The newest way to enjoy California's scenic Central Coast is to go a step beyond the cozy and comfortable accommodations found all along Pismo Beach and enjoy the ocean view from a hotel unit you might be well satisfied to call your permanent residence. In fact, several of the accommodations at the new Dolphin Bay Resort & Spa will be homes for permanent residents.
The hotel adds an exclamation mark to an area already known for some of the most appealing condos and hotels in California. Pismo Beach is so long and wide that it's hard not to have a gorgeous ocean view when you stay anywhere along the coastline here. The natural scenery as well as a long list of recreational activities make this one of the most popular vacation areas in the state.
Now along comes Dolphin Bay Resort & Spa. We were told before arrival to be prepared for our ocean-front unit to be unusually well-equipped and not a typical resort condo. True to the advance billing, this hotel unit — a condo-style home, really — was like stepping into a model home you might find at an upscale housing development. The difference here, of course, was that this was perched on a cliff overlooking Shell Beach, an extension of the much broader Pismo Beach.
The gourmet kitchen was striking — Wolf and Sub-zero appliances, custom cabinetry, all color coordinated and looking like a picture out of Better Homes and Gardens. Cuisinart table-top appliances helped create the impression that someone had thought of everything. If you can't afford this kind of stuff in your own home, here is the chance to see how the other half lives -- if only for a few days at a time.
The home theater is sure to be a favorite with families — surround sound and a large rectangular flat panel TV made the living room seem like theaters you only find in the most expensive residences. Top-grade hardwoods, travertine flooring, solid-core doors and tightly woven carpet all add to the sense that you're getting an up-close look at the good life. Even such details as high-thread count Italian designer linens are not overlooked. Jetted tub? Of course. Cozy fireplace? You bet. Big resort-style swimming pool? Only a big resort-style infinity swimming pool will do.
Such attention to detail no doubt comes partly from having a general manager who has experience heading hotels on five continents. The hotel's developers point in their press materials that Reto V. Torriani also rides a custom Harley Davidson motorcycle and once fronted a rock band. That explains everything.
Equally impressive are the credentials of Chef Evan Treadwell of the resort's Lido Restaurant. Treadwell comes from executive chef positions at Sycamore Springs Resort and the Boutique Hotel Collection where he created cuisine for 10 upscale boutique hotels. At the Benbow Inn, he won awards for his "wine country cuisine," which will be a mainstay at the Lido.
The accommodations at Dolphin Bay are so unique visitors will be tempted to spend entirely too much time at the resort. A getaway on this part of the Central California Coast can keep you hopping and, unless you're a card-carrying couch potato, you'll want to get out and explore.
The ocean, of course, is at the top of the list and we enjoyed some great family time exploring Pismo Beach, checking out the waterfront caves and walking the endless beaches. The funky pier area is loaded with kids' attractions which made our 5-year-old quite happy.
The sea was a little rough during the time we visited so we didn't get a chance to spot much of the sealife that is so abundant along this part of the California coastline. It turns out that Dolphin Bay actually has that name for a reason — its waters are home to long-beaked and short-beaked common dolphins as well as several other variations of dolphins and porpoises. Seals, sea otters and gray whales also are often sighted in the area, especially in the winter months.
As you might expect, the area's golf courses take full advantage of the area's scenic beauty and the ocean breezes make even the warmest days ideal for getting a little exercise. Other significant attractions near Pismo Beach include:
Beaches, beaches and more beaches -- The beaches, in fact, are often the main reason visitors come to this part of California and Pismo Beach is just the beginning. More than 80 miles of beaches are ready for exploration, each just a little different than the one preceding it. Driving Highway 1 along the coast is a kaleidoscope of colorful beach scenes that offer everything from wide, sandy beaches for sun worshippers to craggy shoreline perfect for finding tide pools and various forms of sea life.
Montana de Oro State Park — This 8,000-acre park includes some 50 miles of well-maintained trails. Visitors enjoy hiking, biking and horseback riding on these trails and there is shore-fishing and scuba diving from the park's beaches.
Cambria — Just up the coast, this artists' colony offers a charming afternoon of shopping as well as enjoyable dining in several local restaurants. The scenery in this part of the county is what really makes it appealing — the closer you drive to the coast, the more Monterey pines appear. This area offers a combination of rolling hills, quiet winding roads and towering pines. It's also here that you'll find Moonstone Beach, so named because of the semi-precious agate and jasper stones that can be found in the sand.
San Simeon and Hearst Castle — When you stay at Pismo Beach you are within striking distance of one of California's top tourist attractions, the famous Hearst Castle. Bus coaches leave from an elaborate visitors' center and take visitors a few miles up into the mountains to the former home of publishing magnate William Randolf Hearst.
Paso Robles — Drive inland a ways and you'll see that the Paso Robles area presents another type of getaway experience altogether — a group of 80 tasting rooms just waiting for you to stop and enjoy the fruits of these up-and-coming wineries. Paso Robles hasn't been discovered to the degree that Napa has, so prices are lower and the locals say the quality is just as good. In this particular region, the volcanic soil has made the local grapes especially appropriate for red wines.
AT A GLANCE
WHERE: Pismo Beach is about half way between Los Angeles and San Francisco and easily reached by driving Highway 101 north or south.
WHAT: Dolphin Bay Resort & Spa offers the newest luxury accommodations in Pismo Beach and joins a wide selection of vacation rentals and hotels throughout this scenic area. Sixty-three of the resort's units are available for rent.
WHEN: Any time of year. Rain is possible during the winter months, but the area boasts 315 days of sunshine each year.
WHY: Dolphin Bay Hotel offers big-city glitz and amenities in a rural and scenic setting.
HOW: For more information on Dolphin Bay Resort & Spa, phone 800-516-0112 or visit www.thedolphinbay.com. Rates start at $300 for a one-bedroom, $450 for a two-bedroom unit. For more information on Pismo Beach, phone 800-443-7778 or visit www.classiccalifornia.com.
RECOMMENDED LODGING: Click for more information on recommended Pismo Beach lodging.
Photo credits: Cary Ordway, Sandi Ordway
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