In San Luis Obispo's historic Chinatown, Hotel SLO sparks joy
Courtesy of Hotel SLO

In San Luis Obispo's historic Chinatown, Hotel SLO sparks joy


San Luis Obispo is not as SLO as it once was.

Set just a few miles from the coast with a thriving downtown and burgeoning wine country, the jovial Hotel SLO is the latest reason to book a relaxing Central Coast getaway.

Piazza Hospitality, the same group responsible for Healdsburg's chic trio of boutique hotels (Harmon Guest House, H2Hotel, and Hotel Healdsburg), has brought their striking, cutting-edge design and cushy amenities south to another small and lovable wine country town: SLO.

Located one block from the Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa in SLO's historic Chinatown district, Hotel SLO blends traditional Chinese, coastal, and mid-century modern design styles with vibes that are playful, colorful, and utterly chill. The 78 rooms are all more spacious than is often standard and come with a lounge area, balcony or terrace, and a walk-in shower with a wet room (some also have tubs). Hotel SLO doesn't cut corners, going above and beyond on the amenities—however small—to make one's stay memorable—think free snacks, an in-room steamer, the softest robes, fluffiest towels, and the butteriest soap and lotions.

The pool at Hotel SLO.(Tanveer Badal)

There's really not anything this hotel is missing. It has two restaurants, a spa, pool and hot tub, fitness center, and ample, indoor/outdoor gathering space throughout the lobby area, including a large bar and fireplace. Complimentary cruiser bikes can be used to explore downtown.

In many ways, Hotel SLO doubles as a contemporary art gallery. The hotel commissioned artists from the Bay Area and Los Angeles to design one-of-a-kind pieces and signature accents. Every room features pop-art pieces of local landmarks, and the wooden knots and squiggles that hang over each bed might even be familiar to SF and Oakland maker fiends who frequent West Coast Craft—these mini sculptures are made by local artist Katie Gong, who steams the wood and then manipulates and ties it into unique shapes. On the second floor, there's a mesmerizing mural made of driftwood, and even the stairwell has a mural—a creative way to promote a little extra exercise on one's vacation.

Sustainability is an obvious focus here, too. You won't find single-use plastics anywhere and rooms come with glass carafes that are refillable at water stations throughout the hotel, offering up your choice of cold, room-temp, or sparkling water. Hallway lights are motion-activated and guests have the option to save water by re-using their sheets, towels, and robes throughout their stay.

Ox + Anchor, one of Hotel SLO's two restaurants.Courtesy of Hotel SLO

Formerly of The French Laundry and Per Se, and most recently Healdsburg's Barndiva, chef Ryan Fancher relocated to the Central Coast to run the kitchen at Hotel SLO's two onsite restaurants. Serving breakfast, lunch, dinner, and Sunday brunch, the dishes at Piadina are simple, yet inventive, offering a California twist on Italian cuisine. Take for instance the smoked salmon and caviar pizza, artichoke lasagna, and cauliflower soup with a swirl of port wine.

Ox + Anchor is a higher-end steakhouse but isn't what you might expect. A steakhouse for the modern-day, the interior is intimate and inviting, not dark and fussy. Their selection of signature steaks, from a filet mignon to ribeye to a porterhouse, can all be enhanced with toppings of bacon and blue cheese, a lobster tail, or crab, asparagus, and bernaise sauce (Oscar Style). As for sides, you can't miss the bone marrow tater tots or the Yukon gold potato puree (some of the creamiest mashed potatoes you'll ever have), and whether you have room for more or not, order the s'mores-inspired Campfire Baked Alaska for dessert. No spoilers, but it's worth it for the presentation alone.

This spring, the hotel will also open up a rooftop bar with drinks, bites, bocce, and killer views of downtown SLO and the surrounding mountains. Like the restaurants, the rooftop will be open to the public.

Sol Spa at Hotel SLO. (Tanveer Badal)

Sol Spa takes conventional spa treatments up a notch. The hot stone massage, for instance, utilizes Himalayan salt stones; the deep-tissue massage uses a rolling pin-shaped Rad Roller (in addition to the therapist's hands) to get really, really deep. The spa also rolls out seasonal, daily remedies with a featured massage, facial, or scrub that changes each day.

Make your own salt scrub at the DIY scrub bar, offering both Eastern and Western scrubs that you can take home, and don't leave without spending some time in the salt sauna. Inside is a stunning, mineral-rich, Himalayan salt masterpiece that pulls toxins out of the air and body. The locker rooms even have a meditation room with zero gravity chairs, the perfect spot for a post-massage snooze.

A Few Things to Do in San Luis Obispo

A One-Stop Shop

This ultra-modern, concrete structure across from the SLO airport might look out of place in its rural surroundings, but you'll be glad you pulled over. Farmhouse Corner Market is reminiscent of the now-defunct Shed in Healdsburg, but a lot more joyful. Inside is an Instagram dream—bright colors, repurposed design elements, and unlimited photo ops—containing a restaurant, flower shop, 1950s-themed ice cream parlor, and marketplace where you can buy locally made artisian goods and stock up on picnic supplies.

Coastal Hiking

A quick 15-minute drive from the hotel, Pismo Beach opened up 11 miles of easy-to-moderate coastal hiking trails in January. Looking out at the Pismo Beach Pier, the panoramic views from the new Pismo Preserve are absolutely breathtaking and the Spring to Spring trail is a great way to work up an appetite for clam chowder from the notorious Splash Cafe.

Get Lit

If you're heading down to SLO on a Friday evening, make a point to stop off in Paso Robles (30 minutes north of SLO) to check out Sensorio. Utilizing nearly 60,000 stemmed and solar-powered bulbs, artist Bruce Monroe has designed a stunning nighttime super bloom over 15 acres of rolling typography—its popular like nothing you've ever seen before. The run of the installation was recently extended through June (open Thursday through Sunday).

For restaurants, wine tasting, craft beer and more, check out our Modern Guide to San Luis Obispo.

// SLO Hotel, rates start at $400, 877 Palm St (San Luis Obispo),

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