I took a weekend trip with a Cabana mobile hotel — here’s what I saw, learned, and did on my adventure…
You might’ve already heard of Cabana, a luxurious “mobile hotel room” rental company based out of Seattle and Los Angeles. But if you haven’t, you really should — and here’s why.
Putting it simply, renting a Cabana is like having a luxe feeling hotel room and a rental car with you in one reservation. It allows you the freedom and flexibility of comfortably traveling wherever you want, whenever you want in a way that a traditional road trip can’t. You can spend a night in an array of destinations that are more unique and out-of-the-box than a traditional hotel could ever accommodate…
Preparing for your trip (the stuff you should know):
- Checking in: The check-in process is phenomenally simple. You download an app to check in 24 hours before your trip, and then you unlock the van on your phone when you arrive. You can pick up your van at the designated location (where you’ll also leave your car, if you have one) anytime after 3 p.m. Très simple.
- Driving: The van drives easy, it just feels like a big SUV. We never had an issue parking or making turns while driving our Cabana (just make sure you bolt those cabinets shut while you’re moving — or else there might be a projectile hairbrush flying around the cabin! Also, even though the vehicle is only 19 ft 8 inches by 10 ft six inches, be careful driving under bridges — don’t try to drive under anything that has less than 11′ of clearance.
- Creature Comforts: The van is seriously nicer than some of the hotel rooms I’ve stayed in. The shower is clean and fresh and comes with shampoo and soap. The bed is soft and plush, and all you have to do is open those back doors for the best views from bed you could ever dream of (and views would no doubt pay big bucks for, at a traditional hotel). There’s even a heating and cooling system to make sure you enjoy a comfortable night’s sleep. Generally, just bring anything you’d bring with you to a traditional hotel room on an overnight trip and you’ll be all set.
- Electricity: The Cabana’s electrical systems are powered by a combination of two 160-Watt solar panels on top of the van, the engine (when it’s running), and “shore power,” which means you can plug-in to any standard outlet. This means it can generate electricity in both sunny and rainy weather…
- Fueling up: You can use unleaded fuel from any standard gas station, and 87 Octane is just fine.
- Safety: I never felt unsafe when we were driving or parked overnight in the van. There’s even a safe inside too, so you can protect your valuables while you’re out adventuring.
- Parking Overnight: A rule of thumb for parking overnight is just aim to park anywhere that tent camping would be OK. Just check to make sure they allow larger camper vans.
- The fun stuff: If you’re like me, and you’re seriously addicted to coffee, fear not — the van comes equipped with a coffee maker and some fantastic Seattle quality brew. There’s also a sink with running water, a fabulously hidden drawer fridge, sealed trash can, and if you’d like to make food right in the van, you can choose to add on a camper stove (just make sure you get the right type of fuel!). Request a “late return,” and pay a small fee if you think you’ll be running short on time returning the van from your journey.
Read more details on how to prepare with Cabana’s online preparation section here, and on their FAQ’s page, here.
LA to the Bay – Embarking on a “Waves and Wine Country” Adventure
With my Cabana, I embarked on an ambitious trip from my home city of Los Angeles, up to the Livermore Valley wine country in the East Bay of California. My only regret about my journey is not having enough time to fully explore everything. This is because there are just SO many beautiful places to check out along this roughly 400 mile route (each way).
California Loves Freeways
We took the 10 West to Santa Monica, then we switched over to the Pacific Coast Highway (also known as Highway 1) which took us up to Ventura, where we switched over to the 101 up toward Santa Barbara. Then in Santa Barbara, we switched over to the 154 which took us to the Santa Ynez Valley wine country area, inland.
After Los Olivos, we switched back over to the 101 which we took all the way up to Pismo Beach and the San Luis Obispo area. Then, we took the Pacific Coast Highway up to Cambria because it’s a fabulous place to spend an afternoon.
In Cambria, we had to backtrack to get to Highway 46 which took us to Paso Robles on a gorgeous windy road that showcases the coastline views from Morro Bay and beyond. After Paso it’s smooth sailing up the 101 all the way to the Bay Area. If you’ve ever seen that SNL skit, “The Californians” — this is truly what it feels like to give directions, living in California.
I’d recommend turning this trip into a three or four night journey to explore the coastline and country scenes in satisfying detail. Here are a collection of the best stops along the way from Los Angeles to the Bay, so you can plan out your own trip and spend as much time as you’d like in each of the destinations.
The city of Santa Monica encompasses a walkable 8.3 square miles of shopping, dining, and recreation (think, beaches and hiking and water sports all in one place!).
First, check out the Third Street Promenade for some fantastic shopping and dining spots. The promenade is just about a ten minute walk from Santa Monica’s other attractions like the pier and the beach.
Malibu stretches for more than 30 miles along the PCH, showcasing unparalleled views of the sea all just steps from the road. Browse the boutique-y shops at the Malibu Country Mart and Malibu Lumber Yard, walk along the Malibu Pier or check out the prime hiking trails Point Dume. Wine lovers can take one of the two-hour Malibu Wine Hikes on the rolling terrain of Saddlerock Ranch vineyard with sights of the pacific ocean throughout.
For those who love the sea and sand, there’s Surfrider Beach and Zuma Beach, which are famous for their iconic waves — as well as Topanga State Beach where you’ll find surfers dotting the coastline any time of day.
Ventura is a laid-back seaside city that offers seemingly everything a traveler could be looking for on a beach getaway. Here, visitors will find an impressive art scene, a collection of historic landmarks, abundant outdoor activities, and more.
Stop at the Ventura Harbor Village which boasts a collection of local shops, restaurants, and water activities. This is also where you’d catch a boat to the Channel Islands, nicknamed “North America’s Galapagos” for its collection of rare plant and animal species.
Santa Barbara is nicknamed “The American Riviera” because this seaside city makes you feel as if you’ve traveled abroad to another land. From the abundant art and culture activities, to the outdoor recreation, to the unbeatable food and wine scene with hundreds of restaurants to choose from — there’s no shortage of things to do on a trip to Santa Barbara.
Check out my entire article “1,2,3 Destination Guide to Santa Barbara” for Hotels Above Par showcasing what to eat, drink, do, and where to stay in this Mediterranean paradise.
Santa Ynez Valley
The Foxen Canyon Wine Trail connects the Santa Maria Valley and Los Olivos, which are two fantastic California wine regions on the Central Coast.
Spend the first night in SYV wine country. Here, the only sounds you’ll encounter are the chirping of the birds and the mooing of the cows on the nearby ranches. You might even be roused by one of the local roosters for the most natural of morning wake up calls. It’s a completely immersive way to experience a rural lifestyle without having to venture too far outside civilization.
Wake up early to explore the peaceful Santa Ynez Valley’s quaint ranch town of Los Olivos. You can make coffee right in your Cabana to start the morning off right before embarking on your adventure to walk around the downtown area. Here, there are plenty of spots to park your van.
Everything in this rural region is well spread out — so you feel like you have enough space to drive your van on the roadways — but it’s close enough together that you’ll have no problem exploring the entire town in just under an hour’s time.
Downtown Los Olivos offers a variety of fun wine tasting rooms and cute local shops. Stop into Liquid Farm to buy some locally owned and produced wines as a souvenir. Next, Los Olivos Grocery is a great place to grab a hearty morning breakfast burrito and is a favorite among locals and visitors alike.
After you’ve checked out the cute (but compact) city center square of Los Olivos in the morning, head north on the 101 highway and make another pit stop at the famous roadside attraction, Ostrichland USA which is just north, in the town of Buellton. It’s a quirky stop on your way up through the Santa Ynez Valley that you won’t soon forget.
Next, your journey will take you through the vineyards of the Santa Maria Valley region on your way to the day’s second stop: San Luis Obispo. If you’d like more ideas on what to do in San Luis Obispo, I have an entire section of my website dedicated to this amazing destination because I was lucky enough to live there for four years in college. Check it out, here!
Pismo Beach & Avila Beach
Pismo Beach offers fabulous seaside weather. It’s perfect for hiking, golfing, riding the dunes in a four-wheel ATV, horseback riding, surfing, and offers easy access to the fabulous wineries of Edna Valley nearby.
My favorite thing to do in Pismo is just walk around and explore. You can stroll along the pier or on the sand — or stroll through the easily walkable downtown area which feels like a nostalgic trip to a beach town as a kid (no matter how old you are). You can buy ice cream and sweets (like salt water taffy!) and visit the famous cinnamon roll shop, Old West Cinnamon Rolls.
San Luis Obispo
It’s about a 45 minute drive from Los Olivos to get to “SLO.” You’ll drive along the ocean past the seaside cities Pismo Beach and Avila Beach before arriving in San Luis Obispo. This is the biggest city between Santa Barbara and the Bay Area where you can stop for a break.
Explore the walkable downtown area of this lively college town, which hosts a range of fun, locally owned and operated boutique shops and restaurants as well as historic Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa. After you’ve explored SLO, transfer back over to Highway 1 and head toward Morro Bay.
Morro Bay is home to more shops, a gorgeous beach, and the majestic rock after which the city was named, “Morro Rock.” Morro Rock towers above the village and the embarcadero. It’s one of the “nine sisters” of the San Luis Obispo region, landmarks which are proof of the powerful volcanic activity that once shaped the lands of this scenic area.
In Cambria, take a stroll along Moonstone Beach and the boardwalk that parallels the sea for the chance to find a real souvenir moonstone. Check out the village area to browse more locally owned shops and cute cafes.
The entire drive up until Cambria, you’ll be paralleling the ocean. Cambria is slightly north of the cutover on Route 46 to head toward Paso Robles — so you’ll have to backtrack a little if you want to go inland toward Paso (this road offers gorgeous views of the entire pacific coastline, below).
Paso Robles is an iconic wine growing region on the Central Coast. Soak in the vibrant colors of a wine country sunset and stop into one of the dozens of local wineries and tasting rooms.
At night, check out the Field of Light at Sensorio, a 15-acre light show nestled into the rolling hills of Paso featuring hundreds of thousands of fiber-optic stemmed spheres that change colors. Now, visitors to Field of Light can also check out the new exhibit, “Light Towers” which was created by renowned artist Bruce Munro.
He constructed a collection of 6‑foot-tall towers composed of more than 17,000 wine bottles. Each of the towers are illuminated with glowing optic fibers that change colors to a soothing musical score.
Fast Forwarding Through the Central Valley
Heading north from Paso Robles along the 101, you’ll travel through historic San Miguel which hosts a mission that dates back to 1979. This segment of the drive will take you through a heavily agricultural-based section of California including Salinas, Gonzales, and Soledad. Soledad which is the “Gateway to the Pinnacles National Park (one of the US’ newest national parks which could be another fantastic stop for a road trip in itself).
Then, as you travel further north toward the Bay Area, you’ll feel like you’re heading back toward a more populated civilization when you pass through Gilroy in the south Bay Area, which is the proud “garlic capital” of the world.
When you hit Livermore and drive over the Altamont Pass, you’ll encounter thousands of wind turbine blades spinning slowly in the breeze. These windmills are part of one of the oldest wind farms in the US, dating back to the early 1980s.
Finally, you’ll arrive in Livermore where you can park your Cabana at your host winery (which you can find and book using apps such as Harvest Hosts or Hipcamp) and enjoy some much-deserved wine tasting. You’ll spend a tranquil night under the stars, surrounded by the vines.
Supposedly, Livermore is on the map as California’s oldest wine region, dating back to 1797. Catholic Padres founded Mission San Jose in the valley and decided to plant grapes here, beginning its rich vineyard history. Nowadays, there are more than 40 locally owned and operated wineries to explore across the Livermore Valley. Check out Concannon Vineyard, The Crooked Vine or Wente Vineyards for a fun afternoon tasting wines.
Outside of the vineyard scene, there’s also a quaint downtown area in Livermore with a host of cute cafes, boutique shops, and art studios for casual browsing.
Waves and Wine Country
Make sure to have your belongings with you before departing! And make sure to share your trip and tag @cabana on Instagram to showcase your journey with everyone else who’s interested in a similar experience.
Get more Metropolitan Molly updates by subscribing to my newsletter, website and on social media below:
Interested in nominating someone with a stellar story for the COVID Chronicles? Submit them, here.
1 thought on “My California #VanLife Adventure Weekend with Cabana”
Loved this travel log!