Of all the places we've stayed along the Pacific Coast Highway, the Franciscan Inn in Santa Barbara was one of our favorites.
All Photos (c) Donna Dailey
And it's hard to say exactly why. It wasn't the most luxurious, although it's certainly very comfortable. It doesn't have a fancy restaurant – in fact it doesn't have any kind of restaurant. Its breakfasts are fabulous, though, brought in by the lovely Carol, an outside caterer who sets up shop in the guest lounge and serves incredibly light croissants, bread from local bakeries, and some of the best muffins we've ever tasted: cinnamon with maple syrup frosting, the morning we were there. Some of the other guests were obviously regulars, asking Carol how she was doing and telling us (it's a friendly place) that they always stayed here when they came to Santa Barbara.
Perhaps it was just the look of the place, as we felt good about it before we'd even checked in. It's a lovely 1920s Spanish-style building, typical of Santa Barbara, that used to be a ranch but has been stylishly and sympathetically converted into a motel-style Inn. The owners have kept the history and atmosphere, but made the Inn an unpretentious and welcoming home from home.
There were several different people manned the check-in desk during our stay, and we peppered them with questions about Santa Barbara. We have to say that every single one of them was friendly, helpful, and knowledgeable about the town. Nothing was too much trouble for them, and their good humor helped to make for a very friendly visit.
We were in room 174 (above), on the upper floor of the motel-style Inn. It was light and bright, with two huge beds, acres of space, and no noise at all from either neighbors or the street. The Inn is in a quiet residential neighborhood, but only one block from the beach and a few blocks from Stearns Wharf and the main State Street.
As well as the complimentary parking, the Inn offers free wireless internet to guests, free local phone calls, cable TV with HBO, complimentary breakfast, and has a free movie library if you just want to stay in and relax in your room – or keep the kids entertained. There's also a small spa and a year-round heated outdoor pool.
The Franciscan Inn is easy to find if you're driving the Pacific Coast Highway, in either direction. Directions are on their website, but basically you just head for the ocean and one block back from the seafront along Bath you find the Inn. There's plenty of free parking. And if you're taking the train it's walking distance from the Santa Barbara Amtrak station.
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Road maps of the Pacific Coast Highway or PCH are essential for anyone planning to drive the trip, and detailed routes are available for free download via these links to the Mile by Mile website.
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Pacific Coast Highway Travel recommends good cheap motels in San Diego including Super-8, Motel 6, Travelodge and Days Inn.
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To help you in choosing your Pacific Coast Highway hotel, guesthouse, inn, bed-and-breakfast, resort, motel or other accommodations, we've prepared our Pacific Coast Highway Hotels Guide. In it we do mini-reviews of accommodations along the Highway, from Seattle to San Diego, through Washington, Oregon, and California.
In all there are over 200 hotels listed, complete with 8 pages of color maps showing the towns where our recommended hotels can be found. There are both alphabetical and geographical indexes, helping you plan your journey.
We also include color photos of all the hotels that are our Personal Favorites. Here's the link to read more about our ebook guide to Pacific Coast Highway hotels.
The 2016 edition of our Hotels Guide is available with maps and color photos (if you have a color reader) in the US Kindle Store for only $4.99 and in the UK Kindle Store and other Kindle stores worldwide at prices based on the US price.
If you want a paperback edition of the 2016 guide with only black and white photos and black-and-white maps, it costs $6.99 at the US Amazon Book Store and £4.99 in the UK Amazon Store.