Don’t let the designation of motel fool you into thinking these accommodations aren’t up to par. Especially in California, motels are popular stays for those road tripping through the Golden State. These days, motels can be as nice as any boutique hotel with bespoke decor, sparkling pools and all the retro Cali vibes. We’ve compiled a list of the best motels in California, all bookable with Culture Trip.
The Calistoga Motor Lodge took the idea of a classic roadside motel and made it better. In the foothills of Napa Valley, the lodge features rooms inspired by campervans with retro light-and-bright decor. When you’re not out exploring Napa’s vineyards, there’s plenty to do on property. Find games such as bocce ball, cornhole and boardgames or take a dip in the mineral pool fed by the natural, geothermal hot springs for which Calistoga is known.
The Skyview Los Alamos just screams vintage California road trip. Right off the iconic 101 Freeway, Skyview is a modern boutique hotel located in a 1950s former motel. A multimillion-dollar renovation restored the motel while keeping the midcentury-modern feel. Airy rooms are anything but cookie-cutter, and several have indoor fireplaces or patios overlooking Santa Barbara wine country. On-site restaurant Norman serves California cuisine like chorizo mac ‘n cheese and roasted cauliflower with pistachio pesto.
Take an old western and make it cool. At the Pioneertown Motel, you’ll find modern western- and desert-inspired rooms – like those with giant cactuses – in the 1946 hotel. Pioneertown was built as an outpost for movie stars of old westerns. If you book room 9, you can say you stayed in the place where Gene Autry played poker until sunrise. Room 1 is the Canteen, a communal spot where you’ll find books, games and Canyon Coffee.
The Rambler Motel in Chula Vista can best be described as retro, fun and colorful. There’s a ’70s theme throughout the hotel, with brightly colored walls, California-inspired art and record players. Make sure to get your Instagram shot in front of the large Chill mural at the pool. The motel also includes a retro arcade and complimentary beach cruisers that you can take to nearby attractions.
The closest motel to the ocean in Encinitas – and just two blocks from its namesake – the family-owned Moonlight Beach (they’ve run it since 1976) offers several rooms with patios and sea views, the biggest of which is a three-bedroom suite. When you’re ready to hit the beach, you can borrow chairs, umbrellas and sand toys from the front desk. In the evenings, take advantage of the location and walk to the nearby restaurants downtown.
Located in the heart of the harbor, wharf and beach district in Santa Barbara, Marina Beach Motel, which has been family-owned and -operated since 1976, is half a block from the ocean, with shopping and dining also nearby. The pet-friendly motel offers free bicycles for exploring and the larger rooms come with kitchenette and patio.
Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip
meet our Local Insider
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A GUIDE?
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR JOB?
It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.
WHAT DESTINATION IS ON YOUR TRAVEL BUCKET-LIST?
I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!
Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.
KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?
Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world
Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.