Asilomar: A Literal Refuge By The Sea

With the absence of certain modern conveniences and rustic accommodations, Asilomar Conference Grounds may not be suitable for everyone. But if you’re seeking a quiet respite from their daily task, Asilomar might just be your idyllic setting. Moreover, it’s among the best hidden treasures within the Monterey Peninsula. Learn why Asilomar is worth a closer …

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Asilomar State Beach in Pacific Grove

With the absence of certain modern conveniences and rustic accommodations, Asilomar Conference Grounds may not be suitable for everyone. But if you’re seeking a quiet respite from their daily task, Asilomar might just be your idyllic setting. Moreover, it’s among the best hidden treasures within the Monterey Peninsula. Learn why Asilomar is worth a closer look.

Asilomar Conference Grounds

800 Asilomar Ave.
Pacific Grove, CA 93950
(888) 635-5310

Asilomar State Beach

Sunset Drive
Pacific Grove, CA  93950

Historic Merrill Hall is a popular conference venue
Merrill Hall, Asilomar Conference Grounds (credit: Randy Yagi)

About Asilomar

On California’s spectacular Central Coast in Pacific Grove, Asilomar is a derivation of two Spanish words. To illustrate, “asilo”, for retreat or refuge and “mar”, which means sea. Combined, the word is literally and appropriately translated as “refuge by the sea”. What’s more, it clearly lives up to its description.

Julia Morgan Designed

Much of the original property is a design by Julia Morgan, best known as the designer of the Hearst Castle further south. Asilomar was originally built as the YWCA’s summer camp and conference center in the early 20th century. Set across 30 acres overlooking Monterey Bay, many of the original structures still exist. In fact, this represents Julia Morgan’s largest collection of California Arts & Crafts styled-architecture. In detail, these are Phoebe Apperson Hearst Social Hall, Mary Crocker Dining Hall, Visitor’s Lodge and Mary S. Merrill Recreation Auditorium.

Asilomar Today

Since 1956, Asilomar has been owned and operated by California State Parks. Today the property covers 107 acres including the acclaimed namesake state beach. Just footsteps away, the beach is known for its sweeping vistas, thriving wildlife and coastal sand dunes. Asilomar is just one of a handful of properties managed by the California State Parks that offer alternative camping, such as lodging and cottages.

Related: Marin Suites: Affordable Bay Area Lodging


Asilomar’s dining, lodging, hospitality and conference services are managed by Aramark, a Fortune 500 company. In addition to Asilomar, Aramark oversees other listings like Chicago’s Field Museum, Hearst Castle in San Simeon, and Philadelphia Zoo. Even more properties are Pikes Peak in Colorado Springs, Colorado, Zephyr Cove Resort in South Lake Tahoe and Yosemite National Park.

How To Get There

Asilomar State Park and Conference Grounds is along the Monterey Bay in Pacific Grove. Getting to the Conference Grounds is easy by taking Highway 1 to Highway 68 towards Pacific Grove.  Eventually, Highway 68 turns into Forest Avenue and then intersects with Sunset Drive on the left. A few minutes past Pacific Grove High School, signs will direct visitors to the entrance of Asilomar Conference Grounds. If you want to visit Asilomar State Beach beforehand, simply stay on Sunset Drive a few minutes more. Otherwise you can just walk to the beach once you have your room.

Related: Sea Otter Classic: What to See


Asilomar features more than 300 guest rooms from three room types. For instance, there are historic rooms designed by Julia Morgan and standard rooms. Additionally, Asilomar offers a number of cottages with one to four bedrooms. Each of the rooms and cottages includes complimentary parking.


Historic and standard rooms come with one or two beds, a private bathroom and living room with fireplace. In addition, rooms have free Wi-Fi and either a balcony or terrace. However, these rooms do not have a TV, telephone or microwave. On the other hand, if you want a refrigerator, you can request one for a nominal fee. Be that as it may, standard rooms are quite rustic. In fact, rooms have been described on TripAdvisor as “outdated” and in need of “renovations”. Nevertheless, Asilomar’s overall rating on TripAdvisor is “very good”, a clear indication that the majority of reviewers enjoy their stay. Besides, if quiet is what you’re looking for, you’ve found a great spot.

Pet Policy

Pets are not allowed in any building at Asilomar and are not allowed to stay or sleep in a vehicle parked on the property. However, service animals are allowed and it is permissible to walk a pet through the property on a leash of up to six feet. In spite of this policy, it’s not unusual to see a dog or two on leash.


Asilomar features two dining facilities, including the historic Dining Hall. Inside the check in area (Hearst Social Hall), you can find Phoebe’s Café. Crocker Dining Hall can accommodate up to 750 guests and specific times are set for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Each day, you can see menu boards  at the dining hall. Additionally, you can view the menu at the front desk. Your cuisine typically feature meats and seafood and fresh organic produce. Of course, there are also vegetarian/vegan/gluten free options. Phoebe’s Café is open daily. As the name suggests, the Social Hall is one of the best spots for gathering and meeting friends.


You can shop at Asilomar’s Park Store, inside the Phoebe A. Heart Social Hall. The store features refreshments like coffee and espresso, snacks, sundries, gifts and clothing. Additionally, the store offers tickets to the world famous Monterey Bay Aquarium as well as bike rentals.


In addition to a heated outdoor pool that open daily and year round, Asilomar offers an array of outdoor activities. For example, you can go biking, hiking and bird watching. The property also has a beach volleyball court, a pool table inside the Social Hall. If that’s not enough, there are also self-guided and ranger-guided state park tours. Even more activities are surfing and last but certainly not least, a convenient, .25-mile boardwalk to the beach.

Related: Where To Stay Near Hearst Castle

Off Property Activities

Off the property, the Monterey Bay area offers several other popular activities. Some are obvious, like the Monterey Bay Aquarium along historic Cannery Row, whale watching from reliable tour operators at Monterey Fisherman’s Wharf. Even more activities nearby are wine tasting at award-winning spots like Bernardus Winery and Folktale Winery. If you like golf, there are world class facilities like Carmel Valley Ranch, the Links at Spanish Bay and Pebble Beach Golf Links. Known as the world’s best public golf course, Pebble Beach is the site of the upcoming U.S. Open golf championship. The Golf Links is along the famed 17 Mile Drive. If you go, don’t forget to visit the iconic Lone Cypress, just 1.2 miles further.

Dining Near Asilomar

Among the suggested off property restaurants are the C Restaurant & Bar, Grasings, Lucia Restaurant & Bar, Old and Fisherman’s Grotto. Even more recommendations are Valley Kitchen and the Restaurant at Aubergine. The latter is the only Michelin-star restaurant in the entire Monterey Bay Area. Of course, there are many other Michelin Guide inclusions for Carmel-by-the-Sea and Monterey.

Conference Grounds

Available for meetings and special events like team building, reunions and weddings, Asilomar’s Conference Grounds offers 30 event spaces with 65,000 square feet of event space. Outdoor barbecue areas are also available for outdoor events, in addition to a central meadow and the picturesque state beach. Audio visual services are also available, in addition to a high speed fiber optics internet service and wireless service in all meeting rooms.

About The Author

Randy Yagi is an award-winning freelance writer who served as the National Travel Writer for CBS Local from 2012-2019. More than 900 of his stories still appear in syndication across 23 CBS websites, including CBS New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and San Francisco. During his peak years with CBS, Randy had a reported digital audience reach of 489 million and 5.5 million monthly visitors. Additionally, his stories have appeared in the Daily Meal, CBS News, CBS Radio, Engadget and He earned a media fellowship from Stanford University in 2012.