Before you start looking for a place to stay in Mendocino, you need to know which Mendocino you're going to. Mendocino County is both a coastal and an inland region. Just north of Sonoma County, it stretches from Gualala in the south to just north of the town of Leggett. It's also a town. Take a look at a map and read the notes below to get the lay of the land before you start searching for a hotel or you might end up staying somewhere you didn't really want to be.
Finding a Hotel
You can search Tripadvisor for all of Mendocino County at once to read guest reviews and compare prices. Before you do that, you need to know where the towns are located and what their pros and cons are. From south to north, your options include:
- Elk, Point Arena, Albion, and Little River are smaller and quieter and have some spectacular cliffside properties with extraordinary views.
- The town of Mendocino is a charming place that looks more like a New England village than a California locale. If you stay in town, you can walk to restaurants and shopping.
- Fort Bragg might sound like a military camp, and you'd be half right thinking that. In fact, Fort Bragg was created before the Civil War and abandoned shortly afterward, but the name stuck. It is one of the larger coastal towns in northern Mendocino. It has the most hotels and motels and is the closest place to the Skunk Train.
- Inland Mendocino towns are Willits and Ukiah. Both are on US Hwy 101. They provide affordable lodging and are within an easy driving distance of the coast.
Things You Need to Know
You won't find any big-name hotel chains in Mendocino or four-star resorts.
Be skeptical about places in Mendocino that have names with the word "ocean" in them. A place called the Oceanside Inn might actually be across the busy highway from the water, while the Ocean View Lodge up the road may have a view from every room. Use a map and check the satellite and street views to be sure you know where your hotel is. If you're still not sure, call the hotel and ask questions.
Some Mendocino lodgings are so isolated that cell phone service is not available. If staying connected is important to you, check your provider's coverage map or with your innkeeper before making a reservation.
Once you've picked a few suitable candidates for your trip, apply all the best tricks to get the lowest possible rate.
Staying in a Lighthouse
Two Mendocino lighthouses accept overnight guests. Neither of them has beds in the lighthouse itself, but the lodgings are nearby.
Point Cabrillo Light Station has two houses and two cottages for rent, including the lightkeeper's quarters. At Point Arena Lighthouse, you can stay in former lightkeeper's quarters. They have several houses, apartments, and rooms for rent.
Finding a B&B
Mendocino has more bed and breakfast inns than it does hotels. You'll find some of them on Tripadvisor, but it's a good idea also to try bedandbreakfast.com, which gives you a handy place to check on many of them at once.
You can rent a big house and invite a bunch of friends to join you (or rent a small one to have all to yourself). You'll find communities with lots of houses to rent in Irish Beach and Sea Ranch (which is technically in Sonoma County, but only a few miles south of the Mendocino County line). It's also worth checking Airbnb for whole house rentals, where you may find the best prices.
If you're looking for a place to pitch your tent or hook up your RV, check out campgrounds and RV Parks on the Mendocino Coast.