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- Best Overall: Monarch Beach – See Rates at TripAdvisor "The Monarch Beach Resort hits the mark on every level."
- Best Budget: Lido House, Autograph Collection – See Rates at TripAdvisor "A gem of a find, offering style and a bevy of amenities."
- Best for Families: The Resort at Pelican Hill – See Rates at TripAdvisor "Despite the overwhelmingly luxurious feel, Pelican Hill is incredibly child-friendly."
- Best Heritage Stay: Hotel del Coronado – See Rates at TripAdvisor "One of Southern California’s most iconic properties."
- Best for Romance: Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara – See Rates at TripAdvisor "Rooms at The Biltmore are elegant and well-appointed with bath amenities."
- Best Activities: Terranea Resort – See Rates at TripAdvisor "Feels like another world."
- Best for Nightlife: Nobu Ryokan Malibu – See Rates at TripAdvisor "A quiet, zen-like resort."
- Best for Business: Shutters on the Beach – See Rates at TripAdvisor "A rare shorefront beloved by both locals and guests."
- Best View: Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel – See Rates at TripAdvisor "This five-star resort delivers postcard-perfect views of the Pacific Ocean."
Best Overall: Monarch Beach
Located in Dana Point, the Monarch Beach Resort hits the mark on every level, from dining options, to spa treatments, to family-friendly activities. The 400-room resort features three swimming pools plus a kids’ splash pad, well as amenities including a Scottish links-style 18-hole championship golf course designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr. Singles and couples alike will appreciate the destination Miraval Life in Balance Spa, which offers classic massages, aerial yoga, pilates, spin, mindfulness sessions, and HIIT classes. For additional pampering, there’s also a Drybar and an outpost of celebrity manicurist Deborah Lippmann's Nail Salon.
When it comes to dining, there are myriad restaurant options, including the oceanfront Monarch Bay Beach Club, Mediterranean AVEO Table + Bar, 33 North, and destination restaurant Bourbon Steak from celebrity chef Michael Mina. Rooms are spacious, renovated, and bright, while bathrooms feature abundant counter space — many with soaking tubs and sinks. For families, there’s the Monarch Beach Kids program, which offers games like foosball, ping-pong, and Giant Jenga; kids can also pursue more educational adventures through the resort’s Ocean Institute Program. While the beach is a hike because of the resort’s lofty perch above the ocean, shuttle service is provided, and once guests are down by the water, Surf Hosts can provide umbrellas, towers, and lounge chairs.
Best Budget: Lido House, Autograph Collection
A member of Marriott’s Autograph Collection, Newport Beach’s Lido House is a gem of a find, offering style and a bevy of amenities — all directly on the beach. A four-story hotel done in a Cape Cod style, the hotel’s 130 rooms are spacious, comfortable, and — fittingly — kitted out with nautical accents. For those wishing to upgrade, there are five three-story cottages, each with two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a dining room, and a large entertaining kitchen. If you're really looking to splash out, go for the Presidential Suite, a stylish 1,115-square-foot space that can fit up to four people.
No need to go off property for drinks or dinner — the hotel offers a restaurant and rooftop bar and lounge with views so killer you’d be forgiven for not wanting to leave. There’s also a saltwater pool and full-service spa, as well as three charging stations for electric cars. Valet parking and Wi-Fi are available for a fee.
Best for Families: The Resort at Pelican Hill
A 504-acre property, The Resort at Pelican Hill overlooks the Pacific Ocean in tony Newport Beach. Despite the overwhelmingly luxurious feel — and plenty for adults to do, such as 36 holes of golf and a sublime destination spa — Pelican Hill is incredibly child-friendly. The hotel offers a kids program known as Camp Pelican for littles ages four to 12. Inside the Camp Pelican clubhouse, mini-mes will find two big-screen HDTVs, video games, karaoke, computers, books, games, and arts and crafts. Kids can also play outside at the dedicated kid's pool, complete with sandy play areas and a bubble jet fountain; myriad programs include movie nights (complete with popcorn), talent shows, and seasonal activities. Parents will be wowed, too: the resort’s Coliseum Pool features more than one million glass mosaic tiles, and room options include Bungalows, Villas (complete with butler service), and private cabanas with panoramic ocean views.
Best Heritage Stay: Hotel del Coronado
One of Southern California’s most iconic properties, the distinctively red-roofed Hotel del Coronado has been charming guests — including Presidents and classic Hollywood celebrities like Marilyn Monroe — since 1888. Known as The Del, the 28-acre hotel has been a National Historic Landmark since 1977, with 757 rooms and suites, plus 78 one- to three-bedroom cottages and villas in the Beach Village. Ocean views abound from the balconies and private patios of the Beach Village properties, where guests will also enjoy marble bathrooms and fireplaces, plus amenities like personal concierge, nightly turndown, and daily breakfast. Guests can choose from a variety of restaurants, including 1500 Ocean for fresh Cali cuisine, Sheerwater for seafood, Eno for wood-fired pizza, and the Beach Shack for snacks. There’s also an oceanfront spa — on a dedicated island, naturally — with an infinity pool.
Best for Romance: Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara
A beautiful Spanish Colonial Revival property set on 22 lush acres, Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara is located only five minutes from downtown on the so-called American Riviera. Recently reopened following nearby mudslides and fires, the hotel sits directly across the street from world-famous Butterfly Beach, a quiet dog-friendly strip of sand considered Santa Barbara’s finest. Here, the pace is slower and the service more refined. Hotel guests can automatically access the spa — which has recently introduced a new spa menu, including vinotherapy and maternity treatments for mothers-to-be on babymoon — while dining options include romantic Tydes for seafood with ocean views or Bella Vista for Cali-cuisine with an Italian spin. Rooms at The Biltmore are elegant and well-appointed with bath amenities from L’Occitane. Guests of the romantic Spanish Colonial-style bungalows — set amongst jungle-like tropical gardens — will also find access to the Coral Casino Beach and Cabana Club, including lounge chairs, food and bar service, and Olympic size pool.
Best Activities: Terranea Resort
In cliffside Palos Verdes, just 45 minutes from Los Angeles, 102-acre Terranea Resort feels like another world. The property 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. The resort truly excels with its abundant and engaging programming. Guests can choose between adventures such as paddle boarding, tide pooling, kayaking, seaside archery, or even falconry, plus a kids club keeps children ages four to 12 entertained. Terranea also offers a variety of aquatic diversions, including four heated swimming pools, a kids splash zone, a 140-foot waterslide, two adults-only pools, and a 50,000-square-foot spa.
As for dining options, there are eight restaurants — including cliffside Nelson’s for sunset views, and gourmet mar’sel with fresh, locally-sourced California cuisine. Thanks to the resort’s Farm-to-Terranea program, guests can tour the gardens and grounds housing the very Meyer-lemons, fresh eggs, herbs, and vegetables they will later eat, as well as the Terranea Sea Salt Conservatory which produces the resort’s salt from Pacific Ocean salt beds.
Best for Nightlife: Nobu Ryokan Malibu
Even though Nobu Ryokan Malibu is a quiet, zen-like resort, it offers guests a buzzy location next to Little Beach House Malibu (a Soho House) and celeb hot spot Nobu Malibu. As a result, guests at the 16-room Nobu Ryokan Malibu can choose their own adventure: laid-back or loud. Decorated like a traditional Japanese ryokan, rooms offer teak soaking tubs, indoor and outdoor fireplaces, skylights, and patios with enviable private beach views. While there’s no restaurant on property, guests can order an in-room Japanese bento breakfast, and Nobu Malibu offers delivery and gives guests priority reservations. Room reservations must be requested via the website, adding to the hotel’s exclusive vibe, and guests receive access to nearby tennis club and fitness center Malibu Racquet Club.
Best for Business: Shutters on the Beach
A rare shorefront Santa Monica hotel, Shutters on the Beach is an iconic property beloved by both locals and guests. The 198 rooms and 12 suites are decorated in airy Cali-coastal style and offer outdoor balconies, four-poster beds, and in-room Jacuzzi tubs. For guests wanting the best of the outdoorsy Santa Monica lifestyle in between business meetings, the beach, Santa Monica Pier, and downtown Santa Monica are all within walking distance. There’s also an on-property pool, a fitness center, and the luxurious ONE Spa, perfect for unwinding after a long day of work. Dining options include buzzy 1 Pico, beachfront café and bar Coast, and the laid-back but chic Living Room. Outside, there’s also a seasonal beach concierge and activities such as surf lessons, yoga, paddle tennis, and volleyball.
Best View: Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel
Located in beautiful Dana Point, this five-star resort delivers postcard-perfect views of the Pacific Ocean. Rooms are spacious, well-appointed, and tastefully decorated with a Cape Cod-meets-California vibe. Like many properties in the area, it’s a bit of a schlep to the beach — about a five-minute walk — though house cars are available to transport guests quickly and efficiently. Guests can also enjoy the decadent twelve-treatment room spa and also have access to nearby Monarch Beach Golf Links, a Robert Trent Jones, Jr. course. Onsite, they can enjoy two pools, whirlpools, and tennis courts.
Families can always drop off wee ones at the Ritz Kids Club for activities like movie nights, treasure hunts, ping pong, and basketball. Though there are six eateries to choose from, including outdoor lounge 180blu with panoramic beach views and live music, and enoSTEAK for steak and a superb wine list, Raya is a must. The spot serves up mouthwatering Pan-Latin Cali-cuisine at its finest, and the sunset views are to die for.