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The Golden State is home to plenty of beautiful beaches, with wide expanses of powdery sands in Southern California and more rugged stretches with huge crashing waves up north. While you’re likely to find plenty of hotels with “beach” in their name, true beachfront hotels aren’t all that common in California. We’ve put together a list of some of the best to make it easy for you to put together a dream beach vacation in the state where you can enjoy the sights and sounds from your room or just steps away.
Post Ranch Inn, Big Sur
Post Ranch Inn is arguably the most luxurious property in California. Nestled on the cliffs in Big Sur along the central part of the coast high atop a ridge overlooking the Pacific, the 39-room adult-only inn features spacious, eco-friendly rooms with ocean or mountain views, many with floor-to-ceiling windows to showcase them. Book a Pacific Suite and you’ll enjoy ocean views from every vantage point while still unseen by other guests. Rooms also include tubs big enough for two, wood-burning fireplaces, radiant floor heating, hot tubs or outdoor showers and private decks. There are no TVs or alarm clocks, resulting in an especially tranquil atmosphere. Enjoy relaxing in the award-winning spa and dining at the exclusive Sierra Mar, as well as swimming in the clifftop pools and fabulous stargazing.
Shutters on the Beach, Santa Monica
One of the best beachfront hotels in the U.S., Shutters on the Beach offers historic elegance along with high-end amenities right on the sands of Santa Monica. It recalls the traditional architecture of the nation’s top resorts and cottages along the coast during the 1920s and ‘30s. It opens onto the beach promenade, where there are multiple shops, restaurants, and bars, while the famous Santa Monica Pier and its amusement park are just a short walk away.
Ritz-Carlton Half Moon Bay, Half Moon Bay
The romantic Ritz-Carlton Half Moon Bay offers everything you’d expect from a glitzy Ritz-Carlton perched on a cliff that overlooks the Pacific Ocean. Look forward to stunning bay views, impressive rooms and an expansive spa. On chillier days, warm up next to one of the fire pits that face the ocean. Guests also have access to on-property championship golf courses, a golf pro shop and dedicated golf concierge, a fitness center with an indoor heated pool, and six lighted tennis courts. Spacious rooms include elegant marble bathrooms and comfy beds with goose-down comforters and plush terry robes.
Terranea Resort, Rancho Palos Verdes
One of the top spa resorts in Southern California, the Terranea sits along one of the most scenic stretches of coastline in the area. One of the few true mega-resorts here, there are spacious rooms and a wide range of features that not only include a world-class spa but also multiple restaurants, three pools, nine holes of golf, and beautifully-manicured grounds, not to mention the panoramic ocean views.
Ritz-Carlton Bacara Resort, Santa Barbara
The Ritz Carlton Bacara Resort & Spa is a Mediterranean-inspired resort with private balconies in every suite overlooking the waves along with a 42,000-square-foot spa. A true relaxation, it offers some 60 treatment options as well as an adults-only pool, a redwood sauna, and a eucalyptus steam room. Take relaxation up a notch by sampling wines in the Foley Wine Tasting room, or take advantage of personalized concierge service to reserve tastings, cooking classes, and wine outings. There are multiple dining options, from casual to the upscale Angel Oak, a traditional steakhouse with ocean views.
Inn at Spanish Bay, Pebble Beach
The Inn at Spanish Bay is part of Pebble Beach Resorts, catering primarily to luxury travelers and avid golfing enthusiasts. Many of the spacious rooms face the ocean, and some include fireplaces, Italian marble baths, and balconies. There are multiple dining options throughout the Pebble Beach complex, with Roy’s and Pèppoli two of the favorites. Guests can also enjoy strolling the seaside boardwalk, relaxing by the fire pits, and listening to the sounds of the inn’s famous bagpiper.
Malibu Beach Inn, Malibu
Just off the Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu, the Malibu Beach Inn offers rooms with private beachfront access, including sliding glass doors that open to the sounds of the crashing waves, ideal for a peaceful night’s sleep. They also feature fireplaces, hand-picked California wines, custom robes, luxury bath products, iPads, and more. At this top-rated Southern California resort, guests can also enjoy spa services, yoga on the beach, and upscale coastal cuisine at the Carbon Beach Club with ocean views.
Dream Inn, Santa Cruz
The Dream Inn enjoys one of the top, if not the top location in all of Santa Cruz, located just steps from the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk on the most popular beachfront in the area. All of its rooms face the Pacific and include private balconies for falling asleep to the peaceful sounds of the waves. Enjoy swimming in the ocean and the beachfront swimming pool, paddle boarding, kayaking, and other activities out on the saltwater, and dining at the Jack O’Neill Restaurant & Lounge. Rooms have bright, retro-chic beach decor and amenities like flat-screen TVs, iPod docks and rain showers.
L'Auberge Carmel, Carmel
The L’Auberge Carmel is located in one of the most beautiful beach towns, home to multiple wine-tasting venues, romantic eateries, and high-end shops. A European inn, it provides unparalleled service and luxurious accommodations with rooms that include deep soaking tubs, heated floors, and antique touches. Guests also enjoy an extensive complimentary breakfast. The Aubergine restaurant offers tasting menu dinners that are worth the splurge.
Little River Inn, Little River
The Little River Inn is located at the oceanfront along the Mendocino coast north of San Francisco, surrounded by beautifully landscaped gardens. In business since 1939, its rooms are decked out with beautiful Victorian decor, some of which include stunning ocean views, Jacuzzi tubs, and fireplaces. Its award-winning onsite restaurant offers more beautiful water vistas along with a creative menu of classic American-regional fare. Guests can indulge in treatments and massages at the onsite spa as well as golf, hiking, tennis, and beachcombing.