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Cambria's popularity in summertime and on holiday weekends makes advance planning necessary. If my favorites are full, try one of these alternatives: Captain's Cove Inn, 6454 Moonstone Beach Dr. (www.captainscoveinn.com; tel. 800/781-COVE [2683] or 805/927-8581), is a small beachfront B&B whose motel-style exterior belies the array of creature comforts provided by the family owners. The Ragged Point Inn, 19019 Hwy. 1 (www.raggedpointinn.com; tel. 805/927-4502), is 21 miles north of Cambria, with ocean views from every room. It's a great choice if you're planning to explore both Hearst Castle and the Big Sur Coast from one perch.

If you want a cheaper choice, try the Creekside Inn, 2618 Main St., Cambria (www.creeksidecambria.com; tel. 800/269-5212 or 805/927-4021). It's basic, but the village location is extremely convenient and the rates are considerably lower -- $69 to $159 double, year-round. Still too expensive? One mile north is San Simeon State Beach (tel. 800/444-7275 or 805/927-2020), a 133-site beachfront campground.

Note: If you can't find a vacancy anywhere in Cambria, the tiny town of San Simeon, 6 miles north, has numerous run-of-the-mill motels lining both sides of Hwy. 1, but I recommend staying here only as a last resort.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.