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Why You’ll Love The Stanford Inn by the Sea – a Vegan Resort

I fell in love within seconds of being here, even though I’m already married. 

Thankfully, this time, it was the rolling hills, green gardens, animals nearby, and the sound of the ocean that captured my heart at The Stanford Inn by the Sea – a vegan resort located in California on the Mendocino Coast. You’ll love it here, even if you’re not a vegan.

When you have the itch to travel but want to relax and not feel rushed to go and do, The Stanford Inn by the Sea is one of my top picks. This friendly and welcoming vegan resort offers delicious food and a peaceful atmosphere, making it the ideal destination for a relaxing and fulfilling vacation. You won’t even have to leave the property! 

But you might want to venture into downtown Mendocino or the coastal countryside to visit wineries as we did. More on that later. 

First, let’s explore The Stanford Inn by the Sea

We rolled onto the grounds after flying into Sacramento International Airport, picked up a rental car (the Genisis GV80; I loved it so much I later bought the GV70!), and arrived in the early evening in April to views like this. We could catch a glimpse of the beautiful glow of the sun setting on the ocean, and the garden below our hotel room still lit up. 

Our cozy cottage-like hotel room on the second floor had a wood-burning fireplace, a queen bed, and a daybed – perfect for our three-generation road trip travelers: my daughter, grandma, and me.

But for us, the great outdoors was where we wanted to be. That first night, despite the cool evening temperatures of April, we cruised around the property. 

The entrance to the lobby and dining room areas of The Stanford Inn by the Sea is well-lit and surrounded by green vines and a brightly-colored red door, but at night, the rest of the hilly property is pretty dark, so bring a flashlight or use your smartphone as you navigate your way around.

Inside are several wood-paneled rooms with cozy seating areas for reading, conversing, or browsing a selection of books, clothing, and gift memorabilia. This is where we ate breakfast and dinner. A small bar offers afternoon treats. 

Bring Your Bathing Suit to The Stanford Inn by the Sea

When we visited in the springtime, the Stanford Inn by the Sea was peaceful. On the first night, we had the pool, sauna, and jacuzzi to ourselves, and it felt amazing to swim, even on a chilly night. The lap pool was warm, and the jacuzzi was hot. We enjoyed dipping in the water and then relaxing in the dry sauna — a lovely way to wind down for a good night’s rest before a day of adventure travel. 

Early Mornings are the best at The Stanford Inn by the Sea

I’m not typically a super early riser, but I loved early mornings at this vegan resort. We’d wake as the daylight streamed into our room, grab coffee, step outside on the balcony, and let the cool air and morning light wake us up. No text messages, voicemails, or emails, just nature beckoning us. Glorious! 

Then, we’d bundle up and stroll around the garden below and onto the nearby trails; it’s very hilly in Mendocino, so good walking shoes were vital.  

Just below our hotel room, the green lawn with bushes and plants led to stepping stone paths that landed us in a quaint sitting area nestled in the trees and draped in ivy vines. I could stay here all day, and it’s not even 7:30 AM!

A short walk from the sitting area, the vegetable garden had an asphalt-paved walkway with raised beds on either side. Cute painted signs show what vegetables are growing here. A pond at the end of the property likely had fish in it, but maybe they were sleeping at this early hour. 

The Animals near The Stanford Inn by the Sea

We wandered off the property and onto South Big River Road. It takes you to where you can rent canoes at Catch A Canoe. A short road off South Big River Road and Comptche Ukahi Road takes you alongside homes and farms. This was a real treat. Friendly llamas were grazing in the morning sun and came to the fence to say hello. A Sign gave some helpful info about the llama’s ancestry – camels – and trivia. Did you know they spit at each other but rarely spit at humans? We were grateful to read that since we got relatively close. 

Beach Cliffs near The Stanford Inn by the Sea

Across North Highway 1 at Comptche Ukahi Road on the west side of the vegan resort is Mendocino Bay, with spectacular views. The highway is busy, and there are some blind curves, so be careful when crossing it. We take in the cool air, sunshine, and sound of the ocean before heading back for breakfast. 

Breakfast Included at The Stanford Inn by the Sea

Our stay at The Stanford Inn by the Sea included a vegan breakfast. We chose from plant-based favorites like Portobello Benedict, Stanford Herbed Polenta, and Stanford Inn Florentine—healthy and tasty dishes. 

Sitting next to a large window overlooking the resort, it’s easy to enjoy breakfast and stay here for a long while. But we wanted to see some of the Mendocino sights like a ride on the famous Skunk Train, MacKerricher State Park adjacent to Glass Beach, Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens, and Pacific Star Winery, both in Fort Bragg and the Mendocino downtown area. So, off we go!

Places to Visit near The Stanford Inn by the Sea

The Skunk Train is a delightful ride through the redwoods. It stops along the way to let you explore the woods or simply sit outside and enjoy the sun and scenery. Since 1885, the famous Skunk train has traveled over trestle bridges, through tunnels, and into the Noyo River canyon.

It was colder than we expected, so we purchased Skunk Train jackets and were glad we did. The jackets were perfect as we walked outside on the train with the wind blowing. When the Skunk Train stopped to let us explore, we ventured into the woods, following others on dirt trails — the train whistles to warn us that it would depart soon. A group of us hustle down the dusty trail, wondering what happens if we’re late – do they leave us? Nope. Made it back in time!

MacKerricher State Park

MacKerricher State Park, wow! I’m so glad we stopped here. You’ll see the beach, bluffs, forest, headland, dune, and wetland. It’s three miles north of Fort Bragg on Highway 1 near Cleone. We almost skipped this, and that would have been a mistake. When we pulled into the parking lot, it didn’t look very inviting, but as we walked closer and down to the ocean, we discovered gorgeous large rocks submerged in water and caressed by the ocean waves. Frame-worthy pics for sure! According to its website, MacKerricher State Park opened in 1952 and covers nine miles of coastline – encompassing much of the land west of Cleone and a strip of beach between Fort Bragg and Ten Mile River.

Glass Beach

Glass Beach, famous for sea glass (naturally weathered pieces of glass) that look like tumbled stones, is also part of MacKerricher State Park. Today, you might have to search and dig deeper to see the rocks that haven’t been removed by tourists. Of course, it is best to leave nature where it is, and it’s the law. 

Glass Beach was born from a series of calamities including the 1906 great earthquake of San Francisco and the Fort Bragg trash dumping by local residents. Fort Bragg, 200 miles north of SF, suffered significant damage from the quake. Back then, the destruction was removed by dumping it and other trash from coastal communities into the ocean. The dumping continued for years, and eventually, the areas where trash was dumped filled up and were named Site 1, 2, and 3. By 1967, all three sites were closed and were nothing more than toxic waste areas. To protect the ocean and its resources, the U.S. government enacted the Ocean Dumping Act, known by its formal name, the Marine Protection, Research and Sanctuaries Act (MPRSA), in 1972. Clean-up efforts in the area began, and a surprise came with it. Mother Nature recycled the dumped glass, transforming it with powerful waves into smooth sea glass.

Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens

Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens is an enchanting experience. We could’ve spent an entire day here. The gardens are not only beautiful but also fragrant thanks to the prominent Rhododendron flowers grown here. They are native to the cloud forests of Southeast Asia and the Himalayas, but they also grow quite well in Mendocino because of the foggy coastal climate. 

Walking the grounds was delightful. I kept smiling and counting my blessings to be here with the family I love.

We weaved in and out of garden paths, over trestle bridges, through a gate made of tree limbs, inside a greenhouse, and to a view of the ocean; the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens checked all the boxes! 

Love botanical gardens? Check out my visit to the Dallas Arboretum.

Pacific Star Winery

At Pacific Star Winery, I kept saying, “It’s my fault!” Okay, pun intended. This coastal winery is located on the San Andreas Fault – a rupture on the surface of the earth that marks a separation of two continental plates – the North American and the Pacific. According to their website, “This rupture is at least 65 million years old, the time when North America separated from Europe, creating the Atlantic Ocean.” So, clearly, with history like that, you must capitalize on the branding opportunity and make cute caps that read, “It’s my fault!” Fun fact: the surface rocks at the winery that you stand on at the winery are 130,000 years old! 

Pacific Star Winery is unique not just for the fault line but also for its coastal location in Fort Bragg. During the right time of year, you can sip your wine and see whales passing by in the ocean below. We loved wandering around the gift shop, where we bought chocolate and caps while sipping our wine. 

Downtown Mendocino

Downtown Mendocino is a cute area that you can easily walk around. It’s about a five-minute car ride to the town, but I wouldn’t recommend walking because of the traffic and lack of sidewalks. It was founded in the 1850s as a logging town, and today, it offers plenty of shopping and dining. The city has eclectic art and history. The Ford House Museum on Main Street overlooks the Mendocino coast. We popped into the very cute Beaujolais Cafe and had an excellent Margherita pizza. Craving it now as I write this. No matter how you slice it, Mendocino and The Stanford Inn by the Sea are a touch of paradise. 

When I’m not blogging about travel and lifestyle, I’m creating digital content and marketing strategies for clients. I share stories that matter about your brand and teach clients to "Be the Media." I was named a "Top 50 Podcaster To Follow" for my podcast "The Brand Journalism Advantage." Listen on iTunes or at

1 Comment

  • Mary Kelley

    So glad I was along for this lovely trip. Mendocine is also known as an artists' colony paradise. I wish we'd had enough time to stay a few weeks to soak in the ambiance of nature & interesting architecture. There are many water towers & a few windmills that add a unique look to the town.

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