Staying overnight at the Pigeon Point Lighthouse is great any time of the year, but go in the next few weeks and get a big bonus: gray whales swimming right outside your door. The Pigeon Point Lighthouse Hostel is one of only a few accommodations on this stretch of the coast. The four guesthouses, salty and weathered with white and blue trim (don’t mind the flaking paint), each have a private room, and are ideally situated next to the old lighthouse built in 1872. The best vantage point for spotting grays is a short stroll away on a boardwalk overlook. Volunteer docents can be found here most weekends, lending binoculars and dishing information on the whales and shipwreck lore. Or walk a few minutes in the opposite direction down to Whalers Cove, a fine little beach recently saved by POST (Peninsula Open Space Trust). What else is sweet about this spot? Guests have access to a secluded hot tub perched above the bluffs facing the ocean. Jacuzzi jets and whale watching—hot combo!
BONUS: Nearby Butano State Park is a little-used hiking wonderland. Check out this 5-mile loop hike through redwood trees and fern canyons up to panoramic ridge views.
Pigeon Point Lighthouse Hostel, 210 Pigeon Point Rd., Pescadero; 650-879-0633. Private rooms start at $74. Shared dorm rooms start at $28. Dogs are not allowed at the hostel.