Nearly the perfect midpoint between Los Angeles and San Francisco, you’ll see it— a pink icon that’s thrilled travelers for more than half a century. The Madonna Inn, an alpine-infused delight nestled over a thousand acres of the rolling hills of California’s central coast region. 

As legend has it, Alex Madonna, a legendary Californian real estate magnate, designed the motor inn on a napkin, envisioning a Swiss chalet paradise nestled up in the central coast hills. He and his wife Phyllis dreamed up each of the rooms, favoring a mood-boosting pink color palette enriched with vibrant bold accents. The Madonnas hired a Bavarian wood carver and copper and brass artisans for hand-crafted original designs. They purchased and installed hand-carved marble balustrade from the Hearst Castle for their grand Gold Rush dining room. 

Image courtesy of Madonna Inn

The Madonna Inn opened on Christmas Eve of 1958 to rave reviews. Madonna started construction in 1960 for the main inn, including a wine cellar, cafe, cocktail lounge and banquet hall. Now the Madonna Inn boasts 110 rooms, all unique. There’s Room 183, the Love Nest, just over the trestle bridge, with a private viewing room accessible by way of a winding pink carpeted staircase. Or Room 202, the Swiss Belle, an alpine folklore wonderland with leaded glass windows of pastoral Swiss scenes and a natural stone bathroom with a rock waterfall. The charm of the Madonna Inn is a Disneyland-level attention to small, delightful details. 

Image courtesy of Madonna Inn (The Love Nest, room 183)

Beyond the inn, it’s easy to see why San Luis Obispo is a staycation hotspot for both Northern and Southern Californians. With over 30 wineries in the region, it’s a wine taster’s paradise for aromatic white wines, Burgundy, Rhône, and Pinot Noir varietals. Hiking trails and curated tasting menus can make the wine tasting tours a gorgeous all-day affair.

Image courtesy of SLO Coast Wine

If you’re looking for a more adventurous side of your relaxation, the pristine beaches of the San Luis Obispo Bay are a quick 10 minute drive west. The Avila Beach sea caves are a can’t-miss combination of an easy half-mile hike with gorgeous views and sea caves just perfect for taking in a sunset view. The beach has a small sandy area with plenty of tide pools to get a peek at colorful anemones and crabs. (Be aware that a few of the beaches in the area are clothing-optional!)

Make sure to schedule a guided tour of the nearby Hearst Castle, the estate of newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst. It’s got 127 acres of gardens, an ancient Roman temple at the center of a Neptune pool, and occasionally the odd roaming zebra taking a stroll on the grounds. The daily tours are better for more casual visitors and family members, but if you want to kick it up a notch, check out the Evening Tour offerings where costumed staff create an interactive theater Living History program. 

Rooms at the Madonna Inn can fill fast, especially around holidays, so lock down your travel dates and pick our your one-of-a-kind room here

Image courtesy of Madonna Inn