A Family Adventure on the Northern California Coast at Costanoa Lodge

With rain pouring down on a pitch-black Friday night, no cars in sight and no cell phone service, our family vacation at Costanoa Lodge was an adventure from the start. The resident covey of quail greeted us as we walked to the reception area, as if to let us know that we could relax now. Costanoa is all about downtime with family — no in-room TVs, spotty cell service and an off-path location. For busy parents and kids, it’s a haven with unscheduled playtime all day.

Cascade Restaurant and Bar

Cascade Restaurant and Bar

Family-Friendly Review of Costanoa Lodge

Overview

Costanoa Lodge is located 55 miles south of San Francisco on a sparsely populated slice of the California coast that has more resident elephant seals than people during the winter months. Families come here to relax and take easy outings that are within a 20-30 minute drive in either direction.

Costanoa has a unique setup in that its a lodge and cabins share the same grounds as a campground, which includes tent cabins, bungalows and RV hookups. The campground has a separate check-in area, but the entire resort blends seamlessly, as the design of buildings is the same weathered wood.throughout. It feels like one resort versus two standalone lodging options.

Costanoa has a variety of family-friendly accommodation options

Costanoa has a variety of family-friendly accommodations

Accommodations

The lodge has standard hotel rooms and amenities, plus a large outdoor communal fireplace. Our family of four stayed in a Douglas Fir cabin with half-bath — a nice option for families who want to rough it a little by using the comfort stations for bathrooms and/or showers, but prefer sturdier and warmer accommodations in cold weather than the tent cabins and bungalows provide.

Another new and convenient option for families are the glamping Lighthouse tent bungalows. These are located closer to the beach path, about a seven-minute walk from the lodge and restaurant. They don’t have bathrooms, but the comfort station is nearby and they offer more privacy than other tent bungalows.

The outdoor fireplace at the the comfort stations

The outdoor fireplace at a comfort station

Comfort Stations

The comfort stations are located throughout the resort grounds. These modern bathroom complexes include indoor showers, heated floors, a sauna and an outdoor fireplace thats lit each evening. For families who aren’t campers and aren’t sure about using shared facilities (such as my family), the quality of the comfort stations makes it a non-factor beyond the point that you have to leave your cabin or tent bungalow.

Costanoa-onsite-activites

Activities and Amenities

The variety of simple onsite activities is a big part of Costanoa’s charm. There is a coastal walk to the beach, life-size chess, bicycle rentals, a playground, a bean bag toss and huge lawns for football or Frisbees. Other amenities include a spa and a whirlpool tub (available to lodge, cabin and Lighthouse tent bungalow guests only).

In high season, Costanoa offers picnic areas and organized kids’ activities. The restaurant is open year-round and serve breakfast and upscale dinners. Kids’ menus are notable for better-than-average healthy selections.

The General Store has all the supplies needed for an adult happy hour and for making s’mores, which endures as a favorite nighttime activity at all ages.

Searching for the elephant seals at Ano Nuevo State Park

Searching for elephant seals at Ano Nuevo State Park

Local Excursions

The area near Costanoa Lodge is both a personal and family favorite for its variety of things to do. The website has an excellent list of nearby excursions, and I’d highly recommend a visit to Ano Nuevo to see the elephant seals (with guided, reserved hikes during winter); a drive south to Davenport, sampling jam along the way; and maybe a stop at Bonny Doon Winery for wine tasting and a very funny photo surprise for the kids.

The tiny town of Pescadero also warrants a stop at Harley Goat Farms for cheese tasting and, in the spring, a tour to see the baby goats. Follow this up with a stroll down the one-lane downtown to buy artichoke bread at Arcangeli Grocery and a bowl of cream of artichoke or cream of green chile soup at Duarte’s — locals like to swirl them together!

Finally, don’t miss Pigeon Point Lighthouse for its view, friendly docents and, with luck, a whale sighting.

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Relevant Links:

Best family hotels and things to do in San Francisco on Ciao Bambino

Tips for checking out San Francisco’s tourist spots

A grand California family road trip

Family road trips offer year-round fun in California

Editor’s Note: Kristi was hosted at Costanoa in order to review the property. As always, our opinions on Ciao Bambino are our own. Photos by Kristi Marcelle.

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