Helena, one of the most popular Wine County cities
The starting point for many Napa Valley holidays, St. Helena has a beautiful main street lined with restaurants and shops. It is peppered with everything from gourmet chocolate shops to Michelin-rated restaurants offering private cooking lessons.
Favorites like Beringer Vineyards, Charles Krug Winery and Merryvale Vineyards are located right on Main Street in St. Helena. Further out, you’ll find world-class vineyards like Pride Mountain Vineyards and Merryvale Vineyards.
When not soaking up the wine experience in St. Helena, a visit to the famed Robert Louis Stevenson Museum gives you a chance to tour the perfectly restored home of the famed writer.
St. Helena’s Robert Louis Stevenson State Park features a gorgeous trail that will bring you to a summit where the entire San Francisco Bay Area is on display from an eagle-eye vantage point!
An elite place to stay in Napa Valley, St. Helena is peppered with resorts and wellness spas that charge top dollar to stay in one of the most popular Wine County cities.
McKinstry Street Station in St. Helena is where boarding begins for the Napa Valley Wine Train route!
3. Calistoga, where to stay in Napa Valley in a spa and wellness destination
A true spa destination, Calistoga is one of the smaller Wine Country towns. It’s a great place to stay in Napa Valley if you’re booking a stay for the sole purpose of rejuvenation due to its collection of natural hot springs and mud baths.
It is also home to California’s Old Faithful Geyser. In fact, this is one of the only spots in Napa Valley where the wine scene is actually upstaged by the wellness scene.
Nearly every hotel is a wellness retreat that offers dips in mineral pools, sunrise yoga and healing hikes.
However, historic vineyards like Schramsberg Vineyards, Vincent Arroyo Winery and Chateau Montelena provide ample opportunities to tour estates dating back to the 1800s.
Of course, the crown of Calistoga is Castello di Amorosa. Built to resemble a true medieval-style castle, this winery transports you to Tuscany in the heart of California’s wine country.
If you’d like to get out among the redwoods, Bothe-Napa State Park is a beautiful hiking spot in Calistoga.
4. American Canyon, where to stay in Napa Valley on a budget
A low-profile Wine Country destination compared to others on the list, American Canyon is just being discovered as a NorCal gem.
Famed for its beautiful bay views, the city offers a number of nature points to explore when you want to take a breather from wine tours.
Wetlands Edge Park places you right on the Napa River and Bay Trail to explore a watershed system that connects to the San Francisco Bay.
For bird watchers, there’s no better spot in American Canyon than Glass Beach.
For a complete change of pace from American’s Canyon’s vast network of nature trails, plan a trip to the 24-hour Napa Valley Casino.
As far as accommodations, American Canyon is a budget option when compared to other towns in Napa Valley.
The city has a steady supply of lower-end hotel chains without the huge variety of spas and resorts that you’ll find just a few miles away.
5. Yountville, a picture-perfect town
If you happen to see colorful hot-air balloons drifting over the pastoral slopes of Napa Valley, it’s almost guaranteed that they took off from Yountville.
Home to Napa Valley Balloons, Yountville is a picture-perfect town that’s peppered with some of the best restaurants in Napa Valley.
In fact, people come from throughout the Bay Area just to dine at the French Laundry. Downtown Yountville is peppered with gourmet chocolate shops, art galleries and European spas.
To scratch your shopping itch, check out the Shops at the Marketplace for one-of-a-kind, ultra-upscale boutiques.
To enjoy a self-guided tour of the Yountville Art Walk, simply follow the cues after starting at the famed Gallery 1870 located at V Marketplace on Washington Street.
Of course, Yountville more than holds its own when it comes to the selection of wineries offered. The list of must-visit wineries in town includes Bell Wine Cellars, Cosentino Winery, Cliff Lede Vineyards and Priest Ranch Winery.
Peppered with resorts and spa-style hotels that represent some of the priciest per-night stays in all of Wine Country, Yountville is a place to skip if you’re seeking large hotel chains or budget stays.
6. Rutherford, home to magnificent and historic winery estates
Rutherford is best known for being a “Cabernet Country” tucked within Wine Country. The beautiful output here is credited to the famed “Rutherford dust” soil that is baked into the rolling hills.
Rutherford is home to some of the most magnificent and historic winery estates in all of Napa Valley.
The list of must-visit estates includes Cakebread Cellars, Peju Winery, Round Pond Estate, Rutherford Hill Winery, Inglenook and the St. Supery Winery.
In fact, Rutherford is one of the major highlights of the Napa Valley Wine Train.
7. Oakville, a low-key place to stay in Napa Valley
A quiet NorCal hamlet, Oakville can be easily missed if you speed by the exit on Highway 29. However, you might want to pinpoint this wine-country gem if you’re looking for a low-key place to stay in Napa Valley.
For those in the know about wine culture and history, Oakville is famed for being home to the legendary and enigmatic To-Kalon vineyard.
Considered by wine historians to be the most important growing spot in California, the well-drained soil that makes up To-Kalon has actually been the source of “turf wars” among wine dynasties for years.
It’s a fun spot to see for people interested in California’s wine history. Some of the epic wineries that can be visited without contention in Oakville today include Opus One Winery, Turnbull Wine Cellars and Silver Oak Cellars.
The acclaimed Robert Mondavi Winery in Oakville is considered to be one of the most important education centers for wine in North America.
The first winery developed in Napa Valley in the post-Prohibition era, the beautiful estate hosts everything from educational tours to live concerts today.
While Oakville is a must-see spot on any Wine Country itinerary, it’s not an easy place to stay in Napa Valley if you’re looking for an abundance of overnight accommodations.
Tiny Oakville doesn’t have the large collection of hotels and inns that you’ll find in neighboring towns. Many people choose to stay just a few minutes away in Yountville or Rutherford.