After sweltering on the sun’s anvil (better known as the Sacramento Valley) all summer long, who wouldn’t welcome an escape to the Pacific Coast? The ocean and a nice, comfortable room beckon, with water views, cool breezes and serenity. From Mendocino to San Diego, you can find just what you seek. Here’s a look at some of the best rooms at inns, B-and-Bs and hotels along the California coast.
Beach House of Half Moon Bay: Room 206
Half Moon Bay
Sacramento is a long way from Nantucket; fortunately, you can drive just two hours to the Beach House of Half Moon Bay for some New England ambiance. Cradled within the gentle embrace of Pillar Point Harbor near the serene burg of Princeton at the north end of the bay, the seaside hotel offers 54 romantic ocean-view lofts guaranteed to render a sense of calm.
Room 206, at the far north end of the long multigabled building, is typical: long and light, decorated in tones of butter and saffron, with a king-size bed elevated two steps above a lovely, comfortable lounging space, all leading to a bank of windows and sliding door out to a private deck.
The deep-blue water is just ahead (you can see it from anywhere in the room), lapping pleasantly, perhaps accented by the rhythmic baah of a foghorn and the song of shorebirds. Your eye will be drawn around the long crescent of the bay and, if the setting doesn’t simply knock you off your feet, you can readily descend the short bluff to walk for miles along the water, dip your toes or find a spot to sunbathe and snooze. A paved trail leads up to the close-by harbor area, where you’ll find shops and restaurants.
During your stay, treat yourself to a private, in-room yoga session or indulge in a menu of spa treatments (prices not included in room rates). Afterward, relax beside the fireplace or soak in the room’s whirlpool tub.
Call the hotel to ask about specials, such as the Coastal Couples Package, which includes champagne, a bottle of wine and $75 gift certificate to the nearby Cetrella Bistro and Cafe (650-726-4090), specializing in Mediterranean cuisine. Book now for an October stay to enjoy the great Half Moon Bay Art and Pumpkin Festival (Oct. 14–15 this year).
-Beach House of Half Moon Bay, 4100 North Cabrillo Highway,
Half Moon Bay; (800) 315-9366; beach-house.com
Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay—With its picture-perfect, first-class accommodations and one-of-a-kind perch on the water’s edge, the Ritz-Carlton in Half Moon Bay overlooks 50 miles of coastline. With 261 deluxe guest rooms, an oceanfront yoga studio, a co-ed candlelit Roman mineral bath and whirlpool on the ocean bluff, and new spa cuisine to savor, plus 36 holes of golf, the Ritz is tough to beat.
The Ritz-Carlton, One Miramontes Point Road, Half Moon Bay; (800) 241-3333; ritzcarlton.com
The Inn at Spanish Bay: Room 2512
The words “Pebble Beach” evoke images of luxury, wealth and beauty. The Inn at Spanish Bay, a Pebble Beach resort on the world-famous 17-Mile Drive, delivers on all three counts, and includes a coveted collection of ocean-view rooms. Even persistent fog can’t diminish the beauty of the place, and when the fog burns off, the verdant green of the fescue-grass golf links, the mix of sage, violet, dappled gold and sundry browns of the native vegetation, and the foamy blue-green ocean burst even more brightly before your eyes.
Room 2512 overlooks the opening and closing holes of The Links at Spanish Bay and the mile-long arching bay (called Spanish Bay due to explorer Don Gaspar de Portola’s visit here in 1769). Your eyes take in a complex of brushy sand dunes and soft beach sweeping around to scenic Point Joe and Restless Sea Vista Point, an easy stroll if you are so inclined. Step out onto the balcony and plop down in a weathered wooden chair, or gaze from within the room, where you also can flop on a king-size bed, soak in a deep tub and warm yourself by a gas fireplace. In the afternoons, marvel at the sight of deer coming out to graze, even as strollers and golfers pass by.
Staying at the 270-room inn gives you access to all of the glories of the area, including the drive, the equestrian center (guided trail rides), the magnificent spa (where else could you ask for crème brûlée and mean one of the fabulous body treatments), clothes and art shopping and, of course, the world’s greatest collection of golf courses. (Pebble Beach will host the PGA U.S. Open in 2010.)
Dining options include Pèppoli Italian restaurant at the inn. Try the seared scallops with cauliflower purée and lobster sauce appetizer, followed by the whole roasted fish stuffed with aromatic greens and lemon slices, prepared tableside. Special holiday dinners are planned for Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Eve.
Don’t miss the eloquent sound of a solo bagpiper in early eve-ning, at once melancholy and uplifting. Get one of the hotel’s throw blankets, find a seat in the “fire pit patio” outdoors and share a repast with other guests. Or retreat to the privacy and comfort of your own room and observe the scampering surf as it gently crests and tumbles across the rocky reefs below.
-The Inn at Spanish Bay, 17-Mile Drive, Pebble Beach; (800) 654-9300; pebblebeach.com
Tickle Pink Inn, Carmel—Intimate and undeniably gorgeous, the Tickle Pink Inn sits on a lush wooded perch above the rocky, foamy sea that defines the Carmel Highlands. The 35 rooms all are meticulously appointed in contemporary European style and take in phenomenal views of the churning coastline below.
Tickle Pink Inn, 155 Highland Drive,
Carmel; (800) 635-4774; ticklepinkinn.com
Sea Rock Inn: Room 11
Surging and rollicking on a wind-swept rising tide, the restless cobalt-blue sea batters Agate Cove below Sea Rock Inn on the Mendocino coast. Gulls sweep in circles above the waves while hidden birds sing amid the cypress trees. Room 11 of the inn—upstairs in a central building on the property, surrounded by a cluster of bungalows and cabins—takes in this oceanside setting via a narrow deck fitted with a pair of chairs and from within, through a broad picture window. The view from the inn, which sits on a bluff overlooking Agate Cove, includes the majestic Mendocino Headlands, around the corner from the town of Mendocino itself.
The air is bright and distinctive, like the room: actually a two-room suite with a wood-burning fireplace, four-poster king featherbed, and original oils and watercolors adorning the walls. In the bath, an oval soaking tub is situated for privacy, with a large window of its own embracing the ocean view. A complimentary bottle of wine, a listing of suggested local hikes and a handy pair of binoculars make your stay complete.
Less than a mile away, picturesque Mendocino offers its own charms, from timeless architecture to numerous galleries, shops, restaurants and a busy calendar of events. On Sept. 9, the 22nd annual Winesong charity auction, wine and food tasting takes place. (See winesong.com for details.) For dinner, Cafe Beaujolais is outstanding, renowned for sturgeon and a fresh daily menu under the confident direction of new owner/chef David LaMonica (707-937-5614; cafebeaujolais.com).
Sea Rock Inn is maintained with genuine warmth and grace by owners Andy and Susie Plocher, who took it over in 1994 and have steadily improved it ever since. The latest addition: a massage facility. (Let Susie set you up with talented Annette Marquis.) Breakfast is served in the inn’s dining room and includes a generous selection of specialty breads and muffins, fruit, tarts, quiche, coffee and juices. Completing the scene are wide green lawns, flower gardens and a pair of large benches hewn from local driftwood, perched on the edge of the bluff.
This is a little bit of bliss. Feel the wind on your face and let a perfect golden sunset erase thoughts of work,
-heat and burden.
Sea Rock Inn, 11101 Lansing St., Mendocino; (800) 906-0926; searock.com
The Inn Above Tide: Ocean Vista Room
There’s a good reason they call this charming, elegant bed-and-breakfast on the edge of Sausalito The Inn Above Tide. The three-story, redwood-sided inn, just a few paces away from the ferry dock, juts out over the lapping waters of the San Francisco Bay. Every room enjoys a broad view of the bay and San Francisco—stretching from Angel Island across the entire sweep of downtown and continuing to the Presidio. Your room includes a set of high-quality binoculars and a map of local landmarks so you can thoroughly indulge your eyes.
The Ocean Vista Room, on the southeast-facing corner of the inn, has a near-total wall of windows, broken up only by a curvaceous wood-burning fireplace, with a sliding door that opens to a private, L-shaped balcony. Glass panels along the perimeter add to the sense of hovering above the water. Padded chaise lounges and chairs beckon you to rest and gaze. Depending on day and season, you may witness hundreds of sailboats taking flight, a lowly tugboat laying off for the evening, the string of pearls that is the Bay Bridge at night or a huge tanker ship moving like a vast shadow past the flickering lights of San Francisco.
In the room, appointments are understated but first class all the way: an all-feather king-size poster bed (adorned by long fabric drapes you can pull around for complete privacy), a whirlpool bathtub, stereo system and other essentials. Tasteful artwork, blooming orchids and a fresh-cut rose or two lend touches of grace.
If you can tear yourself away, explore Sausalito’s art galleries and restaurants. Consider the excellent Italian cuisine of Poggio Trattoria, where you can dine alfresco (415-332-7771;
poggiotrattoria.com). For breakfast, The Inn Above Tide serves an assortment of fresh pastries, fruit, bagels, coffee, and juices. Help yourself and then return to one of the most captivating view rooms you’ll ever occupy.
-The Inn Above Tide, 30 El Portal, Sausalito; (800) 893-8433; innabovetide.com
Fort Ross Lodge: Room K-17
Just north of historic Fort Ross Russian Settlement, the understated, naturally serene Fort Ross Lodge is not the swankiest place in the world. But that’s part of its overall charm. It’s just you, the sea and a complete absence of extraneous fuss. If you seek a rugged, unspoiled stretch of Sonoma coast, at once relaxing and reinvigorating, and want little to do except drink in the scenery, this is your place.
All of the rooms invite you to relax; each is as cozy and individual as a friend’s guest room. For the best of the ocean-view rooms, consider K-17, farthest away from everything and everyone. Lie on the king-size bed, look out to the rolling sea from your plush, plump pillow and hear not a sound except the surf below.
Further unwind in your own sheltered outdoor hot tub on the patio (or the in-room soaking tub) before or after a cleansing session in the resort’s sauna. Close by, a walking trail drops down to the beach; it’s a little steep and rough but just fine. In the cove, seals lounge on rocky outcroppings.
When you return to your room, light a wood fire and think about dinner. Fort Ross Store, just across the street from the lodge, stocks steaks, seafood, deli fixings and beverages, so you can do it yourself on your private patio. (The room has a small refrigerator and microwave; a barbecue is on the patio.) If you don’t want to cook, nearby Timber Cove Inn (800-987-8319; timbercoveinn.com) has a great bar and restaurant, or drive a little farther into Jenner; the Salt Point Lodge Bar & Grill makes a savory ahi sashimi steak, rolled in sesame seeds, quickly seared, served with wasabi cream soy sauce, Thai rice and vegetables (707-847-3234; saltpointlodgebarandgrill.com).
Whatever you decide, you’ll adore the chance to kick back, relax and be at peace in the presence of the sea.
-Fort Ross Lodge, 20705 Coast Highway 1, Jenner; (707) 847-3333; fortrosslodge.com
Georgian Hotel: Suite 703
Built in 1933, the Georgian Hotel in Santa Monica is a classic seaside destination recalling the golden era of Hollywood. It still has the original secluded speakeasy where Charlie Chaplin, Clark Gable, Bugsy Segal and Carole Lombard would gather to drink illicitly, then ride the old wood-paneled elevators upstairs to bed. From all the rooms—including suite 703, high and central in the turquoise and gold eight-story hotel—large windows frame views of palm-tree-lined Palisades Park, the broad beaches and rolling waves of Santa Monica Bay and, nearby, the historic Santa Monica Pier with its signature carousel.
With 9-foot-high ceilings and French doors dividing the living and sleeping areas, spacious 703 is decorated in tones of sand, cardamom, cumin and cinnamon, with furnishings leaning toward the art deco style. Amenities include ceiling fans, two televisions, a whirlpool tub and king bed. Downstairs, the lobby area offers the Veranda for meals and drinks. For breakfast (not included in your room rate), try poached eggs with lobster sauce on potato/shrimp cakes or French toast soufflé, an original Georgian recipe, served with warm syrup and fresh fruit. Lunches and dinners are available, too, via rapid delivery from nearby restaurants such as Ocean Ave Seafood next door.
The Georgian Hotel has a small, efficient exercise room and massage services are available (including in your room). The hotel is conveniently close to the Pacific Coast Highway and Interstate 10, which takes you straight to downtown Los Angeles.
The old speakeasy is reserved for special events; if you have family in Los Angeles, a reunion would be just swell here. Besides the grassy park and scrubbed-clean beach, you can walk to shop in the huge Santa Monica Place mall or along the festive Third Street Promenade, which includes restaurants, bars, galleries and stores such as Abercrombie & Fitch and Z Gallerie. Highly popular with locals and tourists alike, Third Street Promenade is a prime place for people-watching. You might want to hit the arcades and amusement park on the pier, or get into a pickup game of volleyball at Muscle Beach, then try a little bodysurfing.
Return to your room and watch the sun go down, imagining what it might have been like when even Fatty Arbuckle was a big star, waiting for you in a red leather booth downstairs to knock back a Georgiantini (vodka and curaçao with a peel of lemon, in keeping with the hotel’s color scheme).
-Georgian Hotel, 1415 Ocean Ave., Santa Monica; (800) 538-8147; georgianhotel.com
The Cliffs Resort: Room 209
“Awesome” is just one way to describe the views from The Cliffs Resort in Pismo Beach. “Spellbinding, inspiring, sweeping”—all give a sense of what your room with a view offers: more than 30 miles of coastline from the rugged foothills and deep water of Avila Beach to the north and the vast complex of sand dunes that make up Oceano Beach and Point Sal to the south. In between: endless miles of Pacific Ocean, a show of huge brown pelicans soaring and diving for their catch, and the pulsating surf at the base of the 150-foot cliffs that give the resort its name.
In Room 209, one of 165 rooms and suites, you are treated to a king-size bed from which you can view the horizon, and a whirlpool tub with a mirrored wall to catch the reflection of the sky. The color scheme is all about the beach—tones of sand, driftwood and seashells will make you crave the outdoors. Below, a central swimming pool and adjacent hot tub form a gathering place for guests; so too does the 4 to 7 p.m. happy hour at the lively Sea Cliffs Restaurant. (During happy hour on Fridays, tacos are free.)
The Cliffs is a great staging area for exploring the lightly populated, largely unspoiled Central Coast. Kayak in the nearby Morro Bay estuary, take an eco-tour, golf or indulge your inner child by driving dune buggies at Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreational Area.
To sample regional wines, you can hit the road or try Taste, a new, innovative wine bar in nearby San Luis Obispo where you can sample more than 70 San Luis Obispo wines in one location (5828 Orcutt Road; 805-541-5868). For abundant produce, visit Avila Valley Barn just minutes from the hotel. Hearst Castle is about an hour’s drive to the north.
Whatever you do, savor the gorgeous views. Hundreds of miles from both San Francisco and Los Angeles, especially on a clear day during a luxurious California sunset, the horizon doesn’t get much sharper than this.
-The Cliffs Resort, 2757 Shell Beach Road, Pismo Beach; (800) 826-5838; cliffsresort.com
La Valencia Hotel: Ocean Villa Three
Bougainvillea, bamboo, bird of paradise and ubiquitous palm trees; a sultry breeze in the afternoon; a lightly fragrant orchid at your elbow; and a direct sightline to the warm waters of La Jolla Cove—all are part of your experience at one of the Ocean Villas at La Valencia Hotel, minutes north of San Diego.
Known as “The Pink Lady of La Jolla,” this sprawling Mediterranean-inspired landmark has a long legacy of elegance and service, from its inception in 1926 to its listing among the Historic Hotels of America in 1989. Ranging from 400 to 1,500 square feet, the 15 villas were introduced in 1990. Ocean Villa Three, with its vaulted, beamed ceilings, is open and airy, with two floor-to-ceiling mirrored walls to expand the sense of space, plantation-shuttered doors and well-defined living, dining and sleeping areas. In the living room, you can relax on the long sofa facing the ocean or step onto the balcony (oriented to provide quiet and privacy) and lounge on a padded chair and ottoman.
Inside, club chairs face a plasma television or swivel toward the fireplace. The bathroom is huge, with two sink areas, whirlpool tub and another TV. The walk-in shower doubles as a steam room with one regular and two direct-down showerheads. The bedroom contains a king-size bed, third TV and a complete stereo system that pipes music throughout the entire suite. You’re never going to want to leave.
The hotel has a central swimming pool and several restaurants. At lobby level, the Whaling Bar and Grill is reminiscent of a seaside pub, specializing in steaks and seafood. Also, the Mediterranean Room and Tropical Patio serves breakfast, lunch and dinner (seafood is the emphasis) in a Spanish-themed dining room and flower-filled patio. The intimate 10th-floor Sky Room is undergoing renovation and should reopen next year with a new menu and enhanced panoramic views of the coast.
La Jolla offers lots of shops and a bevy of fine restaurants. For great seafood and live music, consider innovative Fresh (858-551-7575; freshseafoodrestaurant.com). Start with tuna tartare with ponzu and sesame lavash, followed by coriander-crusted mahi-mahi, sautéed tilapia or white prawn-crusted sea bass.
You can walk to grassy Scripps Park and reach the bluffs. Nearby is the so-called Children’s Pool. Originally built as a safe area for kids because it’s sheltered from the swells, it’s now a protected area for dozens of lounging sea lions, who seem untroubled by the abundance of gulls and cormorants in their midst.
-La Valencia Hotel, 1132 Prospect St., La Jolla; (800) 451-0772; lavalencia.com