We’ve got another fabulous post by our travel reporter Kathy Leong.
Romantic. Romantic. Romantic. If your relationship requires resuscitation, a jump start, or finds itself barely hanging on under life support, you will find a miracle cure with a visit to the Little River Inn, based in Little River in Mendocino County.
The historic, family-run lodge is perched on a hillside facing the Pacific Ocean. Blanketed across acres of gardens and trees are over 60 units, seven types of lodging options, all arranged in building clusters. Rooms range from the “garden retreats” to the larger “deluxe ocean view fireplace” dwellings. Little River also rents cottages away from the main complex for further privacy. The resort has everything you need for a cozy stay. Consider these amenities: golf course with driving range and putting green, free tennis courts with free racquets and balls to borrow, day spa. You even have walking access to the beach and forests.
With the main house built in the late 1800s, the inn has been in operation for more than 80 years and has been under ownership and management by five generations of the same family. As you arrive via Highway One, the inn’s refreshed white clapboard exteriors and peaked rooftops with forests in the background and blooms in the foreground make you want to park and snap a photo.
The design vibe is best labeled as “country charm,” and this being the second time I came in more than five years, I could see upgrades bit by bit. I was booked in ocean view Suite 160 (excellent by the way). While there was new white-wash plank vinyl flooring, I noticed the older tile countertops from the 1980s. And while there were new beds with a deep plush mattress, I noticed the TV armoire was on the older side too. I was told that the older stuff will eventually go by the wayside, but upgrades are being phased in.
The entire resort is undergoing gradual renovation, and if you book, do ask for a room that has been completely updated if that is what you want. Otherwise, I believe you will still be pleased with what you get.
What is new of late is the added patio tented seating. Of course, the restaurant had to provide outdoor dining to survive during 2020 and 2021, and the chef had the ingenious idea of resurrecting the outdoor patio that was sitting around for 50 years and hardly used. He had it tented, new plantings installed, and strings of lights wrapped around the trees and foliage.
The effect is magical. To get there you are escorted through a winding path through the middle of the restaurant. Today the outdoor tent with pyramid heaters is so popular that couples will only book the restaurant if they can secure a table in the garden. The menu is mostly New American with a touch of global fare such as the poke with ahi tuna and shrimp and pork belly bao. Once we sat down, our waitress emerged with a smile and offered a basket filled a pair of warm baguettes. We ordered the clam chowder, one of the only times I have ever had clam meat presented in the shell in the chowder. We sampled the Little Gem salad, the poke, the clam chowder into two sharing places. The tomato-based bouillabaisse came steaming hot, and there was so much seafood with shrimp, clams, and fish we had leftovers for the next day.
How can you stoke the romance embers at the Little River Inn and get the most bang for your buck? Here’s how:
- Tip 1: See if you can get an earlier check-in and a later check-out.
- Tip 2: Book a room with a view, a fireplace, and a deep soaking tub for two.
- Tip 3: Secure a dinner reservation in the patio or the small, not the large, dining room.
- Tip 4: Walk to Van Damme beach less than half a mile away.
- Tip 5: Hike to the fern groves of Van Damme State Park, accessible from the resort.
- Tip 6: Receive a couples’ massage.
- Tip 7: Soak in the Jacuzzi after dinner.
- Tip 8: Rock on the rocking chairs in front of your room to view the ocean.
- Tip 9: Watch a romantic DVD movie. Every room has a DVD player. The front desk has a selection of over 500 titles; I’m not kidding.
- Lastly, say “I love you” right at sunset as you stare off into the Pacific from your room.
- And remember, I saved your relationship for free!
- For more information and to book your stay at Little River Inn visit: littleriverinn.com