Hotel at a Glance: Sands Inn & Suites
On Sands Inn & Suites' outdoor patio, guests lounge by the heated pool and take in the hotel's Spanish-style tiled roofs, a trait common throughout San Luis Obispo. Here, a hot tub sits beneath a pergola, and oversized umbrellas provide ample shade. This AAA three-diamond property helps guests shake off morning grogginess with a hot breakfast buffet. Stately guest rooms come with colorful bedspreads, high-speed WiFi, DVD players, and free access to a library of videos.
- Walking distance: The hotel is conveniently located for walks to California Polytechnic University and downtown San Luis Obispo (both less than a mile).
- Farmers' market: On Thursdays, more than 120 vendors sell their wares at the local market, which features a massive barbecue pit for grilling ribs, chicken, sausages, and calzones
- Xanadu: In nearby San Simeon, visit Hearst Castle, a private 127-acre, 165-room estate built by William Randolph Hearst featuring Renaissance art, ornate swimming pools, a curated gardens (about a 45-minute drive)
- Sample vintages at an array of nearby wineries that take advantage of wine country's rich soil
San Luis Obispo, California: Historic City Close to Hiking and the Pacific Coast
Founded in 1772 as a mission community, San Luis Obispo is one of the oldest towns in California. Nicknamed “SLO,” it’s located halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles and has a thriving downtown. Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa is its centerpiece. It was the original mission of the city, and has been completely restored and now houses a museum. Near the mission, you can wander through posh boutique shops and dine at upscale restaurants.
San Luis Obispo is almost perpetually sunny, with more than 300 rain-free days every year. The city is bisected by a string of hills known as the Nine Sisters, and six of these are open for climbing, hiking, and mountain biking. With the Pacific coastline and beaches 10 miles away, many visitors flock to the area to go windsurfing, kayaking, surfing, and kiteboarding. Also nearby is the resort town of Avila Beach, famous for its hot mineral springs.
San Luis Obispo made international headlines in 1990 when it became the first place in the world to ban smoking in all public buildings, including bars and restaurants. This action sparked worldwide antismoking laws, and today, it’s a citable offense to smoke in public at all in SLO. Considering the city’s famously strict health codes, it’s a delightful surprise that Bubble Gum Alley exists here. Locals and visitors have been sticking their chewed gum on Bubble Gum Alley’s walls since about 1960, and in turn, the alley is now a massive, mosaic-like public artwork that's at once beautiful and grotesque.