After reopening two years ago, this 33-room roadside motel has finally become the beacon for weary travelers that it was always meant to be, perched atop a prime lookout point on California’s Highway 101 where the legendary road cuts through the rolling hills of the central valley an hour north of Santa Barbara, just outside the sleepy hamlet of Los Alamos.
Completely reimagined with a modern farmhouse aesthetic, the Skyview still exudes much of its mid-century Googie-style DNA, most notably the vintage yellow-and-black motel sign and turquoise umbrellas that surround the pool. (It originally opened in 1959.)
The driveway and parking lot that previously snaked through the middle of the property have been cordoned off and xeriscaped with cactus, prairie grass, sotol, agave, lavender and wildflowers. Dotted with water fountains, firepits and socially-distanced Adirondack chairs, the garden serves as the motel’s defacto lobby and gathering space.
Meanwhile the front desk occupies a small corner unit with sweeping views of the undulating landscape below, including vineyards and a horse ranch. Here you can buy Casamigos tequila and a hand-made straw hat.
Old-fashioned metal keys still unlock the guest room doors. Cowhide rugs add warmth to hardwood floors. Mattresses on the king-size beds are way too squishy and pliable for me, but I realize a lot of people equate squishy with luxury and will ultimately enjoy that. The linens are nice but the pillows are so cheap and stiff that I’d probably need neck surgery if I slept here for a week. For a short stay, though, it’s manageable.
Some rooms, like mine (#12), come with a back door that opens onto a private terrace with a loveseat, fire pit and outdoor shower. It’s a great spot for sipping wine at sunset or enjoying the (very good) complementary morning coffee. It gets cold at night in this part of California even when it’s hot as hell during the day. Gas fireplaces in the rooms help keep everything warm and toasty while you sleep, should you need it.
The poolside restaurant, Norman’s, serves farm-to-table diner fare (classic burger, steak frites) and excellent cocktails. There’s a grand piano in the dining room, so I assume this place was a locals’ scene before the coronavirus put a stop to indoor crowds. (The hotel staff seems to be taking COVID-19 very seriously, which is nice. Masks required in public spaces, lobby, restaurant, etc.)
The pool is the place where everyone wants to hang out, but for now because of the pandemic, reservations are required and spots are limited so it’s best to call ahead and reserve the pool a few days in advance of your arrival. It would suck to check in only to find out the pool was already fully booked.
Bottom line: Skyview is a fun, worthwhile budget motel with a modern vibe and aspirational attitude — and only a five-minute drive from one of the region’s best wineries, Presqu’ile (a must-stop for any wine-tasting tour of the area). This should be an essential stop for anyone taking a leisurely road trip along the LA to SF loop.
Rates from $179; 9150 US-101 Los Alamos, 805-344-0104, skyviewlosalamos.com