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California: the very name calls to mind beautiful beaches, salty air, and sunny vistas. Whether in Northern California, Southern California or somewhere along the often-overlooked central coast, a trip to the Golden State practically requires a beachfront hotel — ideally something with sweeping 180-degree views, a private balcony, and mouthwatering locally-sourced cuisine highlighting its abundance of fresh produce. Although hotel options here are hard to narrow down — the state is an embarrassment of not just natural riches, but also those of the luxury resort variety — these beachfront hotels are easily the cream of the crop. Here, the best beachfront hotels in California, including luxury, budget, and family-friendly options. Open up those Golden Gates, California here you come…
Best Overall: Post Ranch Inn
Located on the central coast, overlooking California’s stunning Big Sur, Post Ranch Inn is a sublime MVP resort. The eco-friendly, family-run 39-room hotel — which also features one private home — offers both ocean and mountain views from private decks and on a location where the Post family’s ranch sat for more than a century before opening to guests. Here, serenity is encouraged, with a minimum age policy (no guests under 18), and rooms mercifully free of alarm clocks and TVs. Fine dining restaurant Sierra Mar is a winner of Wine Spectator’s Grand Award, with a wine cellar boasting more than 14,000 bottles and 2,600 selections.
As if the property itself weren’t relaxing enough, there’s a guests-only spa offering treatments including Shaman sessions, Craniosacral therapy, a Drum Journey, and a wide range of massages, facials, and specialized therapies, with most treatments available to be scheduled in-room for no additional charge. The resort, with an abundance of interesting Frank Lloyd Wright-esque architecture, features original local art from artists around Big Sur, including a gallery and sculpture garden with rotating exhibitions. The hotel doesn’t charge a resort fee, and all stays include complimentary Wi-Fi, valet parking, mini-bar use, and a daily buffet breakfast.
Best Budget: Lido House
A charming Cape Cod-style hotel in Newport Beach, Lido House is part of Marriott’s Autograph Collection. With California beachfront properties notoriously expensive, Lido House is a true bargain, especially considering its bevy of amenities: everything from saltwater pool and full-service spa to a rooftop bar and lounge and a restaurant with both ocean and marina views. Located on the site of the former City Hall, the four-story hotel features 130 airy, nautically-themed rooms, plus five two-bedroom, two-bathroom three-story cottages with preppy vibes and offerings like a full kitchen, dining room, double vanity, and separate tub and shower. There’s also an 1155-square-foot one-bedroom Presidential Suite with occupancy for four and table seating for twelve. Wi-Fi is available for a fee, with both regular and enhanced connection packages, and there are three electric car charging stations as well as valet available for a fee. Pets are not allowed.
Best History: Hotel del Coronado
Located on Coronado Island just off the coast of San Diego, the 28-acre Hotel del Coronado has been a Southern California icon for 130 years. Built in 1888 and designated in 1977 as a National Historic Landmark, The Del has hosted locals, celebrities, and American presidents alike; it also served as the backdrop to Marilyn Monroe’s classic movie Some Like it Hot.
The hotel offers 757 rooms and suites, located in both the classic red-roofed Victorian building and the modern California Cabanas and Ocean Towers building, as well as 78 one- to three-bedroom cottages and villas at Beach Village. Beach Village cottages and villas offer fireplaces, marble bathrooms and private patios or balconies with ocean views, as well as personal concierge service, daily breakfast, umbrellas and beach chairs, and nightly turndown. For those seeking pampering, there’s a seaside spa located on its own island and complete with infinity pool. Guests can eat at one of the hotel’s many restaurants, including the Beach Shack; wood-fired pizzeria Eno; seafood spot Sheerwater; and locally sourced California cuisine 1500 Ocean. The hotel is pet-friendly, welcoming both dogs and cats, and Wi-Fi is complimentary.
Best for Romance: The Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay
A five-star property overlooking Northern California’s dramatic Half-Moon Bay, The Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay provides couples with the perfect getaway. Here, 261 rooms and suites — many with stunning ocean views — are spacious and comfortable, with 400-thread-count Egyptian cotton sheets, marble bathtubs, and Asprey bath amenities. The environmentally-friendly beachfront hotel, which also offers six lighted tennis courts, two championship golf courses, kayaking, horseback riding, an indoor pool, and surfing, provides guests with nightly s’mores by the firepit and unforgettable excursions such as whale watching can be arranged.
There’s a full-service spa with 13 treatment rooms, a co-ed whirlpool with a fireplace, and saunas and steam rooms for women and men. Some suites include perks such as private firepits, balconies, and butler pantries, and all include marble soaking bathtubs with separate showers, plus internet-connected TVs with Netflix. For Moms and Dads hoping for precious alone time, the resort offers a 7-day-a-week Ritz Kids program for little ones from 5-12, with activities including board games, sandcastle building, arts and crafts, tennis, soccer, volleyball, and movie nights, as well as a Kids' Night Out program including dinner, movies, and arts and crafts. For electric car owners, there’s a charging station, and for pet parents, the resort is dog-friendly.
Best for Families: Monarch Beach
Located in Dana Point, the AAA-Five Diamond Monarch Beach Resort is chockablock with amenities and programs for families. The 400-room resort features three swimming pools, plus a kids splash pad, as well as amenities including a tennis club, an athletic club, and a famously scenic Scottish-links-style 18-hole championship golf course designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr. The hugely child-friendly resort offers the Monarch Beach Kids program for children ages 5-12, stocked with games like giant Jenga, cornhole, foosball, and ping pong, and providing half- or full-day activities such as art projects, treasure hunts, beach time, dodgeball, magic shows, face painting, and karaoke. With the Ocean Institute Program, kids can touch live tidepool animals and create ocean-based art, such as sea glass necklaces, and there are also babysitting services available for children under 5. Upon check-in, kids are well-taken care of with perks like a child-size robe, child-size slippers, a sink-side stool and a special welcome amenity, and for lazy mornings, kids can order from an in-room child’s menu with treats like a pancake tower.
Of course, the retreat also caters to adults. Couples can enjoy tandem spa treatments at the destination Miraval Life in Balance Spa, with everything from massage and aerial yoga to meditation, pilates, spin, mindfulness sessions, and HIIT classes. (The spa also features a Drybar and an outpost of celeb manicurist Deborah Lippmann Nail Salon.) On-site restaurants are abundant and include celebrity chef Michael Mina’s Bourbon Steak, Mediterranean AVEO Table + Bar, 33 North, and the beachfront Monarch Bay Club. And for families who find it hard to wrangle the group, no stressful fighting for beach space is necessary: there’s a Surf Host on hand to provide guests with umbrellas, towels, and lounge chairs for the perfect beach day. Wi-Fi is free, and though valet parking fees are hefty, cars are allowed unlimited in/out privileges.
Best for Luxury: Montage Laguna Beach
For guests looking for the ultimate in pampering, the Forbes-Five Star, AAA Five Diamond Montage Laguna Beach doesn’t disappoint. With four restaurants, including modern French-Cali cuisine Studio, all-day dining The Loft, and poolside Mosaic Bar and Grille, restaurant options are both plentiful and mouthwatering. Rooms feature 400-thread-count sheets and 100-percent goose down pillows, private patios or balconies — some with ocean views — and marble soaking tubs. One-, two-, and three-bedroom suites offer spacious accommodations, some with private patios and lawns, kitchens, living areas, outdoor gas grills, and fireplaces. For added luxury, 3,000-square-foot, three-bedroom residences are available, complete with washer/dryer and full kitchens. The 20,000-square-foot Spa Montage offers treatments such as a 120-minute Salt and Stone Kur, including a botanical soak, scalp and neck massage, and full body massage with heated Himalayan salt stones. Need a fresh cut? There’s also an outpost of celebrity hairstylist Kim Vo's hair salon. Guests receive free Wi-Fi although overnight parking fees are hefty.
Best for Singles: Nobu Ryokan Malibu
While exclusive Nobu Ryokan Malibu is itself uber-private — overlooking famed Carbon Beach, it’s the perfect zen, Cali-cool getaway — its location directly next to in-demand restaurant Nobu Malibu gives it one of the most enviable positions in all of greater Los Angeles. Guests staying at the minimalist 16-room hotel have priority access to the restaurant, a favorite of celebrities and easily one of the hottest spots in all of LA, and the ryokan is also well-positioned next to a Soho House output, Little Beach House Malibu. For those who don’t want to leave, you’d be forgiven: rooms themselves are spacious and serene, with ample natural light, and done in the traditional Japanese ryokan style with teak soaking tubs, indoor and outdoor fireplaces, skylights, and outdoor patios. Guests also have access to Malibu Racquet Club nearby for tennis and a full-service gym including fitness room, cardio, and pilates. There is complimentary parking and free Wi-Fi, and to book a room, potential guests must enquire through the website.
Best for Business: Shutters on the Beach
If you’re in LA for work, there are few dreamier hotels than Shutters on the Beach — a 198-room, 12-suite property overlooking Santa Monica Beach. Located steps from Santa Monica Pier and walking distance from downtown Santa Monica, Shutters offers free Wi-Fi and a perfect spot from which to take meetings and feel like a big shot — either in the comfy lobby Living Room, at hot spot 1 Pico, or at beachfront café and bar Coast. There’s an outdoor pool, fully stocked fitness center, and the swanky ONE Spa featuring products from brands like Omorovicza and Biologique Recherche. Guestrooms are light and spacious, with a rustic yet luxurious country feel, and all offer hardwood floors, four-poster beds, outdoor balconies, whirlpool bathtubs, personal beach butler service, and a seasonal beach concierge.
Best View: Terranea
Only a 45-minute drive from Los Angeles, Palos Verdes’s Terranea Resort manages to feel worlds away. The 102-acre Forbes Four-Star resort offers 582 rooms and suites, nearly all with stunning ocean views, including 50 three-bedroom oceanview casitas and 32 villas featuring kitchens and living areas. On-site activities include horseback riding, falconry, paddle boarding, and kayaking. There are also four heated swimming pools, a kids' splash zone, a 140-foot waterslide, two adults-only pools, and a 50,000-square-foot spa, as well as eight restaurants — including cliffside Nelson’s for sunset views, and gourmet Mar’sel with fresh, locally-sourced California cuisine. Self-parking is available, although not free, and complimentary Wi-Fi is included.