Visiting the Russian River

Parent Q&A

Parent Reviews

Highly suggest the western Russian River valley in Sonoma County - Guerneville, Monte Rio, that area.  The western part of the county is much cheaper than eastern (e.g., town of Sonoma, Kenwood etc) or even the northern part (Healdsburg).  The towns of Guerneville and Monte Rio are small and funky, with lots of full-time residents so it feels more real than the Disneyesque quality of downtown Healdsburg or Sonoma.  The river is great for swimming, canoeing, kayaking, paddle boarding, etc, and reasonably priced vacation rentals abound.  Check out  This area is less than 1/2 hour from the Pacific coast (Jenner) in one direction, or wine tasting in the Healdsburg area in the other direction, plus it has Armstrong Woods State Park with old growth redwoods and tons of hiking, lots of small country roads for bicycling, great downtown as well as smaller neighborhood beaches, and a relatively quiet country vibe.  Guerneville is 1.5 hours from either SF or the east bay - it's a somewhat unknown gem.

Check out the western Russian River area, particularly the Summerhome Park neighborhood of Forestville.  That neighborhood, in particular, attracts families that come for the whole summer and have been doing so for generations.  Complete with snack bar, movie amphitheater, and members-only beach, it's definitely a slice of  yester-year.  There are a lot of great areas around the Russian River, not just this neighborhood.  Check out the small towns of Monte Rio and Guerneville, which, along with Forestville, generally comprise the vacation destinations at the river.  For a "resort" area it's remarkably down to earth (not Disney-fied like Napa), yet close to the ocean and wine tasting, so if you choose to buy in the area, you can rent out your house as a vacation rental when not using it, if you want.  It's also only 1.5 hours from the Bay Area, so a really easy commute. 

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Activities for Toddlers in Russian River

April 2008

Hello, We will be traveling to the Russian River (staying in Guernville in a house on the river) in July with our (then) 19 month old twins. We'll be staying a week. Can anyone recommend any fun activities, parks, or beaches in the area for their age? Also, does anyone know of any good websites or books to use to find out about fun stuff for toddlers to do in the area? Thank you!

Our favorites in Guerneville-- The beaches--there are bunches of them, we like Steelhead Beach near Mirabel Road in Forestville (fee). Armstrong Woods--imagine Muir Woods without the crowds, park in the outside lot and there is no fee. The seals on the beach in Jenner at the mouth of the river--unlawful to get close but you can spy down on them from Highway 1. Then check out the views as you head north on the highway. There is a library branch in Guerneville on Armstrong Woods Road in town. Love the River

Nearby vacation rental near water?

March 2007

I am looking for a special rental property or neighboring properties for a week in September 2007 (the 9th-16th). I would prefer if it is around 2 hours or less from the East Bay. I am trying to get a group of girlfriends together for a 40th birthday celebration. I want to have swimming and lounging readily available. I am open to a river, lake or ocean but am having a hard time navigating the thousands of rentals that are available online. Ideally I would love to rent nice big house that could accommodate the larger group for the few nights all will be there and then a smaller group 4-6 could stay for the additional nights if we rent for a week. A sleeping loft or even tents outside could work for the few nights when we have more people if that were an option.. Any ideas?

I would recommend Guernewood, a vacationy town on the Russian River. I say Guernewood because I once visited a friend who lived there. His house was right on the river, and it was so truly beautiful and idyllic, you would definitely have your swimming and your lounging! It also has a repuatation for being a SF vacation town, so there would probably be no shortage of suitable places to rent. rolling on the river

Looking for rental but worried about flooding

Sept 2005

We are looking for a vacation home in the Russian River area. The houses located right along the river look so attractive, but we have heard scary news about winter floods. We would appreciate any information regarding seasonal hazards and particular areas to avoid. Thanks in advance. cautious house hunter

The type of flooding at the Russian River that you would need to be worried about happens infrequently and with lots of warning. The last big floods were in '95 and '86, and EVERYTHING near the river was flooded, so there are no ''good'' areas when that happens. Consequently, many houses are now way up on stilts, so it's hard to know how they'll fare in the next big flood. If you're still concerned, however, there are lots of vacation homes that are not in flood zones, and the rental companies (or owners if you're contacting them directly) should be able to (and should) tell you if you ask. Good luck!

Romantic Getaway ideas

May 2005
Re: 10th Anniversary romantic getaway
Of course, I don't know if you're looking for upscale pampering or a rustic getaway, but you might want to check out for rental getaways along the Russian River, all privately owned cottages with two night minimums. AMAZING cottages all along the river, with upscale amenities. I think it looks very romantic (I have not yet been to them)and appears to be upscale rustic, i.e the cottages look to be very nice with all the amenities. You'll find the area not so remote that you won't be able to get into a town for supplies, and you'll be on the River where you can canoe, swim, hike in the forest. Most of the cottages appear to have hot tubs and they do allow ''well behaved'' dogs, which is a plus for some people. HeatherMay 2005

Family-friendly rental

March 2005

Our family is looking to go to the Russian River area this summer. I checked the archives but couldn't find a place that will accommodate 4 adults and 4 children that is on the river, is nice, and maybe has a hot-tub... Does anyone have any recommandations? Thanks! river-seeking

For the past several years, we've rented ''Grandma's House'' in Rio Nido through Russian River Getaways. 4 bedrooms (each with their own bath!), large kitchen, pool table and right on the river. I highly recommend it! Viki

In response to someone looking for a family-friendly rental in the Russian River area, we have a lovely, large cottage in Monte Rio (5 minutes from Guerneville) that is completely secluded and private, yet only a short walk to one of the best beaches on the River. It sleeps 8, and children and well behaved pets are welcome. It also has a hot tub and gas grill. You can see pictures and get more information at

Family Reunion

Sept. 2004

Re: Small Family Reunion with our Parents
It's barely a trip anywhere for us, but the Guerneville/Monte Rio area might serve you well. We had our family reunion wedding there in '02. For shareable houses, Russian River Getaways ( cordinates rentals of lovely and affordable houses, including some very large old fancy ones that'd house a big group, indeed. They'll also let you know which houses are in walking distance from each other, and which are most child-friendly. Some have docks and canoes to go paddling right from the house, and some of these are well fenced for child safety! Also, the area is a very short drive from the ocean, and river beaches are gentle and child-friendly.

For those who don't want rental houses, the Village Inn in Monte Rio ( is warm, elegant and reasonable, and the Rio Villa Beach Resort (Rio Villa Beach Resort, phone 707.865.1143; email: Innkeepers [at] is a great group of family friendly cottages just across the river from the Village Inn--easy walking distance. So it'd be easy to have a whole group divided between the two, with children enjoying the cottages. You would need good kid control for small ones at the river's edge.

Honest, I have no connection to these businesses! They were just wonderful for our family gathering of about 40 family members from all over the US and all different ages. We had alternatives for lodging preferences, great activity and accomodation for children, and a lovely chance for out of state folks to see what's beautiful about Northen California--Redwoods, River, Wine Country and the Ocean all within a 20 minute drive. Ellen

Re: Weekend of solitude for mom (March 2003)
I recomend ''RIO VILLA'' as a close ,quiet,nice getaway place to stay,in the town of Monte Rio,in the Rusian River area.It's on the ''sunny'' side ,right on the's a small place about a dozen rooms,all have kitchenettes,some have decks facing the river(better),there are also 2 cottages (more privacy/romantic- the best ).The landscaping facing the water is great.You can walk to the nursery nextdoors,the small town store,cafe,and the beach.the owners (Rick or Don)are very friendly and give great

advice of ALL the local places to go.It's perfect for singles,couples,and famillies too.The drive ,once you get off the freeway,is pretty nice too, especially if you go the back way...(not through Guernville)...located at 20292 HIGHWAY 116..the # is 707-865-1143 ... Marianne

Camping at Russian River with a Toddler


Can anyone recommend a specific campsite or area on the Russian River which would be good for camping with an 18-month old? We want to go this summer, but have no idea about which areas have easy accessiblity to the river, nice wading/swimming areas, (showers & indoor toilets would be nice too, but not neccessary.), etc. Thanks, Heidi

There is a campground near Duncan's Mill called Casini Ranch Family Campground (tel. #707-865-2255). My family has been there many times. It is about ten miles out of Healdsburg and about five miles from the coast. It has a nice beach area which is generally more shallow than deed -- not a good swimming area but you can rent kayaks. There are showers and indoor toilet facilities. A few camping spots are fairly close to the river but the majority of them are a bit more inland. The grounds are fairly flat except for the areas right around the river so they are easy for toddlers to navigate. There is also a little bit of a playground. It can be a bit dry but we've always enjoyed our times there. Vanessa

I recommend the Joshua Grindle guest house. They also run a bed and breakfast in town but purchased a great house a couple of years ago that is available. We've stayed there for the weekend several times. The house is two bedroom/two bath so depending on the ages of the kids, they'd have to have a slumber party with sleeping bags. If you're looking for bedrooms for everyone, this won't work. We brought pack n plays for our babies and that worked great. There's a huge kitchen, a comfortable sitting area with TV/stereo and a wrap-around deck area. It's walking distance from a great hiking area and just a two-minute drive from Mendocino Village. You can check it out at 1-800-GRINDLE or If it doesn't work out, the folks at the Joshua Grindle are really helpful and may be able to suggest alternatives. Have fun! Jill


If you're not up for camping, my in-laws rented a house along the Russian River once which was a lot of fun. We rented canoes and kayaks and swam in the river a lot. I can try to find the rental service number (Russian River Vacations?)if you like. Natasha

Renting a house at Russian River

March 2002

My husband, son and I would like to spend up to a week somewhere in the Russian River Valley this summer. My son will be almost 2 by then. We would like to rent a house- someplace fairly nice but not too expensive- with access to the river or a pool but not too far away from wine tasting either. We are leary of renting someplace sight unseen. The recommendations on the website seem kind of dated, and we wanted to know if anyone could recommend a place that they have stayed. Looking forward to a vacation

Hi, try Russian River Getaways. We did last sept. We got a house w/hot tub, kayak w/ life jackets, bbq, 2 bedrooms, fireplace, and 2 baths for $1000. for 7 days. Beach was near but no good for swimming but Monte Rio is perfect for 2 yr old. Safeway is close by also health food store behind Safeway, and wine tasting is back towards 101 35 mins. It was great for me. In fact I will be getting the second home somewhere up there based on this vacation. Not in town though, outside somewhere maybe near Armstrong Redwoods. Lucinda

Russian River getaway

4/00 Karen
Does any one know of a great place to stay for a few days along the Russian River (without kids), preferably not too far from a beach area along the river ? (Could be any type of accommodation -- B, house keeping cottage, small house).Thanks very much for any suggestions.

One of my favorite adult places to stay anywhere is the Applewood Inn in Guerneville. All of the rooms are beautiful, the service is excellent and the food is terrific. They can be reached at 707-869-9093 or e-mail norton [at]

The Camellia Inn in Healdsburg, CA is a nice, smallish B in a Victorian (perhaps 10 rooms?). We stayed there a few years ago and have recommended it to friends who also enjoyed it. There is a great big Camellia tree in front. The owner's family makes a small amount of wine which they make freely available to guests. When we came back from winetasting in the middle of the day there were fresh brownies out in the common area. If I recall correctly, they have a hot tub behind the inn. Healdsburg is a great town to use as a base in the Russian River area. It's far enough away from San Francisco that most of the wineries don't charge for tastings. I would strongly recommend Preston Vineyards. They have a gorgeous bocce area under an ivy-covered trellis, alongside an herb garden. People are welcome to play for free (unless they've changed the rules). The winemaker was quite pleasant in a lumberjacky/Northern Exposure sort of way. There are several nice restaurants in Healdsburg -- opened by chefs who wanted to leave SF for a smaller town environment.