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Planning your next beach vacation? The beauty of the Pacific coastline is hard to put into words. Luckily, these properties speak for themselves. Our picks promise dazzling design, great service, thoughtful amenities, and cinematic vistas to fuel your wanderlust. From boutique hotels to lavish resorts, these are the top spots for a seaside escape in the Golden State.
Best for Celeb Spotting: Shutters on the Beach (Santa Monica, California)
Shutters on the Beach is a Santa Monica institution with tons of star power: Famous faces like Jennifer Aniston, Zac Efron, and Eva Longoria perennially descend upon this Santa Monica icon.
There are plenty of posh extras for the Hollywood elite and honeymooners to enjoy. The sun-splashed pool deck flaunts chaise lounges and private cabanas. Guests can enjoy beach butlers, surf lessons, paddle tennis, volleyball, and yoga.
Coastal decor is another trademark. Airy interiors, breezy balconies, evoke images of elegant summers in New England and Cape Cod.
Because it’s not a true A-list escape without a little pampering, there’s also a decadent spa, whose menu includes treatments like hot stone massages and a private yoga session.
With three separate restaurants on the premises, guests can choose between dishes like fresh seafood towers, chilled white wine, and even more decadent plates like squid ink pasta.
Best Activities: Monarch Beach Resort (Dana Point, California)
If you’re the type of traveler who needs constant stimulation and isn’t satisfied with sitting idle, we highly suggest putting Monarch Beach Resort on your shortlist.
Perched on a hilltop overlooking brilliant blue waves, this Dana Point compound continues to win restless hearts for its 18-hole golf course. Of course, hitting the links is far from the only thing to do at Monarch Beach Resort, as it boasts a lengthy list of other top-notch facilities and activities: practice your swing at the tennis club, learn surf fundamentals, try playing the ukulele, or navigate the trails on a battery-operated electric bike.
In between workouts and water sports, you might even be tempted to kick back by the pool. Yet, it’s more likely you’d end up swimming laps or taking a BOGA fit board class.
If you get fatigued, head to the spa for a meditation followed by a massage. And when you eventually work up an appetite, the resort has seven different eateries, where you can get coastal California cuisine like pan-roasted scallops or more international dishes like Morrocan lamb chops.
Best Amenities: Kimpton Shorebreak Resort (Huntington Beach, California)
Seeking sun, sand, and swells? You’ll be stoked to stay at the Kimpton Shorebreak Resort—it's steps away from the Huntington Beach Pier, and the artsy haunt is swimming in surf-themed accents and chill vibes.
The resort is a hip home base that’s chic yet delightfully quirky and has just enough upscale elements to feel grown up without losing its youthful exuberance.
Adding to the awesomeness? The amenities, including fire pits for roasting s’mores, in-room record players, hosted happy hour, and table tennis, are sure to be fun for crowds of all ages.
The recently renovated 1,600-square-foot gym is equipped with cutting-edge machines like Peloton bikes. Though, you can also skip the indoor workouts in lieu of running on the boardwalk, morning yoga sessions, and tackling the outdoor climbing wall. Complimentary cruisers and surfboard rentals are also available if that’s more your speed.
The hotel's own restaurant, Pacific Hideaway, serves New Californian cuisine like charred cauliflower with turmeric and coconut, and Baja striped bass.
Best Views: The Ritz-Carlton Bacara, Santa Barbara (Santa Barbara, California)
The Ritz-Carlton Bacara, Santa Barbara is without question one of the most gorgeous oceanfront properties in Southern California. Poised on a glimmering stretch of the American Riviera, this five-star resort provides direct access to two miles of glorious shoreline and sublime views of the ocean and surrounding cliffside landscape.
Whether sitting on your balcony or sipping champagne in the Club Lounge, the beauty of the Pacific holds on and refuses to let go. With sightlines this magnificent, you could easily spend the entire day sipping in every azure drop.
Hoping to capture that picture-perfect photo to keep as a reminder of your trip? You’ll be hard-pressed to discover a scene more deserving of a frame than the sun rising over the windswept bluffs. We promise you won’t regret the early morning wakeup call!
You can enjoy the vista from the spa and fitness center, which offers state of the art workout equipment and the newest facial treatments, and from the hotel's restaurants. The Angel Oak, a traditional steakhouse where you can chow down on sirloin and New York Strip, boasts wall to wall windows that look out over the ocean.
Best for Sustainability: Terranea Resort (Rancho Palos Verdes, California)
Sprawling across 102 acres, Terranea Resort is a palatial oceanfront estate on the Palos Verdes Peninsula. The well-manicured grounds house a championship golf course, massive spa, fitness center, hiking trails, four pools, and nine separate dining venues.
Don’t miss breakfast on the patio at Catalina Kitchen, where you can get dishes like Spanish Eggs in zucchini and roasted pepper stew, and a cast-iron Dutch Baby.
While the facilities are nothing short of incredible and we love all the wellness offerings, it’s the unwavering commitment to sustainability that’s most worthy of applause. A member of Kind Traveler, an organization supporting sustainable travel, Terranea Resort demonstrates its dedication to the planet by composting, planting trees, recycling, reusing towels, and hosting coastal cleanup days.
Of course, all that eco goodness is just delectably sweet (probably organic) icing on the cake of a Pacific paradise that’s wrapped in jaw-dropping natural beauty and filled with once-in-a-lifetime ecological adventures that highlight the majesty of Southern California. After all, the centerpiece of the hotel's experience is its adventures, like its adventures on horseback, its seaside electric bike rides, and its whale watching tours, just to name a few.
Best for Wellness: Montage Laguna Beach (Laguna Beach, California)
If you believe in the healing powers of the ocean, it doesn’t get more rejuvenating than a seaside spa resort. This peaceful blufftop paradise proffers a range of activities and holistic therapies comparable to any top-tier wellness retreat. Post-flight puffiness? Book a toning facial with gua sha and a microcurrent enhancement to boost lymphatic drainage. Muscle tension? An aromatherapy massage is a stress-melting savior.
The fitness center showcases state-of-the-art cardio machines, strength-training equipment, free weights, and a lap pool. Besides indulging in pampering rituals and gym sessions, zen out with vinyasa classes at the movement studio.
Outdoorsy types can opt for endorphin-boosting hikes or something more mellow like a leisurely nature walk.
Afterward, refuel with nutritious fare from the Mosaic Bar & Grille, with plates like a grilled turkey burger with arugula and swiss cheese, and chilled tomato gazpacho with sweet corn and lemon oil.
Best Splurge: Nobu Ryokan Malibu (Malibu, California)
Many hotels walk a fine line between elevated and elitist, and very few properties are able to strike such a graceful balance as Nobu Ryokan Malibu. This luxurious 16-room hotel is a brilliant example of what happens when Japanese hospitality traditions and California soul come together.
Given its zen atmosphere and emphasis on privacy, you might assume Nobu Ryokan Malibu was tucked away on some remote spit of land that’s completely isolated, save a few celebrity mansions. On the contrary, it occupies a prime piece of Pacific Coast Highway real estate next door to locally renowned social club and restaurant, Little Beach House Malibu.
Oceanfront rooms with handcrafted teak tubs and a stellar staff-to-guest ratio level up the posh appeal. Watching the waves kiss the shore from the comfort of your sun-splashed deck is worth its weight in gold—or, at the very least—it helps justify the hefty price tag.
Plus, you wouldn't get the full experience of this Nobu hotel without an excellent dining experience, with its eponymous restaurant serving inventive dishes like Spicy Miso Chips and more classic sushi plates like Ikura and Anago.
Best for Relaxation: The Sanctuary Beach Resort (Marina, California)
Need to get away from the stresses of everyday life? Few things are more soothing than the sensation of digging your toes into the sand as cooling ocean breezes and the sounds of waves gently lapping the shore induce a sense of calm. That’s just the sort of serenity you can expect to find at The Sanctuary Beach Resort.
With its placid surroundings and intimate atmosphere, this aptly named respite is the perfect place for seaside relaxation alongside your partner. Cottages spill onto the pristine dunes, blurring the line between nature and interior, and their massive windows give a perfect view to the ocean outside.
Start the day with a picnic basket delivered straight to your door. Enjoy scenic strolls, couples massages, and sunset bonfires. Unwind with a glass of organic wine from the nearby Carmel Valley wineries or grab a cozy blanket and constellation guidebook for an evening of stargazing.
Best Heritage Stay: Hotel Casa Del Mar (Santa Monica, California)
Mediterranean grandeur meets coastal California charm at the chic Hotel Casa Del Mar. An exclusive beach club in the 1920s, this long-standing bastion of luxury is unique for its timeless elegance, enviable address, remarkable service, and sweeping views.
The punchy lobby designed by Michael S. Smith—noted for his renovation of the White House's Oval Office—displays iron-and-blown-glass light fixtures, Italian marble, and plush couches. Beautifully refurbished rooms epitomize seaside sophistication with a fresh blue-and-white color palette, hand-carved furnishings, woven area rugs, and sea-themed art.
Hotel Casa Del Mar also has an outdoor swimming pool, posh spa, and elegant ballroom (just in case you’re looking for a wedding venue). Sushi, sake, and a front-row seat to the sunset make the outdoor happy hours that much exciting. Live music in the lobby beckons guests to linger a little longer of a glass of wine or craft cocktail like Moscow Mules and tapas-style shared plates like tuna poke.
Best for Romance: Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara (Santa Barbara, California)
Love is in the air at the Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara. Hugged by the Santa Ynez Mountains on one side and the Pacific Ocean on the other, the property serves up beautiful vistas on a silver platter.
Regardless of your relationship status—dating, engaged, just married, or longtime partners—this heritage-steeped retreat is pretty much guaranteed to ignite the flames of passion. A stunning seaside perch and glimmers of Old Hollywood glamour set the stage for romance.
It’s impossible not to fall for the secluded garden bungalows featuring terraces with heated pools, and the tranquil fire pits that invite couples to soak in magical moments outside.
Bolstered by five-star service and an exceedingly helpful concierge team, the Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara makes planning a romantic getaway a breeze. Head to the award-winning spa for treatments like vibrational massages and facials, or unwind with a craft cocktail like a Butterfly Beach Mojito from the Coral Reef Bar.