The 10 Best Boutique Hotels in Southern California

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Courtesy of Rancho Valencia Resort & Spa

Southern California is the epitome of cool. Travelers flock to this sun-splashed section of the Golden State for its laid-back vibe, picture-perfect weather, and effortlessly chic style. When it comes to choosing a place to post up, you don't have to search far and wide for awesome accommodations. From sleek downtown stays to revamped roadside motels, these are the hippest SoCal hotels for your next trip to the West Coast.

Best for Surfers: Surfhouse (Encinitas, California)

Surfhouse

Surfhouse

Based on the name, can you guess the overarching theme of Surfhouse? If you said surfing, right on! Conceptualized for the adventurer with a penchant for carving (though shubies will be stoked to stay here, too), this rad hotel reflects the wave-chasing, grab-your-board-and-go culture of Encinitas.

Perched on Highway 101, a stone’s throw from the sand and swells, it puts thrills at your fingertips, err feet. Decorated with coastal colors and the works of hometown artisans, each of the eight airy units pays reverence to a different legendary local break.

Going on a buddymoon? The room known as Pipes comfortably sleeps four in custom bunk beds. Beachy interiors are complemented by outdoor showers and cabanas. Guests also have access to yoga, stand up paddleboards, and cruiser bikes. Of course, there’s no shortage of beer or burritos either. 

Best for Road Trippers: The Surfrider (Malibu, California)

The Surfrider

The Surfrider

A prime example of what’s so wonderful about the growing trend of converting roadside motels into boutique hotels, The Surfrider is an homage to old-school Americana that serves up retro realness in a totally fresh, modern way.

Set along a scenic stretch of the iconic Pacific Coast Highway, the classic motor lodge turned contemporary seaside retreat captures the essence of Malibu with its crisp linens, natural bath products, and loaner boards.

After a few days of gas station and diner grub, we’d be willing to bet you’ll appreciate the deliciously fresh food even more. Did we mention the roof deck overlooks the beach? Just another reason to linger a little longer over guacamole and ceviche. As the sun moves closer to the horizon, cheers to this magical pitstop with a spicy margarita or glass of organic wine.

Best WeHo Hideaway: Petit Ermitage (Los Angeles, California)

Petit Ermitage

Petit Ermitage

Tucked away on a side street in the most walkable part of West Hollywood, Petit Ermitage is a Moroccon-influenced refuge that’s perfectly positioned just blocks from hotspots such as Gracias Madre, Cecconi's and Urth Caffé.

The dreamy gypset hotel feels like a true bohemian hideaway that’s anything but boring. Art-clad hallways lead to eclectic suites dripping in antique furnishings, fireplaces, printed textiles, and whimsical flourishes.

The private rooftop lures an impossibly good-looking crowd with its heated saltwater pool, striped cabanas, stiff cocktails, and faux fur blankets for snuggling up on the handful of borderline brisk nights Los Angeles experiences. There’s also a hummingbird and butterfly sanctuary as well as a candle-lit Mediterranean restaurant.

For a place that’s so hip, it’s pretty miraculous that Petit Ermitage remains so blissfully unaffected and laid-back. 

Best Desert Oasis: Colony Palms (Palm Springs, California)

Colony Palms

Colony Palms

The literal embodiment of an arid playground with a leisurely pace, splendid scenery, and oodles of design cred, Palm Springs has long been the getaway of choice for Hollywood movers and shakers. Many icons of the film and music industry have sought refuge at Colony Palms over the years. (We don’t mean to name drop...but Marilyn Monroe, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Rita Hayworth used to let loose here.)

The current mosaic tile-clad iteration of the iconic property looks different, but its sunny spirit remains well-intact. Clawfoot tubs, tranquil gardens, a posh spa, and views of the San Jacinto Mountains scream desert oasis.

Need a reprieve from the scorching temps? Cool down with a refreshing cocktail in the tree-shaded courtyard, take a dip in the pool, or seek refuge from the heat entirely in the comfort of your air-conditioned room.   

Best Heritage Stay: Hotel Californian (Santa Barbara, California)

Courtesy of Hotel Californian

If history turns you on, prepare to be enticed. Hotel Californian—or at least, the redux—may have launched in late 2017, but its story begins long before.

Situated in downtown Santa Barbara, between the waterfront and what’s now lovingly referred to as the Funk Zone, the iconic property first opened its door in 1925. Following a glamorous launch party, it was nearly destroyed by the Santa Barbara earthquake eleven days later. Bigger and better, the reboot stretches three blocks while still incorporating the original Spanish Colonial Revival façade.

Martyn Lawrence Bullard-designed interiors take a more of-the-moment approach, weaving modern Moroccan influences and glamourous glimmers of nostalgia. Saturated hues, intricately painted tiles, plush fabrics, and gilded mirrors adorn the guest quarters, which range from luxurious rooms to a 1,700-square-foot presidential suite.

Best for Romance: Hotel Joaquin (Laguna Beach, California)

Hotel Joaquin

 Hotel Joaquin

Hotel Joaquin is a seaside escape with romance written all over it. Conveniently located within walking distance of downtown and a short drive to Alta Laguna Park, it’s a wonderful getaway if you’re looking for a beach trip that doesn’t entirely revolve around the waves. Couples can explore miles of hiking trails or catch some rays by the pool.

No doubt, the adults-only policy also increases the appeal of Hotel Joaquin. As there’s no denying that a lack of screaming kids makes for a more relaxed (less noisy) atmosphere. Rooms exhibit a sense of serenity with vaulted ceilings, coastal-chic accents, and record players to spin your favorite slow jams. Thoughtful touches like hand-delivered coffee service and a spritz menu also feel decidedly grown-up. 

Best for Design Lovers: Santa Monica Proper Hotel (Santa Monica, California)

Santa Monica Proper Hotel

Santa Monica Proper Hotel

Since debuting in August 2019, Santa Monica Proper Hotel has become a bonafide hotspot. Inside the 1920s Spanish Colonial Revival landmark? A contemporary vibe that flows from the gallery-like lobby lounge to the 271 luxuriously appointed rooms.

While its instant success is largely due to the Instagram-worthy design, the appeal extends well beyond its immaculately decorated spaces. In addition to impeccable aesthetics and impressive art collection, the buzzy property also boasts an ayurvedic spa, indoor-outdoor bistro, and only-in-SoCal extras like loaner surfboards, electric bikes, as well as beach bags.

Another thing that sets the Santa Monica Proper Hotel apart from its neighbors? It’s home to the only rooftop pool on the westside of Los Angeles.

Best for Celeb-Spotting: Chateau Marmont (Los Angeles, California)

Chateau Marmont

Chateau Marmont

C’mon, did you really think we were going to get through a Southern California story without mentioning the “best for celeb-spotting” category? Of all the A-list hangouts in Los Angeles, none hold a candle to 8221 Sunset Boulevard. That is, of course, the address of Chateau Marmont. The infamous den of nocturnal happenings has served as the backdrop for some of Tinseltown’s most salacious evenings.

On any given night, you might see Keanu Reeves eating dinner or the star-studded cast of the next big blockbuster flick toasting to a successful film wrap. It’s not just the restaurant and cocktail bar that has major star power. Couples with deep pockets can shack up in the same history-steeped bungalow where rocker Jim Morisson snoozed on more than one occasion. Oh, if those sound-proof walls could talk…

Best Downtown Digs: Pendry San Diego (San Diego, California)

Pendry San Diego

Pendry San Diego

For couples who want to be in the heart of the action, Pendry San Diego makes it happen. With an enviable location in the Gaslamp Quarter, it’s steps from a whole host of lively bars, restaurants, shops, beaches, and attractions.

So it should come as no surprise that this boutique gem handily wins the honor of the top basecamp in America's Finest City. Though guests don’t actually need to leave the hotel to sample tasty cuisine or partake in the nightlife scene.

Ready to unwind after a fun-filled day and night? Once you step foot in the sophisticated rooms, the chaos of the outside world fades away. Cozy up in a king bed with sumptuous linens and gaze upon glimmering skyline as soothing ocean hues induce a sense of calm.  

Best Beachfront: Nobu Ryokan Malibu (Malibu, California)

Nobu Ryokan Malibu

Nobu Ryokan Malibu

SoCal is blessed with blue skies, near-constant sunshine, and loads of premium oceanfront real estate. It’s sort of hard to believe that there aren’t that many hotels directly on the sand. (We’re not counting places across the street from the beach.) For a seaside getaway with tons of luxury and serenity, Nobu Ryokan Malibu is in a league of its own.

A contemporary twist on a traditional Japanese inn, this exclusive respite delivers a major dose of zen and a spectacular oceanfront setting that you won’t get anywhere else. Having just 16 rooms heightens the intimacy of it all. And that just adds to the cache. Sure, it’s a splurge. But can you really put a price on teak soaking tubs, fireplaces, and private decks? How about staying inches from the waves? Yeah, we didn't think so.

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