Abundant vineyards stretching out of sight into golden rolling hills, crashing surf on coastal cliffs, old-growth Redwood forests… in one way, choosing where to stay in Sonoma is easy, because wherever you go, it’s going to be gorgeous.
In this guide, we’ll look at different areas throughout Sonoma County and the top accommodations available in each. I’ll share lots of practical info gathered in my years as a California local to help you decide which is the one for your best trip.
We’ll touch on a few of the area’s top attractions, but make sure to check out my full guide on the best things to do in Sonoma while you’re here!
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Best Places to Stay in Sonoma
Just looking for a quick answer on the best places to stay in Sonoma? Here are my top picks:
- 🌟 Best Overall Hotel – Glen Ellen Inn Secret Cottages
- 💎 Best Luxury Hotel – Kenwood Inn and Spa
- 👪 Best for Families – Cottages On River Road
- 🌊 Best Ocean View – The Lodge at Bodega Bay
- 💻 Best for Business – Hampton Inn & Suites Sonoma Wine Country
- 🛎️ Best Boutique – Gaige House
- 🏢 Best in Downtown Sonoma – Ledson Hotel & Zina Lounge
- 🛏️ Best Budget – The Astro
Ok, let’s do a deep dive into the best areas and neighborhoods in Sonoma County:
9 Best Neighborhoods & Areas to Stay in Sonoma
In much of California, the general term ‘Sonoma’ often refers to the broader region, whereas locals use it more specifically in reference to the city of Sonoma. In this article, we’ll be looking at Sonoma County as a whole, which covers both.
You’ll find the largest mountains to the east and north, 55 miles of rocky Pacific Ocean coastline to the west, and wine country just about everywhere in between. Marin County lies south between Sonoma and San Francisco, which is about 90 minutes away. This map of Sonoma County includes all the areas mentioned within this guide.
👉 Pro Tip: When you find a place you love, click the link to book without delay! Many of the best hotels in Sonoma are one-of-a-kind gems with only a half-dozen rooms. Make sure to read to the end for tips & tricks on when and how to grab the best rates.
Walking around historic Sonoma Plaza, it’s easy to picture the Gold Rush California town this once was. You’ll find this ambiance to be especially alive when staying at my top downtown Sonoma hotel, Ledson Hotel & Zina Lounge. Guest rooms here are the epitome of Victorian-era splendor.
Some of Sonoma County’s oldest and most respected wineries are nearby. Old-world architecture is complemented by fresh takes on locally sourced restaurants around Sonoma Plaza. Just down the street Starling Bar crafts some of the best, most innovative cocktails you’ll ever sip.
Travelers with business in the city of Sonoma will find a full complement of services at the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn. You can host small groups in large suites, and Fairmont Sonoma offers state-of-the-art meeting facilities for up to 425 attendees.
Due to its proximity, Sonoma is one of the best day trips from San Francisco.
Pros of Staying in Sonoma:
- Beautiful, walkable town center
- A variety of popular attractions
- World-class wine country
- High-end, one-of-a-kind hotels and resorts
Cons of Staying in Sonoma:
- More crowded than other areas
- Hotels can get pricey
📚 Sonoma Mini Guide 📚
Best Area to Stay for Old-West Vibes & New School Wineries
🏠 Apartments – Browse Top Rentals in Sonoma
🍽️ Where to Eat – girl and the fig ($$$)
🍸 Where to Drink – Starling, HopMonk, B&V Whiskey Bar & Grille
🍷 Top Wineries – Buena Vista, Three Sticks, Gundlach Bundschu
🎟️ Top Attractions – Sonoma Historic State Park
Healdsburg is the crown jewel of Sonoma wine country. From the outside, it has small-town vibes as charming as the day is long, yet beyond nearly every door or onate vineyard gate, an immaculate experience awaits.
Posh B&B’s are the go-to’s here. The Madrona welcomes guests to the decadence of a 19th-century mansion on a hill. Hotel Les Mars blends modern Parisian opulence with Louis XV antiques, and it’s located just a 2 minute’s walk from this luxury boutique hotel to Michelin-starred restaurant SingleThread.
To allow a little extra room in the budget for a fine dining restaurant or bougie wine tasting, I opt for Hotel Trio. Stays in this chic hotel include luxury hotel amenities like a complimentary bottle of wine and plush bathrobes. Best of all, each of the spacious guest rooms has a kitchenette to enjoy the bounty of local farmstands & markets in between tasting rooms.
Pros of Staying in Healdsburg:
- Charming, walkable town
- Exceptional hotels & restaurants
- Peak wine country
Cons of Staying in Healdsburg:
- Hotels & restaurants can be pricey
- You’ll need reservations ahead of time for the best places
📚 Healdsburg Mini Guide 📚
Best Area to Stay for Wine Country Luxury
🏠 Apartments – Browse Top Rentals in Healdsburg
🍽️ Where to Eat – SingleThread ($$$$), Barndiva ($$$), Chalkboard ($$)
🍸 Where to Drink – Bar at Dry Creek General Store, Alexander Valley Bar, John & Zeke’s Bar & Grill
🍷 Top Wineries – Jordan, Dry Creek, Ferrari-Carano
🎟️ Top Attractions – Healdsburg Plaza, Memorial River Beach, Hand Fan Museum
Occidental & Monte Rio
When I say Occidental is a cool kids destination, I don’t mean the ‘you can’t sit with us’ lunch table. This quaint town is the sort of laid-back, enigmatic unicorn that makes interesting look effortless.
Six miles northwest in Monte Rio, Gatsby-styled resort Boho Manor is a hidden gem with all the trimmings. Elegant rooms, a subtly sophisticated restaurant & bar with an outdoor fire pit, a spa, activities ranging from yoga to croquet, even live piano music on the lawn.
Sonoma Zipline Adventures lies between the two towns, just off the Bohemian Highway. Gliding amongst giant Redwoods is a one-of-a-kind thrill. For a romantic forest getaway, book a stay in one of their treehouses.
Pros of Staying in Occidental & Monte Rio Neighborhood:
- Beautiful, interesting destinations off the beaten path
- Fun, adventurous attractions
- Relaxing riverside beaches
Cons of Staying in Occidental & Monte Rio Neighborhood:
- Limited dining choices
- You’ll need a rental car to get around
🍽️ Where to Eat – Negri’s Original Italian Restaurant ($$), Boho Manor ($$), Rio Café & Grill ($$)
🍸 Where to Drink – Rio Nido Lodge, Rio Nido Roadhouse, Boho Manor Speakeasy
🍷 Top Wineries – Iron Horse, Boheme Cellar Door
🎟️ Top Attractions – Sonoma Zipline Adventures, Occidental Main Street, Monte Rio Community Beach
A fishing village in the southwest corner of Sonoma County is a delightfully peaceful setting to get away from it all!
Most lodgings are near the town’s main attractions, including Doran Beach. Doran is the only beach on the county’s coastline that’s safe for swimming.
Nearly all rooms in the Lodge at Bodega Bay have in-room fireplaces and private outdoor patios or balconies, and most offer a bay view. Add to that an excellent restaurant, fireside lounge, and complimentary wine tasting – it’s easy to see why this is my pick for the best in Bodega Bay!
Pros of Staying in Bodega Bay:
- Stunning coastal scenery
- Tons of fun outdoor activities
- Stays cool when inland areas are scorching
Cons of Staying in Bodega Bay:
- 40 – 90 minute drive to most other areas
- Coastal areas can be chilly and foggy until mid-afternoon
📚 Bodega Bay Mini Guide 📚
Best Area to Stay for Seaside Getaways
🏠 Apartments – Browse Top Rentals in Bodega Bay
🍽️ Where to Eat – Drakes Sonoma Coast ($$$), Tides Wharf ($$), Spud Point Crab Company ($$)
🍸 Where to Drink – Drakes Fireside Lounge, Bluewater Lounge, Gourmet Au Bay
🍷 Top Wineries – Sonoma Coast Vineyards
🎟️ Top Attractions – Bodega Head, Doran Regional Park, Osmosis Day Spa
Guerneville has long been a retreat for the LGBTQ+ community, fostering an open, welcoming spirit imbued throughout this charming forest haven.
Shops along River Road offer everything from fine art to vintage clothing. There are lots of places to stop for sips & nibbles. Easily within walking distance of this central area and nearby Johnson’s Beach, the adults-only Highlands Resort features a gorgeous woodland setting and some of the area’s most competitive rates.
Families can go all-in on Guerneville glamping at AutoCamp Russian River. Choose accommodations in a luxury tent, a retro sleeping camper, or a vintage Airstream.
Pros of Staying in Guerneville:
- Cheerful, walkable downtown surrounded by natural beauty
- Lively bars with friendly service
- Eclectic shops & restaurants
Cons of Staying in Guerneville:
- Can get a bit crowded on holidays & summer weekends
- 30 – 90 min drive from Sonoma’s most popular attractions
📚 Guerneville Mini Guide 📚
Best Area to Stay for Nature and Rustic Resorts
🏠 Apartments – Browse Top Rentals in Guerneville
🍽️ Where to Eat – Timberline ($$), boon eat + drink ($$)
🍸 Where to Drink – El Barrio, Rainbow Cattle
🍷 Top Wineries – Porter-Bass, Korbel Champagne Cellars, Hartford Family
🎟️ Top Attractions – Armstrong Redwoods, Johnson’s Beach, Main Street
Glen Ellen & Kenwood
If your visit is all about Sonoma wine country, this idyllic area is just the place. Rolling vineyards, exquisite wines, farm-to-table restaurants. Wine lovers will feel right at home in every Sonoma resort the area has to offer.
Romantic bed and breakfast Kenwood Inn is frequently hailed as one of the best in Sonoma Valley. Breakfast on the patio is lovely, it’s dog-friendly, there’s a pool, Kenwood Inn spa is first rate, and there’s a complimentary wine tasting every evening… if you can afford Kenwood Inn and Spa, it’s hard to beat!
Where I stay most often here is The Jack London Lodge. Located near the state park founded around the famed author’s home, the Victorian-era property is imbued with an adventurous spirit. Plus they have two pools – one with water and the other played on a table, in the saloon.
Pros of Staying in Glen Ellen & Kenwood:
- Peaceful setting
- Incredible scenery
- Lots of vineyards
Cons of Staying in Glen Ellen & Kenwood:
- You’ll need a car to get around
- …and a designated driver.
🍽️ Where to Eat – Glen Ellen Star ($$), Salt & Stone ($$), Yeti Restaurant ($$)
🍸 Where to Drink – The Saloon at Jack London Lodge, Palooza Brewery & Gastropub
🍷 Top Wineries – Chateau St. Jean, Benzinger Family, Landmark
🎟️ Top Attractions – Jack London State Historic Park, Swede’s Feeds, Sonoma Botanical Garden
Located where the Russian River flows into the Pacific Ocean, this far-flung coastal destination is a haven for humans and wildlife alike. Harbor seals and other pinnipeds are a common sight, and Kayak tours often find themselves paddling alongside gray whales.
When I’m craving serene solitude, my go-to is one of the private cottages at the Jenner Inn. The pro move is to gather provisions at roadside stands and local markets along the drive to the coast. When other guests head out to nearby restaurants I’ll settle on the patio for supper and have a stunning sunset all to myself.
You’ll want to book early – the largest hotel in Jenner has sixteen rooms. The one with the best restaurant, River’s End, has only five! Families and larger groups may be better off in vacation homes. RR Yacht Club Villa boasts a hot tub and a private beach, and will probably still cost less than a block of rooms.
Pros of Staying in Jenner:
- Stunning scenery in quiet, secluded surroundings
- Cooler than other areas in hot summer months
- Lots of wildlife and outdoor activities
Cons of Staying in Jenner:
- Few options for food & drink
- Long, twisty drives to other areas
📚 Jenner Mini Guide 📚
Best Area to Stay for Remote Coastal Escapes
🏠 Apartments – Browse Top Rentals in Jenner
🍽️ Where to Eat – River’s End ($$$), Café Aquatica ($$), Cape Fear Cafe ($$)
🍸 Where to Drink – Blue Heron Tavern, Tasting By The Sea, Sophie’s Cellars
🎟️ Top Attractions – Goat Rock Beach, Jenner Headlands Preserve, Sonoma Coast State Park
Santa Rosa is the largest city in Sonoma Wine Country and is a fantastic place to live in California. It feels a little suburby in that it’s clean and pleasant with lots of chain hotels and restaurants. And yet, my favorite Santa Rosa attraction is a mind-blowing public art garden on a vineyard. In Sonoma, amazing is everywhere.
The county seat is also home to some of the most fun, off-beat places to stay, such as my top pick, the Astro Hotel. Reasonably priced rooms, cheerful mid-century styling with locally made accents, a great restaurant, and you can drive from there to just about any place in the county in about 30 minutes.
Astro keeps a stock of 60’s-era toys on hand for kiddos, which makes good sense as this area is one of the most popular destinations for families. One of the big draws is the “Sonoma Serengeti,” Safari West, where guests can drift off to the sounds of a wildlife lullaby in the safety of a luxurious tent with a private deck (and an ensuite bath.)
Pros of Staying in Santa Rosa:
- Conveniently located for visits to multiple areas
- Budget-friendly hotels & restaurants
- Plenty of kid-friendly attractions
Cons of Staying in Santa Rosa:
- A little more cookie-cutter than areas nearby
- The cheapest hotels are in seedier areas (South Park, Roseland)
📚 Santa Rosa Mini Guide 📚
Best Area to Stay for All-Budget, Family-Friendly, Central Location
🏠 Apartments – Browse Top Rentals in Santa Rosa
🍽️ Where to Eat – Spinster Sisters ($$), Bird & the Bottle ($$), Betty’s Fish N’ Chips ($$)
🍸 Where to Drink – Perch and Plow, The Zoo, HopMonk Sebastopol
🍷 Top Wineries – Donelan Family, Paradise Ridge, Pellegrini
🎟️ Top Attractions – Charles M. Schulz Museum, Safari West, Marijke’s Grove
Trendy, vibrant Petaluma is a great choice for folks looking for budget-friendly options. Great food, a couple of California’s best breweries, and nice hotels with decent rates. Hotel Petaluma is one of the first places I check when looking for the best bargain on hotels in Sonoma.
Metro Hotel leans into a quirky Parisian circus vibe that makes this small boutique hotel one of the most fun places to stay in Sonoma County. The on-site restaurant, Quinua Cocina, does very much remind me of a little Peruvian restaurant I visited in the 3rd Arrondissement!
Room rates edge closer to the high end in Petaluma, but are still a fair bit less than the more expensive locations.
Pros of Staying in Petaluma Neighborhood:
- Affordable options
- Lively nightlife
- Less than 20 minutes from the most popular area of Sonoma Valley
Cons of Staying in Petaluma Neighborhood:
- More of an industrial look than other areas
📚 Petaluma Mini Guide 📚
Best Area to Stay for Bargains & Breweries
🏠 Apartments – Browse Top Rentals in Petaluma
🍽️ Where to Eat – Central Market ($$$), Cucina Paradiso ($$), Hallie’s ($$)
🍸 Where to Drink – Buckhorn Tavern, Gale’s Central Club, Jamison’s Roaring Donkey
🍷 Top Wineries – Azari, Stubbs, Adobe Road
🎟️ Top Attractions – Shollenberger Park, Sonoma County Wildlife Rescue, Adobe Historical State Park
Tips for Staying in Sonoma
Book Your Accommodations Early
One of Sonoma’s signature charms is staying in an inn or B&B, many of which have less than a dozen rooms. There are lots of options, but if you have your heart set on somewhere specific you may have to plan around their availability.
Take the Backroads
In Sonoma Valley, just about any road smaller than the 101 is a scenic drive. Select ‘avoid freeways’ when mapping routes, and always drive responsibly.
Book a Designated Driver
Find a Local Wine Expert
Whether you’re a Sonoma newbie or an oenophile with a vineyard bucket list, one of your first stops should be a local wine shop or bar. Sonoma Wine Shop (Sonoma) and Oakville Grocery (Healdsburg) are two great ones.
Off-Season is Late November – Early May
It’s lovely here year-round, but you’re likely to find better rates and more availability during the off-season. Of course, the bare vines are a bit stark in winter. When choosing when to visit California, spring is my favorite time to visit, before the summer heat sets in.
Look Beyond the Vineyards
The Old West is woven into the fabric of Sonoma Valley. Historical sites blend seamlessly into modern life. The spirit of rugged individualists seeking new frontiers is carried forward by a thriving community of artists & makers who create dynamic public art and offer one-of-a-kind wares in local markets.
Stunningly beautiful natural landscapes surround the valley, dotted with incredible places for camping, hiking, canoeing, and more.
FAQs About Where to Stay in Sonoma
Is it better to stay in Napa or Sonoma?
Knowing whether to stay in Napa or Sonoma comes down to personal taste. Napa is more classic and exclusive, whereas Sonoma has a more youthful energy and embraces newer ideas and trends.
Is it cheaper to stay in Napa or Sonoma?
Based solely on the cheapest guest rooms, it may be cheaper to stay in Napa. On the whole, your money usually goes a little farther in Sonoma.
Is it better to stay in Sonoma or Healdsburg?
It’s better to stay in Sonoma if you’re looking for a mix of activities or attractions for the whole family. If you’re all about luxurious wine country, it’s better to stay in Healdsburg.
There you have it, the best areas and places to stay in Sonoma County! I hope you have an excellent visit. Up next, check out our guide to the best Napa wineries and vineyards.
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