North America

8 California Beach Resorts | The Best of the Sand and the Ocean

Book a stay at one of these eight California beach resorts for the (sandy) vacation of a lifetime.

Other destinations may have sand and surf, but California has iconic beach landmarks celebrated in song and film. In fact, I can’t remember a moment of my life that didn’t involve California beaches; and although many Hollywood memes disappoint in real life, California’s golden sands never do.

I’ve walked along the wide honey beaches of San Diego licking ice cream cones and marveling over intricate, multi-story sand palaces, laughed at cavorting sea lions along the shores of La Jolla, and biked along Venice Beach alongside bodybuilding champs, swaying roller skaters, tricked up skateboarders, and speedy runners. In Santa Monica, I fell in love with my husband as the waves lapped the glittering sand in front of our chic hideaway hotel. Later, in Santa Cruz I celebrated my growing family on the beach boardwalk, reaching for the golden ring on a vintage carousel with my son as the Pacific Ocean glistened below us.

While there are plenty of ocean-view hotels in California, the properties here open directly onto the sand. That means you can start making your own sandy memories as soon as you arrive at your California beach resort.

Historic Film Star in San Diego for Modern Families


Sometimes a hotel is more than just a place to stay. For the Hotel Del Coronado, or The Del as it’s known locally, the sprawling red-turreted resort is also a historic landmark synonymous with the quiet palm-tree lined island of Coronado that it’s called home for 130 years. The family-friendly hotel is notable for its star appearance in the classic film Some Like It Hot and architecture tours loop through the lobby every day pointing out the Victorian architecture.

But make no mistake, this is a modern beach resort with sleek rooms in an ocean pallet of blues and creams. Lay out at the glass-sided pool that overlooks the sand, or stroll the beach, ice cream in hand from the in-house shop, dipping your feet in the Pacific Ocean while checking out the sandcastle building aficionados on the beach. In the evening, the Sheerwater Grill serves up local cuisine steps from the sand, including a kids menu that keeps the whole gang happy.

Hotel del Coronado, Curio Collection by Hilton

7.5 Good (2890 reviews)

Romantic Beach Hideaway in Santa Monica


Some hotels try to be everything to everyone—family, friends, groups—but few focus on hosting twosomes intent on a luxurious vacation next to the waves. That’s precisely what Hotel Casa Del Mar excels at doing.

Nestled in the sand on the Santa Monica shore, the Italian Renaissance Villa dates back to 1926 and looks like a beachside castle. When my now-husband and I were first traveling as a couple, we stayed in one of the plush king-bedded rooms that made us feel like we were in a regally-appointed beach house. Decorated in sea-glass blues and greens, we feel asleep to the sound of waves outside our windows even though we were just a few beach blocks from the bustling nightlife of Santa Monica’s Third Street Promenade.

Casa Del Mar

Top rated
Santa Monica
9.4 Excellent (1695 reviews)

Sleep to Sounds of Surf in Laguna Beach


Every room has an ocean view at the Surf and Sand Laguna Beach. That means you’ll never have the dreaded “garden view” or be left wondering just how minimal a partial view really is. Instead, when you enter your spacious, plush room, throw open the windows and you’ll hear the surf crashing on the sand just a few yards away, creating the most soothing natural sleep machine available anywhere.

The entire property is perched right on the shoreline; just wander out the door and set your toes in the sand and the hotel’s well-oiled staff will set up a chair and umbrella where you can relax under the warm California sun and enjoy their 500 feet of pristine, private white sand. Inspired to get in the water? The hotel’s “Make a Splash” package will teach you how to ride the waves in true SoCal fashion (stand-up paddleboarding options are available, too).

Surf and Sand Resort

Top rated
Laguna Beach
9.0 Excellent (2224 reviews)

Best Beach For a Family in Dana Point


The luxurious Monarch Beach Resort is in an ideal coastal location for families who want to feel the sand in their toes while also being pampered back in their expansive hotel rooms. The hotel sits on the wide sandy shore of Salt Creek Beach in Dana Point, one of Orange County’s best beaches for families with a grassy park for picnics, ideal surfing conditions, tide pools for adventuring, and a beach shop with snacks and rentals.

Off the beach, the Monarch caters to guests of all ages, with an 18-hole golf course, whale watching tours, surf lessons, shaded cabanas at the pool, and then sybaritic Miraval Life in the Balance spa.

Waldorf Astoria Monarch Beach Resort & Club

Top rated
Dana Point
9.3 Excellent (4751 reviews)

Hang Ten in Huntington Beach, Surf City USA


Just 45 minutes from the hustle and bustle of Los Angeles lies Surf City USA, better known as Huntington Beach. With 10 miles of uninterrupted beaches, Huntington Beach blends surfing’s relaxed spirit with a contemporary style which creates an ocean-side destination like nowhere else on the California coast.

Perched along the famous PCH is the Mission-style Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach Resort and Spa—the only resort in Huntington Beach with direct beach access. The premier oceanfront resort just completed an expansive enhancement project that renovated its 517 guestrooms, revamped the pool, and added new activities and amenities to take advantage of their ideal beach location. Surfing instruction and board rentals are on offer so you can ride the Pacific waves or grab a classic beach cruiser to explore the boardwalk the coastline of one of the most beautiful beaches in the world.

Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach Resort and Spa

Top rated
Huntington Beach
9.1 Excellent (2633 reviews)

Stylish Hipster Getaway on the American Riviera


Set on what’s often referred to as the “American Riviera,” the Hotel Californian is a bold new anchor of all the fresh thinking, indie attitude, and revitalized city blocks that are transforming a stretch of downtown Santa Barbara into California’s cool new spot to stay and play. Instead of stuffy old-school options, the hotel is set in the newly energized downtown where it’s near wine and craft beer tasting rooms, hip eateries, art galleries, murals, and design-forward shops.

The interior is a mix of exotic Moroccan-inspired design, touches of Hollywood glamour from its old-world Spanish Colonial Revival architecture, and modern furnishings and edgy artwork that extends from the common areas to the sleek rooms. Survey the area from the rooftop pool that comes complete with dazzling ocean, coastline, and surrounding mountain views.

Hotel Californian

Top rated
Santa Barbara
9.2 Excellent (1626 reviews)

Immerse in Romantic Relaxation in Malibu


Located along a strip of the California coast nicknamed “Billionaire’s Beach,” the luxury Malibu Beach Inn offers a complete relaxation experience. From the 47 chic rooms and suites recently remodeled by world-renowned designer Waldo Fernandez to the awe-inspiring views and magical sunsets from your private balcony overlooking the ocean, the inn offers a completely romantic, and relaxing, beach resort experience. Keep the beachfront vibes going at the open-air Carbon Beach Club restaurant for a gourmet sea-to-fork meal next to the waves or listen to the surf while being pampered at the tranquil on-site spa.

Malibu Beach Inn

Top rated
8.5 Excellent (316 reviews)

Funky Bargain Beachside in Venice Beach


Who says beachside has to equal expensive? The funky Hotel Venice on the Beach is the embodiment of Venice itself: low key, beach-ready, laid back and friendly. Clean, minimalist rooms put you right in the middle the Venice Beach action for bargain prices. (Note that you’ll have to pay a bit more for ocean views and suites, but every room comes with a complimentary continental breakfast.)

Keep the beach fun going without blowing your entire vacation savings by renting a bike or a pair of skates to explore the beach boardwalk. Or, simply lace up a pair of kicks and check out the myriad of street performers that line the route day and night. Muscle Beach, the watery Venice Canals, Rose Avenue dining and the eclectic shops of Abbot Kinney are all nearby and at your fingertips as well.

Venice on the Beach Hotel

8.4 Very good (1072 reviews)