California and the beach go together like milk and cookies. Sand and sunshine epitomize the state’s outdoorsy lifestyle, and one of the best ways to soak in the majesty of the Pacific is to book a hotel on the beach in California –a place where you’ll get to wake up to ocean views and watch the sun set over the ocean.
From Southern California to remote Mendocino County, California’s Pacific Coast is lined with beautiful beaches, wild coastline, and picture-perfect beach hotels. So pack the flip-flops, slather on the sunscreen, and get ready to stay so close to the water you’ll fall asleep to the sound of the waves. These are the best beachfront hotels in California.
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Palos Verdes, California
Located on the Palos Verdes Peninsula just a few dozen miles from urban Los Angeles, Terranea is blissfully devoid of traffic jams and crowds. If you crave coastal bluffs, serene coves, and invigorating hiking trails, consider this your sandy slice of heaven. The accommodations are upscale and range from hotel rooms to villas and private casitas.
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The main pool here has a 140-foot water slide, splash pad, and poolside games. Terranea’s eateries range from haute cuisine to juice bar fare. At this California beach hotel, you can watch fishermen reel in their catch, gaze out to Catalina Island, walk to the lighthouse, or paddle a sea kayak as you spot indigenous plants and marine life. The resort also has a falconry program, archery, and golf.
2. Dream Inn
Santa Cruz, California
Santa Cruz is a great stop with kids. It’s home to the legendary Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk plus miles of beaches perfect for playing and surfing. And with UC Santa Cruz just up the hill from the beach, it’s got a beach-town-meets-college-town vibe packed with educational and fun stops like the Seymour Marine Discovery Center. There are a lot of hotels in Santa Cruz, but for families craving easy access to the beach, none are more perfect than the Dream Inn.
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The hotel is on Cowell Beach a short walk from the Boardwalk and the pier, and goes all in on the beach vibe with surf-themed guest rooms and ocean-view balconies. The beachfront pool deck has a hot tub and a poolside bar. And there are beach cruiser bikes you can borrow for pedaling around town.
3. Rosewood Miramar Beach
Santa Barbara, California
The famously beautiful coastal paradise known as the American Riviera, Santa Barbara is great for families with attractions including a zoo, natural history museum, and the interactive Moxi, the Wolf Museum of Exploration and Innovation. Just next door to bustling Santa Barbara sits the ultra-upscale town of Montecito, home to the beautiful, luxurious, and surprisingly family-friendly Rosewood Miramar Beach.
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The hotel sits on one of the most pristine beaches in the region, and offers guests swimming, kayaking, and stand-up paddleboarding, plus chairs, umbrellas, water sports equipment, and beach butler service. In summer, Rosewood Miramar Beach has a whole range of complimentary kids activities including beachside art classes and tie dye, a kids’ beach bootcamp, evening s’mores, movie nights, and an ice cream sundae decorating class. There’s also a Beach Activities Coordinator who oversees sand castle building, paddleboard lessons, and other beachside fun,
4. Little River Inn
With redwoods and rugged cliffs overlooking the windswept Pacific, Northern California’s remote Mendocino County is an immersion into wild Coastal California. No visit to this beautiful place is complete without experiencing the fragrant floral fantasy at the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens or riding the Skunk Train through old-growth redwood groves.
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Owned by the same family for five generations, charming Little River Inn has ocean-view rooms with cozy fireplaces and terraces. Tennis courts and a 9-hole golf course sweeten the deal. A short trail leads to Van Damme State Beach Park, where you can explore tide pools and watch the waves crash, or follow the trail to Van Damme State Park and hike in the unique pygmy forest. Dinner on the garden patio is a treat, as is breakfast delivered to your room, particularly if you order Swedish hotcakes made from an old family recipe (which you should absolutely do because they’re delicious).
5. Fairmont Miramar Hotel and Bungalows
Santa Monica, California
LA’ s Santa Monica is famous for its miles of beach, coastal path, and pier featuring a solar-powered Ferris wheel. It’s also close to the rest of Los Angeles’ attractions, so it’s a great home base that just happens to be close to the ocean. Situated on five expansive acres overlooking the Pacific, surrounded by lush gardens and immense trees, the Fairmont Miramar Hotel and Bungalows has lots of old Hollywood charm plus great beach views.
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The luxurious accommodations are loaded with creature comforts, and private bungalows offer extra space and seclusion steps from the shore. The swimming pool is a winner, with seasonal poolside movie screenings. And the hotel’s Miramar Beach Club has boogie boards and sand pails for the kids.
6. Shore Cliff Hotel
Pismo Beach, California
A Central California seaside classic, Pismo Beach is anchored by a long pier that offers great views of surfers and fishermen. If you’re visiting with kids, don’t miss the Whale Surfing Playground, which has a slide that leads down to the sandy beach below.
The Shore Cliff Hotel sits dramatically above the Pacific Ocean. This dog-friendly hotel with a beach-bum vibe features oceanfront tennis and bocce ball courts, complimentary grab-and-go breakfast, in-room binoculars for marine-life viewing and the largest heated oceanfront pool and hot tub in town. Each of the 100 rooms has a private patio or balcony; sleep with the door ajar and the sounds of the sea will be your lullaby.
7. Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach Resort and Spa
Huntington Beach, California
Home to a famously long stretch of Orange County coastline, Huntington Beach is a wonderland for families looking to spend days building sand castles and jumping waves. Known as Surf City, its reliable break makes it popular with surfers; the Huntington Beach Surfing Museum is a fun way to explore this sport without getting wet. At twilight, have a beach bonfire at one of 500 beach fire pits available free of charge on a first-come, first-serve basis.
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The Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach Resort and Spa is a large, contemporary property with stylish rooms and suites, a swimming pool with waterslides, and onsite bike rentals to pedal the shorefront path. The beach concierge can set you up with chairs, towels, and sand toys. If all this doesn’t strike your fancy, here’s something that might: The resort’s free seasonal shuttle to Disneyland makes spending a day at the Happiest Place on Earth a breeze.
Pacific Grove, California
The Monterey Peninsula is the perfect place to enjoy California’s coastal nature, with miles of restored dune ecosystems and dense groves of towering redwood trees. Within the protected beachfront land at Asilomar State Beach sits Asilomar, an Arts & Crafts era hotel and conference center designed in the early 20th century by California architect Julia Morgan.
The hotel boardwalk leads to miles of coastal trails and tranquil beaches. Complimentary ranger-led tours educate guests about native plants and abundant wildlife that have adapted to the mild climate and sandy soil. After a day of beach combing, relax on the welcoming rocking chairs in front of the massive stone fireplace, swim in the outdoor pool, and enjoy s’mores by the fire. Guest rooms are restored but still have plenty of original charm including hardwood floors and rustic furnishings; they are purposely void of modern distractions such as televisions, telephones and Wi-Fi.
Bonus: HI Pigeon Point Lighthouse Hostel
A row of little cottages perched on the bluff next to the historic Pigeon Point Lighthouse, the Pigeon Point Lighthouse Hostel is definitely a hostel, not a hotel. But the truly exceptional surroundings and the comfortable (if rustic) accommodations makes it an honorable mention for this list. Rooms are shared, but if you’re traveling with a larger family, you can take over an entire bunk room or even have a whole house to yourself. Each house has a full kitchen and living room, and there’s a hot tub at the edge of a bluff that is a dream location for whale watching.
There’s a beach on one side of the hostel and a cliff where, at the bottom, you can often spot elephant seals lounging in the sun. This hostel puts you an easy drive away from Ano Nuevo State Park, where in the winter months you can go for guided elephant seal-watching walks.
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