5 Things To Know Before Staying at Hearst Hacienda Lodge
It was one of those nights during the pandemic last summer when I went down a wormhole on Google. The topic: wildflower super blooms. They absolutely fascinated me and I stumbled upon an article about a place less than two hours from San Jose, California called “Valley of the Oaks.” This led to me to learn about the Hearst Hacienda Lodge which is know to have gorgeous wildflower blooms nearby. The catch? Hearst Hacienda Lodge is located on an army active base, Fort Hunter-Liggett! My interest was further piqued and I decided to check it out. Read more for the things you need to know about booking a stay here.
1. Booking requires a little extra legwork
Forgot a simple self-booking tool. Booking a room at Hearst Hacienda Lodge requires a little work. The website for the property is very basic with limited information. I called once, left a voice mail and a friendly woman named Yasmin called me back right away. The phone for the Hearst Hacienda Lodge is (831) 386-2900.
There are several room options and priority does go to military personnel so it is advantageous to plan ahead. Your room options are:
- Lower Suite ($200/night) – 2 Queens and 1 King, 1.5 bathroom, full kitchen and living area.
- Commander’s Suite ($150/night) – 1 Queen, 1 King, 1 bathroom, full kitchen and living area. We stayed in this room and it was great for a family of 5. Only caution is the staircase up to the suite which does not have a gate so be warned if you have babies or toddlers.
- Mini Suite ($95/night) – Queen bed, Full size sofa bed and private bathroom.
- Tower Rooms ($90/night) – Queen bed, Full size sofa bed and private bathroom.
- Garden Rooms ($75/night) – King or Queen size bed with private bathroom.
- Cowboy Rooms ($50/night) – Queen size bed. Shared bathroom.
Two night minimum stays for all three suite rooms.
2. You are on an active army base
Driving to Fort Hunter-Liggett is relatively easy down a two lane road off of Highway 101, however, after dark, it is pitch black! We did arrive late so couldn’t really take in the surroundings as we drove in.
We received an email confirmation of our booking and were instructed to show that as well as our photo IDs at the main gate. With no idea what to expect, we pulled up where two military policemen were stationed. After temperature checks and a COVID screening, they took our IDs and had us pull off to the side. About 10 minutes later, they returned with our IDs and a guest pass and pointed us in the direction of the Hearst Hacienda Lodge.
Another military base newbie experience was “reveille” and “retreat” — basically, civilian code for the start and end of the duty day! It is indicated by a distinct bugle sound over the base’s broadcast system. Reveille plays at 6:30am and retreat plays closer to 10pm. We were not told about this so it definitely caught us off guard the first time we heard it! The kids slept through the evening one but the morning one woke us all up.
Photography opportunities are also very limited. I was told I could take pictures of the Hacienda itself but nothing else on the base.
3. Food options are limited
At the time of booking, the employee on the phone did share that the food options for limited so we went in knowing that. If someone did not prepare or make plans, it could definitely be problematic. Since we did a two night stay, we structured our day around being able to get food in nearby towns. Alternatively, if you have a room with a kitchen, you can get groceries in King City before heading towards Jolon.
For a weekend stay (2 nights, Friday – Sunday), I would recommend:
- Friday night – grab dinner in King City before heading to the base. The Cork & Plough (American), Guadalajara Restaurant (Mexican) or California Gourmet Pizza. From here, it is about a 30 minute drive to the base. The road is very dark so, plan accordingly, if you want to arrive earlier.
- Saturday morning – the Commander’s Suite and Lower Suite both have kitchens so bring some basic supplies for an easy in-room breakfast. Prefer to grab Starbuck’s? King City will be your best bet.
- Plan to spend your day away from the base on Saturday and grab lunch & dinner out. Or, if you head back in the afternoon, grab something you can eat later or plan on preparing a basic meal back at the Hearst Hacienda Lodge.
- Sunday morning – consider visiting the Mission San Antonio de Padua before heading back to the highway.
4. You are in a very remote area
On most of our weekend trips, we stay close to our accommodations to really enjoy the area. On this one, that didn’t really make much sense as our options were very limited being on the army base plus the road to Highway 1 being closed due the last season’s fires and the road collapse near Big Sur. As a result, we tried to maximize our time exploring and, luckily, the town of Paso Robles was only about an hour away!
We set off Saturday morning with a plan to get breakfast in Paso Robles. Unfortunately, with limited capacity, the wait was two hours at most places so we grabbed coffee from Sasquatch Coffee and donuts from the adjacent bakery and had a casual feast on the picnic table outside of the coffee place. After a meander around town, we headed to Sculpterra Winery. Yes, we took our kids to a winery and it was perfect. Read more about our experience at Sculpterra in this post – between a great art collection, wine tasting, games, live music (weekends) and food trucks (weekends), there is something for everyone!
Knowing the food options were limited back at the lodge, we opted to grab an early dinner before getting on the road to head back. Firestone Walker Brewing Company has a spacious taproom and restaurant perfect for families. With both indoor and heated outdoor patio seating, you can grab a spot, use the QR code on your table and have the food brought out to you. We also grabbed some snacks at the gas station just up the road before getting on the freeway to have back in our rooms later that evening.
You do, however, have one place to visit a few minutes away: Mission San Antonio de Padua. It is a small, active parish and has a museum, gallery and gift shop featuring local artists. The Mission is open 10am – 4pm daily.
5. Not your typical hotel
I would say the Hearst Hacienda Lodge is a mix between a hotel, a hostel and a vacation rental. There isn’t much by the way of a reception or housekeeping and certainly no room service but they do provide the basics like towels, toiletries, TV (with DISH network) and other things you are accustomed to a hotel. Heating was through wall heaters and most rooms had ceiling fans for hotter days.
No formal check-in process. Instead, I received a lockbox code ahead of time and used that to access the key to our suite. Check out was similar: just pop the key back in, lock the door and you’re on your way. I received an invoice via email the next day.
There were staff around but, thankfully, we didn’t need anything. The grounds and rooms were all kept tidy.
If you’re looking for a unique stay for a night or two, this is a great spot. I don’t think I would recommend for an extended stay due to the limited amenities and driving distance to foods/services.
When Nacimiento-Fergusson Road re-opens, it will allow more recreation opportunities and access to Highway 1. This is also where it is more likely to find the wildflower blooms that I had read about originally when researching the “Valley of the Oaks”.
Have you stayed at the Hearst Hacienda Lodge? I would love to hear more about your experience in the comments.
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