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What You Need to Know About Beach Hotels in Orange County
If you're looking for an Orange County beach hotel, you'll find more of them than in almost any other area of California.
Don't let your dreams of looking out your window over a windswept beach get ruined by overstated marketing hype. Some Orange County hotels use the word "beach" in their name when they barely have a glimpse of it. Others will say they're on the beach, but you might have to dodge traffic and cross a busy, four-lane highway to get there.
That's where I come in. If I'm looking for a beach hotel, I want one where I can walk right out and get sand in my shoes. I'm guessing you do, too. I took the time to research every hotel along the Orange County coast. If a hotel is on this list, it's right on the beach. And it's clean and well-rated enough that you won't go running away in disgust as soon as you check in.
Of course, hotels with such an excellent location will be more expensive than their inland counterparts. But as they... say, you get what you pay for.
The list below is organized geographically, from north to south.
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Balboa Bay Resort
Set right on the waterfront on 15 acres, facing the Newport Harbor. There's a private beach resort next door, but don't be confused. It's for members only, not hotel guests.
The resort is at 1221 West Coast Highway in Newport Beach. It's on the beach, but it faces the yacht harbor, not the open ocean. It has more than 100 rooms.
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Newport Beach Hotel
This hotel is built in a former railroad station, facing the boardwalk of the Newport Pier at 2306 W. Oceanfront in Newport Beach. It has just 20 rooms.
Only two rooms are facing the beachfront. Their views are fantastic, but noise from people passing by below can sometimes ruin your mood, especially on weekend nights.
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Sunset Cove Villas
Sunset Cove Villas are more like a vacation rental than a hotel, but I have to tell you about them because they're even better. The villas sit right above the beach and have private access.
The 8 villas are at 683 Sleepy Hollow Lane in Newport BeachContinue to 5 of 13 below.
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Bay Shores Peninsula
Bay Shores isn't quite a beachfront hotel, but it's close. It's on the Balboa Peninsula. You'll have to walk about 75 steps to get to a sandy public beach on the marina side of the peninsula - or 50 feet to reach the Pacific Ocean on the other side.
Bay Shores is at 1800 W Balboa Boulevard in Newport Beach. It's a small place with only 25 rooms.
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Crystal Cove Beach Cottages
Crystal Cove Beach Cottages are a collection of 44 restored historical places right on the beach in Crystal Cove State Park. It's at 8471 North Coast Highway in Laguna Beach, a little south of Newport.
They book up far in advance, making it hard to get in.
To make matters worse, the state parks department has a weird reservation schedule that requires planning ahead and making your reservation within a very short time window. Find out everything you need to about how to make your reservations.
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Inn at Laguna Beach
Located next to Main Beach, the Inn at Laguna has beach and ocean views. In fact, you can see the Pacific from 52 of its 70 rooms. It's close to shopping, restaurants and galleries.
It's at 211 North Coast Highway in Laguna Beach, right next to Main Beach.
it's not quite right on the beach, but on the cliff just above it and all you have to do is walk down the sidewalk to get to the sand.
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Laguna Riviera Beach Resort
Laguna Riviera Beach Resort is on the beach, but not all of its 41 rooms have ocean views. And only some of them are air conditioned. Reserve carefully.
It's at 825 South Coast Highway in Laguna BeachContinue to 9 of 13 below.
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Surf and Sand Resort
This luxury resort on the Laguna Beach shoreline is a great romantic getaway. It's at 1555 South Coast Highway in Laguna Beach
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The Montage is a luxurious, high-end, full-service resort. It's right next to a beach with great tidepools, and it has fantastic views. The location is 30801 South Coast Highway in Laguna Beach, which is south of the main part of town.
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Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel
You can't beat the Ritz-Carlton for luxury. This large hotel has a super-romantic location atop a cliff and just above the beach. It's on the south end of Orange County. Even though its name implies that it's in Laguna Niguel, the address is 1 Ritz-Carlton Drive in Dana Point.
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St. Regis Monarch Beach Resort
The St. Regis is on the coast. Nature trails (which are accessible by resort tram only) lead to a 6.1-acre beach, and you have exclusive access to a private beach club. It's at One Monarch Beach Resort in Dana Point.Continue to 13 of 13 below.
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What You Need to Know About Orange County Beaches
Orange County has plenty of gorgeous beaches, and not all of them are next to a hotel. For a more natural beach experience, use the Orange County beach guide to find one that suits you best.
May Gray and June Gloom
Don't let movies and television give you the wrong idea. It's not all sunshine on the beach, no matter where you are in California. In early summer — usually in May and June but sometimes extending into July — the coastal marine layer comes ashore and may stay there all day, creating foggy, cloudy conditions. If you want sunshine for your day at the beach, the best times to go are April, August, September, or October.
Red Tides on Orange County Beaches
If you're dreaming of swimming in the ocean while staying in your beachfront hotel, you need to know that "harmful algae blooms" often called red tides are a natural phenomenon in Orange County. They can happen anytime from February through September and can't be forecasted in advance. You can read more... about them in this article.
During the day, they turn the water red. Warnings are always posted when it happens, and many people avoid going into the water.
On the plus side, the tiny organisms involved are sometimes phosphorescent and give the waves a beautiful glow at night.