May142010

Four Points Ventura and Road Tripping in California

There is an absence of Starwood hotels in the 300 miles on Highway 101 South along the central coast region between the San Francisco Bay (Sheraton Sunnyvale, and also Sheraton San Jose and the new Four Points San Jose a few miles off 101) and Ventura (Starwood Four Points Ventura). The high-tech industrial business parks of the Silicon Valley in Santa Clara County turn agricultural as you head south to the Salinas Valley. This is my home territory in Monterey County that reveals the multiculturalism of life in this part of America. Pull off Highway 101 in a Salinas Valley town like Gonzales or Chualar and you feel like you are in Mexico as many of the signs you see and most of the conversations you hear are in Spanish.

View of Southern Salinas Valley from the air

These are the lettuce and spinach fields that feed the country stretching for a hundred miles through the Salinas Valley. In the southern Salinas Valley the wineries have become the most lucrative development of the past two decades as dozens of square miles now grow grapes. Then you come to Paso Robles. Head east from Paso Robles on Highway 46 and you cross the San Andreas earthquake fault line. There used to be a sign marking the fault, but I guess it was stolen too many times because it hasn’t been around for a couple of years.

Highway 46 is the road where James Dean crashed his car and died in 1955. The road is still dangerous these days as cars try to pass trucks on the 70 mile two-lane stretch from Highway 101 across the central valley to connect to Interstate 5 for high speed travel to southern California. Kelley doesn’t like the straight freeway through the central valley so we usually drive Highway 101 when heading to Los Angeles which gives glimpses of the coast. Highway 1 is the true coast road that goes through Monterey and along the Big Sur coast, but the Cabrillo Highway, as it is called in Monterey County, is for leisurely tourist travel since the average speed is only about 30 miles per hour for the 100 miles from Monterey to Pismo Beach.

Here is my brief hotel rundown for Highway 101 driving the central coast of California.  Salinas has an adjacent Marriott Courtyard and Residence Inn but you are 20 miles from the sea of Monterey Bay at this location. The Salinas Valley closes in at Lost Hills and past Paso Robles you come to San Luis Obispo, a college town with Cal Poly SLO and an Embassy Suites, Holiday Inn Express, and Marriott Courtyard. This is an expensive place due to the college and the remoteness of SLO along the central coast region of California.

Your first glimpse of the sea is seven miles farther at Pismo Beach if driving Highway 101 south. There are some incredible ocean views from the Best Western Shelter Cove Lodge in Pismo Beach situated on the cliffs.

Pismo Beach cliff view at sunset

I saw half a dozen Motel 6 signs reading $49.99 along Highway 101 on this drive south. Some of the Motel 6 hotels looked pretty nice considering I had 270 miles to drive from Monterey to Four Points Ventura. The Motel 6 hotels didn’t have ocean views, but some looked rather nice. Marriott Courtyards are all over the place along Highway 101 and there is the occasional Hampton Inn and Hilton Garden Inn.

What kind of blew me away while driving from north of Santa Barbara on Highway 101 South to Ventura is my car compass constantly read East. Look at a map and you see the southern California coast is much farther east than the northern California coast. In fact, the city of Reno, Nevada east of Lake Tahoe is actually a more westerly location than Los Angeles.

Finally we arrived in Ventura and it is a few miles on a surface road to reach the Four Points hotel at Ventura Harbor. The Four Points Ventura has four suites, but with the Pasadena Police Department holding a hotel conference I wasn’t surprised that we didn’t rank high enough for a suite upgrade.

The hotel was refurbished one year ago. The hotel is three floors with 102 guest rooms and 4 suites. The room had a flat screen TV, balcony patio, comfortable bed and couch-bed. The room was larger than average and I feel it would be comfortable for a family of four. The room was basic but with amenities like a refrigerator and desk area and complimentary internet. The lobby and restaurant are appealingly decorated and suitable for hanging out. There are three tennis courts (worn looking), a basketball hoop, swimming pool, separate glass atrium enclosed spa tub in the gardens, and bicycles for rent.

Four Points Ventura Harbor

You do not see the ocean from here. Well technically, I guess the boat harbor is the ocean, but it looks like a large boat parking lot. The beach is past the harbor and in walking distance.

Ventura Harbor

The hotel has some connection to the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation for its design. The interesting aspect is the property looks like it was once one large hotel, but now the Four Points is half the hotel and an elevated walkway crossing over a lightly used road connects to the Holiday Inn Express hotel. The Holiday Inn Express hotel actually has the better harbor views but from what I gathered on TripAdvisor, the rooms are not as nice at the Holiday Inn Express.

Holiday Inn Express Ventura Harbor is connected to Four Points by elevated walkway

All in all, I agree with one reviewer from TripAdvisor who stated this hotel is a good $100 per night hotel. Those are the kind of rates you might typically find in the off-season. This property is a SPG category 2 hotel for 4,000 points on weekdays and 3,000 points on weekends. I consider this hotel a great points redemption hotel for SPG members since the rates are typically around $140 per night or higher after tax.

Four Points Ventura Restaurant

As an SPG Platinum member I received a coupon with a choice of a) 2-for-1 beer; b) 20% off an entrée item; c) free dessert with an entrée purchase. Kelley and I had a good lunch at the restaurant with 2-for-1 beer.

About Ric Garrido

Ric Garrido of Monterey, California started Loyalty Traveler in 2006 for traveler education on hotel and air travel, primarily using frequent flyer and frequent guest loyalty programs for bargain travel. Loyalty Traveler joined BoardingArea.com in 2008.

More articles by Ric Garrido »