The Best California Beachfront Hotels

The iconic Post Ranch Inn is our top choice for the ultimate beachfront stay

Hotel Casa del Mar, on beach near palm trees of Santa Monica, Southern California, USA

 Barry Winiker / Getty Images

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The Rundown

Beachfront hotels in California offer experiences as diverse as they are beautiful: old-growth redwoods towering over craggy cliffsides, sun-washed white sand beaches, and the sound of the surf at dawn. Wherever visitors choose to base themselves, nature is never far away.

From outposts that cater directly to surfers to luxe, design-forward hotels and family-friendly ranches with plenty of green space, there’s a restful haven for every kind of traveler. The following hotels top their categories based on accolades, customer reviews, location, and more. Read on to discover the best places to rest your head along California’s coast.

01 of 07

Best Overall: Post Ranch Inn

Post Ranch Inn

 Courtesy of Post Ranch Inn

Why We Chose It

This iconic Big Sur hideaway has secured a place on countless top hotel lists and in travelers’ hearts because of its impeccable service and unbeatable views.

Pros
  • Unique on-site experiences

  • Sublime nature views

Cons
  • Pricey

  • Rooms fill up far in advance

Perched 1,200 feet above the churning Pacific, Post Ranch Inn feels at once intimate and expansive. With only 40 guestrooms and private houses, the hotel is seamlessly integrated into the wild landscape. Rooms offer yawning views of the ocean and mountains and the property is hugged by a redwood forest, making it the ultimate California nature escape. 

Guests can start the morning with an invigorating yoga class, then book a private guided hike in the area. But visitors should leave time to savor the on-site amenities, too. The spa offers signature organic treatments, including an aromatherapy massage with Big Sur flower essences, and guests looking for inner reflection can book a private session with the Inn’s resident shaman. The cliff-top pools are made for lingering under a vault of stars in the evening.

Notable Amenities

  • On-site spa
  • On-site shaman
  • Unique experiences like falconry lessons, forest meditations, and sound baths
02 of 07

Best Luxury: Nobu Ryokan Malibu

Nobu Ryokan Malibu

Nobu Ryokan Malibu

Why We Chose It

The sleek, Japanese-inspired Nobu Ryokan Malibu is all about exclusivity and refined details.

Pros
  • Lauded on-site restaurant and spa

  • Unique Japanese design

Cons
  • Pricey

  • Service could be more personalized

This intimate, 16-key boutique hotel is the first in Nobu’s Ryokan Collection and takes its minimalist design cues from the traditional inns of Japan. Once through the private main entrance, guests are greeted by a lush garden dotted with California palms and ferns where a pathway leads straight to serene Carbon Beach.

The spacious rooms are outfitted with teak soaking tubs, tatami mats, shoji screens, and kimono robes. Every room is one-of-a-kind, but each includes an ensuite fireplace, skylight, and private deck. Indulge in an in-room spa treatment or classic Nobu dishes like the black cod miso or king crab tempura amazu.

Notable Amenities

  • On-site spa
  • Lauded on-site dining
  • Valet parking
  • Gym
03 of 07

Best for Families: The Ranch at Laguna Beach

The Ranch at Laguna Beach

The Ranch at Laguna Beach

Why We Chose It

This 87-acre private oasis nestled between the canyons and the beach has amenities and activities both kids and adults will love.

Pros
  • Abundant amenities

  • Kid-friendly activities

  • Excellent service

Cons
  • Can feel noisy and busy

  • Rooms need updating

Whether traveling as a family or a couple, guests may never want to leave this sprawling resort, and with a golf course, spa, pool, and restaurant, they might not have to. If visitors are seeking an escape that doesn’t require much pre-planning and offers plenty of activities right outside their door, this is it. Guests can hike throughout the surrounding hillsides, or head down to Aliso Beach to surf and sunbathe.

Rooms and suites are peppered throughout a park-like setting where deer and other wildlife can often be spotted over breakfast. A two-bedroom, three-bath treehouse suite is the ultimate family getaway, but all rooms are spacious and decorated in a warm, neutral palette. Ingredients for the Harvest restaurant and bar are plucked straight from the property’s organic garden. 

Notable Amenities

  • Free parking
  • Pool
  • Fitness centre
  • Golf course
  • Conference facilities
04 of 07

Best for Romance: Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara

Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara

Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara

Why We Chose It

The idyllic setting of Santa Barbara, dubbed the American Riviera, sets the stage for romance at this Old Hollywood-style Four Seasons.

Pros
  • Sprawling lush garden

  • Multiple dining options

  • On-site spa

Cons
  • Some rooms and amenities need updating

  • Hit or miss service

Set on 22 acres of lush gardens with beachfront access, there are plenty of secluded corners and courtyards to cozy up in at The Biltmore Santa Barbara. The property’s jungle-like, lantern-lit brick pathways lead to rooms and suites filled with historic, hand-crafted furnishings, polished mahogany antiques, and artwork. Old Spanish adobe buildings with red roof tiles and in-room hand-painted Andalusian Talavera bathroom tiles evoke another era of Mediterranean travel.

The atmospheric Ty Lounge is the perfect place for tapas and cocktails for two, dimly lit with hand-blown glass chandeliers and a fireplace. Before dinner, book an 80-minute couples’ massage on a sea breeze terrace, complete with champagne and chocolate-covered strawberries. Palm-lined Butterfly Beach is never far away, whether you’re taking in the view from the pool or under the stars on the candlelit Bella Vista restaurant.

Notable Amenities

  • Valet parking
  • Pool
  • On-site restaurant, bar, and fitness center
Continue to 5 of 7 below.
05 of 07

Best for Surfers: The Surfrider Malibu

The Surfrider Malibu

The Surfrider Malibu

Why We Chose It

Travelers looking to carve a wave will appreciate this boutique, surf-inspired hotel, named after Surfrider Beach right across the street.

Pros
  • Wonderful service

  • Modern, design-forward rooms

  • Rooftop patio with a view

Cons
  • Can be noisy

  • Rooms are on the smaller side

This Instagram-worthy 1953 motel turned modern boutique stay is all about laid-back vibes and easy beach access. With its neutral, organic aesthetic, outdoor shower, hammocks, and rooftop lounge, the property is an ode to California surf culture. Travelers can choose to rise with the sun and get out on the water or spend the morning lingering over an espresso at the Roof Deck Bar and Restaurant. The terrace eatery is open to guests only and serves up chamomile-infused hot toddies alongside live music in the evenings.

Twenty monochromatic rooms decorated with teak furniture, Bellino linens, and woven jute pendant lights are a calm respite at the end of a day in the sun. Guests won’t want to leave without popping by the boutique to snag an artisan candle, market tote, or surf-inspired book to take home with them.

Notable Amenities

  • On-site parking
  • On-site restaurant, bar, and room service
06 of 07

Best Budget: Ocean Park Inn

Ocean Park Inn

Ocean Park Inn

Why We Chose It

At the bright and cheery Ocean Park Inn, travelers can enjoy the mid-century style and ocean views without breaking the bank.

Pros
  • Great value for room and view

  • Helpful front desk staff

  • Recently updated and remodelled

Cons
  • In a busier area

  • There can be some loitering around the property

Right on the Pacific Beach boardwalk in San Diego, this hotel underwent a property-wide renovation in early 2021. Brand new suites have a streamlined, mid-century aesthetic decorated with pops of sunny yellow and mint green. Oceanview rooms come with a private patio where guests can bask in the morning sun over a coffee.

Visitors will find a heated pool and spa in the interior courtyard, but with the beach only steps away, might be tempted to opt for a day in the sand and surf instead. Bikes are also available to rent on the property, giving visitors another way to explore the boardwalk and surrounding area. In-room massages, a 24/7 concierge, and a complimentary breakfast elevate the experience. 

Notable Amenities

  • Breakfast included
  • 24/7 concierge
  • Pool
07 of 07

Best for Celeb Sightings: Shutters on the Beach

Shutters on the Beach

Shutters on the Beach

Why We Chose It

This SoCal icon is known just as well for its New England beach house style as it is for its A-List clientele.

Pros
  • Excellent service

  • On-site ONE spa

  • Multiple dining options for breakfast, lunch, and dinner

Cons
  • Busy beach location

  • Small pool area

  • Pricey

Shutters on the Beach has long been known as a people-watching mecca that also boasts sun-drenched views of the Pacific Ocean and Santa Monica Pier. Hollywood A-Listers and creatives can be spotted lounging in the poolside cabanas and on the patio. But it’s really the timeless, white-shingled, Cape Cod decor and the breezy rooms that keep travelers coming back.

The 186 guestrooms and 12 suites are outfitted with a serene, seaside color palette, with hardwood floors covered in hand-woven Tibetan rugs and sliding shuttered doors that let in the salty ocean air. Shutters designer Michael S. Smith—best known for decorating the White House for Obama—also designed the hotel’s 1 Pico restaurant where guests dine on plates of coastal California cuisine like seared day boat scallops in a light-flooded, nautical room.

Notable Amenities

  • Valet parking
  • Pool
  • On-site restaurant and café
  • Pet-friendly

Final Verdict

From laid-back hotels inspired by surf culture and cliffside ranches nestled among the redwoods to exclusive, ultra-luxe resorts, the hotels that dot the California coastline are diverse enough to delight every type of traveler. What they all have in common are views of the shimmering Pacific Ocean and a soothing, sunbaked landscape. The West Coast is calling and if you're unsure where to start, you simply can't go wrong with the iconic Post Ranch Inn.

Compare The Best California Beachfront Hotels

 Property Resort Fee  Rate  Rooms  Free WiFi
Post Ranch Inn Best Overall None  $$$$ 40  Yes
Nobu Ryokan Malibu Best Luxury None  $$$$ 16  Yes
The Ranch at Laguna Beach Best for Families $77.52 $$ 97 Yes
Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara Best for Romance None $$$ 206 Yes
The Surfrider Malibu Best for Surfers None $$ 20 Yes
Ocean Park Inn Best Budget None $ 72 Yes
Shutters on the Beach Best Celeb Sightings $34.20 $$$ 198 Yes

Methodology

We evaluated over two dozen different hotels along the California coast before choosing the best in their category. We considered various elements when making our decisions, such as the property’s reputation and quality of service, its design, location and proximity to the beach, and notable amenities (e.g. free/fast WiFi, on-site restaurants, pools, concierge services, etc.). We also considered each property’s dining options, whether there is a spa on-site, and the kinds of experiences available to guests. We evaluated countless customer reviews and considered whether the property has collected any accolades in recent years.

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