When it comes to lodging in the Central Coast, travelers enjoy a wealth of choices. A sprawling resort with swimming pools and a mega-spa? A hotel with 24-hour dining and concierge services? Or a trusted, dependable brand— say Ritz-Carlton or Four Seasons, Hyatt or Kimpton? We’ve got it all.
Larger properties offer many perks and amenities. But some folks prefer to stay at small, intimate lodges that feel a lot like home—only better! “I nearly always seek out the smaller places that reflect the owner’s unique character,” says a friend and colleague who travels often. She prefers more solitude and a homelike atmosphere to a busy hotel with a lively nightlife scene and dozens (or hundreds) of rooms. “A weekend at a cozy inn, where I can curl up with a book by the fireplace and chat with other guests over wine and homemade appetizers—that’s my kind of escape.”
To help you find those escapes, we’ve created a list of our favorite Central Coast B&B’s, inns and hotels—with no more than 20 rooms—in Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties. All offer the cozy one-of-a-kind experience that only a small inn can provide.
Simpson House Inn
Tall hedges surround this luxury bed-and-breakfast inn, filled with antiques and lauded around the globe for its excellent service and elegant Victorian atmosphere. It encompasses an acre of manicured English gardens in a residential neighborhood, just a short walk from Santa Barbara’s arts and culture district. The Victorian main house, built in 1874, has 15 guest rooms, suites and cottages, including four junior suites and five cottages, each with a wood-burning fireplace. Guests are welcome to relax in comfy chairs that speckle the gardens, porches, living room and library. Rates include a gourmet breakfast and evening appetizers and wine, Wi-Fi, bicycles and parking. You can also arrange for massages and spa services in your room. The inn is just a few blocks from the Arlington and Granada theaters, and it’s an easy walk to all downtown attractions and shuttle buses. 121 E. Arrellaga St. • 805/963-7067 • simpsonhouseinn.com.
English tradition blends seamlessly with upscale Santa Barbara style at The Cheshire Cat, an elegant bed-and-breakfast in Santa Barbara’s arts and culture district. Owner Christine Dunstan hails from Cheshire, England. When she purchased two Queen Anne Victorian homes on a single lot a block from State Street in 1985, she decided to remodel them in traditional British innkeeper fashion and a whimsical Alice in Wonderland theme throughout. The Victorian buildings hold 12 rooms, and many are named for Alice in Wonderland characters, e.g., Duchess, Dormouse, Mock Turtle. Many rooms have original fireplaces, sitting areas, and balconies; one has a spa tub. In the 1990s Dunstan built a coach house with two rooms with kitchenettes (one with a living room) and acquired four cottages across the street, each with two bedrooms and full kitchen. The inn is filled with fascinating antiques collected by family members. 36 W. Valerio St. • 805/569-1610 • cheshirecat.com.
Inn on Summer Hill
Perched on a hill overlooking the ocean at the border of Montecito and Summerland, just south of Santa Barbara, this luxury bed-and-breakfast inn (built in 1989) looks like an authentic historic California Craftsman home and feels like an ultra-elegant English country manor. The 16 individually decorated rooms (really mini-suites) reflect a blend of contemporary and antique furnishings. All have laminated wood floors, canopy beds with puffy duvets, fireplaces, flat-screen TVs, refrigerators, Wi-Fi, whirlpool tubs and fabulous ocean views from a private balcony or patio (choose a second-floor room for the best views). The tranquil setting includes an outdoor hot tub and sitting areas. You won’t go hungry here—guests rave about the gourmet breakfast in the fireside dining room, afternoon appetizers with wine and cheese, and bedtime desserts. Add to your bliss with treatments in the dedicated massage room (be sure to make advance arrangements before you arrive). 2520 Lillie Ave. • 805/969-9998 • innonsummerhill.com.
Tiffany Country House at The Upham Hotel
Banker Amasa Lincoln (a relative of Abraham Lincoln) built the New England-style Upham Hotel in 1871. Cyrus Upham changed the name to Hotel Upham after he bought the property in 1898. The Upham’s Victorian main building and cottages occupy an acre of gardens and grounds in Santa Barbara’s downtown arts and culture district. But those seeking a traditional bed-and-breakfast experience ask for rooms in the Upham’s century-old Tiffany Country House, a restored Victorian manor that holds eight traditional bed-and-breakfast rooms. Popular rooms include the Victoria, with its king bed, fireplace and whirlpool tub. Looking for a special romantic retreat? Stay in The Penthouse, which occupies the entire third floor and has a living room, fireplace, spa tub, waterfall shower and a private terrace with mountain views. Fine dining is just a short walk away at the Upham’s excellent onsite restaurant, Louie’s California Bistro. 1323 De la Vina St. • 805/962-0058 • countryhousesantabarbara.com.
Looking for seclusion in a country setting? Head to the tiny town of Ballard, two miles south of Los Olivos, and check into Ballard Inn, one of the most romantic lodgings in Santa Ynez Valley. This elegant retreat offers 15 traditional bed-and-breakfast rooms, seven of which have wood-burning fireplaces. All rooms are decorated in different themes, designed to capture the valley’s history and character. Most popular rooms include the spacious Vineyard Room, with hardwood floors and a circular bay window overlooking the historic Ballard Country Church, and Mountain Room, with views of the historic town from a private balcony. The fabulous onsite restaurant, The Gathering Table, is one of the main draws, since chef-owner Budi Kazali serves some of finest French- Asian farm-to-table food in Southern California (open for dinner Wed.–Sun.). He whips up a mighty fine breakfast, too, which is included in the rate. 2436 Baseline Ave. • 805/688-7770 • ballardinn.com.
Mirabelle Inn and Restaurant
Think Copenhagen, Paris and New York—now imagine a four-story home (or inn) that blends the cultures and aesthetic of all three. That’s the Mirabelle—a cozy 12-room refuge in the heart of downtown Solvang—a block or two (but a world away) from the busier tourist arteries. Bernard and Jonathan Rosenson, father-and-son owners of Coquelicot Estate Vineyard, purchased the property in 2015. They kept the former property’s name and elegant décor while transforming the restaurant into one of Solvang’s best. Famed chef Steven Snook creates flexible hyper-local seasonal menus (with small and large plate options) that trigger all five senses at First & Oak. Each individually decorated room has a private bath and luxurious bedding. Some have fireplaces and/or whirlpool or claw-foot tubs. Head up to the guest library for a warm hearth or to sip wine in the lounge. Rates include a full breakfast in the dining room. 409 1st St. • 805/688-1703 • mirabelleinn.com.
Fess Parker Wine Country Inn and Spa
Fess Parker, the legendary actor who portrayed Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone on TV in the ‘50s and ‘60s, purchased The Grand Hotel in the heart of Los Olivos in 1998 and renamed it Fess Parker Wine Country Inn & Spa. Now owned and operated by his descendants, the luxe lodge was completely remodeled in 2012. The inn is home to one of the valley’s best restaurants, The Bear and Star, where famed chef John Cox (formerly at Post Ranch Inn) creates one-of-a-kind menus that blend refined ranch cuisine (a tribute to Chef Cox’s and Fess Parker’s Texas roots) and fresh, seasonal California ingredients. The 19 spacious luxury rooms (including seven suites) have wet bars, fireplaces and Wi-Fi. An annex across the street holds the inn’s pool and day spa, where you can pamper yourself with an array of treatments. 2860 Grand Ave. • 805/688-7788 • fessparkerinn.com.
Set amid vineyards at the 55-acre Sunstone Winery estate in Santa Barbara wine country, this luxurious, Tuscan-inspired villa reflects Old World architecture and interior design. It was completed in 2004, built entirely from artifacts and materials recovered from European buildings and rural villages. The palatial residence has 8,500 square feet of living space, including five master suites with private baths, eight fireplaces, a billiards room, and numerous terraces and patios with views of the mountains and vineyard. The residence can accommodate up to ten guests, and the venue can host up to 80 guests for private gatherings. 125 Refugio Rd. • 805/688-9463 • sunstonewinery.com/sunstone-villa.
This luxury B&B is a veritable dream-come-true of four friends, who delighted in gathering in their backyards to enjoy good wine, fine food and great music. Jim and Debbie Campbell and Dave and Katie Pollock mused about possibilities and thought: Why not create a similar social hub for guests? Fast forward to 2005, and the opening of the upscale Craftsman farmhouse-style ForFriends Inn, where guests (often friends, or strangers who form friendships) gather to enjoy wine, food and music in a homelike setting. The inn has eight rooms: six in a main building, and a cottage and tower suite that border an expansive garden area. Each has a California king bed, premium linens, a balcony or outside seating area, and a fireplace or stove; and all have either jacuzzi tubs or walk-in showers. Rates include a three-course breakfast and late happy hour with wine and hors d’ouevres— sometimes with live acoustic music on the garden stage. 1121 Edison St. • 805/693-0303 • forfriendsinn.com.
Santa Ynez Inn
Walk to restaurants, shops and attractions from this posh two-story Victorian-style building, perched on historic Sagunto Street in downtown Santa Ynez. The 20 spacious rooms (500 square feet or more) all have plush beds and many have fireplaces. Deluxe rooms have spa tubs with jets; some also have semi-private patios and balconies. Splurge on a suite, and you’ll also get to relax in an oversized marble bathroom with whirlpool tubs and steam showers. Downstairs, you can book a massage in the onsite spa or unwind in the sauna or hot tub. Top-of-the-line amenities include a full gourmet breakfast served in an elegant dining room, afternoon wine and cheese in the cozy library, a passport to local wine-tasting rooms, HDTV and Wi-Fi, free parking and a Tesla charging station. Need a venue for a special event? Book the newly remodeled Coach House, with a stunning bar and expansive dining room. 3627 Sagunto St. • 805/688-5588 • santaynezinn.com.
SAN LUIS OBISPO
Walk through a quaint cobblestone courtyard and enter a magical door into Petit Soleil, a French provincial bed-and-breakfast at the upper end of Monterey Street, five blocks from downtown SLO and a short drive to Cal Poly. Each of the 15 rooms are unique and hold beds of varying numbers and sizes. All have private baths, TVs, and Wi-Fi, and reflect rustic charm, the colors of Provence and whimsical elements. For a premium French experience, book Joie de Vivre, the inn’s 540-square-foot grand suite, with a king bed and living area with a fireplace, wet bar and refrigerator and a sofa bed. Head to the cozy dining room or the sunny back patio to taste local and French wines and appetizers every evening, and feast on fresh-brewed coffee and a gastronome breakfast in the morning. 1473 Monterey St. • 805/549-0321 • psslo.com.
Granada Hotel and Bistro
SAN LUIS OBISPO
The Hotel Granada, originally built in 1922 in downtown San Luis Obispo, operated as a hotel for nearly 50 years. Next door was the Elmo Theatre, SLO’s main vaudeville venue, and the hotel housed many traveling artists and actors. But word on the street hinted that rooms were rented by the hour in the 1920s—part of SLO’s busy brothel business. The Granada was completely renovated in 2012 and is now a full-service hotel with a vintage vibe. Each of the 17 guest rooms features marble and tiled baths, plush duvets and original art; some have fireplaces. Suites have floor-to-ceiling windows and a balcony. You won’t go hungry here. The Granada Bistro is open daily for late afternoon small plates and dinner, and brunch on weekends. You can also grab healthy food to go from Nourish, a health-centric takeout counter on the ground floor (open Mon.–Fri.). 1126 Morro St. • 805/544-9100 • granadahotelandbistro.com.
Garden Street Inn
SAN LUIS OBISPO
Helena and Morris Goldtree built this multistory family residence in 1887. Elizabeth and Patrick McCaffrey purchased the home in 1898. Today it’s a fully restored traditional bed-and-breakfast inn just a few blocks from San Luis Obispo’s main social hub, Higuera Street—one of the only lodging options in the downtown area. Each of the nine rooms and four suites reflects a different décor, but all have private baths, armoires, queen beds and historical furnishings and memorabilia. Some have decorative fireplaces and/or balconies and jacuzzi tubs and vintage stained-glass windows. Meet other guests in the comfy and well-stocked Goldtree Library. Feast on a full, home-cooked breakfast (featuring historic inn recipes) in the downstairs McCaffrey Morning Room, where the morning light illuminates the table via vintage stained glass windows. Pets are welcome in select rooms; contact the inn for details. 1212 Garden St. • 805/545-9802 • gardenstreetinn.com.
J Patrick House
Perched on a hilltop amid Monterey pines, J. Patrick House provides an authentic bed-and-breakfast experience in a quiet residential area less than a mile from downtown Cambria. Its central location—a five-minute drive to Moonstone Beach and a nine-mile drive to Hearst Castle—makes this rustic yet refined log house an ideal home base for Hwy. 1 adventures. A front building includes cozy gathering areas for the hosted wine and appetizer social hour and hearty multi-course breakfast. The seven individually decorated rooms are housed in a tranquil building across a courtyard in the back. Each room has a king or queen bed, a fireplace, window seat and private bath. Guests can also relax in a common room with comfy chairs, a microwave and refrigerator, and fresh-baked cookies at the end of the day. 2990 Burton Dr. • 805/927-3812 • jpatrickhouse.com.
This elegant, yet unpretentious lodge is perched on the water’s edge on the Embarcadero, enabling guests to immerse themselves in Morro Bay’s pristine marine environment. Built in 2008, the inn enjoys a reputation for excellent service, largely due to the Anderson family’s insistence on a warm welcome and personal attention for every guest. All eight rooms include queen beds, travertine tiled bathrooms, cozy comforters, Wi-Fi, balconies with harbor views, refrigerators, large HD flatscreen TVs and vaulted ceilings with fans. Three premium “on the water” rooms boast stellar views of the ocean and Morro Rock, and have soaking tubs and fireplaces. This is also a convenient base for all types of adventures, from cycling and kayaking to fishing and surfing. Dozens of restaurants and shops line the Embarcadero and nearby streets. The staff can help you book massage and spa services, in your room or at nearby establishments. 897 Embarcadero • 805/772-3434 • andersoninnmorrobay.com.
In 1875, pharmacist brothers Otto and Carl Manderscheid built a spacious home in downtown Cambria, using local Cambria pine and Big Sur redwood. They also planted an English garden in the back and a giant sequoia seedling in the front. Innkeepers Nelson and Maureen Hubbell purchased the property in 2016 and renovated it from top to bottom, infusing it with luxurious modern conveniences while retaining the feel of a vintage property. Today, the nine-room inn is a national historical monument (the second oldest home in Cambria) and the 150-year-old tree serves as a beacon, welcoming the community and guests to come enjoy its homey comforts. Olallieberry Inn highlights include stunning English gardens overlooking Santa Rosa Creek, a music-themed parlor with a full-sized replica of Sir Paul McCartney standing near the fireplace, a wine hour with homemade appetizers, a gourmet three-course breakfast and regular cooking classes in the onsite commercial kitchen. 2476 Main St. • 805/927–3222 • olallieberry.com.
Immerse yourself in Paso Robles wine country life at this sophisticated bed-and-breakfast, on scenic Hwy. 246 west, just a mile from Hwy. 101. Set amid cabernet sauvignon vineyards and oak-studded hills across from the SummerWood Winery tasting room, the two-story inn reflects a contemporary French farmhouse style. The nine individually decorated rooms bear the names of rhone and bordeaux grape varietals, for example, marsanne, viogner and grenache blanc. Each has a gas or electric fireplace and a private balcony or deck overlooking the vineyards or lush gardens. Rates include a farm-fresh, cooked-to-order breakfast, afternoon wine and appetizers, evening dessert and coffee, and handmade caramels set atop your plush bed when you’re ready to retire for the night. This is a centrally located hub for all Paso Robles wine touring trails, including the inn’s own SummerWood Winery, which offers guests complimentary pours of their limited production wines. 2130 Arbor Rd. • 805/227-1111 • summerwoodwine.com/inn.
A stay at this tiny, secluded wine country inn with just four suites—next to the JUSTIN Winery tasting room—is the ultimate wine country getaway. It sits among the vineyards in the “far out” western hills in Paso Robles. JUSTIN wines rank among the best in the region. The winery is best known for its famed Isosceles Bordeaux blend and estate cabernet sauvignon. The Restaurant at JUSTIN, renowned for its excellent regional dishes, serves prix fixe dinner five nights a week, plus lunch Thu.–Sat. and Sun. brunch. Three oversized suites reflect both contemporary sophistication and casual comfort. Soak in the spa tub and sink into blissful reverie in luxurious linens atop Tempurpedic mattresses (rates include breakfast). For even more privacy, book the 1,400-square-foot French Country-style Vintner’s Villa with full kitchen and a dining room, about a quarter mile from the tasting room and restaurant. 11680 Chimney Rock Rd. • 805/238-6932 • justinwine.com.
Park your wheels at chic Hotel Cheval, just a half-block from Paso Robles Downtown City Park, and walk to fine restaurants, tasting rooms and shops. The horse-loving owners imbued the two-story inn with an equine theme. Furnishings and artworks reflect contemporary European country estate lifestyle, where horses and humans interact daily. Each of the 16 individually decorated rooms bears the name and associated photos of historically significant horses plus original paintings and other art; all have king beds with luxury linens and duvets, and most have fireplaces and window seats. In the evening, the onsite Pony Club serves local and international wines and appetizers at their sleek zinc bar and surrounding tables. This is also where you head in the morning to enjoy a full breakfast (included in the rate). Between dusk and 10 p.m., feast on complimentary made-to-order s’mores in the courtyard. 1021 Pine St. • 805/226-9995 • hotelcheval.com.
This story was originally published in the spring 2018 issue of Santa Barbara Seasons Magazine.