Low Stress Vacation
March 24, 2009 7:33 PM   Subscribe

Where in Northern or Central California is a good place to vacation in late April/Early May with swimming pools, movie stars, hot springs, massage, day hikes and/or B&Bs with vacancies?

My wife and I are thinking of taking a road trip this year from eastern SF bay area to somewhere between Cambria and Mendocino or inland with the aforementioned amenities. We like to travel cheap, but with hot showers. Three stars at two star prices kind of thing. 7-10 mile day hikes would be fun, below freezing nights less so. Also, extra bonus points for B&Bs with hosting pets, small towns with cozy used book stores, and restaurants with at least one vegetarian (not vegan) item on the menu.
posted by BrotherCaine to Travel & Transportation around California (8 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Take a look at Costanoa near Santa Cruz (http://www.costanoa.com/site.php). My wife and I stayed in one of the tent cabins there and had great time. It's near enough to Santa Cruz to enjoy the local restaurants and also close to good hiking along the coast and in Big Basin.
posted by davidamann at 8:03 PM on March 24, 2009 [1 favorite]

If you're willing to go about 20 miles farther south, the San Luis Obispo (and nearby Pismo Beach) area might be up your alley. There are some bed and breakfasts around there and tons of beautiful places to hike and adventure (Bishop's Peak, MontaƱo de Oros), though I don't know of anything in the 7-10 mile range in particular. Avila Hot Springs is close and there are dozens of good restaurants and locally owned shops in the area. Fair warning, though: it is primarily a college town and a lot of the residents are 18-25.
posted by HonorShadow at 9:48 PM on March 24, 2009

Best answer: Last summer me and my guy drove to the coast (with our dogs) via 101 cutting west through Petaluma and then drove north from Bodega Bay on Highway 1. You could stay in lovely Gualala or Fort Bragg. I'd skip the town of Mendocino because it's crowded with tourists, but it is very pretty. We passed a great looking place called Sea Ranch on Highway 1 somewhere between Gualala and Mendocino that we'll definitely be visiting some day. There's plenty of excellent hiking and beaches all the way up the coast and dogs are mostly welcome as well.

If you don't mind the drive, you could wind your way up the coast on Highway 1 to the stunning Lost Coast (WARNING: the last bit of the trip is a LONG winding road through giant redwoods called Hales Grove on Highway 208). If we had it to do again we'd have hightailed it straight to the Lost Coast (we stayed here in Shelter Cove) for the whole trip. If you do go to the Lost Coast you might not want to drive the coast way if you don't have a day to waste getting up there. You can just as easily take 101 all the way up and cut over in Garberville. It's MUCH faster. It took us about 5 hours to go from the Lost Coast back to the Bay Area on 101. It was easily twice as long taking the coast up there, but the drive was also twice as beautiful. Most of the inns and hotels in Shelter Cove overlook the ocean. And there are a lot of house and condo rentals as well. Oh and if you're not afraid of flying in small aircrafts, Shelter Cove has an airstrip so you could probably pay someone in Concord, Pleasanton or Vacaville to fly you there and you wouldn't have to drive at all. One more thing, the drive down to Shelter Cove is STEEP and windy so make sure your brakes are in good working order.
posted by wherever, whatever at 5:27 AM on March 25, 2009 [2 favorites]

Hot Springs? Massage? Day Hikes?

Okay, that's getting a little out of hand.

In any event, if the links aren't enough clue, everything you've described and more exists in the northern Napa Valley, in or around Calistoga. Lots of little places to poke around, hundreds of B&B's and tiny resorts, and more relaxation than you can think drowsily about shaking a stick at.
posted by Phineas Rhyne at 8:37 AM on March 25, 2009

Nevada City and Grass Valley would be a good bet, too.
posted by mudpuppie at 8:40 AM on March 25, 2009

I'm amused at your crossing out of "movie stars", but I hear Clint Eastwood like, hangs around Carmel...

Anyhoo, I second Nevada City and Grass Valley, though they might be a little chillier than you want. They're both "hippie" places that might be easier to find veg options to eat at too, and I like the bookstores there. Can't speak to the B&B's though as they have been filled up when I went there and I ended up at the Grass Valley Best Western (good place, though). I hear the Outside Inn in NC is supposed to be fun if you can swing it.
posted by jenfullmoon at 2:10 PM on March 25, 2009

Response by poster: All great ideas so far. I've been to Calistoga, and it definitely meets the criteria, but I'm not sure I'm going again this trip. To clarify, we have no pets, but we like to stay at B&Bs where there are friendly cats or dogs.
posted by BrotherCaine at 4:01 PM on March 25, 2009

Response by poster: Wound up going to SLO, staying in the oh so cheap Casa Grande Best Western in Arroyo Grande. Hiked, looked at art, checked out the local history, ate like pigs (shout out to Doc Bernstein's Ice Cream Lab!), and talked for a couple hours to a film store owner who is converting vintage photo booths to digital to rent out for events.

I liked all of the ideas though, and plan on future trips to Costanoa, Grass Valley, Calistoga, and especially the lost coast. I've been to most of those before, but they were definitely entertaining enough for a repeat.
posted by BrotherCaine at 1:06 AM on May 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

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