Two brothers go from casual hosts to boutique hotel owners

While casually hosting their home on Airbnb, respectively, brothers Nikki and Sander,  saw an opportunity in their hometown of Encinitas, California. “We didn’t have the space to cram guests in our own homes, and there weren’t nice places to put people up,” Nikki said. “It’s such a cool little surf town, but the only accommodation options were lower-end chain hotels—not something that represented our area.”

“It’s such a cool little surf town, but the only accommodation options were lower-end chain hotels—not something that represented our area.”

Nikki Harth, Surfhouse Encinitas

So, the brothers got to work. From 2016 to 2017, they converted a former convalescent home into eight surf-inspired Airbnb rooms, collectively known as the Surfhouse Boutique Motel. Everything about the property was designed with Encinitas’s local community in mind. Everyone who worked on it—from the designer to the contractor—lives in the area. The rooms feature artwork by local artists, and each is named after a well-known surf break in San Diego, such as Moonlight, Cardiff Reef, and Swamis. Also, inside every room is a discount card the brothers created by partnering with area businesses, so guests can explore like locals.

The brothers designed the overall stays—which have surf lessons and beach yoga on offer—with family in mind. “The way travel is going, I think it’s all kind of pulling away from big hotels and resorts. People want to connect with someone who knows the area and gives an authentic local experience,” Nikki said. “We want people to go into a coffee shop next door, go to the beach all the locals load their kids into a wagon to go to.”

"People want to connect with someone who knows the area and gives an authentic local experience”

Nikki Harth, Surfhouse Encinitas

Despite running a boutique motel for the past two years, Nikki and Sander say they identify more as hosts than hoteliers.

Nikki handles the day-to-day interactions with guests. “When I was a bellhop, I was the first and final touch in welcoming guests—I enjoyed that.” To connect with Surfhouse guests, Nikki personally sends emails, fields questions from arriving guests, and pops by if guests want surf lessons or a tour of the town, as he lives a block away.

 

Superhosts, surfers, and brothers Nikki (left) and Sander (right). All photos courtesy of Surfhouse.

“People will book a beautiful room once, but they will come back many times when they are given a memorable experience.”

Nikki Harth, Surfhouse Encinitas

The brothers say it’s all to focus more on the experience than the rooms themselves: “People will book a beautiful room once, but they will come back many times when they are given a memorable experience.” Which is why the motto of the Surfhouse is, “Drop in as a guest. Take off as a local.”

 



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