Crystal Razon is one of those people for whom a central passion fills every corner of life. A love of travel led her to graduate from the University of Philippines with a degree in tourism, emboldened her to relocate from her home country to the U.S., and inspired her to pursue her current role as reservations supervisor for Embassy Suites by Hilton Napa Valley. She’s been with the property now for a total of 12 years.
“#AlwaysonVaction is my personal hashtag,” Razon jokes. Luckily for her, one of the world’s most sought-after destinations is right in her backyard. Over the last decade, Razon has become a Napa expert by exploring her hometown. After starting at the Embassy Suites, she remembers spending her days “listening to colleagues, studying maps, walking around downtown, and driving to the wineries.”
With family and friends all over the world, Razon often serves as ‘reservations supervisor’ in her off-hours as well. When loved ones come to visit California wine country, she’s happy to play concierge and tour guide: “My house is their hotel—and if they don’t fit, they’ll stay at the real hotel.”
In her official role, Razon loves sharing her Napa favorites with the guests. When asked what to do in the area, Razon asks back, “What do you like?” before curating her recommendations. When a family of non-wine drinkers came to her desk with their teenage daughter in tow, she sent them to the mustard fields for Instagram gold. At checkout, the family showed off beautiful photos from their experience. “The mom told me it was the highlight of their trip,” Razon remembers.
For couples seeking a glamorous winery, it’s Castello di Amorosa where owner Dario Sattui built a medieval Tuscan-style castle—right down to the drawbridge, banquet hall, and torture chamber. “I love their tour,” says Razon. “I’ve done the whole thing six times!” As for smaller wineries, she enjoys Black Stallion, Saintsbury, and Honig.
Choosing a restaurant can be tricky because the quality is so consistent. “If they aren’t great, they don’t last,” says Razon. A few of her favorites include Morimoto, Bistro Don Giovanni, Bottega, and Celadon, where the calamari is so tasty she recommends ordering it twice in the same meal. For a more casual experience, try Oxbow Public Market. The culinary smorgasbord of high-end food vendors makes this food hall and market a “must-go.” Don’t miss the carrot cake at Sweetie Pies, the charcuterie board at Carpe Diem, and the coffee at Napa Roasting, Razon recommends.
“I have to say that living here, in a place that’s on a lot of bucket lists, is such a blessing,” Razon says, “I may not have been born and raised here, but to my friends and family all over the world, I am their Napa local.”
FIVE MORE FAVORITES
Though culinary delights tend to dominate the area, Razon knows full well that Napa has much more to offer. Here are a few top recommendations:
Tranquil setting: “The Mill Pond is my favorite area of the hotel. It’s very relaxing, with picture-perfect manicured grounds, a swan, and three turtles. I like to take a moment to breathe here before going in to start the day. We have fire pits around it for guests to relax in the evening to drink more wine or just chill.”
Photo opportunity: “One of the first things I tell guests to do is take a picture at the Napa Valley sign. It says, 'The wine is bottled poetry.'”
New nursery: “Everyone is obsessed with plants right now, so I’d go to this new store called Riza Plants. The plants are so cute and they can ship anywhere. It’s kind of pricey, but I like to window shop!”
Amazing view: “Go for a nice hike in Westwood Hills Park. I brought my 73-year-old mom and 10-year-old daughter there and we all did it together. It’s two miles and 900 feet of elevation, but the view is really nice, overlooking wineries, downtown Napa, and the First Street Bridge.”
Farm fun: “Families looking for stuff to do with kids should go to Connolly Ranch. You get to feed the goats, hold the chickens, and pick up the eggs—it’s really interactive.”
Start your journey at Travel.Hilton.com/California