When planning a trip to Los Alamos, New Mexico, there are several options for where to stay with varying levels of convenience and comfort.
You can choose to stay right in the heart of Los Alamos for the ultimate exploration convenience or you can book a stay in White Rock, which provides a quiet and convenient base for exploring both Los Alamos and Bandelier National Monument.
And finally, there is the vibrant city of Santa Fe, known for its art scene and adobe-style architecture, which offers the largest selection of hotels and endless opportunities for cultural and natural exploration.
Below, I’ll break down some of the different considerations you’ll want to think about when booking your stay for your trip to Los Alamos.
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How long do you need to visit Los Alamos?
When trying to plan out where to stay, a major consideration is always going to be: how long do you need to stay.
Los Alamos is a perfect day trip destination meaning that you can pretty much see everything in one day.
The exception would be if you’re planning on doing lots of the guided tours or getting special access to the laboratory (behind the fence). In those cases, you’d likely want a couple of days to see it all.
If you plan on seeing some of the surrounding attractions like Bandelier National Monument or venturing into some of the trails surrounding Los Alamos then it makes more sense to spend an additional night or two in the Los Alamos vicinity.
But for the most part, one or two days will be plenty of time to have a memorable experience in Los Alamos.
Overview of places to stay
If you plan on visiting Los Alamos, you have a few different places to choose from. Basically, you can narrow down your options to the following cities:
- Los Alamos
- White Rock
- Santa Fe
The most convenient option is obviously staying in Los Alamos. It’s such a small city (population 12,978) that pretty much anywhere you stay will be a great location for exploring the city. At worst, you’ll maybe be a few minutes’ drive away.
If you’re looking for a national chain hotel, you can consider staying at the Holiday Inn Express & Suites Los Alamos Entrada Park (~$160) or Comfort Inn & Suites (~$160).
The Holiday Inn Express is a little bit more on the outskirts of the town, but again, you’re still super close to everything if you have a vehicle.
Meanwhile, if you stay at the Comfort Inn & Suites — which is probably the most conveniently located hotel for exploring Los Alamos’s Manhattan project sites — you can begin a historical walking tour from the parking lot of your hotel.
Another benefit of staying in Los Alamos is the food!
You’ll find lots of good Mexican restaurants like El Rigobertos Taco Shop and Muy Salsas. For American eats, you can hit up the Blue Window Bistro. They also have one of the best dumpling spots in the region, Yuan’s Dumpling and Noodle House.
My preferred place to stay when visiting Los Alamos would be White Rock.
White Rock, New Mexico, is a charming little community situated atop the picturesque cliffs of the Rio Grande. With a population of only 5,845, this quaint community offers a tranquil escape and serves as an ideal base for exploring nearby attractions like Los Alamos, just a short 13-minute drive away.
We stayed at the Hampton Inn & Suites Los Alamos White Rock (~$200/night), which I really enjoyed. They serve up a pretty good hotel breakfast and always have tempting chocolate chip cookies available in the afternoon for those guests with a sweet tooth.
It’s also right next door to some pretty amazing Mexican food and another highly rated restaurant called Pig and Fig Cafe. But if you value having a lot of convenient dining options, you’ll find Los Alamos more suitable for your palate.
The main reason why I suggest staying in White Rock is that it is located between Los Alamos and Bandelier National Monument.
This unique location allows for easy exploration of both sites, with just a short 10 to 15-minute drive to either destination. Imagine embarking on an early morning adventure at the awe-inspiring Bandelier National Monument, surrounded by ancient cliff ruins and picturesque trails. Afterward, return to your White Rock retreat, rejuvenate, and set off for an exciting day in Los Alamos.
Don’t miss the chance to experience the mesmerizing overlook of the Rio Grande cliffs that White Rock proudly boasts. As the sun begins to dip below the canyon walls, indulge in a moment of serenity, basking in the orange glow of a perfect Southwest sunset. It’s an ideal experience after a day of hiking and immersing yourself in the captivating history of Los Alamos.
The largest town near Los Alamos, New Mexico, is vibrant Santa Fe (the “City Different”) known for its art scene and adobe-style architecture.
It’s about 34 miles from Santa Fe to Los Alamos, and it will take you about 40 minutes to drive from one to the other. That’s definitely a very reasonable driving distance, making Santa Fe a relatively convenient and dynamic home base during your exploration of the area.
Because of the size of Santa Fe, it will have by far the biggest selection of hotels, which means it’ll be easier to find accommodations for budgets of all sizes. For example, you can find a number of two star hotels for under $80 per night.
Contrast that with the above options where you have a limited number of hotels that may not fall into lower budgets. If you want to stay in a national chain hotel in Los Alamos or nearby White Rock, it would likely cost you somewhere between $150 to $180+ per night.
Also, if you’re looking to stay in high-end properties, Santa Fe will provide you with plenty of options where luxury and comfort intertwine to create an unforgettable experience.
Uncover exquisite properties like the Four Seasons Resort Rancho Encantado Santa Fe (~$1,000+/night), situated on 57 acres of high desert terrain and offering luxurious adobe-style casitas for those looking for a sense of both seclusion and tranquility.
Or if you want to be closer to downtown and looking for something more affordable, consider La Posada de Santa Fe, a former 19th century mansion that’s been carefully preserved and transformed into a luxurious boutique hotel.
Other properties to look into include: Rosewood Inn of the Anasazi and The Inn of the Five Graces,
Beyond its proximity to Los Alamos, Santa Fe entices visitors with a myriad of attractions. Spend hours exploring its renowned art galleries and museums, or time your visit to experience the vibrant energy of annual art markets such as the world-famous Santa Fe Indian Market.
Furthermore, nature enthusiasts will find endless opportunities to explore and connect with the stunning landscapes that surround the city.
If you don’t want to venture all the way to Santa Fe, you could look into the town of Cuyamungue. It’s about 24 minutes from Los Alamos so it’s more convenient than Santa Fe. The hotel options will be extremely limited but you can find national chain hotels like Hilton Homewood Suites Santa Fe-North.
Overall, when planning your stay in Los Alamos, New Mexico, you have a range of options to consider.
You can choose to stay right in the heart of Los Alamos for the highest level of travel convenience, opt for White Rock with its proximity to both Los Alamos and Bandelier National Monument, or immerse yourself in the vibrant atmosphere of Santa Fe while dealing with a longer drive.
Ultimately, the duration of your trip, your budget, and your preferences for dining and activities will all play a role in determining the best choice for you.
Daniel Gillaspia is the Founder of UponArriving.com and creator of the credit card app, WalletFlo. He is a former attorney turned full-time travel expert covering destinations along with TSA, airline, and hotel policies. Since 2014, his content has been featured in major publications such as National Geographic, Smithsonian Magazine, Forbes, CNBC, US News, and Business Insider. Find his full bio here.