Credit: Courtesy

Prior to “Lockdown 2.0” in December, my fall travels included a blissful wellness-centric escape up the coast. I was on a mission to explore the southernmost portion of California’s iconic Pacific Coast Highway that meanders through the charming small towns on San Luis Obispo County’s seaside. My solo adventure was crafted as a mini personal retreat to soothe my pandemic-rattled nervous system, and now that leisure travel is once again permitted (within 120 miles of home), I’m ready to do it all over again.

Day 1

En route to Avila Beach, I stopped for a tour of The Luffa Farm in Nipomo. As my guide explained, many people assume loofahs are sponges that come from the sea, when in fact they are dried gourds and cousins to cucumbers. At the farm, the multi-tasking veggies grow on vines in hothouses. I got back on the road armed with a few surprisingly soft loofah souvenirs that were nothing like the harsh, overly processed versions I remembered from my youth.

My next destination was Sycamore Mineral Springs Resort, where every single guest room comes with its own private outdoor soaking tub. After getting settled into my impressively spacious suite and scoping out the tree-lined view from my back deck, I checked in for my massage at the spa. When you book a spa treatment, a complimentary private soak session in their popular hillside hot tubs is included. I took full advantage of that perk and spent 30 minutes enjoying the peace and quiet while immersed in the healing waters sourced from their natural 100-acre spring. 

I was well into the Zen zone when I was called for my 60-minute Swedish massage, which took place in one of the three outdoor cabanas they’ve set up adjacent to the pool for COVID-safe treatments. It was my first massage in six months and keeping my mask on throughout did not impede the melt factor that ensued. After a chillout session in my suite, I popped over to Avila’s Harford Pier, where I feasted on oysters and fish tacos at Mersea’s while taking in the sunset scene populated with sea lions, birds, and fishing boats.

Day 2

Credit: Courtesy

I woke before sunrise to hike the Sycamore Crest Trail accessed from the resort’s grounds. The 1.75-mile roundtrip excursion was easy to navigate in the dawn light as I trekked up the switchbacks, passing only one other hiker and a few deer. The sun was just beginning to show itself when I reached the top, where a sweeping elevated view of Port San Luis down to Pismo Beach greeted me.

Breakfast back at the resort’s The Gardens restaurant was a hearty crab cake benedict that fueled me up for my next adventure — biking the Bob Jones Trail to the beach. The resort offers bikes for rent, and the trail has a convenient entry point right on property. I had a smile plastered on my face throughout the scenic three-mile cruise to Avila Pier and back.

I said farewell to Sycamore Springs and hit the PCH north for the Hearst Ranch Winery tasting room on San Simeon Bay. The setting alone was soul soothing — so much so, I lingered for a good two hours absorbing the low-key ambiance, reading my book, snacking on a DIY cheese plate I curated with their market supplies, and, of course, tasting the wines.

From there, I drove south to Oceanpoint Ranch, located right off the PCH in Cambria. The cabin-like rooms featuring vaulted wood beam ceilings and brick fireplaces are spread across the nine-acre property adjacent to Moonstone Beach. The modern country-Western vibe of this newly updated property was totally up my alley. After a deliciously messy hands-on dinner of cioppino at nearby Moonstone Beach Bar & Grill, I moseyed back to my room, where I read by the fire and listened to the waves crashing.

Day 3

I started my final morning with a sunrise walk along the Moonstone Beach Boardwalk, and just like magic, the breakfast I’d ordered the day before was waiting back at my room. The grand finale of my personal “SLO-down” retreat was a forest bathing ritual with Tula Yoga in the vast haven that is the Fiscalini Ranch Preserve. The private guided experience combined hiking, yoga, mindfulness, and meditation led by the delightfully welcoming Terri Harrington, who shared local insights along with helpful grounding prompts. Over 90 minutes, we walked and talked, stopping in different locations for breathing exercises, a yoga flow, balancing poses, and a final meditation under a regal grove of oaks.

My trip was curated and supported by the Highway 1 Discovery Route.

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