White Water is a seaside lodge in central California with adventure-ready surroundings and serious design cred (the interiors by Nina Freudenberger are the last word in coastal cool). The front door is steps from a stretch of surf-blessed beach, a five-minute bike ride from Cambria’s quaint cafes and fifteen minutes by car from the Paso Robles wine region. Inside, you’ll find Aesop bath products, Erewhon goodies in the minibar and fresh pastries delivered daily to your door. This former motel may be just off Highway 1, but it’s a stop so spoiling you won’t want to put it in the rear view.
11am. Earliest check-in, 3pm. Both are flexible, subject to availability.
Double rooms from £306.53 ($427), including tax at 12.695 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional service charge of $2.25 per room per night on check-out and an additional service charge of $11.27 per room per night on check-out.
Rates include free coffee and pastries delivered to your room every morning. For heartier breakfast fare, you’ll need to head into town (it’s just five minutes by bike).
The highly curated shelves in the lobby double as a general store – those design books, vintage vases and beach blankets are all available to buy.
At the hotel
Free WiFi, public beach in reach, boutique, library with board games and vintage magazines, Linus bikes to borrow. In rooms: TV, Aesop bath products and an indulgent mini bar with local wines and Erewhon goodies.
Our favourite rooms
You’ll feel like you’re bedding down in a magazine spread no matter which room you’re in – the interiors are an inspired mix of Baltic birch wood, beach-house whites and organic textures. The Ocean View King rooms merit special mention for their panoramic views of the Pacific and outdoor soaking tub so you can stargaze by night.
A rash guard if you plan to brave the breakers and a fleece for dawn whale-watching missions.
All common areas and a number of Double Queen and Premier King rooms are wheelchair accessible.
Four legged friends are welcome but need to stay on a lead at all times – there’s a charge of 100USD a booking. You can’t take dogs directly on Moonstone beach, but they’ll be more than happy bouncing along the boardwalk. See more pet-friendly hotels in Cambria.
All ages are welcome, but it’s definitely better suited to adventurous teens who want to hike or hang ten.
By the windows, for views of rolling dunes and white-capped waves.
There’s no full-service restaurant on site, but the lobby serves a selection of small bites and sharing plates like cheese fondue and charcuterie.
The petite bar in the lobby lounge has striped wallpaper in a rusty hue, beer on tap and a terrazzo countertop. You’ll also find local wines from their favourite vineyards in Paso Robles, ciders and spirits. Ask about the daily happy hour deals and plan your day accordingly.
Food and drinks are available in the lobby from noon to 9.30pm daily.
There’s no room service, but there are Erewhon snacks, chocolate, local wine and craft beers in your minibar to stave off hunger pangs after dark.
White Water is ensconced in the evergreens above Moonstone Beach in Cambria, just off California’s scenic Highway 1.
There’s a small airport in San Luis Obispo (a 50-minute drive from the hotel), but you’ll need to connect through a larger hub like San Francisco, Los Angeles, Dallas or Denver.
The Amtrak station in San Luis Obispo offers daily service by the Coast Starlight train (which travels between Los Angeles and Seattle) and the Pacific Surfliner (which travels along the coast from San Luis Obispo to San Diego).
Hit the ignition – Cambria is equidistant from Los Angeles and San Francisco (about three and a half hours from each) on the famous Highway 1, so it’s the perfect overnight stop for both you and your little red Corvette. And, being a former roadside inn, there’s plenty of free parking on site.
Worth getting out of bed for
If you’ve brought your board, you can find some of the central coast's best surfing on naturally secluded Moonstone Beach. There can be strong swells so it’s best suited to intermediate or advanced riders. If you prefer to stay dry, you can borrow one of the hotel’s Linus bikes and explore the boardwalk. The scenic, looping trails at the Fiscalini Ranch Preserve wind through pine forest, rolling grasslands and have stunning views of the coast – you might get lucky and spot a migrating whale (yelling ‘ahoy’ is optional but strongly recommended).
Fifteen minutes’ drive up the coast is Xanadu-like Hearst Castle, the former newspapers tycoon’s mind-boggling mansion that houses more art and antiquities than you could ever see in a day (plus a herd of zebras, for some reason). Or wend your way to the exciting wine region of Paso Robles – book ahead for tastings and tours at Tablas Creek, Tin City and Austin Hope.
Head to Hidden Kitchen for their famous blue corn waffles, tacos and superfood smoothies (the Cambria location is only open on weekends, but the Cayucos location twenty minutes’ drive south is open six days a week). Unabashedly kitsch Sea Chest is the place for a plate of oysters and sea views from the patio. Madeline’s on Main Street has a bit more romance, plus a bottle shop selling boutique wines.
Mozzi’s is the last cowboy saloon standing in Cambria, complete with taxidermy, a jukebox and a pool table – yee haw. 922is a micro-brewery that makes some of central California’s best IPAs, ales and stouts (they’ve even got growlers to-go for your hotel room enjoyment).
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 coast-hugging hotel in California and unpacked their wetsuits and local wine, a full account of their engine-revvin’ roadtrip will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside White Water in Cambria…
Miraculously, seeing as it sits between San Francisco and Los Angeles on Highway 1 – that rite-of-passage road trip on everybody’s bucket list – Cambria still feels blissfully sleepy and undiscovered, the kind of place where you can drive in and slow right down. Continue past Main Street’s adorable delis and seafood restaurants and you’ll find White Water sitting pretty between the Monterey pines and the pounding surf on Moonstone Beach. The former motel is part of the PRG portfolio (they’re the Golden State gurus behind fellow Smith spots Sparrows Lodge, Casa Laguna and sister hotel Cambria Beach Lodge) and recently got a ravishing re-do by Nina Freudenberger, a Los Angeles-based designer who’s made her name as the arbiter of surf shack chic. These are the kind of laidback interiors that encourage you to come back sandy, windswept and water-logged, because nature is the main event in these parts. Just be sure to wrap up your surfing, hiking or coastline cruising in time for happy hour in the ocean-gazing lobby – you wouldn’t want to miss chef Jason’s famous fondue…