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Not all California bed-and-breakfast inns are created equal


Some people hear the term "bed and breakfast" and they immediately think of the ornate, possibly historic house with a few bedrooms upstairs available for rent and innkeepers standing at the ready to serve you wine and/or concoct a breakfast that would qualify for a photo spread in Bon Appetit. Another common expectation is that a bed-and-breakfast will be like staying in someone else’s house, an experience only slightly more private than visiting the relatives.

The truth is bed-and-breakfast inns vary wildly from house to house and from inn to inn, and it just makes good sense to do some research on the property you’ll be visiting. We all have our preferences and it’s not hard to find a bed-and-breakfast that will suit your particular tastes. In our case, we’ve always preferred the bed-and-breakfast that is more inn than house, more private than communal. And here are a few of the bed-and-breakfast stays we have enjoyed the most:

Casa Tropicana Inn

If you want to tie in a beautiful Southern California beach with your bed-and-breakfast experience, the Casa Tropicana Inn in San Clemente is the place to go. Situated just across the road from a gorgeous beach and the San Clemente Pier, the Casa Tropicana really couldn’t be in a better location if the main purpose of your getaway is relaxation.

Known as the beach community where former president Richard Nixon had his Western White House, San Clemente is an oceanfront city of red-tile-roof Spanish style homes built with commanding views of the Pacific on land that almost seems like it was created to provide homeowners the best panoramic views on the Southern California coast. Spanish-named streets wind and weave their way down to the waterfront below where one of the most charming areas is the tiny enclave of shops, restaurants and vacation properties next to the San Clemente Pier.

It’s there that you find the Casa Tropicana Inn, a five-story inn that is ideal for couples and fits right in with the Mediterranean motif of this quaint beachfront area. Each of the eight guest rooms is designed with many special attributes that include romantic touches like fireplaces, over-size Jacuzzi tubs, the highest quality linens and bed treatments and cozy robes, as well as more practical amenities such as refrigerators, flat screen televisions, DVD players and high-speed internet. Beyond that, the rooms each have individual amenities such as the ocean views and four-poster bed in the room we enjoyed called the Casita Arena.

We especially enjoyed the second-floor terrace just in front of our room that features tables where you can enjoy a cocktail or chairs where you can read a good book, all with the beach, pier and seemingly endless ocean horizon in full view.

Although the service in general was excellent, the Casa Tropicana is not where you go to have your innkeeper prepare a gourmet breakfast. In fact, the inn’s breakfast is continental style with pastries, yogurt, orange juice and various snacks available for you anytime in the room. Even wine and champagne were available for us anytime – and, unlike most mini-bars, these came at no extra charge.

But gourmet food is not very far away: On the first floor of the inn you’ll find the White Horses Restaurant and Bar which boasts numerous dining awards, including being named the best gourmet restaurant in Orange County. Our dinner there completely validated the judges’ opinions.

Our time spent in this beautiful beachfront environment was a feast for the senses – unbelievable views, small markets, sidewalk cafes, long beach walks and upscale shopping only minutes away in downtown San Clemente. Friends who joined us on this getaway also pronounced the Casa Tropicana the ideal couples getaway.

For more information on the Casa Tropicana Inn, phone 800-492-1245 or visit

MacCallum House

When you visit Mendocino for the first time, this Northern California seascape just reaches out and touches your spirit. Perched high on a bluff overlooking the vast Pacific, Mendocino is not a big town – it’s just what you might imagine a New England fishing village to look like. A mixture of Cape Cod architecture and historic storefronts gives the town an almost theme-town kind of appearance. Windswept trees, rolling grassy hills and steep cliffs are footsteps from the Village by way of several miles of coastal trails that are perfect for hiking and photography. Down below are remote beaches and the cragged, rocky shoreline.

In the Village you’ll find a variety of eclectic shops – unusual records, one-of-a-kind musical instruments, vintage toys, you name it -- mingled with historic homes, inns and fine restaurants.

One of those homes is the popular MacCallum House bed-and-breakfast inn, which has a strong connection with Mendocino history. The home was built in 1882 by Alexander MacCallum, whose father-in-law was one of the town’s earliest settlers. Eventually the house was turned into a bed-and-breakfast inn

Our stay at MacCallum House was quiet and restful, and gave us a great chance to just walk down the block to visit the local merchants or to hike on over to the headlands where the trails offer breathtaking views of the coastline and the town itself. We stayed in the "Upper Barn Suite," a second-floor unit in a building across the lawn from the main house. This is the largest room on the MacCallum property and enjoys views of the ocean. The unit features a private deck as well as a stone fireplace, wet bar, refrigerator and a large living room in addition to the bed, bath and kitchen areas. Furnishings are generally antique – or approaching antique.

Of course, dining at MacCallum House is a big part of the treat and, fortunately, we elected to have dinner there in addition to the breakfast that normally comes with your room. Both meals were well up to expectations. Breakfast might include a Butternut Squash Omelet or Red Potatoes with Cremini Mushrooms or, the entree we tried, Lupe’s Breakfast Burrito, a delicious combination of apple-turkey sausage, scrambled eggs, white cheddar, onions, peppers and salsa on a fresh tortilla. Most of the dinner menu items highlight entrees that are regional and fresh.

You’ll want to walk off those ample portions and there is no shortage of places in and near Mendocino to get some exercise. In addition to the previously mentioned trails, there are lots of areas where you can walk by rivers and streams and even enjoy Redwood forests.

For more information on MacCallum House, phone 800-609-0492 or visit

Whispering Pines Lodge

Those people raised on TV westerns like Bonanza will feel like they’ve stepped right onto the Ponderosa when they take the one-hour drive northeast from Bakersfield to the town of Kernville. There’s good reason: dozens of TV and movie westerns have been filmed in the immediate vicinity.

We spent a couple of nights in Kernville at a place that we would consider a "find." While most lodgings in town seem to be rather typical motel units, we stayed at one of three bed-and-breakfasts in town, the Whispering Pines Lodge. The Whispering Pines is a series of wood-frame buildings, each with several separate units. Our room was nicely appointed for a lodge that felt like it was out in the wilderness – modern cedar and oak furniture, a king bed, double vanities in the bathroom, hardwood floors, framed paintings and flowers strategically positioned throughout the over-size room. The curtains opened to reveal a woodsy view of the riverfront, a deck with table and chairs and, of course, a panoramic view of the churning Kern River.

The constant sound of the river reminded us of a riverfront cabin we once owned and this just bolstered the feeling that we had truly escaped from the city. Downtown Kernville was perhaps just a quarter mile away but we felt like we were holed up in our own remote mountain cabin. It was perfect for reading and relaxing, and we also enjoyed sampling local trails.

After a restful night’s sleep, we discovered one more reason that the Whispering Pines fills up quickly on weekends – the full breakfast that is served, buffet style, every day of the week. Bed-and-breakfasts seem to run the gamut from those offering a roll and some coffee to those priding themselves on both the quality and quantity of food they present. The Whispering Pines falls into the latter category with its bacon, sausages, eggs, pancakes, biscuits and gravy, quiche, fruit, rolls, juices and coffee all served up tasty and fresh in an atmosphere that encourages you to go back and fill your plate again.

For more information on the Whispering Pines Lodge, phone 877-376-3733 or visit

Photos by Cary Ordway

Captions, from top: Casa Tropicana and San Clemente Pier area has a Mediterranean feel; sidewalk cafe near San Clemente Pier; one of the buildings that is part of MacCallum House; Whispering Pines Lodge

Please visit California Weekend for more information on California travel .
Photo credits: Cary Ordway, Sandi Ordway