Villa Maria del Mar Retreat Center
Villa Maria del Mar is owned and operated by the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary, a congregation of Catholic women religious. The beachfront property includes a chapel and three buildings that are used for bedrooms, meeting rooms and dining areas. The Retreat Center can accommodate a maximum of 70 residents in 40 bedrooms.
In keeping with the charism of the Sisters of the Holy Names, the mission of Villa Maria del Mar Retreat Center is:
“To provide a prayerful environment of peace and beauty for people who seek God. We serve a diversity of persons in a spirit of openness, reverence and respect.”
Villa Maria del Mar has its roots in the late 1890s. The Catholic Ladies Aid Society of San Francisco wanted to build a summer hotel where women of limited means could go for a rest at little or no cost. The proceeds from the summer hotel would support Saint Margaret’s Residence, a home for single working women in San Francisco.
The land was donated by several local farmers and in 1892 the 3-story Santa Maria del Mar Hotel opened. In 1906, they built a chapel on the property next to the Hotel.
In 1949, the women replaced the building with a more modern structure, but kept the original foundation, and added a building with sixteen bedrooms. In 1952, the women enclosed the outside porch. By 1960, the Catholic Ladies Aid Society declared that they were no longer able to operate the hotel.
The Sisters of the Holy Names had been looking for a place for summer vacations and retreats; they purchased the Santa Maria del Mar Hotel property and furnishings in 1963 for $250,000 with a 20-year mortgage.