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Beach view, bargain rates

With bookings running low, seaside hotels are offering incredible deals. Here are several inns along California's coast that fit the bill.

February 01, 2009|Christopher Reynolds

From San Diego to Humboldt County, these are times of difficulty for hoteliers and opportunity for travelers.

Here are the nine waterfront lodgings I used on my toe-to-top California road trip in early January. (Go to for four more I looked at and liked.) Average price I paid: $141.67, pre-tax.

In all 1,136 miles of California coast, there seem to be fewer than 150 hotels that are truly on the beach. In summer, on a weekend, in a year of economic boom, these hotels might charge twice what I paid. Especially in this economy, rates fluctuate.

I made all my bookings in advance (without disclosing that I was a travel journalist ) and found all nine at least half-empty. In other words, I probably could have driven even better bargains as a walk-up guest. For consistency's sake, I chose Feb. 28 for a price quote (researched on Jan. 16).

San Diego

Paradise Point Resort & Spa: 1404 Vacation Road, San Diego; (800) 344-2626 or (858) 274-4630, Big-time kid-friendliness and lush landscaping on 44 acres, with four pools, gentle bay-front beaches and watercraft rentals. All 462 low-rise rooms have phones and TVs. Lunch at the Barefoot Bar & Grill and dinner at the Baleensandiego weren't bad either. I paid $119 for a lanai garden room, $22 to park, $15 for high-speed Internet, $4 for morning coffee, $1.50 each for many, many bags of duck food. Rates for Feb. 28 start at $296.

Hermosa Beach

Beach House Hermosa Beach, 1300 the Strand, Hermosa Beach; (888) 895-4559 or (310) 374-3001, These 96 units stand next to a lively 26-mile biking/walking path, are a block from the Hermosa Beach Pier, and all feature fireplaces, phones, TVs. No pool. I paid $269 for a non-view room, $22 to park; Wi-Fi and continental breakfast free. Rates for Feb. 28 start at $289.


Embassy Suites Mandalay Beach Hotel & Resort, 2101 Mandalay Beach Road, Oxnard; (800) 362-2779 or (805) 984-2500, This 248-room resort fronts a wide, wind-swept beach, with one pool and two hot tubs. TVs and phones in all rooms. I paid $184.30 for a suite with two bathrooms, two TVs and a kitchenette, $15 to park, $9.95 for Internet, free breakfast. Rates for Feb. 28 start at $169.

Morro Bay

Inn at Morro Bay, 60 State Park Road, Morro Bay; (800) 321-9566 or (805) 772-5651, This 98-room hotel, with pool and view restaurant, sits at the city-adjacent corner of Morro Bay State Park. Though it's on the water, you'll need to drive or walk several blocks to reach a marina or beach. All rooms have TVs and phones. I paid $59, plus $10.68 for Internet. Rates for Feb. 28 start at $99, or $169 for partial ocean view.

Ragged Point

Ragged Point Inn, 19019 Highway 1, Ragged Point; (805) 927-4502, This bluff-top complex includes a 32-room hotel, dramatic views, grass for romping kids, a restaurant (good steak dinner and breakfast), a snack bar, a gas station, a gift shop and a rugged trail to the rocky beach about 400 feet below. Rooms have TVs but no phones. I paid $99, Internet $9.95, parking free. Rates for Feb. 28 start at $139.

Half Moon Bay

Cypress Inn on Miramar Beach, 407 Mirada Road, Half Moon Bay; (800) 832-3224 or (650) 726-6002, This two-building, 18-room property stands in a mostly residential neighborhood next to a waterfront biking-walking path. Rooms have fireplaces, but there is no pool. My room had a phone but no TV. Breakfast, parking and Internet free. I paid $169, and got upgraded to a view room. Rates for Feb. 28 start at $179 (two-night minimum).


Timber Cove Inn, 21780 North Coast Highway 1, Jenner; (800) 987-8319 or (707) 847-3231, Sea Ranch Lodge and houses have long been the design star on this stretch of Sonoma coast, but this is a gem in the rough. The hotel is a fascinating modernist wood-stone-glass building on a spectacular and isolated rocky point. (It opened with 19 rooms in 1963; Ansel Adams apparently shot the brochure pictures.) Since September, a new owner has been making about $2 million in long-awaited improvements. Most of the 40 rooms open now feature fireplaces, flat-screen TVs and balconies or patios. One room (508) is built around a clump of boulders. Another (507) opens to a sea-view terrace that looks like a Zen retreat. You may or may not like the 72-foot modern-art totem out back or the raccoons that think they own the place, but they'll help you remember it. I'm hoping that off-season training will improve the spotty restaurant service. I paid $161 (with AAA discount) and got upgraded to a $279 ocean-view room because occupancy was low. Rates for Feb. 28 start at $229.


Howard Creek Ranch Inn, 40501 North Highway 1, Westport; (707) 964-6725, Thirteen rooms and cottages on 60 rugged acres and a long, lonely state beach 3 miles north of Westport. Don't expect phones or TVs. Pool in progress, completion date unknown. I paid $90 and got upgraded to a $125 room. Free Internet and parking. Rates for Feb. 28: $55 to $198.


Lost Whale Inn, 3452 Patrick's Point Drive, Trinidad; (707) 677-3425, No room phones, no TVs. Built as an inn in 1989, this kid-friendly 9-acre bluff-top spot includes big living and dining areas, a big backyard, its own trail down to the rocky shore and the occasional sea lion serenade. Hot tub, no pool. I paid $140 for a garden-view room, but as the only guest was upgraded upstairs to a sea-view room that would have cost $200. Free parking, breakfast and Internet. Feb. 27 prices: $180 to $230. (On Feb. 28, a winemaker dinner boosts the starting price to $249.)

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