Between the Californian hills and the Pacific Ocean sits Hotel San Luis Obispo, its finessed modernity in striking contrast to its steeped-in-history setting. Yet this welcome surprise has slotted in beautifully to its former Chinatown address. High-ceilinged, airy rooms and suites each come with a private terrace or balcony, and white-walled interiors are brightened with colourful furnishings and commissioned artworks rooted in the hotel’s local heritage. The art of relaxation can be fine-tuned at the courtyard pool and spa. And there are further sensory pleasures to savour in the polished pair of restaurants.
Get this when you book through us:
A $25 dining credit, a $25 spa credit and a welcome bottle of Edna Valley wine; GoldSmiths will receive a $50 spa credit
Noon. Earliest check-in, 3pm. Both are flexible, subject to availability.
Double rooms from £427.70 ($538), including tax at 13.5 per cent.
Rates are room only and exclude taxes.
There’s no need to waste a day in SLO – not when the hotel’s concierge can make bookings and suggest entire itineraries to suit your tastes.
At the hotel
Spa, fitness centre, rooftop bocce court, concierge, valet parking. In rooms: free WiFi, minibar, free refillable carafes of water, Nespresso coffee machine, tea-making kit, and Sol Spa bath products.
Our favourite rooms
Morro Suites get top billing, with a guaranteed bath tub and a separate living area, as well as an impressive terrace – although the generous proportions of Tolosa Studios also have a place in our heart…
The 50-feet-long heated pool and separate Jacuzzi are in a fenced-off section of the courtyard, where you can order drinks and snacks to your wooden lounger and side table.
Beside the pool, Sol Spa is a house-plant-dotted retreat in shades of coffee and cream. It has indoor and outdoor lounges, a meditation room and salt sauna. Concoct your own blend of fresh ingredients at the Scrub Bar, and choose from a menu of massages and facials using the spa’s own product range. Please note, you’ll be charged for spa treatments cancelled with less than 24 hours’ notice.
Bring laid-back layers for beach days and hill trails, as well as kit you can ride a bike in, plus an option or two for evening glamour.
There are wheelchair-accessible options in the Mission Double Queen, Paseo King and Morro Suite category.
All ages are welcome and cots and highchairs are provided. There are books, games and puzzles to borrow. The heated pool has a shallow end and is fenced off from the courtyard. Both restaurants are happy to adapt dishes to suit little Smiths.
The hotel was built with some recycled and eco-friendly materials, including upcycled brick. Light bulbs are planet-friendly and rooms have high ceilings and floor-to-ceiling windows to maximise natural light. Bath products are eco-friendly and refillable. Guests are given reusable water carafes, with filling stations for still and sparkling on every floor. There are free bicycles to borrow, and walking – around town and on local hill trails – is encouraged.
At Piadina, plump for a cosy booth with banquettes upholstered in colourful Maharam textiles by Hella Jongerius. At Ox + Anchor, peripheral tables, with leather banquettes wall-side, feel more intimate than those that are chair-only, front and centre.
Stay casual for Piadina, but throw on something a little glitzy for Ox + Anchor.
Grilled meats and locally sourced, seasonal fare come together at modern steakhouse Ox + Anchor, under executive chef Ryan Fancher (formerly at Auberge de Soleil, then French Laundry and Per Se). This evenings-only, low-lit den of tub chairs and wooden tables, with wine stacked around the walls, serves irresistible surf and turf and, of course, Californian wines. Italian-Californian restaurant Piadina, also under Fancher, is open for breakfast and lunch. Its bright and light dining room, furnished with quirky art, pale wood and white walls, is the place to tuck into incredible cooked breakfasts, showstopper salads and towering Kobe burgers alongside perfectly judged pizzas and pasta.
The hotel has two bars – go high or go low… The rooftop High Bar is lushly planted for artily arranged cocktails and small plates amid the greenery. This is also where you’ll find the bocce court, should you fancy a game of Roman bowls. The Slow Bar is a glamorous mink-and-mushroom-hued lounge that pays homage to a restaurant from SLO’s historic Chinatown. Linger over apéritifs taken either on high stalls at the bar or on its low-slung sofas and armchairs.
Ox + Anchor is open from 5pm until 9pm (10pm at weekends). Piadina is open for breakfast (7am to 10am), lunch (11am to 3pm) and dinner (5pm to 9pm); Sunday brunch is served 10.30am–3pm.
Anything from the Californian-Italian menu at Piadina can be ordered to your room, 24 hours a day.
A coastal Californian town between Los Angeles and San Francisco, San Luis Obispo is just a few minutes’ drive off the Pacific Coast Highway.
Regional flights from Los Angeles, San Francisco and a handful of other US cities land at San Luis Obispo airport, a 10-minute drive from the hotel. It takes three hours and 40 minutes to drive to the hotel from LAX international airport.
A mile from the hotel, San Luis Obispo’s rail station has direct Amtrak trains to Los Angeles, San Francisco and San José.
Roadtrippers taking the spectacular, oceanside Highway 1 can enjoy a similarly splendid stopover here – the hotel is a few minutes’ drive downtown. There’s valet parking for $17 a day.
Worth getting out of bed for
San Luis Obispo offers an adventure of two halves. Downtown excels in urban pleasures, shopping, markets, museums and theatres. The Californian coast beckons with surf-ready beaches, quieter, sandy bays, picturesque piers and super-fresh seafood.
Held every Thursday evening, Downtown Slo Farmers’ Marketis as much about locals gathering for live-music-accompanied street food as it is about shopping for regional produce. For a broad stretch of beaches offering a variety of conditions, try surfing at Morro Bay, where there are a couple of surf shops offering kit to rent and lessons to ease in beginners. A sheltered spot that’s better for swimming, Avila Beach’s golden sands are edged with cafés and shops, and the boardwalk pier has brilliant back-to-shore views. Paso Robles and Edna Valley are the nearest wine-growing areas: to taste the fruits of the latter, head to the old bell-topped schoolhouse turned Tasting Room on Orcutt Road, where you can taste Niven family wines. You’ll need to book at Paso Robles’L’Aventure Winery, for either a tasting-room session or more in-depth tour. The Sunset Drive-In is a Grease-style retro movie theatre: pack popcorn and a picnic, and watch a current release from the comfort of your car. What started as a 12-room motel in the late 1950s is now a titanic temple to kitsch, visited by daytrippers as well as guests. Madonna Inn is a visual feast of gaudy colour, ornate wood-carving, marble staircases and not-a-little gilt.
Unassuming-looking Giovanni’s is a fish market and galley at Morro Bay where you won’t want to miss the oysters – simply shucked or barbecued. Sunday brunch at linen-draped tables on the terrace at Novo is a three-course affair of seafood starters, egg-centric mains and divine desserts that warrants its own cocktail menu. The tables and chairs may be fixed to the floor at beach café Splashat Pismo Beach, but taste the clam chowder for lunch and all is forgiven. For a laid-back supper, head to Firestone Grill and try SLO speciality, tri-tip, which is a sirloin cut that gets a delicious crust when grilled and is tastier than it sounds. And there’s no need to head far for a special occasion, when modern steakhouse Ox + Anchor at the hotel is SLO’s swankiest supper option.
Table lamps atop gleaming counters, bare-brick walls and made-for-lingering armchairs set the scene at Nightcap at Granada Hotel & Bistro, where the cocktail list is long and last orders not till 11pm (midnight at weekends).
Every hotel featured is visited personally by members of our team, given the Smith seal of approval, and then anonymously reviewed. As soon as our reviewers have returned from this coastal hotel in California and unpacked their surf tees and Napa wines, a full account of their boutique break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside Hotel San Luis Obispo…
Above the bed in every room at Hotel San Luis Obispo hangs a bowed beam of wood replicating the silhouette of Mount Madonna, the peak that stands sentry over this former mission town. Art that roots the hotel in its locale can be found throughout, in one-off commissions and architectural nods to the site’s Chinatown past. Food, too, has a deliciously local bent. Italian cuisine gets a Cali makeover at all-day restaurant Piadina. And at steakhouse Ox + Anchor, chef Ryan Fancher showcases seasonal SLO produce. Just like laid-back San Luis Obispo, this namesake hotel is a place to relax. It’s a pocket-size resort with a heated courtyard-pool and cosseting spa. High-ceilinged rooms make the most of West Coast sunshine with floor-to-ceiling windows and either a terrace or balcony. And beyond the hotel, you’re in the heart of downtown SLO, within easy reach of Pacific-lapped beaches, valley wineries and gentle hills made for walking.