California’s New Era of Roadside Motels

Image by Dylan and Jeni

Road trips and California go hand in hand like avocado and toast. Open, windy roads, the ocean always by your side and sunset on the horizon; it’s a dream we want to live almost every weekend. california boutique hotels 

So, it’s not a surprise that first motel opened its door in California, in San Luis Obispo in 1925. The owner couldn’t fit the whole name on the rooftop, so he abbreviated motor hotel to motel and kicked off a wave of motels along highways across the country. (He never patented the word “motel,” would have been smart.)
Tired road trippers now had a place to rest overnight. Design and comfort-wise motels could never keep up with the real deal (the hotel) — until now. Rundown motels (and there are many in CA) are getting bought and remodeled by design-savvy entrepreneurs. Some of them are so cool that they have become a destination on their own. For our California Dreaming issue we compiled a comprehensive list of boutique motels in California so you can bookmark it and find your spot to get some zzzs. california boutique hotels


Image by Ana Kamin
Ojai Rancho Inn, Ojai

The motel that started the boutique motels wave in California. A woodsy-cabin feel with southwestern-inspired design details, the Ojai Rancho Inn is the perfect stay for everyone seeking relaxed days in Ojai. The rooms feature Heather Levine sconces, textiles from local artist and indigo tie-dye curtains by Lookout and Wonderland. Each room has a small porch with woven leather patio chairs by Eric Trine. When it gets too hot a nice sized pool calls for a dip. Ojai Rancho Inn hosts also occasionally small concerts and different event at their property. Plus, if you are in need of a gift, the lobby has a small shop with rotating products.

california boutique hotels 

Image by Dylan and Jeni
Native Malibu, Malibu

New to the roster of boutique motels in California is the Native Malibu. What once used to be known as the Malibu Riviera Motel and a hideaway for celebrities such as Marilyn Monroe and James Dean, is today a design gem from the branding team behind some of LA’s coolest hospitality business like Gjelina in Venice and the Line hotel in Koreatown. The 13 rooms are bright and spacious and feature comfy Casper mattresses on Design Within Reach bed frames, Greta Grossman light fixtures, bathroom amenities specially created for Native, colorful bathrobes from deadstock African fabrics and a minibar filled with delicious, artisan snacks. Guests can also hang out in the stylish lobby which is also an extension of Brooklyn’s Fort Greene lifestyle boutique, by Jill Lindsey. Lindsey has curated a collection of airy kaftans and sunglasses — all you need for the laid-back Malibu look.california boutique hotels


Image by Audrey Ma
Alamo, Los Alamos

Alamo is another cool motel by Social Shelter Club, the hospitality company behind the Ojai Rancho Inn in Ojai, Hamlet Inn in Solvang and Agave in Santa Barbara. Tucked away in the little western town of Los Alamos, just an hour drive north from Santa Barbara, the Alamo is a mix of western comfort meets Scandinavian simplicity. It also houses a wine tasting bar hosted by Municipal Wine. Grab your glass and take a spot in one of the swings hanging from the oak trees. california boutique hotels


Image via Calistoga Motor Lodge & Spa
Calistoga Motor Lodge &  Spa, Calistoga

What used to be the Sunburst motel, is now the revamped and redesigned Calistoga Motor Lodge & Spa.
The style is an homage to the golden times of road tripping of the 50s and 60s. Mid-century minimalism California cool in bold colors and patterns across the property. The 50-rooms hotel offers geothermal mineral water pools, mud baths, a new spa, lawn games and a yoga room. california boutique hotels


Image by Ana Kamin
Cambria Beach Lodge, Cambria

Probably one of our favorite little motels on Highway 1, the Cambria Beach Lodge is a gem in an otherwise traditional line up of motels along the Moonstone Beach. Completely renovated in 2016, the design is a mix of coastal details like macrame hanging planters, driftwood art, rattan light fixtures and a reclaimed wood fireplace in the lobby. The rooms have cozy blankets so you can cuddle up when the fog rolls in. The mini bar is stocked with everything you need, plus items for purchase like sun bum sunscreen or Cambria branded Apolis bag. california boutique hotels


Image by Ana Kamin
Goodland, Goleta

Just a short drive from Santa Barbara, The Kimpton Goodland is your choice if you are looking for laid-back, yet stylish overnight stop. Surf lodge meets 70s glam is the name of the design game at the Goodland. Peacock chairs, macrame wall hanging, Turkish kilim pillows, surfboards on the walls — it’s all there to make you feel very California boho. The hotels offers free yoga classes, hiking trips, and weekly events. The in-hotel restaurant, Outpost, dishes up delicious California inspired street food.


Image via Pioneertown Motel
Pioneertown Motel, Pioneertown

Ever wanted to sleep an old Western town? You can do it at the Pioneertown Motel in Pioneertown. The little town was founded in the 40s as a set for Western movies, and the motel hosted every Western movie start from Roy Rogers to John Wayne. With the help of interior designer, Casey Keasler, brothers Matt and Mike French, brought the old motel to new glory. Keeping the Western style, the rooms feature cowhide rugs, Mexican blankets and Native American textiles as wall art. The room outfit is simple, yet you have everything you need to unplug and enjoy the desert life for a night or two. california boutique hotels


Image by Ana Kamin
The Coachman, South Lake Tahoe
It’s been a while since South Lake Tahoe saw in need hotel, but with the remodel of the old Coachman Motel, things have changed.
The Coachman feels like a modern yet super cozy ski lodge, where the lobby is like the living room; with a couch to lounge on and table books to flip through. The bar serves Stumptown coffee, and there are free s’mores kits to roast at the outdoor fire pits. With waffles, boiled eggs, jam, toast and cereals, The Coachman has one of the best complimentary breakfasts. To get those frosted toes warm again, jump into the hot-tub which is open year-around. And if you are visiting in summer, you can cool off in the pool.


Image by Ana Kamin
Timbercove Resort, Jenner
Perched on the cliffs of Sonoma’s coast, the Timbercove is a destination on its own. Build in the 60s; the building is an architectural masterpiece by the original owner and famed architect, Richard Clements Jr. who drew inspiration from Frank Lloyd Wright’s organic architectural style. In 2016 the impressive A-frame motel got a full makeover, converting the outdated rooms into sleek and modern spaces to rest and relax. The overall color pallet stays within the natural, earthy tones, complimenting hotel’s surrounding. For when the hunger strikes, the in-house restaurant, Coast Kitchen, serves American classics with a California twist.


Image via Surfrider Malibu
The Surfrider, Malibu
Surfrider Malibu is one of those places we want to move in. Opened last year, the Surfrider is a California interior dream come true. Natural colors mixed with soft textiles and organic shapes — it is the epitome of California elegance. Built in 1958, the motel today features 20 spacious and light-filled rooms looking out onto the Pacific ocean and the world famous surf spot, First Point. The Surfrider captures the California beach and surf culture perfectly; guest can rent surfboards and hire surf instructors directly at the front desk. After a day at the beach, you can rinse off the salt and the sand at the outdoor showers. The Roof Deck at the Surfrider is open only to hotel guest and features drinks and food menu with locally sourced ingredients.


Image via Surfhouse
Surfhouse, San Diego
“It’s not a hotel, it’s Surfhouse,” says their website. And with only eight rooms, this San Diego stay feels more like your friend’s house rather than like a hotel. The owners focus on creating homey vibes so you can feel like a local at the Surfhouse. The rooms are simple, yet very tastefully decorated, featuring modern furniture and beach-y details like surfboards on ceilings.

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1 Response
  • Lisa Jackson
    May 24, 2018

    These all look so dreamy!! Thanks for sharing–going to bookmark this for sure 😉

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