Best Hotels on the Central Coast for Group Getaways

Teeming marine life. Farm-fresh produce from the Salad Bowl of the World — dished at adored restaurants. A world-class aquarium. Storied golf courses, in a staggering quantity. Towering redwoods. John Steinbeck history. Stunning beaches. Highway 1 vistas from Big Sur and beyond. Surf City USA. Wine country stretching from Carmel Valley to Salinas Valley. Some of the best scuba diving known to man.

The Monterey Bay-Central Coast area of California can claim any number of items that attract waves of visitors, and famously so. One other thing it provides, with all the quality and a fraction of the recognition, is great group lodging. The venues that go above and beyond in that category function well on a number of fronts, from unforgettable settings to scalable conference space to accessible entertainment. Here are our picks for best group getaway hotels on the Central Coast.

Featured Photo: Carmel Valley Ranch

Asilomar Conference Grounds-CentralCoast-Group-800x450-credit Asilomar Conference Grounds
Photo: Courtesy of Asilomar Conference Grounds

Asilomar Conference Grounds

The forested complex of lodging and meeting spaces predates World War I, when it served as a YWCA Leadership Camp. It became a state park in 1956 and enjoys 107 acres of state beach, restored dunes and buildings. Those buildings earned architectural renown thanks to the legend of architect Julia Morgan, who designed 13 structures like soaring Merrill Hall that remain today, and are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. (Celebrated in his own right, John Carl Warnecke created seven more structures three decades later.) Between its diverse types of rooms and suites, winding paths, deeply natural setting and expansive halls, it’s a village-like destination on its own.

HIGHLIGHTS: The dramatic pine and cypress trees merge poetically with the earthy style of the buildings, and so many birds call it home — from hummingbird to hawk — parks staff conduct regular birding tours. The history and architecture prove worthy of being celebrated too. The picturesque beach of the same name sits across the street, and Carmel, Pacific Grove and Monterey all await within a few minutes’ drive. The food program is award-winning and inspiring: Keeping with the grounds’ pioneering green policies, it trends towards maximum sustainable flavor and zero waste.

Carmel Valley Ranch-CentralCoast-Group-800x450-credit Carmel Valley Ranch
Photo: Courtesy of Carmel Valley Ranch

Carmel Valley Ranch

Want to try your hand at archery? Falconry? Beekeeping? Or maybe you just want to play a round of golf on a par-70 Pete Dye-designed course? Spread across 500 acres in the foothills of the Santa Lucia Mountains, Carmel Valley Ranch has space for it all —including three different swimming pools. The almost overwhelming activity menu also might include cooking classes, foraging hikes, or yoga in a hilltop pavilion. The extensive fitness program includes barre, circuit training and water yoga while the menu at Spa Aiyana features ten different types of massage.  Among the resort’s 181 rooms are a variety of accommodation styles and levels, many featuring fireplaces, private decks or both for a true hideaway vibe.

HIGHLIGHT: This spring, the ranch became a true ranch with the arrival of five horses and the introduction of “equine experiences” which involve interacting with horses as a form of relaxation and learning. Therapist Robert Magnelli, who calls himself The Horseman, developed the programs, which include the adult-oriented Growing Awareness and the family-friendly Getting to Know the Herd. 


Costanoa Lodge-CentralCoast-Group-800x450-credit Costanoa Lodge
Photo: Courtesy of Costanoa Lodge

Costanoa Lodge

Few group destinations marry nature and the visitor experience so smoothly. Versatile options for stays include the lodge, cabins, tents and even RV camping. Broad windows, ample patios and slick technology empower meetings. Kid-friendly activities are a strong suit. Adventure Associates partners on team-building adventures. An organic garden fuels Cascade Restaurant & Bar, while Pine Tent and the General Store provide more locally sown epicurean options.

HIGHLIGHTS: Breaks from meetings can include multiple naturalist-led hikes, mountain biking, kayaking and organized scavenger hunts. The spa delivers everything from aromatherapy to integrative massage. The range of extracurricular activities proves as impressive as they come, whether guests are riding waves, bikes or horses.

Pajaro Dunes Resort-CentralCoast-Group-800x450-credit Pajaro Dunes Resort
Photo: Courtesy of Pajaro Dunes Resort

Pajaro Dunes Resort

Born in 1973, Pajaro Dunes prides itself on providing a spectrum of lodging choices tucked in the rolling coastal sands four miles west of pastoral Watsonville, whether that’s vacation rentals, real estate or group services. Meetings can make the most of 6,500 square feet of space and 210 guest rooms all told. Its strategic location straddles the Monterey and Santa Cruz sides of the bay, and is 45 minutes from San Jose. Park-like settings feature decks, fireplaces and natural light.

HIGHLIGHTS:  Quality number one is the 1.5 miles of sparkling beach that front the Pajaro Dunes resort. Four different facilities for events and meetings are nice, and so are 15 tennis courts. On-site catering prioritizes local product and attentive execution.

Sea and Sand Inn-CentralCoast-Group-800x450-credit Sea and Sand Inn
Photo: Courtesy of Sea and Sand Inn

Sea and Sand Inn

The location, central to Santa Cruz with views of the ocean from every room, proves hard to resist. The modern rooms, many with balconies, provide their own charm and swath of options, ranging from jacuzzi-appointed deluxe king spa rooms to cottage suites. Much of Santa Cruz awaits within walking distance, including shops, restaurants, the iconic Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk and Santa Cruz wharf. Location management works closely with visiting groups to customize according to their needs.


Freshly baked cookies and refreshments appear every afternoon. Wine and cheese are served every evening. Stunning California State Parks, golf, water sports, fishing and sailing charters are all accessible within minutes. Service is a strong suit, as friendly as it is attentive.

Ventana Big Sur-CentralCoast-Luxury-800x450-credit Ventana Big Sur
Photo: Courtesy of Ventana Big Sur

Ventana Big Sur

With some 160 acres of Big Sur natural sanctuary to deploy, Ventana multiplies the power of that natural grandeur with intuitive architectural design and a wealth of ways to enjoy it, from huge balconies to unparalleled glamping to the most luxurious spa amenities. The indoor-outdoor spaces on property cover 12,000 square feet and a proportionate amount of possibilities. The setting and menu at the restaurant, meanwhile, rival any in the area. It’s the sort of spot that isn’t easy to forget.


Redwoods have to top this list. Or maybe it’s the endless horizon views across the Pacific from the incredible decks that sit at the property’s higher points. Beautiful landscaping, lawns and pools don’t hurt either. The Japanese baths are also incredible. Whatever the case, the resulting experience is greater than the sum of these parts, as individually breathtaking as they might be.

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