The most expensive (regularly-priced) Motel 6 in the country actually looks nice for a motel

What is it like to stay in the highest-priced Motel 6 in the nation at $426 a night in Santa Barbara?

My room, 220, had an ocean view, a surprise upgrade from the front desk clerk after I paid a $20 early check-in fee and tipped her for fixing an error in my reservation.

An orange sign on the wall says “Relax.” Two mints sit on opposite corners of the inspirational note card on the nightstand. “You can’t stop the waves but you can learn to surf,” reads the quote from mindfulness guru Jon Kabat-Zinn.

There’s a blue retro minifridge and a rain showerhead in the decent-size bathroom. The toiletries aren’t name-brand, but also aren’t standard budget-hotel issue with shampoo and conditioner in a single bottle.

The Serta pillowtop mattress is comfy enough, too. The hotel’s new owner disagrees and says he wants new mattresses.

This place still has some budget motel in its DNA. The Amana air conditioner in the room is so old-school, you can find YouTube hacks on how to keep the fan running. The tiny hair dryer is bolted to the wall. The bedspreads are flimsy, the walls thin. And a sign taped to the outdoor ice machine by the pool urges guests not to fill their coolers with ice, so there’s enough for everyone.

There are no coffee makers in the room but you can find free coffee and powdered creamer in the lobby each morning.

Patricia Dawes, a psychologist from Montreal, paid $1,600 including taxes for two rooms for two nights during a two-week road trip from San Francisco to Los Angeles with her family in late July. It was almost as pricey as their weeklong stay at a Los Angeles Airbnb.

Ms. Dawes and her husband, Jaime Samayoa, had never stayed at Motel 6. (Nor had I, as best I can recall.)

“I never had a great feeling about it,” she says. “It always looked like off-the-side-of-the-road super sketch.”

The rooms were a tight squeeze with two beds in them, but the family came to love the place. They enjoyed the proximity to the beach, ocean views from the pool, Adirondack chairs on the small deck above the pool and the retro décor.

“I’m pleasantly surprised, I have to say,” she says.

Not bad for a place where you’re a few steps from the beach in Santa Barbara. The room looks pretty cool, at least from the pics.

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