Camping Without the Hassle

What do you do when you want the camping experience without all the gear and hassle? If you’re in Northern California, you can stay at Costanoa, a campground and resort located near Pescadero, about an hour south of San Francisco. After a week of backpacking last summer, my daughter and I decided we’d had enough real camping and decided to do just that.

Ignoring the spa resort accommodations at this ecofriendly lodge, we chose to “camp” with her cousins in family tent bungalows where two adjacent tent cabins share a fire pit and a picnic table.

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The kids unrolled their sleeping bags on the bunks in their sparse cabin while the adults slept in sheets in a queen size bed with pillows, a lamp, and bedside table in the cabin right next door. With waterproof canvas walls and a wooden floor, both bungalows were heated and included electricity, sliding windows, and a locking door.

After a simple supper cooked on our own camp stove, we chatted with our next door neighbors, another family from Boston, and played games and roasted marshmallows in one of the resort’s many communal outdoor fireplaces. We brushed our teeth in a “comfort station,” just a short walk from our cabin, where the toilets flushed, the concrete floors were heated and the hot sauna inviting.

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The morning’s dense coastal fog demanded a trip to the lodge’s restaurant for hot chocolate and coffee in front of a warm fire.

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Behind the lodge, the kids climbed a tree and other visitors played chess on a life size chess board. The kids pet the local cat while the adults checked out the store full of gourmet camping supplies and local art.

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We walked along the beach in the sunny afternoon, rode horses with a Costanoa guide, and picked strawberries at a nearby farm.

If you’d prefer a slightly more luxurious experience, you can stay in the lodge or in one of the cabins where you’ll be able to enjoy the resort’s outdoor hot tub.

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