For a good, modest motel that’s clean and reasonably close to the beach and everything else, stay at the Moonlight Beach Motel (233 Second St., Encinitas, 800/323-1259, www.moonlightbeachmotel.com). Cheerful budget motel rooms greet guests with floral bedspreads and light-painted walls. Most rooms have a kitchenette, complete with refrigerator and microwave, making it easy to store and chill beach drinks and snacks in your room. Rooms are clean enough to feel comfortable sleeping in, but not so fancy that you’ll be horrified if a little bit of sand makes it onto the carpet.
The motel sits near both U.S. 101 and I-5, making it a perfect base from which to get anywhere in the San Diego area. If you prefer to stay close by, you’re only a few blocks from Moonlight Beach. Go surfing, play a game of volleyball, or just relax into the sand for a day. (From the motel on a busy summer weekend day, walk to the beach if you can to avoid the parking nightmare down closer to the sand.)
Built in the charming Spanish Colonial Revival style, Les Artistes (944 Camino Del Mar, Del Mar, 858/755-4646, www.lesartistesinn.com, $85–200) offers something different from the standard chain motel experience. Each room is named for and decorated in the style of a particular artist or style, from the French countryside of Monet to the peace of Zen. Despite its unique and fun style, this is a budget motel; the rooms are small and you won’t be able to trip over your doorsill and fall into the ocean.
But the beach and downtown Del Mar with its restaurants and shops are only a few blocks away. And you can bring your family (several rooms have multiple beds), including your beloved pet, to Les Artistes and receive a warm welcome. Don’t bring your cigarettes, however, as Les Artistes is entirely non-smoking.
© Liz Hamill Scott from Moon California, 2nd Edition