SoCal Costal Hotels for Overnight Getaway?
December 14, 2013 2:18 PM   Subscribe

My girlfriend and I both have some time off between Christmas and New Years Day. We'd like to take a one-day roadtrip somewhere along the southern California coast, get a hotel, hang out on the beach a while, sleep, come home the next afternoon. We're located in Santa Monica, and on a pretty tight budget. Ideas for great little spots/hotels?

We've talked about San Diego and Santa Barbara, but are totally open to other ideas. I'm relatively new to the area, so you can safely assume I know nothing. Things that would be awesome, if possible: in-room jacuzzi/hot tub/roman tub; walking distance (< a mile or so) to the beach. We'd prefer somewhere relatively quiet -- We're looking for more "cozy/relaxing" and less "nightlife!" I imagine doing that on a budget during a busy time is going to be impossible, so I'm totally open to ideas that lack one or both of those 'nice to haves' but are otherwise cool.

I just read this previous question, and it's sounding like Santa Barbara might be a good idea; any specific hotel recommendations?
posted by Alterscape to Travel & Transportation around Los Angeles, CA (15 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I think pointing due north is a good plan, given your short trip. It's a much prettier drive up PCH than doing the 405 schlepp-a-roonie -- the drive becomes one of the delights of the trip -- and from Santa Monica, you are an easy shot to SB.

Having said that:

What about staying closer in, at Pt Dume? If you are willing to give up the jacuzzi component, and are open to airbnb, this place looks kinda sweet location-wise and is a good price. You'll have super-top-secret-keyed-staircase-access to the pretty beach at Little Dume, and you could wander to the small but quite nice shopping plaza at Dume, which includes a really decent low-key eatery: The Duck Dive, plus a coffee shop and rather posh outdoor recliners for you to lounge upon.

If you are outdoorsy, there is a super pretty top secret hiking trail in the hills very nearby that you could probably walk gives you a nice sense of being away from L.A. I can Memail you directions if you decide to go this route.

Pt Dume really has a different vibe than Santa Monica, and I think would give you that away-from-it-all feeling without having to do a long drive or contend with SB prices.
posted by nacho fries at 2:49 PM on December 14, 2013

Santa Barbara is lovely, but maybe not as beachy as you might imagine.

You might want to check out Encinitas or some of the other towns nearby. It's a totally chill surfer scene, nice little neighborhoods right along the PCH. There's probably a million cool places along the PCH, though... we thought Laguna Beach was awesome the last time we went through there.
posted by ph00dz at 3:01 PM on December 14, 2013

(Correction to my previous post: here is the link to the Pt Dume Duck Dive resto. Sorry about that.)
posted by nacho fries at 3:05 PM on December 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'd do a weekend in San Luis Obispo. Stay at The Masonna Inn. See Hearst Castle. Mmmmm.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 3:29 PM on December 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

OK, this fails your beachy requirement, but why not Palm Springs area? It will be much warmer than anywhere coastal during that week. There are tons of hotels, including cheap ones, and you can hang out by the pool instead of the beach. This is what Palm Springs is made for - winter getaways from LA! I also recommend riding the aerial tramway up to the top of Mt Jacinto - there may be snow up top. Ride back down and hop in a hot tub.
posted by Joh at 3:45 PM on December 14, 2013

Typo correction to Ruthless Bunny's suggestion: that's the Madonna Inn, the great "tax write-off turned campy, somewhat expensive hotel experience." The Madonna Inn is not for those on a tight budget, but then again, nor are in-room jacuzzis/hot tubs/roman tubs. So when you say "pretty tight budget," what do you mean? What's a ballpark figure for hotels per night?

Santa Monica to San Luis Obispo is roughly 3 hours, and it's another hour to Hearst Castle, so it's a doable day schedule, and one that could be pretty relaxed, with stops at various beaches along the way. BUT it's not all surf and sand, so if that's your goal and you're OK traveling north of Santa Barbara, there are a number of nice little beachy communities in the region of SLO that are actually near the beach (San Luis is ~ 10 miles from the coast). Avila is small and cute, but the beach is also small, so it can easily get mobbed. On the upside, you can walk up the road a bit and get to another beach area, and that's generally quieter. Go down the coast, and you have Shell Beach (tiny community), Pismo Beach (bigger community, still along the beach) and Grover Beach (bigger community, not all beachy). Between these four areas, there are a ton of hotel options near the beach. For another set of options, there's Morro Bay, which is another beachy little town with a good number of hotels. Unfortunately, I can't recommend one hotel over another, as I lived in the area and never stayed in hotels (beyond the Madonna, which was a fun, gaudy experience, but it didn't really lend much more to the hotel experience that I say you have to stay there - go in, see the general gaudy interior design and men's bathroom where you can pee on the wall/waterfall, maybe buy a decadent dessert, and head on elsewhere).

To be honest, I'm not sure what the general crowds might be at the beach between Christmas and New Years. The beaches will not be warm, but they're still not terrible for folks who want to bundle up a bit and kick sand around for a while. But because it is between the prime holidays, you might actually find crowds. If you really want a stretch of beach to yourselves, you can stay in Morro Bay or Los Osos (there are a few hotels, but they're more expensive) and drive towards the Montana Del Oro State Park, somewhere around here when you're past most of the houses, and pull off in one of the (un)official pull-outs at a trail head. Walk to the sand spit, and you'll have a lot more solitude on the sand.
posted by filthy light thief at 4:06 PM on December 14, 2013

I stayed at Crystal Cove Beach Cottages once at this time of year on short notice (someone cancelled their reservation, and we were on a waiting list...that said, I think they usually book up pretty far in advance). Totally charming historic beach cottages.

Other than that, I would try Airbnb....
posted by three_red_balloons at 4:49 PM on December 14, 2013 [2 favorites]

I'll throw in one more voice suggesting you make the drive up to the San Luis Obispo area. It's not all that far of a trip, and it's extremely relaxing.

In San Luis, the Madonna Inn doesn't really have in-room jacuzzis... but it is a one of a kind experience (especially if you stay in one of the rock rooms with a rock waterfall shower).

You could stay in Morro Bay, a relaxing little town. A couple hotels do have in-room jacuzzis, and at the bay, there are good beaches and great places to kayak. The Inn at Morro Bay just remodeled. I haven't stayed there in many years, but I enjoyed it when I did (take that recommendation with a grain of salt though).

You could also stay on Pismo Beach. I always hype the Kon Tiki Inn as an affordable, relaxing place to stay. No in-room jacuzzi, but right on the beach, fantastic views, and walking distance from good places to eat.

For activities, the downtown SLO Thursday night farmer's market is tremendous... good food, good flowers, lots of restaurants that set up carts and tents, and plenty of local products. Downtown SLO also has some tasty tri-tip and pizza places. Go to Kayak Horizons in Morro Bay to rent kayaks that you can use to cruise around the harbor, watch birds, chase sea otters, and see the scenery.

The SLO area is perfect for a relaxing vacation. There's good outdoor stuff to do, lots of great restaurants that also aren't all that expensive, tremendous wineries in the Santa Ynez area, and fun touristy areas to walk around like downtown San Luis Obispo or Solvang.
posted by Old Man McKay at 5:24 PM on December 14, 2013

Also in the SLO area: if you go to Hearst Castle, the elephant seal colony 4 miles further north is free and astonishing.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 5:43 PM on December 14, 2013

Best answer: I live just over the hill from Laguna Beach and I'm convinced that it is one of the most charming, romantic, and unique beach towns in the U.S.

I have never stayed in any of the hotels there since I live about 10 minutes away, but I have heard amazing things about Casa Laguna. It's a small and rustic bed and breakfast that is about a 3 walk block from my favorite beach in the world. Rooms will probably be around 250 a night. While I can't promise an in room hot tub, I know they have an on site spa and heated pool. You will also find the privacy and quiet you are looking for; it is located off PCH in a residential section of the town, but is still close enough to some of the great restaurants and shops Laguna is known for. Around New Years, you will have the city (and more importantly the beaches) mostly all to yourselves.

Enjoy your trip wherever you decide on going!
posted by supertramp at 10:20 PM on December 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I'll re-plug Casa Laguna (my folks have stayed there while visiting my in-laws and for various events), and the larger Laguna Beach area as a whole. Getting in and out of town on the weekend can be a pain in the butt, but Laguna is a gem, if beachy stuff is the goal. The difficulty of getting there (until the mid nineties there was no decent access from I-5, and you still have to take a windy two-lane up the canyon over) means that it kept a distinct regional and old-timey character that the rest of OC's beach towns lost as the economy of the county shifted.

Upthread, Crystal Coves stuff counts as Laguna-ish.

I never in a million years thought I would love any part of Southern California, but it's my wife's hometown and I love it like a family member.
posted by mwhybark at 11:49 PM on December 14, 2013

I also came in to mention the Madonna Inn. The Kon Tiki is pleasant too. This being December I also second the suggestion for Palm Springs. Ojai is nice but very...Ojai, and sort of touristy in some ways and not the cheapest; see also: Carmel. If you do end up in Santa Barbara, do check out Solvang, which is cute.
posted by kmennie at 7:35 AM on December 15, 2013

I've stayed at the Embassy Suites in Oxnard a couple of times. Nothing spectacular, but seems to fit what you're looking for and would save quite a bit of driving over some of the other suggestions.
posted by doctord at 9:13 AM on December 17, 2013

Response by poster: We booked an overnight in Casa Laguna. It's in a couple of weeks, so I'll report back here. Thanks for the recommendations everyone!
posted by Alterscape at 9:05 PM on December 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Many thanks to mwhybark and supertramp. Casa Laguna was great. We got one of the north-facing rooms with an ocean-view balcony for one night. Great location (though the parking structure with overhanging rooms and wood-beam supports is.. quaint.. leave your wide/long SUV at home! Our S40 was tight). The staff was outstanding; wine and cheese in the evening, great breakfast, close proximity to some pretty great restaurants down the way. A+ would recommend again.
posted by Alterscape at 11:32 PM on January 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

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