Mendocino’s Elk Cove Inn: Quirky, comfy bed and breakfast with spectacular views

by Feb 21, 2023California

Gazebo And Gardens At Elk Cove Inn Mendocino

Elk Cove Inn & Spa in Mendocino is a lovely bed and breakfast where the sounds of Pacific Ocean waves lull you to sleep at night, and the innkeeper awakens you in the morning with a knock and a sumptuous breakfast tray left at the door.

Mendocino County’s Elk Cove Inn is a unique place, even by Mendocino standards. One that is part-bed and breakfast, and part-homestead and sustainable farm, all woven together with a thread of unpretentious comfort. And somehow it works, thanks in large part to husband-and-wife co-owners Melissa Boon and Victor Passalacqua.

Mendocino Elk Cove Inn Innkeepers Garden

Elk Cove innkeepers Melissa and Victor in their garden with beehives in the background — all newly installed by them.

The two showed up at Elk Cove in May of 2020 in a broken-down RV in which they’d been planning to live a nomadic life – and then they never left. Rakesh Taneja (a retired Lt. Colonel in the Indian Army who specializes in “turning around sick businesses,” according to his LinkedIn profile) acquired the inn in 2018. It did not take him long to recognize the value Melissa and Victor brought to Elk Cove. A deal was struck so the two became his business partners.

And their influence continues to be felt, as the inn shifts away from its former owner’s attempts to create a luxury escape, to a place where customers return because if feels like a home-away-from-home – albeit one with quirks and a bit of homestead funkiness (like that broken-down Rialta RV that was still sitting in the parking lot on jacks when we visited in October 2022).

“We’re not trying to be a luxury destination,” Victor told us. “We have very comfortable beds and cozy robes, but they are nothing fancy. That’s not who we are.”

What Elk Cove Inn aspires to be, the couple told us, is a friendly, casual, very comfortable, welcoming escape for guests – one that fulfills Melissa’s lifelong desire to homestead. It certainly has that vibe. Just behind the gravel parking area is a greenhouse where Victor grows many of the vegetables and herbs used in the food he prepares for guests of the inn and restaurant. A culinary garden stretches up to the main road from the inn and has honeybees as well as more herbs and plants that Victor, an acclaimed chef, uses in cooking. There are also goats, chickens (yes, fresh eggs for breakfast) and rabbits (they are often on the dinner menu).

Mendocino Elk Cove Inn Rabbits Chickens

Everything about Elk Cove just feels relaxed, friendly, and without any attempt to try to be more than it is – a very comfy place to stay where every guest feels special. Our first impression of Elk Cove was the flamboyant Ricky Hernandez, the inn’s very colorful innkeeper. He was a delight and greeted us with his own flare and style when we arrived. The smiles and laughs came quickly, and we were immediately feeling very at home. Melissa poked her head out to say a quick hello – but ducked back into the kitchen because she was baking cookies.

Sunsrise At Elk Cove Inn With Gunderson Rock

Sunrise view onto Greenwood Creek State Beach and Gunderson Rock from the balcony.

Ricky gave us a short tour of the property, pointing out the gazebo that overlooks the ocean for sitting and whiling away the hours — or for weddings even — and the private staircase (steep and narrow so watch your step) down through the trees and undergrowth to the beach below. Our room was in a large redwood shingled building that, sitting next to the main house and white gazebo, seemed sort of incongruous in style.

Mendocino Elk Cove Inn Trail To Beach

The path down to the beach, just below the redwood building.

An inn where history and the ‘90s try to blend

One of the quirks of the property is the blending of historic buildings with newer ‘90s construction throughout. In all, there are 16 guest rooms, each with its own flavor and design depending on the building where it is and how recently room upgrades have been made.

The main building, which houses the office and restaurant, as well as six guest rooms, is a white, Craftsman-style mansion, built in 1883 by the L.E. White Lumber Company as the mill superintendent’s home. It also lays claim to be one the first bed and breakfasts in the area when it first opened for guests in 1968.

In the 1990s, the then-owner of the inn expanded and added the redwood building with a stone foundation and redwood shingle siding that houses four junior suites – two upstairs and two downstairs – the upstairs ones are the most popular with sweeping views. There is another attached building, called the Carriage House, with a different type of siding, that has two newer rooms.

Mendocino Elk Cove Inn Room2

The Wavewatcher Room, one of the newly remodeled rooms in the Carriage House.

Right below the main building, are four additional rooms in separate buildings called the Cliffside Cottages.

We stayed in the L.E. White Room, one of the junior suites located on the second floor of the redwood building. As soon as we opened the door and stepped inside, our mouths opened wide into a collective “WOW!” The living room of the suite has two large chairs with ottomans that look out large glass windows and a sliding glass door onto the deck and beyond to the amazing ocean view. Open-beamed ceilings, a wet bar, an electric fireplace, a bathroom with a Jacuzzi tub, and a supremely comfy bed added to the warm, cozy feeling. And there is nothing quite like lounging around in a plushy robe, enjoying a breakfast tray that Ricky delivers at your requested time while listening to the sounds of the ocean through open sliding doors.

Mendocino Elk Cove Inn Room

Inside the L.E. White Room, one of the junior suites located on the second floor of the redwood building.

But then, surprisingly, there was also a bit of funk that was impossible to ignore: In full disclosure, Melissa and Victor told us the inn has been a constant work in progress as the duo continue to go about remodeling and upgrading rooms and the property. They believed it was going to be another 2-3 years to really get it all where they wanted to be. Apparently, our room had not yet been remodeled when we stayed. Still, there were enough rough edges in an otherwise delightful room that we were left scratching our heads, thinking “Elk Cove is better than this.” Layers of dust in the electric fireplace vent, dust and grime in the bathroom vent, broken window blinds, a window that would not close properly, cracks and broken tile in the wet bar, piles of leaves on a small secondary deck, a Jacuzzi tub jet that was clogged, Costco-type goodies in a snack basket, and mismatched accessory furniture. The disco lighting in the shower head made us laugh, and was probably trendy … back in the day … but seemed so out of place now – yes, you turned on the water and the shower head began to glow and rotate red and blue colors.

We could almost look past the lack of cleaning perfection and things in need of repair with the million-dollar view from the room since the overall feel was still very cozy and inviting. But … when you are paying $500 or more a night, visible layers of dust and dirt in fireplace and bathroom vents as well as obvious items in need of repair are not something a guest should expect to encounter.

Looking Out From The L.E. White Room Elk Cove Inn

The view from the L.E. White Room is stunning in every respect!

Breakfast in bed is nice, dinner at Sibo is sublime

It seems appropriate, we think, that the Elk Cove serves breakfast in bed. After all, guests are here to relax and rejuvenate. And who wants to leap out of bed when the sound of the waves rolling up on the beach below are your awakening symphony in the morning. Well, OK, you do have to get out of bed to bring the tray inside your room, but after that, snuggle back into bed if you want, or do was we did and curl up in cozy robes eating breakfast while looking out onto Greenwood Creek State Beach and Gunderson Rock.

Michael And Therese In Robes With Wine At Elk Cove Inn

Comfy robes and rosé wine make for a perfect post sunset moment on the deck of the L.E. White Room.

Lucky for us all, Victor has rediscovered his passion for cooking: After a long, storied career as a successful chef before arriving at Elk Cove Inn, he insisted here he was only “serving meals” and was retired. He does breakfast preparation for the morning crew, and the quality of his touch shows. What a choice of breakfast options — it is almost boggling. Choice of eggs any style you want, with an assortment of sides. Breakfast cereal and yogurt and fruit cups (fresh fruit, of course). Plus, of course coffee or tea, juice of choice, of course and if you want mimosas or just a glass of champagne (we ordered champagne every morning) … Why not? It’s vacation, after all. Breakfast is included, as is the bubbly. There are other items on the menu, such as smoked salmon or California Benedict that requires an upcharge if ordered. We ordered our breakfast each evening for delivery the next morning. Mind you, this is a plentiful feast that will tide you over for a very long time – or keep some for a snack later.

Breakfast Tray At Elk Cove Inn Mendocino

Fruit cups with granola, champagne, orange juice, coffee and tea, poached eggs, omelet, potatoes, Canadian bacon, and fresh baked goodies. The Cheerios served in plastic bowls just didn’t match the classy presentation with white napkins, china, glassware, and champagne vibe though.

Other than Cheerios served in throwaway bowls, the only quibble we have with the amazing breakfast program is sometimes the food arrived warm to lukewarm, and not hot. Not surprising when one considers the staff — meaning Ricky — is scrambling to organize and deliver impossibly full trays of breakfast food and drinks to multiple rooms in a short timeframe each morning. The dining room, where dinner was served Thursday through Monday when we were there in fall 2022, was also where breakfast had been served – pre-Covid. We must admit looking longingly at the beautiful tables by the windows thinking it would be nice to not have to eat in our room every day. Melissa and Victor told us they have thought about starting breakfast service again, but for now, the restaurant is only open for dinner.

Mendocino Elk Cove Inn Restaurant Deck

The outside of the restaurant in the main building, on the left. There is outside seating, where, if the weather is nice, you can certainly sit and eat your breakfast if desired. Or to indulge in your own happy hour.

Speaking of dinner, it is not included with a stay BUT — trust us when we say you absolutely want to make dinner reservations at Sibo. There, you will indulge in Chef Victor Passalacqua’s “French Eclectic Cuisine.” We think you will agree his food is creative and so beyond delicious!!!! Pair Victor’s culinary talents and Melissa’s skills as a certified sommelier with the atmosphere of a delightfully quaint restaurant, and you will be assured of an exquisite dining experience. Little wonder this tiny restaurant, even with very limited hours and a chef that does not allow for substitutions, has become one of the most sought-after places to dine on the Mendocino Coast.

Mendocino Elk Cove Inn Sibo Beets Dinner Appetizer

Roasted Beet Napoleon as an appetizer.

The menu, which changes daily and seasonally, relies on locally harvested produce (much of it from the Elk Cove’s own gardens and greenhouse, as noted above) with each dish prepared to order – so dinner is not something you rush through. Michael, being a French onion soup fan, opted for the Soupe a L’Oignon Gratinee to start. Having tasted French onion soups wherever and whenever possible, he can say without any hesitation it was one of the best he has ever had. Therese started her meal with Roasted Beet Napoleon. She is a lover of all things beets – and this was melt-in-your-mouth sublime with fluffy ricotta layers, fresh herbs and homemade Balsamic glaze. Michael had to stop her from licking the plate.

All in all, Elk Cove Inn, despite the quirks, is a special place and perfect for anyone wanting peaceful seclusion on the Mendocino Coast — one with amazing ocean views and easy access to a mile-long, driftwood-strewn beach for sunrise or sunset strolls. As Melissa, Victor, and Rakesh continue to upgrade and remodel the property, it will continue to transform to fit with their dreams. And yes, we’d stay there again in a heartbeat, but maybe this time in one of the Cliffside Cottages.

Disclosure: We were fully hosted for two of our three-night stay at the Elk Cove Inn. The review, opinions and ratings here are our own, and are not approved, provided, or otherwise endorsed or influenced by the hotel.

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Rating the Elk Cove Inn & Spa


Our Rating Our hotel ratings will tell you what we think of an individual property and are not a comparison to other hotels in the area. They are valid at the time of our visit. We frequently pay for our hotel stays and will disclose whenever we receive discounts or comped room nights as a part of a hotel stay. Our ratings are a percent, with 100% being perfect and 0% someplace not even a rat would stay. We rate cleanliness/upkeep (e.g. dust on the windows, dirt under the beds, unclean bathroom fixtures, need of repairs/maintenance, etc.), comfort (e.g. taking into account quiet, how comfy the bed is, if there is a nice robe, a comfy chair, etc.), amenities (e.g. free parking, breakfast included and its quality, free Wi-Fi, free bikes, fitness gear, workout room, pool, etc. -- and we are not fans of hotels that say they include things, but then charge a facilities fee!), location (e.g. how easy is it to get around by foot, bike, and car or how perfectly situated a hotel is for a quiet getaway), and value (e.g. how much we feel we got in return for the amount charged).