Christmastime at the Madonna Inn Resort and Spa is magical. Entering this lovely resort is like stepping onto a movie set, specifically designed to immerse guests in the holiday spirit. Year round, the Madonna Inn is a delightful place to wine, dine and explore.

The imagination that went into the design of each private room and all the public areas is impressive. The architecture and décor were clearly done by a cast of high caliber creative talent.

Alex Madonna, a successful, well respected and loved construction magnate, opened the Inn with four rooms in 1958. He and his wife, Phyllis, continued to build a landmark hotel that now has 110 rooms, with numerous things to see, taste and do, on every inch of the property. Some of the huge rocks used in the construction came from the surrounding land and they can weigh up to 200 tons. The massive rock fireplaces are magnificent.

Many of us have seen hotels where each room is a little different. The difference at the Madonna Inn, is that each of the 110 rooms is like being in a different place and time. The uniqueness of the themed rooms is so incredible, it is an experience that will always be remembered.

I was impressed with the Caveman Room. It looks like something from the stone age. Are you the type that would like showering in a cave with a waterfall shower, sleeping in a round bed or a room that will make you believe that you are in Switzerland? There are rooms that look like an African safari or you could even wake up feeling like you are on a yacht.

This may sound strange, but male or female … you need to see the men’s restroom. I’m not kidding. One of the employees asked me if I had seen it. Ummm … no, was my response. She said to follow her and my curiosity got the best of me. Once the coast was clear, she held the door open and my family peered inside. It is a sight to see and worth the embarrassment, if you do happen to get caught. There is a big stone backdrop and beautiful waterfall that doubles as a urinal. One of a kind.

Higher up on the hill, is the Madonna Inn Spa. It’s a great place to get pampered. When is the last time you sat poolside, having a drink at a hilltop hideaway, waiting for your pumpkin butter massage and foot scrub?

Hungry? The award-winning Gold Rush Steak House is one of the best in the area. If you are a meat eater, you’ll love the oak-pit barbecued steaks. All the dishes were delectable. While you’re in the Gold Rush dining room, make sure that you see the gorgeous, hand-carved balustrade, which originally came from Hearst Castle. The entire resort hotel is rich in history, featuring beautiful and unusual things to see, all with fascinating stories of days gone by.

If you’re into sweets and treats, the onsite Madonna Inn Bakery, which is inside the Copper Café, offers decadent desserts. Their pies and cookies are wonderful … but the cakes have the WOW factor. Every year, I order the pink champagne cake for my daughter’s birthday. It is sumptuous. Imagine a dreamy, big, white cake, covered with thick pink swirls that literally melt in your mouth. Other favorites are the Toffee Crunch, Black Forest and the Lemon Coconut Cake.

Keys 2 the Coast always recommends the Madonna Inn for many reasons. The Central Coast boasts hundreds of interesting places to stay, to appease most every taste and budget. This is one location that has the potential to truly delight all ages. During the holidays, it's more inviting than ever. The Madonna Inn lights up the hilltop. Inside, thousands of lights glisten and sparkle with holiday cheer. Every room is decorated to the hilt. It’s a winter wonderland.

Undeniably, the Central Coast is one of the top regions in the world to raise a family, work and play. Living a lifetime, enjoying world class resorts, pristine beaches, enchanting lakes, a happening art scene and a booming wine region isn’t long enough.

Happy holidays!

Donna Polizzi is a regional travel expert and founder of Keys 2 The Coast is a travel resource for Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo and Monterey counties, offering recommendations on “local choices” for the best places to wine, dine and explore. Visit or Keys2TheCoast on Facebook.