GETTING THERE Hop a nonstop United or Southwest flight from John Wayne Airport to San Francisco, then rent a car for the 3½-hour drive north. Your patience is rewarded in the last half hour as you wind through a majestic redwood forest that opens to spectacular views of the Pacific.
LODGING A recent addition to Travel and Leisure’s list of 50 of the world’s best hotels, the lodge-like Brewery Gulch Inn ($275 and up) is a mile south of town, tucked into a redwood forest and overlooking the water. The room price includes first-class breakfast made to order and a small-plates and wine buffet each evening. The extensive library of DVDs and board games is great for a quiet night in.
DINING Mendocino Market is a local favorite specializing in deli sandwiches, such as the Mendo Pesto Veggie and Fresh Pacific Red Snapper ($5 to $11). You can even select foods for a picnic lunch. Craving fresh produce? Harvest Market at Mendosa’s is just the type of place you’d expect in this little town—a grocery store, pharmacy, and gift shop in one.
Mendocino business owners pride themselves on using locally sourced, sustainable, and organic ingredients, and the year-old Trillium Cafe and INN is no exception. Attentive servers in an intimate dining room offer local Dungeness crab strudel ($18) and curried acorn squash ($20).
CAFFEINE Stop by GoodLife Cafe and Bakery for a cup of locally roasted, fair trade, and organic coffee ($2 to $3). The bakery case is stocked with sweets made in-house.
ACTIVE ADVENTURE Fancy some horseback riding? Head to nearby Ricochet Ridge Ranch in Fort Bragg for a 1½-hour guided romp to the sand or through the redwood forest ($50).
Stop for gas while you’re here—the lone station in Mendocino has some of the highest priced gas in the nation. At the time of our visit, a gallon was $5.56 there and $2.32 in Fort Bragg.
SHOPPING Wander through Out of This World to find scientific tools and curiosities ranging from telescopes to chemistry sets. Expand your mind further with a stop at Gallery Bookshop, an independent bookseller. Flip through a few books while you rest on one of the window seats overlooking the bay.
FILM FEST The annual Mendocino Film Festival, running May 28 through 31, celebrates its 10th anniversary this year.
B. Bryan Preserve in Point Arena is a one-hour drive south that’s definitely worth the trip. Twice-daily tours ($30) allow visitors to get up close and personal with zebras and antelope. There’s nothing quite like the final stop on the tour, where a regal giraffe quietly moves its head to within inches of yours to grab a slice of apple held in your teeth. Check out the Point Arena lighthouse ($7.50) while you’re in the area.