California’s Highway 1 excels in pit-stop perfection, but a particularly worthy one is Cayucos, especially if you pull up outside the Pacific Motel. This motor lodge is formed from bungalows built in the Twenties and moved here in the Fifties, but they’ve since had a fresh lick of paint (Sherwin Williams’ Alabaster White, if you’re wondering) and a modernising influx of clean, simple, Scandi style. It’s a block back from the beach, for some surfin’ USA in the Pacific – after you’ve caught some waves, continue the laid-back lifestyle at the fire pits or in one of Cayucos’s handful of restaurants.
11am, but flexible, subject to availability ($75 an hour until 1pm). Earliest check-in, 3pm.
Double rooms from £117.15 ($149), including tax at 12.5 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional resort fee of $30.00 per room per night on check-out.
Rates don’t include breakfast.
The Pacific Motel has two categories with ADA options: Standard King and Private Bungalow.
At the hotel
Free WiFi throughout, fire pits, ping-pong table, bicycles to borrow, outdoor shower, ice machine, boutique, Tesla charging stations, lawns. In rooms: Bluetooth radio, free bottled water, minibar, fridge and California-made Fable Rune bath products.
Our favourite rooms
The lodgings are all similar in style, with shiplap framework, ceiling fans, and small private patios or wood-burning stoves in some. Groups of girlfriends will love the Back Bungalow, which has two queen-size beds and its own porch, plus a communal lounge and fire pit around the corner – it’s also especially well positioned for sunsets over the ocean.
Wetsuits, wax and surf spray for your locks so you don’t stand out as an interloper.
Dogs weighing under 40lbs are welcome to stay in the pet-friendly Vaulted King rooms with prior notice for a fee of $100. Only one dog is allowed per room. They’re welcome in the hotel’s communal areas, but must be on a leash and are not permitted on any See more pet-friendly hotels in Cayucos.
All ages are welcome and there are rooms with two queen-size beds that are perfect for families.
Lots of the amenities and products used are locally sourced, including Parachute linens and Linus bicycles from Venice, and Fable Rune bath products from Oakland. The drought-tolerant landscaping is well suited to the Californian environs, there are no single-use plastics and the loo roll is eco-friendly. And Cayucos may only have a population of 2,000 but the staff are all local.
The Pacific Motel is in the classic coastal Californian town of Cayucos, roughly equidistant from Los Angeles and San Francisco on the shores of the Pacific.
San Luis Obispo County Airport is closest, but international arrivals will most likely touch down in San Francisco or Los Angeles, and call in at Cayucos as part of their Highway 1 road trip.
The rail station in San Luis Obispo is a 20-minute drive from the hotel. From here, services to Santa Barbara take under three hours. To Los Angeles, the train ride will take around six hours.
The drive south from San Francisco will take around four hours; north from Los Angeles, journey time is three-and-a-half hours. The traditional motor lodge has free parking and a couple of Tesla charging points.
Worth getting out of bed for
Everybody’s gone surfing – literally in Cayucos’s case. This classic California coast town is as laid-back as they come and days on the beach are the top priority, whether you’re here to stroll on the sand, catch some surf or go fishing off the pier. The motel has Linus bicycles ready for guests to borrow (included in the resort fee) and staff can direct you to local surf shops for board and wetsuit hire. The quiet coastal community is a worthy stop on a Highway 1 road trip, with stores ranging from cute trinket shops to hipster-pleasing curated boutiques and legendary cookie bakeries (ie the Brown Butter Cookie Company), and Victorian houses that were once captain’s quarters. Also nearby are the vineyards of the Santa Ynez Valley, fellow sleepy seaside spot Cambria, bonkers Hearst Castle and Morros Bay. Santa Barbara is a two-hour drive south.
There are only a handful of restaurants in Cayucos, ranging from simple shacks to slightly more formal places. Schooners is an institution on the beach, serving crab cakes, ceviche and oysters with the Pacific crashing in the background. Another local favourite (since 1983) is the Sea Shanty, with puddings such as swamp pie (peanut butter cookie, hot fudge, white chocolate and peanut butter sauce, and peanut butter ice-cream) to save space for. Helpfully revealed by a big sign outside, the not-so Hidden Kitchen serves sweet and savory blue-corn tacos and waffles, and superfood smoothies.
There are only a couple of bars in town (we said it was sleepy) – Beach Bums overlooks the pier from its outdoor oceanfront deck, or you can go full wild, wild west at the Old Cayucos Tavern, a classic saloon with surely a few cowboys propping up the bar.
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 roadside hotel in California and unpacked their surfboards and wetsuits, a full account of their beach break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside the Pacific Motel in Cayucos…
Just steps from the surf, the Pacific Motel is ready to welcome weary road-trippers with clean, comfortable rooms, a snack truck and a bottle shop for cosy communal evenings beside a fire pit. It’s the kind of motor lodge motorists dream of, like a mirage on the highway as night starts to fall – Parachute linens, Fable Rune bath products and thoughtfully stocked minibars instead of the creepy receptionists and bedbug infestations you may have previously associated with roadside lodgings. The motel is roughly midway between San Francisco and Los Angeles, with fellow laid-back coastal village Cambria a short drive away. Also within easy reach for the devoted day-trippers are San Luis Obispo and the Hearst Castle. Everybody’s gone surfing – and you should probably join them.