Moab didn’t make a very good first impression because of the insane cost of accommodation in the town. I expected a hoity toity resort town like West Yellowstone where even McDonald’s jacks up its prices. But my experience in Banff taught me that even such towns can be full of good surprises.
Moab is basically a swell in the highway, with most of the businesses along the main street. In the shoulder season, driving around town hasn’t been an issue, including making copious left hand turns onto the main street and finding parking. But I can imagine that in the height of the summer season, traffic and parking must be difficult.
The town is nothing to look at, from what I’ve experienced. What makes it special is its backdrop of red hills in one direction and snowcapped mountains in the other. The architecture is very ordinary. I didn’t feel a strong urge to take any pictures. I could be in Anytown, USA.
Two very positive things have stuck out for me.
First, the locals are incredibly friendly and welcoming. I’ve been to so many resort towns where the locals seem to resent the tourists that run their economy. Everyone in Moab I’ve spoken to has been very kind, very helpful, and very welcoming — genuinely so.
Second, I can afford to eat out in Moab! I have no idea if prices go up during the summer, but right now, in late April, there is something for every budget. Regular old diner food is exactly what I’d expect to pay for the quality and portion I got at the Moab Diner. Pad thai at Singha was a little pricier than I normally pay, but not significantly so. The only reason I had an expensive meal there is that I splurged on the beer.
Tonight, I had dinner at Sabaku sushi bar, a real splurge only because I’m cutting my stay here short and saving on accommodation. I have had sushi literally all over the US and Canada, in big cities and small. Who would have thought Moab would have really excellent sushi at average prices? $22 before taxes and tip got me two rolls (one large, one small) and a miso soup. If I had been in less of a mood for a splurge, I could have stuck to the happy hour menu and had even more food for the same price or spent less. I sat at the bar and watched my sushi-ya prepare my meal with real care and attention, so it wasn’t just dinner, but an experience.
I didn’t spend much time at the grocery store, but the few things I bought were very reasonably priced, including three large Fuji apples for just 99 cents. Other stores do jack up their prices, though. I priced trekking poles at Pagan’s and the ones I wanted were $20 more than the cheapest price I found online, so I passed.
It’s a shame accommodation in Moab is so terrible. At least, there’s the Lazy Lizard. Even if you’re not a hosteling kind of person, please consider them first as they are the only accommodation in Moab that keeps its prices reasonable while still trying to provide a lot of value. I’m not happy to be in a hostel, but I can separate that from my experience here, which has been very positive. My cabin is very comfortable and conducive to a good night’s sleep (comfy bed, dark, quiet, warm) and the ladies’ bathroom is spotlessly clean. I resent paying 39USD and not having my own bathroom, but they could charge as much as 60USD or even 75 a night for the cabins and still have the best bargain in town!
I’d say that Moab really hasn’t made that much of an impression on me. People don’t come to the area for Moab, but rather for all the outdoor experiences around.
Fun fact: sixteen years ago I worked at a bookstore and a guy came in asking to order a book on mountain biking Moab. After the order was put through and he’d left, the owner turned to me, wide-eyed, and asked, “What’s a Moab?!” I can’t believe I remember that!