Have you ever just needed a break from family? As solo travel becomes more popular for women, it’s important to make use of your time away at a relaxing and rejuvenating destination. The Pacific Ocean coastline is often ideal for trips like these. During the summer, I took a solo retreat at the only National Seashore on the West Coast. This uncommon destination has uncommon things to do and an uncommon place to stay, making my time at Point Reyes National Seashore both restful and exciting!
Getting to Point Reyes
It took me about an hour to drive between Point Reyes National Seashore and downtown San Francisco. Point Reyes is a great day trip or weekend getaway for those in the Bay Area, or a good stop for anyone road tripping the West Coast. For those of us in the Western region of the United States, it’s definitely the most accessible National Seashore. The park site is huge with over 71,000 acres, so renting a car or driving your own is a must. Point Reyes borders Highway 1 for easy access.
Although Point Reyes is a National Park Site, there are things you’ll see here that you’re unlikely to find at other national parks. I noticed this as I drove through historic cattle ranches started in the mid-1800s. One thing that Point Reyes does NOT have is an admission fee, so the biggest cost you’ll incur is gassing up after all that driving around.
What to Do in Point Reyes
If it is open when you arrive, stop by the visitor center first. The rangers offer a detailed park map and more information on the various attractions. I also like to collect stamps in my National Park Passport, and they have some good stamps here!
There are miles of hiking trails leading all around Point Reyes, but there was a particularly interesting one just across the street from the main visitor center. The “Earthquake Trail” brings visitors right along the San Andreas fault line! I walked this path while reading the informational signs, and as I dared to walk along the markers that designate the actual fault line, I desperately prayed that no earthquake would occur!
The Point Reyes lighthouse is a big attraction. You may have seen photos of this lighthouse in the background of inspirational quotes on Pinterest. It’s quite a long drive to get to the lighthouse parking lot, followed by a half-mile uphill hike, but it is definitely worth it. There, you have a lookout view of the picturesque lighthouse, which was functional for 105 years. A few days each week you can walk down to the lighthouse. Although closed during my visit, my thighs are thankful as the staircase to the lighthouse is the equivalent of 30 floors.
Of course, you can’t visit a National Seashore without spending some time at the beach. With the miles of coastline available, I got Limantour Beach all to myself even in the height of tourist season.
Where NOT to Stay
Several quaint inns and bed-and-breakfasts line the outskirts of the park. Expect to pay upwards of $150 per night for the most basic accommodations. For closer and less expensive ways to stay, think outside the box, but inside the park.
Back country camping is free inside Point Reyes National Seashore. All you have to do is sign up for a permit at the visitor center. While driving through the park, I saw several tents set up off the road. However, none of them belonged to me. I was there for a relaxing retreat, so I needed to stay someplace more relaxing than the wilderness. Fortunately, one other accommodation option is located inside the park.
Where to Stay
Hostelling International has a hostel in the heart of Point Reyes. If you’ve never stayed in a hostel or are not sure if you’re comfortable with them, this is a great place to go to expand your horizons. Staying here brought back fond memories of childhood at summer camp. I could make new friends, go hiking, play on the beach, and collapse into my bunk bed at the end of a fun-filled day. At first, I was a bit nervous about the complete lack of WiFi and cell service, but the unplugged aspect ended up being part of what made this retreat so relaxing.
One of my goals for this trip was to create as close to zero waste as possible. Point Reyes Hostel made this easy. Environmental consciousness was encouraged everywhere in this certified green hostel, from the large guest kitchen filled with washable dishware to the compost bins in every room.
Not only is this hostel green, but it saved me green, too! Private rooms start at just $105. I chose to rent a bed in a dorm room, which still provided me with plenty of my own space in a peaceful setting. Dorm beds range from a mere $29-$35 a night, depending on the day and season.
If you decide to take kids under 12 along, they can stay in a dorm for half the adult price! I overnighted in a female-only room with an adjoining bathroom, but co-ed and male-only dorms are also options.
What would you most like to do at Point Reyes National Seashore?