Asilomar Conference Center is a quiet retreat on the scenic Monterey Peninsula. The name is Spanish for "refuge by the sea," and that's exactly what it is.
Set amid forests of oak, Monterey pines and cypress, and bounded by sand dunes, beach and rugged coastline, the Conference Center offers you the chance to slow down and recharge your batteries.
Merrill Hall is one of the historic buildings designed by Julia Morgan. Photo by Heatherawalls | Wikimedia.org
Lodge at Asilomar Conference Center. Photo courtesy of VisitAsilomar.com
Don't let the "conference center" name fool you; groups, individuals and families are all welcome here. However, due to the popularity of the place, reservations fill up fast.
Asilomar offers rustic lodging at affordable rates. There are 314 guest rooms among 28 lodges. Many rooms feature fireplaces, ocean views and private patios or balconies. Breakfast is included. However, you won't find any televisions or telephones in the rooms. This is a retreat, after all.
The Phoebe A. Hearst Social Hall is a popular gathering spot and social center. You'll find ping pong, biliards, a grand piano, and a retail store. A large rubble stone fireplace and open beam ceiling provide atmosphere and warmth. Take a dip in the heated pool, or play a game of volleyball.
Arts & Crafts Style Architecture at Hearst Social Hall. Photo courtesy of VisitAsilomar.com
Asilomar began in 1913 as a YWCA conference center and summer camp, and became part of the California State Park system in 1956. Many of the buildings were designed by California's first female licensed architect, Julia Morgan, who also designed the opulent Hearst Castle.
Following the classic Arts & Crafts style of architecture, the buildings feature native stone and redwood. Thirteen of these original structures are designated National Historic Landmarks. Newer buildings were designed to complement Morgan's designs.
Asilomar Conference Center encompasses 107 acres, including the conference grounds, Asilomar State Beach, and the restored dunes habitat. You can explore it all with a self-guided walking tour or audio tour, available at the park store. Park rangers also offer cultural history tours and nature walks.
Wildlife is abundant here. The native Montery pine forest is home to deer, racoons, foxes and a variety of birds.
From November through March, thousands of Monarch butterflies make their home in the Monarch Grove Sanctuary, just a few blocks from the entry gates in Pacific Grove.
You might also be able to spot passing whales. Sea lions, harbor seals and sea otters can often be seen in the water, or basking on the rocky shore.
Asilomar Conference Center is part of the California State Park system, but it's run by a concessionaire, currently Aramark. Need more info? Check out their website at Visit Asilomar.