Best places to stay in Mendocino: Find the top hotels, inns and B&Bs

by May 2, 2023California

Couple On Bench At Inn At Newport Ranch

Looking for the best place to stay in Mendocino? Our guide to finding the best hotels, inns and bed and breakfasts along the Northern California coast will help you get to know Mendocino County’s 90 miles of coastline and 20 towns so you end up in the best place to stay that matches your desired vacation experience.

Mendocino County in Northern California boasts over 90 miles of gorgeous coastline dotted with 20 quaint villages, each offering a mind-boggling array of choices of places to stay. How do you decide what to pick among the many hotels, resorts, inns as well as bed and breakfasts? That’s where we come in. We’ve stayed up and down the coast and know it well. Our Mendocino lodging guide will help you make the right choice for the type of Mendocino coast escape you are seeking.

Take a look at our breakdown of some of the best lodgings for your visit and how different regions of the coast compare to others. From tiny towns and hidden beaches, to great wine and Michelin-star food, to secluded trails and rugged rocky coastlines, we’ll help you pick just the right area and lodging for your Mendocino travels. For this guide, we’re going to stick to the coastline as the majority of visitors to the county want to enjoy the small coastal towns – many of which have a sustainable leaning.

While many first-time visitors to Mendocino County focus in on the cute little cliff-hugging burg of Mendocino, there are many more lodging choices up and down the coast that may better satisfy your budget and preferences. And wherever you stay, you’ll want to explore Mendocino’s broad array of things to do, from hikes and art, to beaches and award winning wine-tasting.

Solitude is what you seek

Inn at Newport Ranch Main Inn. and Cypress Tree

Starting at the far north of the county, you will find coastlines and rolling hills that offer solitude. At the Inn at Newport Ranch, with its emphasis on sustainable travel, you will be spoiled by 2,000 private acres ranging from the coast to the redwood hills. You not only find invigorating hikes and sweeping coast views, but its privacy offers travelers a truly restorative retreat.

Granted, there is not a lot up that way in Mendocino County. Which is the true advantage. But can of course be a disadvantage if you don’t want to drive. Unless you plan to just nestle in at the Inn at Newport Ranch (a great option, by the way), you will need to drive to dinners and beaches. Still, the inn is a superb choice for a luxury lodging retreat that was built from reclaimed wood and opened in 2015.

And although it seems quite isolated, you really are only 20 minutes from the larger city of Fort Bragg to the south where you can find all the dining and entertainment you may seek. The Inn at Newport Ranch is in fact considered to be in Fort Bragg although the closest community is one called Westport.

Pros: Secluded, private, luxury setting for a sustainable, restorative retreat

A hidden gem in the town of Fort Bragg

Noyo Harbor Deck Harbor

Driving along Highway 1, the city of Fort Bragg may seem like a shock if you are seeking the coastal cuteness of Mendocino as a traveler. This is where you find fast food and chain hotels. But look beyond that to discover the surprise escape that offers seclusion in the thick of the city – Noyo Harbor Inn. You not only have great access to coastal trails, as well as dining and entertainment options, but you also aren’t far from services like large grocery stores and gas stations.

The Noyo Harbor Inn is tucked high up on a bluff overlooking, yes, Noyo Harbor. There are stairs from the property down to the working harbor where you can get some of the best seafood around – often caught just that day. The harbor a truly fascinating and authentic spot offering a look at the history of Mendocino – and is where the locals go.

The Noyo Harbor Inn is also part of that history with its heritage dating back 150 years. It took a lot of love — and money — to re-style it into the beautiful Craftsman retreat it is today for travelers to Mendocino.

Pros: Accessible, historic inn in the middle of town yet secluded, with harbor access

HITT Tip: Don’t miss a chance to experience the Skunk Train Railbikes, either on a longer Pudding Creak excursion or a shorter excursion through the redwoods. The station is very accessible in Fort Bragg.

Uber cute Mendocino Headlands lodging

Mendocino Village And Headlands

Many people want to stay right in the little town of Mendocino nestled on the little thumb of land called the Mendocino Headlands. This speck of land is so small, a trail around town clinging to the top of the headlands is not much more than two miles, making for great walks.

Staying right in the historic, super cute town of Mendocino can be a great benefit since you can park your car and walk around so easily – to tourist shops, cafes, premium restaurants, and the like – although you will still need to drive to get to beaches, grocery stores, and other sights.

If you seek a quaint and historic B&B, this is your place to stay. However, you best reserve in advance, especially during the summer and fall seasons, since lodging is also limited by the size of the town, surrounded on three sides by rocky cliffs.

If you want total solitude and a peaceful coastal escape, this may not be the best choice in Mendocino County. Still, the historic lodgings are what many think of when looking for a place to stay in Mendocino.

Pros: Historic, walkable, busy tourist center with quaint B&Bs

HITT Tip: Between Fort Bragg 15 minutes by car to the north of Mendocino, there are a number of key sights, including the must-visit Mendocino Botanical Garden, as well as the inspiring Point Cabrillo Lighthouse, and the fascinating Jughandle State Park and Preserve. Jughandle moves from the beach to thickly forested paths to a dry and hot Pygmy Forest.

Quiet, casual, cozy luxury just south of Mendocino

Therese Iknoian Enjoying The Deck And Views From Brewery Gulch I

There is another enclave of lodgings just south of the town of Mendocino that also offer great places to stay. Several are only 2-4 miles south but seem to be in a different gloriously peaceful world compared to the buzz in town.

The first one is Brewery Gulch Inn & Spa, less than two miles from town. It offers intimate, super casual lodging with a dynamic view of the ocean from its deck, in part because it is perched slightly up a hill above Highway 1. With just 11 rooms, you may just feel as if you are visiting friends and hanging out at their home. One of the awesome things at this inn is the meals that are included: You get a cooked-to-order breakfast, and the evening wine hour offers complimentary beverages with small plates that are frankly plenty for a light dinner. The entire focus is on sustainable travel and organic, local locally sourced food.

Like so many places along the coast, you will have to drive to get about anywhere from Brewery Gulch Inn, including even basic walks. Although not even two miles from town, crossing the narrow, busy Big River Bridge on foot is not the safest, either. But once you are nestled into the Inn, you may not want to leave!

Pros: Intimate, friendly, very small inn with breakfast and a light dinner included.

Casual stay offering “holistic hospitality” on a farm-like setting

Glendeven Inn Mendocino Night

Down the road is the SCP Mendocino Inn & Farm, considered to be in the town of Little River. Here you can choose from rooms in a number of different buildings scattered both across the main property and on the west side of Highway 1 across the road – from a lodge to a farmhouse to other buildings, all with their own character. You will definitely want to check them all out before booking and even inquire with the hotel since nearly every one has a very different feel.

SCP Mendocino Inn & Farm is right along Highway 1, meaning rooms close to the road will get some traffic noise, but there are plenty to choose from that do not.

One of the great advantages of this casual inn is its immediate out-the-door access to so many miles of either forested paths in the Van Damme State Park (the Fern Canyon Trail is superb), as well as the 350-acre Spring Ranch Nature Reserve that hugs the coast with forests, windswept meadows and a couple of historic barns.

A delicious locally sourced, homemade breakfast is included in your stay, and is either delivered to your door or served in the farmhouse.

Pros: Immediate trail and outdoor access, casual farm experience, holistic and sustainable

(HI Travel Tales stayed at both of the above inns before ownership changed, although amenities had remained the same at the time of this writing.)

Mendocino history meets ocean views and golf

Therese Iknoian Enjoying Breakfast With A View Of The Pacific Oc

In the “town” of Little River – and that’s reaching just a bit since there isn’t much there other than the hotel, a restaurant, a small market, a post office and, yes, a cemetery – sits the Little River Inn on the east side of Highway 1. Up slightly on a hill, the buildings offer grand ocean views, and you can even tuck along a short path to the Van Damme State Beach and State Park.

The Little River Inn is a truly historic place to stay in Mendocino: It was built in 1857 and is still in the same family. Situated on 225 wooded acres, the Little River Inn has a variety of rooms, some in a “motel-like” building, as well as separate cottages and larger rentals units.

Even if you don’t select the Little River Inn as your preferred place to stay, we do recommend a dinner in its garden – a destination for many locals and travelers alike. And then there’s the golf: The inn prides itself on having the only golf course on the coast. There, you get nine holes winding through redwoods that also offering some ocean views. The course was opened in 1957 under the eye of the third-generation owner and first-generation innkeeper.

Pros: Historic setting with mostly unobstructed ocean views and the only golf course around

HITT Tip: When visiting Mendocino, wine-tasting is something for every wine lover. If  you arrive on the Mendocino Coast via Highway 128 and Boonville, you can peruse the plethora of wineries in Anderson Valley on your way in. Otherwise, make a special trip there. Don’t be surprised if you go from the chilly and perhaps foggy coast to a hot and sunny day in Anderson Valley!

Natural seclusion off the beaten tourist path

Gazebo And Gardens At Elk Cove Inn Mendocino

Elk is pretty far south – 17 miles from Mendocino but remember it’s a winding coastal drive not a sprint. There is not really a lot in the little place called Elk – although you will find the sometimes quirky Elk Cove Inn & Spa where the waves of the Pacific Ocean will lull you to sleep.

The Elk Cove Inn is part-bed and breakfast, part-homestead and part-sustainable farm – and still developing since its new owner took over in 2018 and new managers/co-owners stepped in in 2020.

You cannot call this a luxury escape, but its seclusion and privacy feel oh-so-luxurious. There are a lot of great amenities, from the bountiful included breakfast to a fantastic garden and amazing on-site dinners, not to mention private beach access. Yes, you also get cozy robes, but the home-away-from-home, laid-back feel imparted by the managers/co-owners allows you to decompress and just be.

Like with so many towns along the Mendocino coast, you will have to drive to get most meals or sightsee – but then again, you could also just make this a totally secluded getaway and not move except to walk to the beach or saunter about the slightly funky tiny town.

With such a range of offerings and vibes all up and down the Mendocino Coast, finding your best place to stay may not be easy. And with so many things to do all over Mendocino County, you may want to just keep coming back and try out all the areas and lodging types.

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