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San Diego is a true beach lover’s paradise. With its surfer-chic ambiance, friendly locals, sparkling stretches of bright white sand, and year-round sunshine, this lively coastal city is the perfect place to be if you love nothing more than lounging oceanside and frolicking in the waves. There are dozens of great places to stay in San Diego, so choosing where to bed down can be headache-inducing. Here, we've done the work for you, widdling down San Diego's myriad options to just a handful of the best beach hotels out there now.
Best Overall: Pacific Terrace Hotel
Nestled at the north end of San Diego's shimmering Pacific coast, the peaceful, blufftop Pacific Terrace Hotel is tucked away from the rest of the bustling coastline (though it’s still plenty near popular restaurants, cafes, and shops). The views are expansive and the vibes are mellow; this is laid-back, beach-centric lodging at its finest. Guests at the Pacific Terrace can indulge in a seaside massage, rent bikes to ride along the Pacific Beach Boardwalk, swim in the glass-walled pool, or stroll along the strip of sand that’s just a few feet outside your front door. The daily resort fee includes an array of amenities and services, including free Wi-Fi, discounted attraction tickets, rental of beach chairs and boogie boards, and discount coupons for spa treatments, drinks, and souvenirs from the gift shop. Guestrooms are spacious and gorgeously decorated with gleaming wood furniture, plush fabrics, and beachy wall hangings; all rooms have a private patio or balcony, flat-screen TV, fridge, bathrobes, and Tommy Bahama bath products.
Best Budget: Surfer Beach Hotel
If you’d prefer to stay on the beach — but at half the cost of other hotels in the area — look no further than the Surfer Beach Hotel. This budget-friendly stay is located right on the boardwalk, and it’s lauded as San Diego's premier affordable option when it comes to beachfront lodging. Casual and comfy, Surfer Beach has plenty of amenities, from a heated outdoor pool (right next to an outdoor terrace and fire pit) to conveniences like laundry service and on-site parking. Standard rooms are simple, sparkling clean, and perfectly cushy, but guests can also opt to stay in one of several oceanfront suites which feature private balconies. In addition to the sand, Surfer Beach is close to a smattering of local attractions and restaurants, including Amplified Ale House Kitchen and Beer Garden, Woody’s Breakfast & Burgers, and Belmont Park, a historic amusement park in Mission Beach.
Best Boutique: Crystal Pier Hotel
The Crystal Pier Hotel isn’t just a beautiful boutique hotel (though it is certainly that) — it’s also one of the most unique hotels in the city, as it’s built entirely on top of Pacific Beach's pier. Originally constructed in 1930, Crystal Pier is home to a collection of adorable, historic cottages which run the gamut, size-wise. Options include a studio, one-bedroom, two-bedroom, and a sprawling suite that sleeps six. No matter which cottage you opt for, each boasts a private deck overlooking the beach as well as a kitchenette, a separate living area, and one private parking space. The decor is cozy and nautical themed, with whimsical ocean artwork and bright white shiplap walls. There’s plenty to do at the pier, which is open to the public all day and is a popular spot for strolling, fishing, and watching surfers. In terms of boutique hotels, the Crystal Pier Hotel ranks #1—just note that, due to the hotel’s popularity, stays start at a three-night minimum during summer and a two-night minimum during winter.
Best for Families: Hotel del Coronado
The most beloved hotel in San Diego is also the best oceanfront lodging pick for families. Hotel del Coronado is brimming with history and charm, as well as a host of family-friendly amenities and kid-centric activities. With its iconic red-tiled roofs and glamorous Victorian-style facade, the “Del” (as locals call it) is instantly recognizable — in fact, the hotel has been the backdrop for several films and has hosted a plethora of politicians, celebrities, and other notable figures over the years. Families love coming here as the Del caters so well to children. There’s a V.I.K. (Very Important Kid) Program for children ages 5 to 12, a teenager-only lounge, hotel scavenger hunts, surf lessons, and kid-friendly meals; plus, the sandy strip behind the hotel regularly tops lists of the country’s best family-friendly beaches. Guests can choose from 679 recently remodeled rooms and suites, each which come equipped with all the essentials traveling families may need.
Best for Romance: Pier South Resort
Lovebird travelers will adore the Pier South Resort, a coastal enclave set in Imperial Beach, just a short walk away from the buzzing pier and a pristine strip of beach. This opulent, eco-friendly resort features a variety of amenities for couples to take advantage of, including a full-scale spa, a small yet well-furnished gym, and a beachfront pool area complete with a sizeable hot tub and plush chaise longues. Plus, the Cohn Restaurant Group (a collection of popular local restaurateurs) own and operate the on-site restaurant, SEA180, which has one of the best views in town and delicious local seafood to boot (not to mention an excellent happy hour). Accommodations at the Pier South Resort are lovely and laid-back; if you’re in the mood to splurge, book an oceanfront king suite to enjoy panoramic Pacific views right outside your window. In-room amenities include a coffee and tea maker, iron and ironing board, premium TV channels, free Wi-Fi, clock radio, bathrobes, and more.
Best for Luxury: L’Auberge Del Mar
Craving a five-star luxury experience right on the beach? L’Auberge del Mar has you covered. This upscale, ocean-inspired wellness resort and spa has everything you could ever hope for in a luxury hotel, including gourmet restaurants, a palatial pool, private walking paths to the beach, tennis courts, and sweeping views of the glimmering Pacific. Plus, there are numerous activities and attractions within walking distance, including exclusive golf courses, scenic hiking trails, and several art galleries, shops, and world-class restaurants. Of course, you may never want to leave the resort itself: L’Auberge del Mar is sheer elegance and the perfect place to retreat to for a weekend. All 121 guestrooms are decked out with sophisticated design flourishes and first-rate amenities such as marble bathrooms, private patios and balconies, and sleek bedding. For the dreamiest evening imaginable, book a seaweed facial and a relaxing massage at the on-site spa, then enjoy a handcrafted cocktail at the hotel restaurant, Coastline, as the sun sets over the ocean in a pinkish-orange haze.
Best for Nightlife: Tower23 Hotel
For prime people-watching and proximity to the best beachfront nightlife in San Diego, Tower23 Hotel is the ideal lodging choice. In addition to being close to a throng of bars and live entertainment (as well as downtown San Diego and La Jolla), this uber-chic hotel has a bit of a party vibe itself. Billed as San Diego’s only “luxury, lifestyle hotel on the beach,” Tower23 boasts top-of-the-line amenities and fun activities, including a rejuvenating spa and weekly events that range from yoga classes to Sunday champagne brunches on the beach. The onsite restaurant, JRDN, has a one-of-a-kind atmosphere — every evening, the setting sun is reflected on a 70-foot “wave wall” at the back of the restaurant — and extremely tasty fare is available for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Most rooms have a private patio and full views of the tower deck and ocean, as well as cutting-edge features including electronic “Do Not Disturb” signs and chromotherapy baths. For the hip, ready-to-party traveler, Tower23 is the place to be.
Best for Business: Hilton San Diego Bayfront
Beach-loving travelers looking for the perfect business hotel in San Diego should look no further than the Hilton San Diego Bayfront. For one thing, this Hilton’s location is unbeatable: It’s right on the beach, and within walking distance of the Convention Center, the Gaslamp Quarter, Petco Park, and other exciting attractions and restaurants — as well as a trolly station, which makes getting around ultra-convenient. This AAA Four-Diamond Hotel boasts stellar views of the bay and the glittering city skyline, as well as a wide array of business-friendly amenities and services, including a fully equipped business center, UPS store, AV equipment rentals, and several meeting rooms. During their stay, guests can dine at one of six eateries, soak in a heated saltwater pool while gazing out at the ocean, work out at a state-of-the-art fitness center, and indulge in a spa treatment or two. Artisanal cocktails are served in the lobby bar, and you can even check out iPads from the front desk. Rooms are comfy, clean, and spacious, and amenities include a large work desk, HDTV, and Wi-Fi.
Best B&B: Scripps Inn
Charming and intimate, the Scripps Inn is nestled on a scenic strip of sand on La Jolla’s Whale Watch Point (yes, you will more than likely see whales and sea lions), just a short walk away from La Jolla’s Children’s Pool Beach and several local restaurants, shops, and cultural attractions. This beloved 14-room B&B offers stunning views of the water, and ocean-inspired decor is just the cherry on top. Every room at Scripps is decorated in soothing, pacific-blue and cream tones, and comes outfitted with a private balcony or lanai, flat-screen TV, Keurig coffee maker, and other essentials. Some rooms have panoramic views of the ocean, while others have a kitchenette and fireplace. The hotel serves a complimentary continental breakfast and has free boogie board rentals and beach toys available for use. Though there isn’t a pool, the beach is a mere few steps away. The Scripps Inn has won an arsenal of awards, including the TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence.
Our writers spent 6 hours researching the most popular beach hotels in San Diego. Before making their final recommendations, they considered 30 different hotels and read over 50 user reviews (both positive and negative). All of this research adds up to recommendations you can trust.