The 7 Best Beachfront Hotels in Southern California

The Waldorf Astoria Monarch Beach is the stand-out property

Our editors independently research, test, and recommend the best products and services; you can learn more about our review process here. We may receive commissions on purchases made from our chosen links.

The Rundown

Southern California’s beachfront hotels offer travelers the perfect opportunity to experience the area’s laidback lifestyle. From Santa Barbara to San Diego, this stretch of Pacific coastline is sprinkled with pristine beaches fit for a sunny getaway. Whether you’re looking for an activity-filled vacation with the family or a romantic getaway with your significant other, there’s something for everyone. And with a wide range of accommodations that range from intimate boutique properties to big resorts with all the shiny bells and whistles, you’ll find that there is no shortage of exceptional options to choose from.

The hotels below top their categories and will make for an excellent vacation home base in the Golden State. Read on for our expert list of the best beachfront hotels in Southern California.

01 of 07

Best Overall: Waldorf Astoria Monarch Beach

Waldorf Astoria Monarch Beach

Waldorf Astoria Monarch Beach

Why We Chose It

With spacious accommodations, a private beach club, seven dining venues, a world-class spa, and family-friendly amenities, Waldorf Astoria Monarch Beach hits all the marks.

Pros
  • Rooms are spacious, starting at 535 square feet

  • Seven dining options to choose from

  • A family-friendly hotel with plenty of activities for kids

Cons
  • Self-parking not available; $60 valet fee per night

Occupying 175 acres on a seaside bluff in Dana Point, the Waldorf Astoria Monarch Beach tops this list for a few reasons. Formerly known as the Monarch Beach Resort, the Hilton brand transformed this perennial favorite at the start of 2021, adding its signature touch of luxury to the property. All of the bright and airy accommodations are furnished with either balconies or terraces, offering views of the ocean or the resort’s lush grounds. The property offers a robust seven dining options, including the oceanfront Monarch Bay Beach Club and Bourbon Steak by celebrity chef Michael Mina. 

At the resort, you’ll find three outdoor pools, including a family-friendly one featuring a kids’ splash pad, and a private beach club to meet all your needs while relaxing by the Pacific. The spa will reopen in summer of 2021 following a renovation, and the property offers a fitness center and daily classes that range from yoga to body boot camp. And if you’re hoping to get some tee time in, there is an 18-hole golf course with a Scottish links style designed by renowned architect Robert Trent Jones, Jr.

Notable Amenities

  • Three outdoor pools
  • Private beach club
  • 18-hole golf course
  • Daily fitness classes
02 of 07

Best Budget: Carlsbad Inn Beach Resort

Carlsbad Inn Beach Resort

Carlsbad Inn Beach Resort

Why We Chose It

Just steps away from the beach, Carlsbad Inn Beach Resort offers comfortable rooms and a large list of amenities at a reasonable price.

Pros
  • Full schedule of weekly activities, majority of which are complimentary

  • Family-friendly property

  • Complimentary self parking included in the resort fee

Cons
  • A block away from the beach

  • No on-site restaurant

If you’re looking for the biggest bang for your buck, look no further than Carlsbad Inn Beach Resort. The property offers a bevy of amenities, including a heated outdoor pool, both family-friendly and adults-only jacuzzis, bike rentals, barbecue grills, and weekly activities (most of which are complimentary). And even though it may not sit right on the sands of Carlsbad Beach, it’s less than a block away to hit the shore.

If you’re looking for some additional space in your room or want to bring the family along, book one of their condo units, which has a separate living area, full kitchen, and private patio or balcony.

Notable Amenities

  • Heated outdoor pool
  • Family and adults-only jacuzzis
  • Barbecue grills
  • Bike rentals
  • Fire pits
03 of 07

Best for Families: Terranea Resort

Terranea Resort

Terranea Resort

Why We Chose It

Set on 102 acres, Terranea Resort offers spacious accommodations, nine dining options, four swimming pools, an award-winning spa, and various activities for the entire family to enjoy.

Pros
  • Children 17 and younger stay at no additional cost

  • All accommodations have a patio or balcony

  • Casitas and multi-bedroom villas have a separate living space, in-room washer and dryer, full kitchen, and fireplaces

Cons
  • In-room WiFi limited to three devices per room

  • $40 self-parking fee per night; $50 valet fee per night

Sprawled across 102 acres on the Palos Verdes Peninsula, Terranea Resort offers plenty of space for you and the family to run around. For starters, the property has four pools, one of which even has a 140-foot water slide for children to enjoy, and nine dining options to choose from so that you don’t have to eat the same thing twice. The property also offers a range of activities for everyone to enjoy such as horseback riding, kayaking, falconry, guided hikes, and archery. And when the parents need a little break, there’s a nine-hole, par-three golf course as well as an award-winning, 50,000-square-foot spa for some quiet time.

Consider opting for a Casita or multi-bedroom Villa for added space and amenities like an in-room washer and full kitchen to maximize convenience and comfort for the entire family.

Notable Amenities

  • Award-winning spa
  • Nine-hole golf course
  • Four heated pools and a 140-foot water slide
  • Kids activity boxes
04 of 07

Best for Luxury: Rosewood Miramar Beach

Rosewood Miramar Beach

Rosewood Miramar Beach

Why We Chose It

Set on 16 acres of prime oceanfront real estate delivering top-notch service and residential-style accommodations, Rosewood Miramar Beach is the epitome of coastal luxury.

Pros
  • Rooms are spacious, starting at 500 square feet

  • All accommodations have a furnished terrace or patio overlooking either the ocean or manicured gardens

  • 26 suites, studios, and rooms offer direct access to the beach

Cons
  • 90-minute drive from Los Angeles International Airport

  • Pricey year-round

  • $60 valet fee per night

Sitting on 16 acres of prime beachfront real estate, Rosewood Miramar Beach offers unparalleled views of the Pacific Ocean in Santa Barabara. What really sets this resort apart from many of the others is its top-notch service, sumptuous details, and elegant design. During your stay, you’ll have access to two pools with cabana service, one geared toward adults, the other to families; seven dining and beverage options including a beach bar and an oceanfront Southern Italian restaurant; an award-winning spa; and shuffleboard and bocce ball courts. And while you can’t go wrong with any of the residential-style accommodations—designed with a sprawling Montecito estate in mind, decked out with lavish marble bathrooms and furnished terraces or patios—opt for one that offers direct access to the beach for that authentic SoCal experience.

Notable Amenities

  • Award-winning spa
  • Two outdoor pools
  • Shuffleboard and bocce ball courts
  • Bike rentals
  • Full food and beverage beach service
  • Complimentary transportation within a three-mile radius of the hotel
  • Pet services and amenities
Continue to 5 of 7 below.
05 of 07

Best for Couples: Nobu Ryokan Malibu

Nobu Ryokan Malibu

Nobu Ryokan Malibu

Why We Chose It

Touted as an adult-oriented property with a notably zen atmosphere, Nobu Ryokan Malibu is the perfect romantic getaway.

Pros
  • All rooms are furnished with teak soaking tubs

  • In-room dining is crafted by Nobu Malibu

  • Intimate atmosphere geared toward adults

Cons
  • Very pricey year-round

  • No on-site spa

Designed with Japanese ryokan in mind, this zen 16-room hideaway is a modern take on the traditional inns that are beloved in the Land of the Rising Sun. The minimalist design—comprised largely of teak, limestone, and neutral hues—further drives home that Nobu Ryokan Malibu is meant to be a serene retreat. All accommodations feature teak soaking tubs, skylights, and private decks or patios, while some also come furnished with a fireplace. And if you’re a fan of the brand’s restaurants, in-room dining is crafted by Nobu Malibu.

While there is no spa facility on-site, the property does offer in-room treatments and transportation to the nearby CURE Wellness Center.

Notable Amenities

  • Complimentary valet parking
  • In-room dining crafted by Nobu Malibu
  • Loro Piana cashmere robes
  • 800 thread count bed linens
  • Custom-made linen yukatas (bathrobes)
06 of 07

Best for People Watching: Shutters on the Beach

Shutters on the Beach

Shutters on the Beach

Why We Chose It

From the celebrities that have been spotted at their restaurants to its location right on the Marvin Braude Bike Trail, Shutters on the Beach is perfect for people watching while unwinding in Santa Monica.

Pros
  • Warm and inviting atmosphere

  • Views of the Santa Monica Pier

  • Beach cruiser bikes available to guests to explore nearby attractions

Cons
  • Many rooms do not offer an ocean view

  • $55 valet fee per night

Arguably one of the most iconic properties in Santa Monica, Shutters on the Beach is a go-to spot for visiting travelers and entertainment industry folk alike. Many celebrities have been spotted dining at the hotel over the years, but even if you’re not one to get starstruck, its location right along the Marvin Braude Bike Trail is perfect for observing all the passersby.

While you’re here, carve out some time to relax by the cabana-lined pool; have the concierge arrange a picnic on the beach; grab a seat in the Living Room lounge by the fireplace and enjoy an evening tipple to live entertainment; and borrow one of the property’s customized beach cruisers for a spin on the bike path. When selecting your rooms, be aware that many don’t offer ocean views, but they are considerably spacious, with the smallest accommodations coming in at 450 square feet.

Notable Amenities

  • Outdoor pool
  • Lobby lounge with live entertainment most evenings
  • Bike rentals
  • Alfresco dining
07 of 07

Best View: The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel

The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel

The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel

Why We Chose It

With its bluff-top location, the Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel offers unobstructed views of the Pacific Ocean, Catalina Island, and Salt Creek Beach.

Pros
  • Large renovation in March 2021

  • All accommodations have a patio or balcony

  • Award-winning spa

  • Five-minute walk to the beach (complimentary shuttles are available)

Cons
  • Self parking is not available; $60 valet fee per night

Set atop a bluff in Dana Point, the Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel offers unobstructed views of the Pacific Ocean, Catalina Island, and Salt Creek Beach. When you’re looking out at the water, keep your eyes peeled for passing dolphins and whales.

In addition to its picturesque vistas, the resort also has six restaurants to choose from, an award-winning spa with a full-service salon, two pools, and two tennis courts. And with a March 2021 refresh of their accommodations, rooms and suites are better than ever with coastal-inspired decor, state-of-the-art technology, and updated bathrooms, many of which feature walk-in showers and white Statuario marble.

Notable Amenities

  • Award-winning spa
  • Complimentary beach shuttle and beach butler service
  • Two outdoor swimming pools and two outdoor whirlpools
  • Two tennis courts

Final Verdict

With a mild climate, the shimmering Pacific Ocean, sparkling sand, and sun for days, it’s no question that Southern California is an idyllic location for a beach vacation. Stretching from Santa Barbara to San Diego, there are plenty of options to choose from along the lengthy coastline. For luxurious resorts worth the splurge, indulge in the zen Nobu Ryokan Malibu for a romantic getaway; Rosewood Miramar Beach for its unparalleled level of service and attention to detail; the Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel for incredible vistas from a bluff-top in Dana Point; and the well-rounded Waldorf Astoria Monarch Beach where you simply cannot go wrong.

Compare the Best Beachfront Hotels in Southern California

Property  Fee Rates Rooms WiFi
Waldorf Astoria Monarch Beach
Best Overall
$55+ $$$$ 400 Free
Carlsbad Inn Beach Resort
Best Budget Property
$20+ $$ 193 Free
Terranea Resort
Best Property for Families
$50+ $$$ 582 Free 
Rosewood Miramar Beach
Best Luxury Property
$51+ $$$$ 160 Free 
Nobu Ryokan Malibu
Best Property for Couples
None $$$$ 16 Free 
Shutters on the Beach
Best Property for People Watching
$30+ $$$$ 198 Free 
The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel
Best Property for Views
$50+ $$$$ 396 Free 

Methodology

We evaluated two dozen hotels that are either beachfront or waterfront in Southern California from Santa Barbara to San Diego before settling on the best for the chosen categories. Notable amenities, pricing, quality of service, location, and recent renovations were all taken into consideration. In determining this list, we evaluated numerous customer reviews and considered whether the property has collected any accolades in recent years.

Was this page helpful?