Driving SF to LA... where to stay?
June 16, 2015 1:40 PM   Subscribe

My wife and I are going to take a short break on the West Coast, visiting friends in SF and LA on consecutive weekends and taking the week to drive between the two along the coast down Route 1. We've not been to that part of the world before, so we'd welcome recommendations on cool places to stay and visit.
posted by 43rdAnd9th to Travel & Transportation around California (20 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Madonna Inn! It's roughly the halfway point. I have always wanted to go...
posted by Stewriffic at 1:43 PM on June 16, 2015 [5 favorites]

(Browse through the rooms and you'll see why I recommend it.)
posted by Stewriffic at 1:45 PM on June 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

Asilomar is a beautiful place to stay.

Cambria is also lovely, and very near Hearst Castle, which is pretty amazing.

Further south, Solvang is kitschy but fun (and has delicious pastries all over the place).
posted by mogget at 1:49 PM on June 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

Santa Barbara is super nice. Maybe too nice. There's a lot of nice shopping if that's your bag and the beach is nice.

We stayed at the Harbor House Inn and really liked it. The rooms are great, they have bikes to borrow to cruise the boardwalk.

If you want an unusual massage experience there's an artificial salt cave massage place. The massage was fine but man, there is a lot of salt there.
posted by GuyZero at 1:50 PM on June 16, 2015

It was some years ago, but my partner and I had a romantic time at Glen Oaks in Big Sur when we made that drive. It was rainy and having the gas fireplace was fantastic.
posted by cobaltnine at 2:06 PM on June 16, 2015

Deetjen's in Big Sur is pricy but beautiful. (I've seen the place and eaten at the restaurant but have not stayed there.)

Seconding Cambria too, I would definitely recommend finding a random place to stay there over going to the Madonna, which is good for maybe half an hour of "wow, how kooky" before you come to your senses and realize you've been suckered into spending a night in San Luis Obispo when you could've stayed on the coast instead.
posted by contraption at 2:17 PM on June 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

Burn a day in Monterrey and spend the night at Borg's! A fun walk to the aquarium, you'll find resistance futile when you see the cute beach you can swim at, and be assimilated into vacation mode in no time!
posted by vrakatar at 2:29 PM on June 16, 2015

We've gotten a cabin at the Fernwood Resort in Big Sur. We just got the cheapest one, so it was very simple accommodations, but they also have cabins with hot tub, fireplace, etc. And you can't beat the scenery.

Check Livingsocial, Groupon, etc. They seem to always be running deals on Big Sur hotels.
posted by roll truck roll at 2:48 PM on June 16, 2015

If you could give a little more detail on what you're after both budgetwise (are you doing this on a shoestring and camping out of your car? Looking for luxury resorts?) and interestswise (Beaches, hikes, wildlife, food, museums, bars?) it would help us narrow down the suggestions.
posted by contraption at 2:59 PM on June 16, 2015

Big Sur is pretty much magical. Spend a day and go hiking in Andrew Molera State Park, especially along the bluffs. The Glen Oaks Motor Inn is cute, and it has a good restaurant attached. Millions of other gorgeous hikes in the area, and lovely moody beaches.

If you have extra $$ to spend, the Sierra Mar restaurant is in the incredible Post Ranch Inn. The view is unbelievable - high on the cliffs, often with whales in the sea below you. It's incredibly expensive and a bit too concept-dining for me (even though I love expensive food) -- but very much an experience that is worth it. Plus it gives you access to walking around the grounds a little bit. If you can - get some time at the spa, then have cocktails and dinner in the restaurant -- it will be a day to remember!
posted by barnone at 3:02 PM on June 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

If you're going to be at Big Sur during the week, you may be able to get a campsite at Kirk Creek or Plaskett Creek campgrounds. It is bring-your-own-water-and-toilet-paper camping. Food and supplies are miles and miles away. You often can't have fires due to dry conditions.

These two campgrounds are among the finest in the world.

You can sign up for campsites online through recreation.gov. Do not be surprised if you get a knock on your tent flap at 6 am asking if you're going to be staying another night, because there's that kind of demand for staying there.
posted by infinitewindow at 3:12 PM on June 16, 2015

Another vote for Glen Oaks, which was quite nice when I last stayed there, though it's been a couple years. (I didn't visit their restaurant, but I'd bet it's good, and Deetjen's is supposed to be great too.)

The Madonna Inn in San Luis is a once in a lifetime experience. It's completely over the top and ridiculous. In my opinion, it's overpriced, and it's not the best hotel in terms of comfort or amenities, but it's such a goofy and crazy experience that I think it's worth looking into once. I'm glad I've stayed there. Just make sure to look into booking a room with a rock waterfall shower.

The Kon Tiki Inn in Pismo Beach is a nice, cheap, simple beachside hotel. It's no-frills but I've always enjoyed it as it's clean, dependable, and has a great location. (Again, though, it's been a couple years... but they seem to still get great reviews on Tripadvisor these days.)

I'd suggest spending some time in Big Sur, spending some time in San Luis Obispo (see if you can fit in a trip to the Thursday night farmer's market downtown), and then have a ball with the quirky small town stuff and wonderful vineyards in the Santa Ynez region (Santa Ynez, Solvang, Los Olivos, Buellton, etc).

And you can't go wrong with beautiful towns like Cambria, or Carmel... there are so many fun options.

You are getting plenty of excellent recommendations! I hope you love this area. It's a pretty special region.
posted by Old Man McKay at 3:14 PM on June 16, 2015

Please please please stay in a yurt at Treebones! It is amazing in every way.
posted by EtTuHealy at 6:56 PM on June 16, 2015

I'd say Cambria, or further south, San Luis Obispo or Morro Bay.

That stretch of coastline is stunningly gorgeous.
posted by persona au gratin at 2:22 AM on June 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

On the coast, I'm fond of Pismo Beach and the whole area around Avila/Oceano. There's lots of low-key tourist amenities. I stayed at the Spyglass Inn which was adequate and inexpensive. It's conveniently next door to The Dolphin Bay resort, an upscale place with a great restaurant for dinner. More details on my blog.

The wineries around Paso Robles / San Luis Obispo are worth a couple of hours. SLO is a nice college town too, good place for overnight if you don't want to be on the coast.

Hearst Castle is totally worth visiting. It's much better if you buy tickets in advance online.
posted by Nelson at 10:52 AM on June 17, 2015

Would definitely recommend spending a night in Monterey, at least check out the aquarium if not also kayaking on the bay.
Also, maybe hit Muir Woods before leaving the Bay Area
posted by rux at 11:54 AM on June 17, 2015

I find Muir Woods really, really busy. Big Basin may be slightly less busy - at least I've always been able to park there unlike Muir Woods.
posted by GuyZero at 12:06 PM on June 17, 2015

Thanks to everyone who has replied... there are a lot of options to consider here!

We're prepared to spend a bit on these few days, because it happens to be my 60th birthday during this week... part of the reason we're doing it. So I'm definitely going to consider Deetjen's -- they say the mobile reception is horrible and they don't do internet, which sounds just *grand* when it is just the two of us and the children are in England ;-)
posted by 43rdAnd9th at 1:39 PM on June 17, 2015

In that case it's also possible you'd be interested in Esalen Institute, which is kinda the quintessential Big Sur Hippie-Dippy Experience.
posted by contraption at 10:52 PM on June 17, 2015

My mom and I just drove down the coast a few months ago. We stayed in Cambria, which I highly recommend. As stated upthread, it's very close to Hearst Castle, as well as a beach that's often packed with elephant seals. There's a strip of beachfront street with a bunch of cute inns and hotels, as well as a couple great restaurants. We had an awesome dinner at Moonstone Beach Bar and Grill. The food and drinks were delicious, we sat on the outdoor deck despite the chilly evening, and the waitstaff brought us heated blankets to cover up with.
posted by darkchocolatepyramid at 9:06 AM on June 18, 2015

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