15 Retro, Revamped California Inns for a Pitstop Along Your Road Trip Adventure
From Oceanside to San Luis Obispo and Little River, there are plenty of roadside motels with vintage charm ready to welcome you for the night.
All across California, historic roadside motels have been experiencing some seriously impressive revamping in the form of upscale upgrades and renovations—both inside and out. Road trips rose in popularity during the pandemic, with travelers seeking a convenient, safe, and fun place to spend the night. Luckily, these historic hotels and motor inns have been transformed into endearing boutique resort spots, complete with elevated food and bev concepts, upgraded amenities, and brimming with enough character to enjoy spending time on-site and exploring the local area. For the next time you need an easy road trip from San Diego, LA, or San Francisco, here are 15 revamped spots to rest your head in the midst of your vintage road trip adventure.
Situated along the Central Coast, the Cambria Beach Lodge opened in 2016 after undergoing a complete design overhaul and renovation, becoming the first lifestyle boutique motel in Cambria. The lodge is perched on the land adjacent to Moonstone Beach, just steps from the sand. Beyond the ocean, guests can admire the majestic backdrop of the Central Coast’s stunning mountainscape. And the location provides easy access to all of San Luis Obispo County's favorite pastimes: surfing, hiking, wine tasting, and outdoor adventuring. Even though there’s plenty to do off-site, guests should know that one of the best places to spend time in the area might just be at the lodge on the open-air rooftop deck, which boasts scenic 360-degree views.
San Luis Obsipo
Nestled in the heart of San Luis Obispo, San Luis Creek Lodge features lighthearted, contemporary California design meshed with a relaxed bohemian aesthetic. The modern farmhouse exterior reveals rooms with equal vintage and modern design inspiration—with muted color palettes, swirling marble on bathroom countertops, and fires that roar behind matte-white fireplaces. Guests can choose between multiple types of rooms—including the special Premiere King Room, which hosts a king-sized bed and a gas fireplace, making for maximum coziness no matter the season. In-room offerings include Aesop bath amenities and dreamy marble countertops.
The original site of The Pacific Motel was actually one of Cayucos’ first inns. Standing as a set of 13 historic 1920s bungalows, this property reopened its doors in the fall of 2022 after a complete glow-up and extensive rebrand that maintains the classic motor lodge feel while continuing to drive tourism to this iconic seaside city on the Central Coast. With its sense of hominess and prime location just steps from the sea and sand, guests can enjoy easy access to explore one of California’s most beloved beach towns. Blue-and-white-striped awnings greet guests with nostalgic amenities like Tivoli radios (modernized with Bluetooth!) and toasty fireplaces. Snuggle up in front of the fire in one of the high-quality Parachute brand robes that are available to guests.
Santa Ynez Valley
Gracing a hilltop in the Santa Ynez Valley, travelers can enjoy spending time at the site of this legendary 1950s roadside motel turned luxurious boutique resort. The recently restored, 33-room inn boasts its own on-site restaurant and sweeping sights of Santa Barbara wine country from a spacious, five-acre outpost. Dive into the year-round heated pool, which offers poolside service, or relax in the comfortable guest rooms, which feature upscale amenities like hardwood floors, leather furniture, and bathrooms outfitted with classy marble furnishings. Many of the rooms even offer their own indoor fireplaces and private patios to read a book and soak up the sunshine. Explore off-site and take one of the complimentary bikes into town, or stroll through the property’s working on-site vineyard.
Hidden on a stretch of highway between the quaint Central Coast villages of Solvang and Santa Ynez, Hotel Ynez is an upscale, rustic-chic wine country escape that bursts with a welcoming, laid-back vibe. Opened in 2021, the property emits a sense of peaceful sophistication, featuring personalized amenities like woven hammocks appointed to each guestroom patio and multiple fireplaces scattered throughout the outdoor courtyard. Spend time outside enjoying a book underneath the shade of the 100-year-old oak trees, or get in a competitive game of bocce on the ball court. Those who would prefer to relax inside can admire an impressive collection of in-room art and furnishings that are sourced from all over the world—including Morocco, Oaxaca, and some from nearby Santa Barbara.
Set along Highway 1 in Point Arena on the Mendocino Coast, the Wildflower Boutique Motel had, for a time, fallen into disrepair as an abandoned roadside motel. Thankfully, it’s since been transformed into a cozy, eco-friendly escape with bright, lush gardens and modern amenities and design elements. Outside, guests can spend time in airy, outdoor spaces that offer relaxing walkways to stroll and admire the native flowers. The motel features 14 guest rooms with personal patios—each of which pays tribute to an individual, local wildflower. Inside, the rooms are elevated with personalized touches—including custom furniture that was crafted from wind-fallen cypress trees, natural-stone flooring, and comfy cotton linens. The property is environmentally friendly, with the solar panels on the motel’s roof generating about 60% of the property’s electricity, and each parking spot boasts its very own EV charging station.
The retro Astro Motel in Santa Rosa dates back to 1963—the heydey of the classic American motor lodge—but was recently purchased and underwent a $10-million remodel, transforming into a modernized, 34-room inn. This trendy hotel is located in Santa Rosa’s artsy SOFA district, which is walkable to dozens of artists' studios, galleries, and other interesting local businesses. Guests can experience original, mid-century modern furnishings and eclectic art pieces—including the lush, on-site edible garden. Outdoorsy guests will revel in the motel’s very own bike lounge, which offers dedicated tools for fixing tires and adjusting gears, and the on-site Shinola Bikes rentals are made for exploring the region on two wheels. The interior elements of this motel are truly down to earth—the original concrete floors were polished and restored to preserve its history.
Oceanside’s Green Room Hotel actually dates back more than six decades, but reopened as a bungalow-style boutique hotel in the summer of 2021, with 12, individually curated rooms. Lean into the easygoing surfer vibe with on-site beach cruiser bikes and surfboards. The inn is located on Pacific Coast Highway in South Oceanside, a fantastic spot for exploring a diverse lineup of restaurants, breweries, and an impressive nightlife scene. For those who don’t feel like leaving the property, there’s a luxurious, cedar-style hot tub in the common area, along with a communal fire pit and picnic tables which make for a great place to connect with fellow travelers and friends alike. Inside the guestrooms, visitors can admire the custom artwork made by local artists alongside mid-century modern furnishings, including unique Moroccan rugs, retro appliances, and private patios.
Cuyama Buckhorn in New Cuyama was built back in 1952, originally serving as a gathering space for the local community during the town’s time as a booming oil region. Today, the property has been given a new, updated and upgraded life — a luxurious boutique resort nestled in the remote rolling hills and quaint farmland of New Cuyama. Guests will experience an atmosphere that’s high-end but not pretentious, with rooms outfitted in classic Western decor with vintage furnishings and custom-built furniture. Outdoor patio spaces are made for spending time in the desert sunshine by day or gazing up at the clear, starry sky by night. There’s an on-site restaurant serving farm-to-table comfort food, and the property regularly hosts events that invite the local community and travelers to enjoy the land that’s known as the “Hidden Valley of Enchantment.”
Just across the street from the beach, the 25-room, boutique White Water Cambria lodge blends the raw, natural elements of the Central Coast within the property's interior and exterior design. Travelers will become immersed in the cool, gentle colors and soft earth tones that adorn the walls of this eye-catching roadside lodge. The muted colors seen in the property’s design compliment those of the natural landscape and pay homage to the town’s constant state of fog. Luckily, each room is furnished with a gas fireplace—making this space as cozy as can be, even if the sun decides it’s spending the day hiding behind the marine layer.
Designed by legendary drag queen Trixie Mattel, this newly renovated motel serves as an ode to Trixie’s spirited, bright style. Boasting plenty of Barbie Pink paired with design details that highlight the region’s mid-century modern history, this updated palace is the perfect jumping off point for exploring Palm Springs’ thrilling restaurant and bar scenes. Guests will never have to experience the same room twice, as each of the individually themed rooms is unique, including a dedicated honeymoon suite, a colorful lobby lounge area, and of course, a pool (it is Palm Springs, after all), making for the ultimate, dreamy desert getaway.
When the quaint, small Central Coast town of Buellton was cast as the setting in the Academy Award-winning film Sideways, the Sideways Inn served as a filming location for multiple scenes of the iconic movie. But since the film’s debut, the property has been completely renovated and transformed into a luxury boutique hotel that celebrates the unique history of the Santa Ynez Valley while also giving guests a modern and relaxing place to spend the night. Visitors can explore the surrounding wine country while using this property as a welcoming home base. Enter a real, old-world windmill lobby when you check in and don’t forget to kick back at the pools, jacuzzi, the dedicated lounge area, or the multiple outdoor fire pits with artsy mural backdrops.
Santa Barbara’s Motel 6 isn’t just any old Motel 6—it was actually the first U.S. location of this well-known budget brand. While it’s still proud to be reasonably affordable for hosting guests, this particular location doesn't feel “budget” at all. Guests will encounter a bright, clean property that was recently updated and outfitted with a range of retro furnishings that still pay tribute to its historic 1960s origins, but with all the comforts of technology and modern times. The motel is in a great location, just a few minutes' walk from the beach and a mile from Stearns Wharf and State Street, making for a restful and secluded spot to relax after a night out on the town in the city’s nearby, raucously entertaining Funk Zone district.
The Sea Air Inn & Suites recently reopened after an extensive remodel, offering guests a clean, updated spot for spending the night near the ocean in San Luis Obispo County. It’s just a block from the water and steps from an abundance of shopping and dining options, as well as local art galleries near downtown Morro Bar. Guestrooms are outfitted in warm earth tones that compliment the sunny beach landscape and feature a range of upscale design elements, such as marble and granite counters.
In a tiny enclave of Northern California called Little River, travelers will encounter an exceptionally historic outpost, The Andiron Seaside Inn & Cabins, a set of 11 classic cabins tucked away on five acres of meadows in scenic Mendocino County. Dating back to 1959, this property was recently remodeled under new ownership. Each guest cottage features a uniquely decorated interior featuring a collection of antique, vintage, salvaged, and recycled tchotchkes. Discover the old Viewmasters, admire the preserved 1950s fabrics, and revel in this retro-chic hideaway nestled on the edge of the sea in Northern California. Each cabin has its own unique theme, too—Cabin # 11, which is called “Curious,” features an abundance of options for engaging your sense of wonder, including a telescope and guide to the night sky, old-but-still-working binoculars, Audubon prints, a bird whistle, and more.