What’s happening to room rates? We’ve noticed the creep for a while, but now it feels like any hotel near a body of water or mountain or winery, regardless of whether it’s been renovated since the Reagan era, is north of $250 per night. And that’s before you throw in add-ons like parking and wireless.
So we set out to find rooms—weekend rooms—for under $150 per night*. Call us cheap, but for that price we also want our own bathroom, no bedbugs, and rooms, or at the very least lobbies, with a dash of personality. And each one of these hotels is in a place we really want to go. (*All hotels have an under-$150 rate for at least 1 weekend through late spring and summer. Rates do not include tax.) What follows is our list of the best.
1. 29 Palms Inn, near Joshua Tree National Park. Just outside the north entrance of the park is an inviting clutch of 20 brightly colored adobe bungalows and wood-frame cabins, plus a pool to splash in after a day spent exploring the park’s desertscape. Many rooms have views across the desert, some from private patios. $132; 2-night minimum; 29palmsinn.com
2. Hotel Maya, Long Beach. With a cheerily mod lobby, a waterfront pool with cabanas that seem to float, and a brightly colored nuevo Latino vibe, the 196-room Maya is a touch of the tropics in SoCal and got an upgrade in 2009. Ask for a room facing the harbor, not the docks. If you’re headed downtown, a water taxi is definitely the stylish way to go. $148; hotelmayalongbeach.com
3. Figueroa Hotel, Los Angeles. Moorish-romantic touches like ottomans, lanterns, and magic-carpet rugs give this 1920s hotel an Old World vibe. The theaters and sports arenas of the L.A. Live and Staples Center are right across the street, but it’s just as easy to stay put at the candlelit bar by the bougainvillea-shrouded pool. $148; figueroahotel.com
4. The Pearl Hotel, San Diego. A block from the harbor, this vintage motel turned boutique hotel has kept its spirit with classic cocktails and movies by the kidney-shaped saltwater pool. Nab a lounge chair before showtime; afterward, head back to your room with a platform bed and va-va-voom mirrored ceiling. $129; thepearlsd.com
5. Motel 6, Santa Barbara. At the first-ever Motel 6, the 51 rooms have been snazzed up with flat-screen TVs and bold splashes of color. Rooms are tiny, but you’re a half-block from the beach—and in this tony town, you cannot beat the price. $136; motel6.com
6. Wine Valley Inn, Santa Ynez Valley wine country. Like much of the olde Denmark–loving town of Solvang, the inn looks like it could be the hideout of Snow White, down to the bridge crossing a babbling brook out back. More to the point, though, the 65-room inn is an easy home base for exploring town or driving out to taste the Santa Ynez Valley wineries’ best Pinots. $134; 2-night minimum; winevalleyinn.com
7. Del Marcos Hotel, Palm Springs. A portrait of Ol’ Blue Eyes greets you in the lobby of this midcentury-modern charmer 1 block from downtown. The 17 rooms wrap around a saltwater pool flanked by striped chaises, a firepit, shuffleboard court, and palm-dotted mountain views that just don’t get old. Cute black cruiser bikes are a bonus. $139; 2-night minimum; delmarcoshotel.com
8. Pacific Edge Hotel, Laguna Beach. Perhaps it’s the moment when a beach sherpa scurries out with your chair and umbrella on the white-sand beach that happy shock sets in. Or when you’re curled up in a yellow Adirondack above the waves on your beachfront balcony that you’ll shake your head in giddy bafflement. How you can be camped out at a chic hotel on the prettiest stretch of beach in Laguna and not be going into credit card debt is best left a mystery. Here, the shag carpets and polyester pillows of a former 8-building Vacation Village were ripped up, making way for sassy chartreuse walls, Endless Summer surf art, and pillow menus that you’ll appreciate when you’re not on the sand, in one of the 2 pools, or finally taking that surf lesson. $149; pacificedgehotel.com
Next: Northern California