When Alex and Phyllis Madonna opened the Madonna Inn in San Luis Obispo in 1958, it wasn’t as ostentatious as it is now: in fact, the original 12 rooms burned down in a 1966 fire. From their ashes, the Madonna family built the most ridiculous and amazing motel you’re likely to find anywhere. Alex Madonna infused his passion for pink into everything, and he sought to give travelers a unique experience with themed rooms. Over the years, 110 rooms were built — from the relatively simple to the “Oh my God you’ve got to be kidding me.”
While individual tastes my vary, here is a ranking of my 25 favorite rooms. Just in case you don’t pick up on my bias, I have a thing for the Madonna Inn’s famous rock waterfall showers.
25. Bridal Falls
I’m not sure what the Bridal Falls room has to do with its namesake, the Yosemite waterfalls. There’s a waterfall shower, but that’s about it. What I am sure of is that this room is very green and has a random chandelier. Lovely.
24. Old Fashion Honeymoon
You don’t have to be on your honeymoon to stay in the Old Fashion Honeymoon room, but it helps. Either way, those hand-carved wooden arches are impressive, and there’s an actual claw-foot tub in the bathroom.
On the Madonna Inn site, they call the Indian room a “Native American room.” But come on, this is too old-fashioned to be PC. And while that’s problematic, the bedspread is really neat and reminds me of a teepee. Very authentic.
22. Tall & Short
MY EYES. There’s so much pink and purple and red in the Tall & Short room. But what’s really amazing is that the room was originally designed for couples of drastically differing heights, which is a thing apparently.
21. Fabulous Fifties
In the Fabulous Fifties, you can literally travel back in time to the ’50s. No, you can’t. But you can enjoy a cool pink-brown-blue color scheme. Do not push the beds together unless you want to ruin the fantasy.
20. Mountain Cabin
There’s a hand-painted mountain mural in the Mountain Cabin room. Can’t you just smell that fresh mountain air? It smells an awful lot like stale hotel room air, but if you stare at the mural long enough, you might be convinced.
19. What’s Left
The best thing about the What’s Left room is that it’s upfront about what it is: a mishmash of leftover materials from other rooms. Seriously. That still doesn’t explain the preposterous carpet.
Staying in the España room is significantly cheaper than traveling to Spain. Also, you’re not going to find this classic Spanish style anywhere. The best thing about this room is the fake crumbling wall, complete with pink bricks showing through.
17. Floral Fantasy
If you like pink, you’ll love the Floral Fantasy room. The whole Madonna Inn is pink-heavy — seriously, it’s everywhere — but this room is particularly in-your-face about it. I imagine it smells like grandma’s perfume, and I’m actually kind of into that.
16. Pick & Shovel
You get to be extra close to the horses in the Pick & Shovel room, which is truly all the incentive I need. Oh, sure, I’m also into the western theme. This is actually a three-story suite, so do bring several cowboys to share the space.
15. Time of Your Life
The Time of Your Life room is something unpredictable that in the end is right. It’s also an aggressive amount of purple. The theme is Mardi Gras, but taking your top off here will not earn you any beads. Sorry.
14. Old Mexico
New Mexico ain’t got nothing on the Old Mexico room. The colors alone feel muy auténtico, even though — if we’re being honest — I have no idea what old Mexico should look like. Love those tiles.
13. Harvard Square
The Harvard Square room is perfect for those of us who couldn’t get into Harvard. It feels like the kind of place you could stay up late smoking cigars and controlling the global economy. (You can’t do either of those things here.) At least you can tell everyone you went to Harvard.
12. American Home
The American Home room doesn’t look like any American home I’ve ever lived in. It does, however, have the coolest fireplace I’d ever seen. Imagine curling up on that (admittedly ugly) couch while watching the flames.
11. Cabin Still
The theme of the Cabin Still room? MOONSHINING. Yes, relive the Prohibition Era with rock floors, a rock shower, and a whole lot of copper. Copper is what you use to make the highly alcoholic whiskey you will not actually be making during your stay.
10. Old Mill
The Old Mill room is the most Disney you can get outside of Disneyland. The storybook charm is off the charts, and while you won’t be dressed by animated bluebirds, you will get to watch little figurines move with the mill. Think of it as a really dull ride.
In the Yahoo room, you get to sleep in a horse-drawn carriage without having to smell any horses. The ceiling makes you feel like you’re under the stars, as long as you’re nearsighted enough to think that looks like sky.
8. Wilhelm Tell
As a lover of rock and the color red, the Wilhelm Tell room is something of a dream destination. Just look at those vibrant colors. The stained glass windows tell the story of Wilhelm Tell, if you feel like learning a little something.
If you love animal print but hate the idea of actually killing an animal, the Safari room is a perfect destination. It’s supposed to feel like you’re actually in the jungle, which sounds a lot more appealing when you can have the AC blasting at all hours.
6. Rock Bottom
How can you not stay in a room called Rock Bottom? Amazing name aside, this is like hanging out in a cave with appropriately tacky furniture. (Those throw pillows.) The fake candles are almost romantic!
5. Krazy Dazy
Something about the Krazy Dazy room feels unhinged. Maybe it’s the “K” in “Krazy.” Maybe it’s the GIANT DAISIES EVERYWHERE. All I know is I kind of love feeling like I’m in a colorful nightmare. Did I mention the pink shag carpet?
4. Lucky Rock
The Lucky Rock room is described as “out of the ordinary,” which is funny given that it’s about as ridiculous as every other Madonna Inn room. But the tiger print carpet is everything, and the interplay of gold and rock is actually pretty dazzling.
3. Just Heaven
They call the Just Heaven room “celestial,” and if your idea of heaven is golden cherubs surrounded by the ceiling, you’re in luck. That aside, the winding staircase leading to a viewing tower is genuinely cool.
2. Jungle Rock
The blue in the Jungle Rock room is amazing, but that’s not the best part: There are vines growing across the ceiling! Imagine the thrill of sleeping in the jungle without having to experience actual nature.
The incredible Caveman room is the closest you will get to being an actual caveman. Little known fact: cavemen had zebra print lampshades to protect their eyes from harsh lightbulbs. So much animal print and rock — this is the Madonna Inn at its best.
See a full list of the rooms here.