The Elephant Seals of Año Nuevo: A Conservation Success Story and Unique Wildlife Encounter in Northern California

IMG_9383In the early 1920s, elephant seals numbered in only the double digits after being hunted to the brink of extinction for their blubber that was used to make oil. Today, the elephant seal is a conservation success story. Continue reading


The Hofsas House in Carmel-by-the-Sea: Perfect Location for the Perfect Price

A trip to Carmel is a true family affair.

A trip to Carmel is a true family affair.

Carmel is one of our favorite weekend getaways, in part because we’re able to bring our dog Lucky and make it a true family affair. Lucky adores every moment of it – from the winding car ride through the Santa Cruz Mountains and our early morning walks to the local coffee shop (where even he gets a treat), to his favorite Carmel hangout, the beach!

The downside of Carmel is the cost. This coastal gem may be priceless, but it’s also pricey, especially if you want to stay in town to be close to the boutique shops, art galleries, and restaurants. While there are many unique and wonderful places to rest your head in Carmel, the really nice ones will cost you $300 and up.

A few years ago though, we discovered the very affordable, family-run Hofsas House. It met my seemingly pie-in-the-sky criteria of being within walking distance of town and cost less than $200/night. It’s not the most luxurious place we’ve stayed, but as the expression goes, “location, location, location!”

Retro-alpine charm defines the Hofsas House décor.

Retro-alpine charm defines the Hofsas House décor.

The Hofsas House is located on San Carlos Street, just a couple of blocks from the main drag and is about a 15-minute walk to the beach. It’s quiet (as is most of Carmel), and from the hotel’s upper levels on a clear day, you can catch a slice of the ocean and one of Carmel’s hallmark sunsets (assuming you’re not at the beach, which is THE place to be for this event!)

Carmel's famously spectacular sunsets draw huge crowds every evening to the town's beach.

Carmel’s famously spectacular sunsets draw huge crowds every evening to the town’s beach.

Turning onto San Carlos from Ocean Avenue, you can’t miss the bubblegum pink building with its kitchy alpine accents. The hotel was built in the 1940’s by the owner’s grandmother, Donna Hofsas, and much of the décor is reminiscent of this earlier generation. Gradual upgrades are being made, so a room might have new granite in the bathroom, but wallpaper and bedding that the late Grandma Hofsas probably picked out!

While the Hofsas House may not be the Four Seasons, the combination of quirky charm, friendly staff, and affordable rates, makes it one of the best values in Carmel. It’s an especially great deal for families because many of the hotel’s 38 rooms are so unusually spacious; they even have a few connected rooms with kitchenettes that we’ve booked when my parents were in town. Imagine four adults, two kids, and one dog being able to stay in downtown Carmel for about $250 (total for both rooms!). It’s pretty much unheard of. There’s free wi-fi and delicious homemade pastries for breakfast. Some rooms have fireplaces and balconies, and there are dog-friendly rooms for only $25 extra per night.

One downside to the hotel is that it may not be the best choice for guests with mobility issues. Because it’s built on a steep hillside, getting from the street level office to the rooms and parking lot requires climbing lots of stairs and navigating a bizarre labyrinth of exterior hallways (yes, it’s all part of the charm!) The walk to the shops and restaurants in central Carmel, while just a couple of blocks, can also be a tricky because the sidewalks are uneven and not well lit at night (nothing to do with the hotel of course.) None of this was an issue for us, but it was for my mother-in-law when she joined us for one of our visits. It’s definitely something to consider.

To get the best room for your situation, it’s best to call and speak to someone in person or check out the room descriptions on the hotel’s web site. Enjoy!