California is filled with mountains, valleys, beaches, and so much culture and history! When visiting the beautiful state of California, we decided to do an epic road trip up the Pacific Coast Highway starting in Los Angeles and ending in San Francisco. So of course we had to visit the magnificent Hearst Castle located in San Simeon, CA, which is the perfect halfway point on the PCH! The Hearst Castle is the most luxurious castle in all of California, if not the entire country!🤩🏰 While visiting the Castle on the Enchanted Hill, you’ll learn about the dream that was built by William Hearst and all the fascinating stories that have taken place here. Prepare to be dazzled by The Hearst Castle!
Hearst Castle was built by William Randolph Hearst, a newspaper tycoon. It took about 30 years to build the castle but unfortunately, Hearst died before it was completed. And in 1958, it was donated to California and became one of the top National State Parks spanning over 127 acres! Before Highway 1 existed, (the route we took to get there) the only way to visit the castle was by boat. Formally known as “La Cuesta Encantada”, William Hearst had a lot of passion and influence from Spanish art and architecture. His cottages are even named after Spanish terms, Casa Grande, Casa Del Mar, Casa Del Monte, and Casa Del Sol. But William Hearst humbly called his castle “The Ranch”. We could only imagine waking up the views of the Pacific Ocean from the top of this hill!😍
📍750 Hearst Castle Rd, San Simeon, CA 93452
📞 (800) 444-4445
💲Ticket Pricing: Starting at $25 (Adults), $12 (Children Ages 5-12), Children under 5 are free
The experience starts in the visitor center where you can find souvenirs, dining, and purchase tour tickets. There are several tour options like the Evening Tour, Upstairs Suites Tour, Cottages & Kitchen Tour, Holiday Twilight Tour, Designing the Dream Tour, Art of San Simeon Tour, Hearst and Hollywood Tour, or you can even take a Private Guided Tour! See here for more information about each tour. Once the tour is over, guests are able to explore the pools and the gardens on their own.
We decided to take the Grand Rooms Tour which takes place inside of Casa Grande, the main building that allows you to imagine being there and being a guest of William Hearst! You’ll listen to the stories of William Hearst, his Hollywood guests, and admire his precious collection of art. The tickets for the Grand Rooms Tour are currently $25 for a 60-minute tour. It’s also recommended for first-time visitors and this tour also has the least amount of stairs to climb! And also includes a ticket to “Building the Dream” at the Hearst Castle Theater. A film where you can learn the history behind Hearst Castle! See here for daily showtimes.
From the visitor center, you’ll take a 15-minute bus ride to the top of the Enchanted Hill. Don’t forget to get your photo op in as you pass through to the boarding area! During the bus ride you’ll experience the gorgeous winding and twisting pathway up to the Castle on the Hill. It’s a one way road so you’ll go down a different path after your tour, so make sure you take in all the breathtaking views of the California coastline on the way up! You’ll also hear some facts and stories that are narrated by Alex Trebek of Jeopardy! The ride up is about 5 miles and before any roads were placed, William would ride all the way up to the Castle on his horse and barely made it sometimes hanging on by the hair of his pony!🐴
Casa Del Sol ☀️
The tour starts at Casa Del Sol (House of the Sun) also called House C. This cottage was given this name because it offers the best view of the setting sun over the Pacific Ocean 🌅, and is the most elaborate of the guest cottages! Our tour group gathered on the terrace right in front of the gorgeous water fountain as our guide told us stories about history. It’s crazy how all this started because of William Hearst’s wildly creative imagination! Inside of Casa Del Sol, there are eight bedrooms, eight bathrooms, and three fireplaces. William Hearst doesn’t shy away at all when it comes to how lavishly decorated his cottages are. You’ll find bedrooms with gold plated ceilings, polished wood furniture, and plush bedding. Imagine waking up every morning with this view from one of the windows! 🤩☀️🌊⛲️
The next stop on the tour takes us to the Neptune’s terrace where you can admire the grand Neptune Pool!🤩 Constructed between 1924-1936, this pool was built to be larger than life for Mrs. Hearst and their children to enjoy! Surrounded by The Roman Temple, Colonnades, Nymphs and Swans, this pool was named after Neptune, the Roman Sea God. You’ll find a statue of him on top of The Roman Temple overlooking the luxurious pool. The pool itself is about 3 1/2 – 10 feet deep and holds 345,000 gallons of water.😱 We found on their website that they sometimes have events where visitors can actually go swimming in it! Who wouldn’t dream to take a dip in the Neptune Pool!?
From the Neptune Terrace (the terrace overlooking the Neptune Pool) we walked up to the next level to Casa Grande to tour all of the grand rooms. As we walked up, we passed by William Hearst’s collection of marble statues throughout the lush palace garden. There’s so much beauty everywhere you turn! 🌸🌴
The main part of the tour takes place at Casa Grande, the main building filled with William Hearst’s collection of fine art and treasures. It offers the best view of the Santa Lucia mountains!🏞 Inside of Casa Grande there are over 165 rooms and this is where Hearst held most of his social events. Imagine bumping shoulders with Hollywood Megastars of its days like Charlie Chaplin, Cary Grant and more! Visiting William Hearst must have been like a real-life Great Gatsby surrounded by lush palm trees!
Inside of the magnificent Casa Grande is 5 different rooms that Mr. Hearst used to entertain including the Assembly Room, Refectory, Billiard Room, Theater, and Morning Room.
The first room where guests would be greeted is the Assembly Room. Visitors would meet here for pre-dinner cocktails for a social hour. Could you see yourself sipping on champagne all while admiring Hearst’s collection of valuable sculptures, tapestries, and furnishings? So fabulous!🥂✨🙌🏼
Almost every room in this house has these ancient hand-carved wooden ceilings from Europe, called ornate ceilings. And surrounding the room are beautiful wooden seats from Spanish and Italian churches. They made the room look so grand! Seriously, William’s attention to detail was extraordinary and is the definition of exquisite taste! ✨
When dinner was ready to be served, guests would grab a seat inside of the dining hall known as the Refectory. The flags and banners make you feel as if you’ve stepped foot into a majestic Medieval Cathedral. On the single long table there are sparkling silver candlesticks, exotic blue and white dishes, glassware, and simple bottles of ketchup and mustard.
If you were one of the lucky guests to spend the evening at the Hearst Castle, you would mingle and lounge with coffee in the Morning Room! Currently this room is going through restoration to preserve its priceless beauty.
For after dinner entertainment, Mr. Hearst had the Billiard Room which features 2 pool tables. One of the tables called a Carom Billiard table doesn’t have pockets, something we’ve never seen before! Here men would enjoy a glass of fine whiskey and a cigar.🥃 And to much surprise Mr. Hearst allowed women in the room, which was very unusual for back then.
Since Mr. Hearst loved to entertain, what would be better than a movie theater? This is the final room of the tour and we finished it off by watching some of Mr. Hearst’s black and white home movies. In the video, we saw clips of his childhood and some of his famous friends!
Once you finish the tour you’re free to stay explore the grounds for as long as you’d like!
Download their free Hearst Castle app, where you can explore the interactive map of the property for yourself! The map will show you where everything is on the grounds, including restrooms and drinking fountains. It’s pretty detailed. For example, if you click on the Neptune Pool it will not only show you exactly what is in that area, but you can raise your phone up to your ear to play an audio recording that will give you details about it. Definitely helpful if it’s your first trip to the Hearst Castle!📱
Casa Del Mar
Casa Del Mar (House of the Sea), also referred to as House A, is the largest of the 3 cottages. While Casa Grande was being constructed, Mr. Hearst and his family resided here. The cottage has 8 bedrooms and for those who choose to tour the cottages, you’ll get to visit the huge kitchen and wine cellar. If you walk down the stairs from the left side of Casa Grande, there’s a good lookout spot with gorgeous views of the California coast!
Casa Del Monte
For a jaw-dropping, panoramic view of the Santa Lucia Mountains, head over to Casa Del Monte (House of the Mountain) or simply, House B. This was the first of the three cottages to be completed. While Mr. Hearst lived here for a short time while House A was being built, his focus was on his vision for Casa Grande but his architect, Julia Morgan, convinced him that the cottages would be completed quicker. Once he moved to Casa Grande, Casa Del Monte became used mainly as a place for his Hollywood friends to stay in.
Casa Del Sol
This is where the tour started as we mentioned above, this is the back side of Casa Del Sol. If we had to choose a cottage to live, we would pick Casa Del Sol so we can enjoy views of both the sea and the mountains!🌊🏞
And make sure you check out the North Terrace for some epic mountain views!😍
When you’re done exploring and ready to exit back to the buses, head to the Roman Pool for the grand finale! This extravagant indoor pool is lined with mosaic tiles that are mainly teal and orange, and are infused with gold accents inspired by Roman baths. Throughout the pool area, it is surrounded by Greek and Roman God and Goddess statues. It’s absolutely stunning and breathtaking just as the rest of the property!🤩
As much detail that has gone into the Hearst Castle, to this day it is still considered to be incomplete. And although Mr. Hearst never got to see it like this, his daughter says that more than likely if he was still alive, he would continue to add more projects to the Hearst Castle. So when the Castle was donated to the State of California, it was stipulated that it must never be finished. This photo below shows the unfinished side of Casa Grande.
Tips for Visiting:
- Bring a jacket! No matter what time of year it is! The Hearst Castle sits way up high on a hill, 1600ft above sea level, so it’s extra breezy up there and you’re definitely going to want a jacket!💨
- Arrive Early. Make sure you arrive a few minutes early before your tour time to ensure you catch the bus ride up!
- Take an early tour! So you’ll have enough time after your tour to explore the grounds during the day!
- Download the Hearst Castle app! And enjoy a virtual guide and interactive map of the property! It’s so helpful!
- Wear comfortable shoes. Depending on which tour you take, there can be a lot of walking and climbing stairs!
- Take the Grand Rooms Tour if you’re a first time visitor! This tour is the most popular and will give you a good taste of William Hearst’s extravagant lifestyle!
- Take lots of photos! Because more than likely you won’t be visiting inside again once your tour ends.
The Hearst Castle is the perfect halfway point on the Pacific Coast Highway between L.A. and San Francisco, and was probably our favorite stop! If you plan on doing the PCH road trip we highly recommend staying overnight at the Madonna Inn in San Luis Obispo (about an hour away). Check out our full review of the Madonna Inn here!
The Hearst Castle is the most dreamiest and luxurious place we’ve ever visited and we can’t wait to come back one day to take the other tours! In addition to the Castle, there’s also a zoo (sometimes you’ll see zebras roaming in the fields! 🦓), wine tasting, and more! William Hearst wanted to inspire people to live their life and excel at whatever they do, he built the Hearst Castle as a museum for everybody. And with the help of Julia Morgan his vision came to life and now provides such a rich and unique experience unlike any other! If there’s one thing you add to your bucket list, make it the Hearst Castle!🤩🏰✨
**Thank you to the Hearst Castle for sponsoring this blog post!