Wondering where to stay in California Wine Country? You’re in the right place. It can be tricky to pick the best spot because it’s such a large area with countless places to stay.
We already did a guide on Napa Valley (which includes St. Helena and Calistoga), so we intentionally excluded them from this article, and we’ll focus more on places not present in that guide.
That said, our guide is only one of the possible combinations. But, nonetheless, we think that it’s flexible enough to suit everybody’s taste. Ready to get started? So are we — let’s jump in!
The 5 Best Places to Stay in California Wine Country
The number of great places to stay in the California Wine Country is practically uncountable, but some of them are definitely better than others.
Our list goes from the north to the south, only excluding Napa for the already mentioned reasons. All of them have something unique and interesting to offer.
We think California wine country’s best areas to stay include:
- Mendocino: A small city in the Pacific Ocean, it offers wineries on the beautiful coast but not the cheapest accommodations.
- Santa Rosa: The biggest city in our guide, full of wineries, a lot of parks, and museums, as well as budget accommodation options.
- Sonoma: One of the most popular destinations in the area due to its beautiful wine and food, it also has one of the most unique downtowns you’ll ever see.
- Bodega Bay: The smallest place in our guide, it’s not so famous for its vineyards, but it has a lot of beaches and stunning landscapes.
- Monterey: The second biggest town in our guide after Santa Rosa, located on the shores of the Pacific, it boasts a large number of renowned vineyards in its area.
Where to Stay in California Wine Country: Best Areas & Hotels
California’s Wine Country is one of the most elite places in America. The Pacific Ocean nearby, the small yet elegant cities, and the rich vineyards keep the prices of everything really high.
That’s why traveling on a budget and finding cheap accommodations can be a real problem. One general tip is to stay out of the smaller cities if you prefer to have a cheaper stay.
The number of hotels in places like Mendocino and Bodega Bay — and to some extent even Sonoma — is smaller, and the prices are considerably higher. If you’re looking for budget options, stick either to Santa Rosa or Monterey.
Luxury, on the other hand, is never a problem. Every city and area on our list is full of stunning four- and five-star hotels with unique decorations, huge swimming pools, and high-end amenities.
Our trip through the fertile valleys and fields of the California Wine Country starts small with a town called Mendocino. With an overall population of nearly 1,000 people, it’s probably the smallest town on the list.
But that doesn’t mean that it’s less special, beautiful, and interesting; namely, Mendocino is located right on the shores of the Pacific Ocean, and that, in combination with the numerous wineries in the surrounding area, has made it a popular vacation place for tourists from all around America.
As we are talking about Wine Country, starting with the wineries sounds like a smart move. There are no wineries in Mendocino itself, but the surrounding area is full of them.
After you’ve checked the wineries, you should check the next best thing in Mendocino: the countryside. The ocean’s coast is simply unbelievable and offers innumerable beaches and different water-related activities.
Then there are the parks, where you can relax and enjoy beautiful nature. There are no less than four of them:
- Mendocino Headlands State Park
- Point Cabrillo Light Station State Historic Park
- Russian Gulch State Park
- Mendocino Area Parks Association
Finally, there’s nature and history, concentrated in some interesting institutions. In the nature domain, there are the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens and B Bryan Preserve, both of them a few kilometers from the city.
In the history domain, there’s the Ford House Visitor Center & Museum and the Kelley House Museum, both of them dedicated to local history. In terms of accommodation, Mendocino is not the cheapest place.
Taking into account that it’s significantly smaller than the other cities and areas on our list, it offers fewer hotels and hostels. Also, there are no two-star accommodations, either in the city or in the wider area. So, if you prefer a budget option, we recommend Santa Rosa.
Mendocino Budget Hotels
- Inn at Schoolhouse Creek is a relatively cheap three-star hotel located just a few miles to the south of Mendocino. It offers free parking and free Wi-Fi, facilities for disabled guests, flat-screen TV in every room, and a gas fireplace for a romantic setting.
- Mendocino Hotel & Garden is another cheap three-star hotel, but this time located on the main street of Mendocino. All of the rooms in the hotel are painted in warm colors and decorated uniquely. Some of them have private bathrooms.
Mendocino Mid-Range Hotels
- Seagull Inn Bed & Breakfast is a decent three-star hotel coming at a really average price. Located in the city, it offers furnished family rooms with private bathrooms, including hairdryers. It also offers free Wi-Fi and free parking. It’s mostly suitable for couples.
- Agate Cove Inn is a great four-star hotel that’s not as expensive and can be considered a mid-range accommodation option considering the circumstances. It boasts family rooms, free Wi-Fi, and parking, but the best thing is the superb two-course breakfast served every morning.
Mendocino Luxury Hotels
- Heritage House Resort & Spa is an elite four-star hotel located a few miles to the south of Mendocino. The hotel is perfect for those who want to stay close to the ocean since the hotel has a private beach. It also offers a spa center, a fitness center, a bar, and a restaurant on the premises.
- SCP Mendocino Inn and Farm is another four-star hotel that boasts a huge garden, shared lounge, and even a business center. Located to the south of Mendocino, it also offers a beachfront, spa and wellness center, a fitness center, and facilities for disabled people.
2. Santa Rosa
After the tiny Mendocino, we decided to continue our journey through the area with something big, and Santa Rosa immediately came to mind.
With a population of nearly 200,000 people, it is considerably larger than any Wine Country city, but like them, Santa Rosa offers great food, tasty wines, and stunning natural beauty (there are a couple of museums too).
You’ve probably come to Wine Country for the wine, so let’s make a quick list of the three best wineries in and around Santa Rosa:
- St. Francis Winery and Vineyards, a 2022 Travelers’ Choice; more on it in a bit.
- Matanzas Creek Winery, famous for its lavender fields.
- Harvest Moon Winery for individual treatment.
The wineries usually offer stunning natural surroundings, but Santa Rosa has even more to offer in that domain, like the parks and the gardens, which are some of the finest in the area.
You just have to visit Spring Lake Park, Annadel State Park, Howarth Park, and Luther Burbank Home and Gardens, the lattermost of which is a must-see for plant lovers.
Finally, there are the museums. Santa Rosa is not Paris or Berlin, but it does have its fair share of interesting museums that are worth your time, like the Charles M. Schulz Museum or the Children’s Museum of Sonoma County.
However, the biggest attraction definitely is Safari West, with its more than 1,000 animals. The restaurant and accommodation options in Santa Rosa are simply great.
There are a lot of cheap motels and two-star hotels that are great for budget travelers, even more decent three-star hotels with outdoor pools and on-site restaurants, and a dozen four-star luxurious hotels.
Besides the wineries, there are a bunch of tasty restaurants and various cuisine options.
Santa Rosa Budget Hotels
- Motel 6-Santa Rosa, CA – North is a very cheap two-star motel located very close to both the Coddingtown Mall and the Charles M Schulz Museum. The place boasts an outdoor swimming pool, free parking, free Wi-Fi, and facilities for disabled people.
- Motel 6-Santa Rosa, CA – South offers basically the same things, but it’s located on the other side of the city. Again, we have a two-star motel that comes at a low price, is pet-friendly, has an outdoor swimming pool, as well as nicely furnished rooms and free Wi-Fi.
Santa Rosa Mid-Range Hotels
- Best Western Garden Inn, like all Best Western hotels, is the epitome of a decent mid-range hotel. It boasts an outdoor pool, free parking, and free Wi-Fi, as well as an on-site restaurant and a nice breakfast every morning.
- Hotel La Rose is another very beautiful (but not very expensive) three-star hotel that’s particularly suitable for couples. It has a restaurant and a bar on the premises, superb breakfast, facilities for disabled guests, and professional room service.
Santa Rosa Luxury Hotels
- Vintners Resort is definitely the most expensive and the best accommodation in the whole of Santa Rosa. It’s a great four-star hotel located on a vineyard trail that offers an outdoor swimming pool, an on-site restaurant and a bar, a spa and wellness center, and a fitness center. For a hotel of this stature, you can safely assume that all of the amenities are taken care of.
- Hyatt Regency Sonoma Wine Country is another four-star hotel that offers an outdoor swimming pool, a restaurant, and a bar on the premises. The rooms are richly furnished, with TVs, stereo systems, and very nice bathrooms with granite bathtubs.
As we keep moving south from Mendocino and Santa Rosa, we eventually reach Sonoma, one of the most famous destinations in California Wine Country.
It’s significantly bigger than Mendocino but significantly smaller than Santa Rosa, boasting a population of nearly 11,000 people. The surrounding urban area numbers about 32,000.
As one of the principal cities of the wine country, Sonoma is mostly visited for its wineries, its gorgeous historical downtown, and the Sonoma International Film Festival.
If your main goal for visiting the area is winning and dining and not much else, this small California city is the right choice for you. The number of wineries in the city and its wider urban area is downright incredible.
Here’s a list of the five most famous and most visited ones:
- Cline Cellars has garden cabanas, surrounded by ponds and beautiful nature.
- Jacuzzi Family Vineyards will make you feel like you’ve traveled to Tuscany.
- Gundlach Bundschu Winery has been going strong since 1858, and it’s a 2022 Travelers’ Choice selection.
- Buena Vista Winery is another 2022 Travelers’ Choice selection and a great unpretentious place.
- Repris Wines is where you can enjoy both the wine and the food, as well as learn about the specific history of the area.
Aside from the wineries, the city has a lot to offer. First, there’s the incredible old Sonoma Plaza — and generally the whole downtown — which radiates the city’s rich history, dating back to 1823, the founding year of Sonoma.
If you’re really interested in history, you should see the Sonoma State Historic Park, the Sonoma League-Historic Preservation, and General Vallejo’s Home. Like all the other cities in Wine Country, Sonoma offers tasty and high-quality food.
Both the wineries and the restaurants are first-class, usually serving something unusual or based on local and fresh ingredients. The accommodation options are quite balanced, and the city is suitable for budget and luxury visitors alike. All in all, a pretty all-around town.
Sonoma Budget Hotels
- Sonoma Creek Inn is a very cheap two-star accommodation located both very close to the historical center of Sonoma and some of its top wineries. It offers rooms with free Wi-Fi and parking, as well as rooms decorated with artwork and handicrafts.
- Motel 6-Petaluma, CA is a two-star motel located not precisely in Sonoma but in nearby Petaluma. It’s quite a nice place with an outdoor swimming pool, free Wi-Fi, completely pet-friendly premises, and facilities for disabled people.
Sonoma Mid-Range Hotels
- El Pueblo Inn is a decent three-star hotel located just two kilometers from Sonoma’s downtown. It has an outdoor pool, free parking, and free Wi-Fi, as well as a fitness center on the premises and gorgeous gardens and fountains. It’s especially attractive for couples.
- Best Western Sonoma Valley Inn & Krug Event Center is yet another three-star hotel, part of the famous Best Western chain of hotels. It offers an outdoor swimming pool, classically decorated rooms with TVs, coffee and tea machines, and a nice breakfast every morning.
Sonoma Luxury Hotels
- Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa is a perfect place to stay if you want to feel like a celebrity. A super luxurious five-star hotel, it offers an outdoor swimming pool, a spa and wellness center, a golf course, and a lot of on-site dining options. The place is particularly suitable for couples.
- The Lodge at Sonoma Resort, Autograph Collection is a very luxurious four-star hotel located just outside of Sonoma’s historic downtown. The hotel is pet-friendly and has facilities for disabled people, an outdoor pool, a restaurant, and a bar on the premises.
4. Bodega Bay
Bodega Bay is more of a village than a town, located around 20 miles from Santa Rosa and 40 miles from Sonoma. Like the already mentioned Mendocino, it is firmly located on the shores of the Pacific Ocean.
Because of its fantastic surroundings, the stunning coastline, and the general sense of well-being, it served as the backdrop to many famous movies, like The Goonies and I Know What You Did Last Summer.
Unlike the other cities and areas on our list, its primary activities and attractions are not connected to either wine or wineries.
Aside from the very beautiful place called Sonoma Coast Vineyards — which is a unique phenomenon in this part of the Wine Country — most of the things that are worth seeing and doing in Bodega Bay are about the sea.
There are three beaches in the wider area around the village: Bodega Head (a 2022 Travelers’ Choice selection), Doran Beach, and Sonoma Coast State Beach – Salmon Creek. All of them offer something different to the potential visitor.
Bodega Head is a perfect whale-watching viewpoint, and it’s just something that you have to experience first-hand. Doran Beach, on the other hand, is a challenging windsurfing beach.
Lastly, the Sonoma Coast State is just a regular beach, perfect for relaxing, but given that it’s on the Pacific coast, it’s just special. Bodega Bay is maybe small, but it has its charm, mainly because of its not-so-short history.
Besides, given its proximity to both Sonoma and Santa Rosa, you can use the beachfront as your exploration base for further trips into the wine region.
In terms of cultural attractions, Bodega Bay’s two most important buildings in the village are located right next to each other. There’s the Potter Schoolhouse, famous for appearing in Alfred Hitchkok’s Birds, and St. Teresa of Avila Church, the main religious building in the area.
Two more things: the restaurants in Bodega Bay are marvelous, mainly in the seafood department. The accommodation options are not so perfect, at least in terms of price, as most of the hotels are quite expensive due to the beautiful sea view.
Bodega Bay Budget Hotels
- Valley Ford Hotel is a relatively cheap two-star hotel located around eight and a half miles from Bodega Bay. The whole place is decorated in beautiful rustic decor, offers free Wi-Fi and parking, and has a restaurant and a bar on the premises.
- Jenner Inn is a cheap three-star hotel that hangs somewhere in between a great budget and a decent mid-range hotel. Located around ten and a half miles north of Bodega Bay, it offers rooms with river views, tea and coffee machines in every room, and a nice breakfast.
Bodega Bay Mid-Range Hotels
- The Inn at the Tides is a great three-star hotel located at the heart of Bodega Bay and around one and a half miles from the beach. It offers an outdoor swimming pool, hot tub and sauna, rooms with a view of the bay, and a nice breakfast.
- Bodega Bay Inn is a very cheap three-star hotel just five minutes away from the Pacific Ocean. Again, it’s a hotel located inside the city, and it has free Wi-Fi and free parking all around the stone-made premises, as well as a great common room and private toiletries.
Bodega Bay Luxury Hotels
- The Lodge at Bodega Bay is a superb four-star hotel and definitely one of the best accommodations in the wider Bodega Bay area. It has — among other things — an outdoor swimming pool, rooms with cable TVs, private bathrooms, free Wi-Fi, and a bar on the premises.
- Nick’s Cove is an extremely beautiful four-star hotel located a bit further from Bodega Bay — the distance amounts to around 18 miles or 30 minutes by car. However, the distance is definitely worth it, as it has a famous on-site restaurant, a private beach, and luxuriously equipped individual cottages.
Now let’s do a quick jump over San Francisco and San Jose and head straight to the south, to the beautiful Pacific city of Monterey. Again, after the miniature Bodega Bay and Mendocino, we are talking about a city in the true sense of the word.
With its 30,000 people, it is significantly bigger than Sonoma but not as big as Santa Rosa. All around and inside the city, you’ll see wineries that look like they jumped directly out of somebody’s dream.
Probably the combination of the nice buildings and the nearby Pacific is what creates the specific magic.
Make sure you visit the following places:
- Folktale Winery & Vineyard
- Holman Ranch
- Joullian Vineyards & Winery
- Caraccioli Cellars
- Scheid Vineyards
Quite obviously, and very similar to Bodega Bay, most of the attractions in Monterey — aside from the vineyards — are connected to the ocean.
Other than that, if you’ve come here by car, we recommend that you take the 17-Mile Drive. It’s one of the best scenic drives in this part of America, offering an unforgettable view of the Pacific Ocean, as well as the pelicans, sea lions, and seals that move along its shores.
For a closer and clearer picture of the marine life around the ocean, go to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, the second biggest attraction in the city. It has more than 80,000 types of animals and plants.
Finally, if you’re into hiking, the Monterey Peninsula Recreational Trail is great and picturesque. For relaxed strolling, Old Fisherman’s Wharf is an authentic experience with a multitude of shops along the way.
If you’re visiting with kids, Dennis the Menace Park will be their favorite pastime. To wrap things up, we have to emphasize that the accommodation options in Monterey are numerous and various since the city is on the larger side.
There’s something for everybody and in all price ranges. It also has some great foreign restaurants — the Asian and Polynesian ones are a true treat, but there are also more traditional European restaurants that are just as good.
Monterey Budget Hotels
- Pacific Inn Monterey is a very cheap two-star hotel with free Wi-Fi and free parking that’s only five minutes away from the Monterey Peninsula Airport. A particularly suitable place for couples, it also has an on-site restaurant and facilities for disabled guests.
- Arbor Inn Monterey is another cheap but decent two-star hotel located just to the south of Monterey downtown. Again, we have free Wi-Fi, free parking, facilities for disabled people, and spacious rooms with a microwave, ironing facilities, and a refrigerator.
Monterey Mid-Range Hotels
- Travelodge by Wyndham Monterey Bay is a relatively cheap three-star hotel with an outdoor swimming pool. It is completely pet-friendly, and it has facilities for disabled people, a bar, a restaurant, and a fitness center on the premises.
- Best Western Park Crest Inn is a decent three-star hotel, part of the reliable Best Western chain of hotels. It boasts an outdoor pool, free Wi-Fi, free parking, spacious and classically furnished family rooms, and a tasty breakfast in the morning.
Monterey Luxury Hotels
- Hyatt Regency Monterey Hotel and Spa is a very luxurious and expensive five-star hotel, part of the famous and exclusive Hyatt chain of hotels. It offers — among other things — an outdoor swimming pool, spa and wellness center, a business center, and a bar on the premises.
- Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa is another very luxurious five-star hotel, this time located right next to the shore of the Pacific Ocean. It has an on-site restaurant, pub, and a bar, facilities for disabled people, a spa and wellness center, a fitness center, and a rooftop bar.
So, Where Should You Stay in California Wine Country?
No article, aside from a 500-page book, can be a complete guide to the California Wine Country. But, having already covered Napa Valley (together with St. Helena and Calistoga) in another article and adding the five places in this guide, we are slowly but surely reaching our goal. That being said, let’s do a short recap.
|🥂 Most Luxurious Area||Mendocino|
|✅ Best Area to See Everything||Santa Ros|
|🏰 Most Historic Area||Sonoma|
|🛥️ Best Area for Watersports||Bodega Ba|
|💲 Most Budget-Friendly Area||Monterey|
As we’ve shown you, there are far more places to stay in California Wine Country than you might think. So, with so much to see and do and eat and drink, what are you waiting for — book your trip today!