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Sonoma County Tourism- Monte Rio: Gay in the Village By Duane Wells

Monte Rio is charming hamlet just down the road from Guerneville, where you'll find that there's pretty much one of everything. One classic movie theatre, one big sign welcoming visitors to "Vacationland," and one stop light that actually slows drivers down just enough to realize that they've entered a new town because otherwise they might blow right throw and never know they'd been there.

Situated along the Russian River, you almost feel time slow down as Monte Rio appears in the midst of towering redwood trees.

Given its proximity to Guerneville, which is sort of the nucleus of gay life in Sonoma County, the fact that Monte Rio is about as gay-friendly a town as you will ever find is almost a given.

But the fact that it has managed to develop a character all its own, may come as a bit of a surprise.

While Guerneville is by no means a big city, in comparison to Monte Rio it feels supersized. Beyond that there is an innocence about Monte Rio that is almost palpable.

Odd as it seems, there is a sense that something changes during the quick five-minute drive down Highway 116 from Guerneville to Monte Rio. Perhaps, it's because there are no bars or clothing optional resorts in Monte Rio. Or maybe it's that the air is not at all pregnant with even the slightest tinge of sexual tension.

But whatever it is, you feel a sense of genuine escape in Monte Rio. There is a calm and a stillness about the place.

Rather than party, you come to Monte Rio to hike through the redwoods and kayak along the Russian River (or better yet to float along the river in an inner tube on a warm day).

You stay at delightfully intimate, riverfront properties like the Highland Dell or the Village Inn and you pop down the road about four miles to Duncans Mills to pick up a picnic from Sophie's Cellars then trek back so that you can feast with nature. You don't have to be all hippy dippy to enjoy a proper getaway in Monte Rio, all you have to do is allow yourself to relax and fall into the gentle rhythm of the village, where there's everything you need and nothing you don't.