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Western Travel | SLEEPOVER

New sand, new town, new hotel

September 24, 2006|Susan Carpenter | Times Staff Writer

Avila Beach, Calif. — AS its Spanish name indicates, Avila La Fonda Hotel is designed to emulate the Spanish Colonial buildings of 1920s and '30s California. From the outside, the 33-room Avila Beach hotel looks like several two-story casas side by side, each with different facades and tile work. But there is only one way in -- through a thick, wooden double door.

The hotel, opened in late August, represents the New Avila Beach -- that is, what the beach hamlet has become now that the 400,000-gallon underground oil leak has been dealt with. Between 1999 and 2002, many buildings were razed and the soil underneath replaced. The entire cove has fresh sand. Avila, just up the coast from Pismo Beach, is still a town under construction, but one thing won't change: the landscape -- it's incredible.

Bunking down: My second-floor Great Room lived up to its name. French doors at the far end of the space were open to the small patio, allowing the breeze to waft in. A flame flickered in the nearby electric fireplace, throwing the tiniest bit of heat toward a brown leather love seat and matching chair. There was no sign of the queen-sized bed. That was tucked into the wall opposite the TV until 6 p.m., when staff stopped by to pull it out, fluff the down pillows and turn down the 500-thread-count sheets. A well-stocked (and complimentary) goodie basket was waiting for me in a kitchenette decked out with granite counter tops and stainless-steel appliances. A Jacuzzi dominated the slate-tiled bathroom.

The creature comforts were complemented by high-tech ones: CD player, DVD player and 42-inch plasma-screen TV (with 100 free channels) and wireless Internet service. If I'd wanted one, I could also have borrowed a complimentary laptop.

Hanging around: Although there's no restaurant, bar or room service, the hotel hosts a reception from 4 to 6 p.m. in a ground-floor room with an enormous patio, serving wine from nearby vineyards and a buffet of cold cuts, grilled sausages, cheese, bread and fruit. A pantry stocked with beverages, cakes and sandwiches was open for raiding 24/7 (for a fee), and a small library of books and DVDs in the reception area were available for loan.

Going out: A block away is the south-facing beach and pier stretching out into San Luis Obispo Bay. Come in from the sun, and there are regional vintages to sample at the Wine Attic and local seafood at the Custom House restaurant. More relaxed fish dinners are a short drive away at Pete's Pierside, at the Harford Pier in Port San Luis. Sportfishing trips leave from here too. Heading inland, there's the two-mile Bob Jones Trail that leads walkers or cyclists to the Avila Valley Barn for seasonal veggies, fruits and fresh-baked pies.

Peeves and perks: The hotel is just one block from the water, but it's right next to a large public parking lot, so views are of concrete, not surf. That's probably why so much attention has been paid to the service and amenities. I loved brewing coffee, ground from fresh whole beans, in my room and mingling with fellow guests over free wine. The $300 rack rate felt steep, though not unreasonable. But when I got a 50% discount just for showing my Costco membership card -- a deal that lasts through June 1 -- I felt as though I'd stolen a bit of bliss.

Avila La Fonda Hotel, 101 San Miguel St., Avila Beach, CA 93449; (805) 595-1700, Rooms from $300.


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