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Monterey Peninsula's bargain hotels, food and activities

Penny pinchers can appreciate quaint rooms, good food and simple activities.

August 16, 2011|By Rosemary McClure, Special to the Los Angeles Times
  • In Monterey, a mural captures the atmosphere of nearby Cannery Row as spectators watch kayakers paddle on the bay.
In Monterey, a mural captures the atmosphere of nearby Cannery Row as spectators… (Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles…)

Reporting from Monterey, Calif. — Clint Eastwood knows how to set a scene on screen or at Mission Ranch, his strikingly handsome hotel and restaurant in Carmel.

The hotel, a historic property, has a multimillion dollar view of the sea and beautiful grounds to match. Magenta bougainvillea spills from balconies, flowering pots decorate porches, huge cypress trees shade buildings and lawns. You'd expect a room to cost $500 a night or more.

So how about $120 a night?

Hard to believe, especially in a pricey tourist area like Carmel. But that's the starting rate for Eastwood's beautiful Mission Ranch, which he rescued from a developer.

Eastwood's hotel isn't the only find we discovered in the Monterey Peninsula on a recent visit. We scoured the region and unearthed five great hotels with rates beginning as low as $79 a night during the high season (summer) and $59 a night during the low season.

We also found 10 deliciously inexpensive restaurants where you can eat for $10 or less. To top it off, we list 15 free things to do, enough to keep a family happy for a weekend or a week.

Our penny-pinching tips include hotels and restaurants throughout the Monterey Peninsula, including Carmel and Carmel Valley, areas where hotel tariffs can be sky high. But you're too smart to pay those prices. So go ahead: Spend a few days with the high rollers. Just don't let them know how little it's costing you.

Five hotels that are super deals

1. Los Laureles Lodge

Looking for a great country escape? Los Laureles Lodge is the right place for you. The knotty pine-paneled rooms here were once stables for the horses of Muriel Vanderbilt Church Phelps Adams (yes, that Vanderbilt family). Now they're cozy accommodations. This California Historic Country Inn sits amid the oak-covered hills of scenic Carmel Valley. The grounds are expansive, with a pool and restaurant; the hotel is kid- and pet-friendly.

313 W. Carmel Valley Road, Carmel Valley; (800) 533-4404 or (831) 659-2233,

Summer rates for doubles from $130 a night; off-season rates start at $100. Continental breakfast included.

2. Mission Ranch Hotel & Restaurant

While mayor of Carmel in the late '80s, Eastwood bought this historic property to save it from being turned into condos. Now he can sometimes be found in the restaurant's bar around 5 p.m. Eastwood restored the property, a ranch in the 1800s; it includes a farmhouse, bunkhouse and other original buildings. Rooms are small but charmingly furnished, and the property is beautiful.

26270 Dolores St., Carmel; (831) 624-6436,

Doubles from $120 a night year-round, including continental breakfast.

3. Butterfly Grove Inn

Take a step back in time for a super deal at Butterfly Grove Inn, a charming motor court-style motel that borders the monarch butterfly park in Pacific Grove. Baskets of flowering plants decorate the pink-and-white motel; it has a pool, and rooms are efficient and tidy. Another plus: It's close to Point Pinos Lighthouse and Sunset Drive, a scenic coastal byway.

1073 Lighthouse Ave., Pacific Grove; (800) 337-9244,

In summer, doubles from $109 weekdays, $149 weekends; off-season rates from $79, including continental breakfast.

4. Casa Munras

In Monterey, you'll find one of the best deals in town at Casa Munras Hotel & Spa, a large downtown lodging with surprisingly stylish accommodations, a chic lobby and a great central location. Rooms are small but nicely furnished with cushy upscale bedding; most rooms have flat-screen TVs. Grounds are tidy, and there is a pool. Tapas bar available in the lobby at night.

700 Munras Ave., Monterey; (800) 322-2446 or (831) 375-2411,

Summer doubles from $139 a night weekdays, $159 weekends; low-season rates from $129.

5. Monterey Hotel

Prices here are cheap, cheap, cheap, with rooms starting at $59 in the low season and $79 in summer. This Victorian-style hotel, built in 1904, has nicely decorated public areas and rooms furnished in period style. Some rooms are tiny (the petite queen, which has the lowest rate, is about 150 square feet, slightly larger than a standard stateroom on a ship), but you can't beat the central location, and there's a free continental breakfast.

406 Alvarado St., Monterey; (800) 966-6490 or (831) 375-3184,

Summer doubles from $79 a night, weekend rates from $109; low-season rates from $59 weekdays, $79 weekends. Includes breakfast.

10 restaurants for $10 or less

1. Wagon Wheel Restaurant

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