Today we’re checking in at The Madonna Inn in San Luis Obispo, one of my absolute favorite places to stay in the entire world! If that seems like an exaggeration, it is not! But the Madonna Inn’s aesthetic is definitely exaggerated. An exaggeration of pink, gold, cherubs, roses, and cake! It’s all too much, completely over-the-top, and I absolutely love it!
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I remember driving past the Madonna Inn when I was a kid with my parents on road trips. They would tell me about the “cool” waterfall in the men’s restroom or the all pink dining room. But I don’t remember ever stopping to go inside. And then while I was in college, I would drive past its lit-up galloping sign every few months while coming and going to and from Los Angeles and Santa Cruz and I knew I was about halfway to my destination.
After my husband and I first started dating, we planned a little weekend trip away together. With our mutual love of roadside kitsch, we decided to drive up to the Madonna Inn! After tasting that delicious pink champagne cake for the first time, I was so upset with myself that I had missed out on countless slices of cake whenever I had driven by in all the previous years!
Since our first trip, we’ve been back 7 times and it’s one of my lifetime bucket list goals to stay in every single room at the Madonna Inn. Although I have some serious catching up to do! With 110 rooms, I haven’t even cracked 10% yet!
The Madonna Inn Hotel Review
The Madonna Inn is located off Hwy 101 in San Luis Obispo, California. It’s about a 3 hour and 20 minute drive from Los Angeles and 3 and a half hours from San Francisco.
History of the Madonna Inn
Yes, I own a signed copy of the Madonna Inn coffee table book, Madonna Inn: My Point of View by Phyllis Madonna which is where I pulled this information.
Alex Madonna, owner of the Madonna Construction Company, worked road construction and was out of town 80% of the time living out of “motor inns” and eating dinner at truck stops. He said he would someday “build a beautiful Inn with an elegant Dining Room and a pleasant Coffee Shop where weary travelers could feet at home and enjoy a nice meal …”Alex Madonna
The first 12 rooms opened in 1958. Alex and Phyllis Madonna named and decorated the rooms together with the decorations matching the names. Phyllis states,
“We had the opportunity to make more people happy by doing every room differently!”Phyllis Madonna
In 1960, the rest of the main inn (wine cellar, steak house, coffee shop) and more rooms were built. Alex Madonna used boulders from a nearby mountain and incorporated them into the design creating the famous rock rooms and rock showers!
Why Stay at the Madonna Inn
First and foremost, if you love roadside America, over-the-top kitsch, themed-rooms, pink, gold, flowers, love, and gaudy, tacky maximalism design, then you simply have to stay at the Madonna Inn.
Sure, you can stop and visit the restaurant, eat a slice of cake, and see the waterfall in the men’s restroom, but what makes the Madonna Inn legendary are the themed rooms. 110 different rooms all with their own unique decor and names.
The Rooms at the Madonna Inn
Of course I love the all-pink rooms. Or the all-blue rooms. Some rooms have better themes than others. Some are gaudier, some are tackier, some are sillier. There’s also the rock rooms and the rooms with the rock showers. It’s a thing. If you have a couple hours to kill, take a look at all the rooms online.
Here’s a list of the rooms I’ve stayed in or want to stay in. You need to have a list ready when you call to make reservations to see if one of your favorite rooms is available. I swear the booking receptionists have the patience of saints because you basically just say, “Ok, how about this room, is it available? No? Ok, what about this room? No? Ok, let’s try one more, how about this one?”
- Room 138 Daisy Mae
- Room 150 Romance
- Room 202 Swiss Belle
- Room 164 Merry
- Room 169 Vous
- Room 218 Carin
- Room 182 Tall and Short
- Room 128 Bit of Solvang
- Room 183 Love Nest
- Room 184 Just Heaven
- Room 151 Sugar & Spice
- Room 186 Starlite
- Room 167 Ren
- Room 134 Lucky Rock
Amenities Offered at the Madonna Inn
We have booked massages at the spa and they were great! The terrace pool can get a little windy and cold, even during warm weather, so be aware it might not always be perfect “pool” weather. The tennis courts and basketball court are on theme in pink and blue. And you can learn more about the options to go horseback riding or rent bicycles right here.
- Terrace Pool
- Tennis court
- Basketball court
- Horseback riding
- Bike rentals
- Live music and dancing
Check their special events calendar – it looks like they’re offering Goat Yoga on Saturday mornings through July.
Drinking and Dining at the Madonna Inn
- Alex Madonna’s Gold Rush Steak House
The other reason the Madonna Inn is legendary is the over-the-top pink Gold Rush Steak House dining room. These photos are how it is decorated normally. They decorate it even more for Valentine’s Day and Christmas if you can believe it!
Pink booths, golden cherubs hanging from a faux tree dripping with faux flowers. Multi-colored goblets on every table. It’s obscene! And amazing! And you’ll probably need reservations.
Check the music schedule to learn when the steak house is offering live music and dancing. We love watching all the older couples dancing to large band music!
- Madonna Inn Copper Cafe
The Cooper Cafe is perfect for breakfast in the morning or lunch in the afternoon. You can even grab a slice of cake for dessert!
- Silver Car Cocktail Lounge
- Terrace Pool Bar
We tried the terrace pool bar once several years ago and it was terrible, but it looks as if the menu has changed, so perhaps give it a try if you’re having a great time by the pool and don’t want to leave.
You can always stop into the bakery to grab a slice of cake, cookies, etc. and take them with you on road trip up or down the coast.
What to do in the San Luis Obispo Area During Your Stay
- Downtown SLO (I prefer pizza and books at Phoenix Books & Woodstock Pizza.)
- Bubble Gum Alley
- Drive-in movie at the Sunset Drive In
- See a movie at the Fremont Theater
- Nearby beaches (Avila, Pismo, Morro, Cayucos)
- Hearst Castle
- Cal Poly Architecture Graveyard
- Wine Tasting in Paso Robles
What to Bring Home from The Madonna Inn
Pink Champagne Cake! Ok, I know I’m obsessed with the cake, but for good reason!
But also, definitely visit the gift shops. My husband and I have a fairly extensive Madonna Inn goblet collection. And the new pink flower carpet print clothes and accessories line looks AMAZING! I’m not gonna lie, I kinda want a goblet shirt!
Contact & Booking
Prices are always higher on the weekends, so if you can swing a mid-week trip, you’ll not only save money but it will also be less crowded!
If you’re celebrating a special occasion, let them know when you make the reservation! The hotel will usually include a complimentary bottle of rose wine or champagne with a sweet card in your room.
Also, if you’re celebrating a special occasion and want a slice of pink champagne cake? If you want to make sure you’re going to get a slice, it’s sometimes advisable to just call the bakery and order a small cake. When you book your room, you can ask to have a small fridge brought in (for some cake and wine!) or you can have the Steak House cut you a slice of your cake at dinner if you’re dining in the Gold Rush Steak House.
And yes, my husband and I have ordered several whole cakes just for a weekend and have completely devoured them.
Booking and Contact Information:
My husband and I always love our stays at the Madonna Inn. Are you planning to visit soon? Which of the 110 rooms would you want to stay in? Let me know in a comment below!
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Golden State Getaways wants to acknowledge that we live, operate, gather, and benefit everyday on the traditional stolen lands of several Indigenous peoples and nations including the Tongva (Gabrieleno), Kizh (Gabrieleno), Chumash, Popeloutchom (Amah Mutsun), Ohlone, Awaswas, and Fernandeño Tataviam peoples who have stewarded the lands and waterways throughout their many generations in what is now the state of California.
I wanted to personally acknowledge these Indigenous people and nations and both their commitment and current contributions to the land with a donation to the American Indian College Fund because acknowledgment without action does not begin to address the systemic issues facing Indigenous people. If you feel as though you benefit from the land you’re living on or traveling to and you have the means, I kindly ask that you donate at least $1 to a Native-led organization such as the Native American Rights Fund or the American Indian College Fund.
The Madonna Inn is located in San Luis Obispo which is on Chumash and Obispeño land. You can learn more about the Indigenous land you’re living on or traveling to by visiting the Native Lands website.