California Beach Resorts

Guide to Finding the Best California Beach Resorts

Montage Laguna Beach
••• Montage Laguna Beach. Steve Proehl / Getty Images

If you're looking for California beach resorts, you need the skills of the famed Mr. Holmes to find them. Why is it so hard, you may be thinking. Here's why: 

All too often, a hotel calls their property a "resort" when it has no amenities. And places with the merest glimpse of the ocean stick the word "beach" into their names.

You could try to sort through all the so-called resorts to find the real ones yourself. And then try to weed out the places that are so far from the beach that a grain of sand never makes it in the door. But all of that could add to the stress you're trying to escape.

Fortunately, I did all that work for you.

The dictionary says a resort is: "a place providing recreation and entertainment especially to vacationers." I go further. I say it's not a beach resort unless it's on the beach. Not across the street or somewhere with an ocean view, but right on the beach. 

About the California Beach Resorts

These California beach resorts are either on the beach or so close you can almost get sand in your shoes just by looking out the window. To get into this guide, they also have to be more than just fancy hotels. They have a spa, pool, recreation, and dining on the premises. They may be surrounded by beautiful, landscaped grounds and might even have a golf course.

And that's not all. After you figure out which places are truly beach resorts, you still have to decide whether you'll like them. Again, you'll have no worries here. All of the recommended hotels meet strict standards and are well-rated by their guests.

Places with all the amenities to get on this list of California beach resorts aren't cheap, but this might help. All of the links below will take you to Tripadvisor, where you can read reviews, see guest photos and compare prices.

California Beach Resorts in San Diego County

In the City of San Diego: There are quite a few beach resorts in San Diego, Coronado and on Mission Bay. Sadly none of them made it through the strict screening process described above.  Several are on the beach and have the required amenities, but they don't pass the test for guest reviews. If you're looking for an excellent beach resort in Southern California, head north to Carlsbad or up to Orange County instead.

In Carlsbad, the Seapointe Resort has a gorgeous, half-moon-shaped swimming pool and a beach to squiggle your toes in. People who stay there praise the friendly staff and rave about the view.

California Beach Resorts in Orange County

In Dana Point, the Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel ​is luxury to the max. It sits in a beautiful spot and overlooks a beach with easy access.

In Laguna Beach, you can find lots of resorts on the beach. Laguna Riviera Resort on the BeachSurf and Sand Resort, and the Montage Resort and Spa are all good choices.

In Newport Beach, try the Balboa Bay Resort. It's not on the ocean but instead faces the harbor, which protects the beach from big waves.

In Huntington Beach, the resorts are nice, but you have to cross a busy, four-lane, divided highway to get to the sand. That means none of them made it into this guide.

California Beach Resorts from Los Angeles to Santa Barbara

You can't beat Shutters on the Beach in Santa Monica for oceanfront luxury.

Further north in Santa Barbara, try the Four Seasons Resort the Biltmore, a classic property that has epitomized luxury for years.

California Beach Resorts on the Central and Northern Coast

San Francisco has few beaches and no resorts, but you'll find a few nice places north and south of the city.

The best of them are the SeaVenture in Pismo Beach. The Ritz Carlton Half Moon Bay has a golf course, and Sunday brunches in their dining room are quite popular as well. North of San Francisco, try the Bodega Bay Lodge & Spa.