Here is Pacific Coast Highway Travel’s pick of the best California beach hotels including beach hotels in Santa Monica, Santa Barbara, and Malibu.
Unlike some recommendations we’ve seen, these California hotels are right on the beach. We’ve seen lists supposedly of the best California beach hotels that include hotels that are a few minutes’ drive from the beach. This is not ‘on the beach’!
If a hotel is on top of a cliff with no direct beach access it is not ‘on the beach’. If you’re on a clifftop that’s 1200 feet high, you are definitely not ‘on the beach’. Imagine the walk back up again! One list we saw included a hotel that overlooked San Diego harbor, which doesn’t have a beach! A few blocks from the beach is not ‘on the beach’!
Sorry for all the exclamation points, but it’s maddening when you see people handing out inaccurate information. Especially when it isn’t hard to find California hotels that actually are on the beach.
So, rest assured. We have done our homework and these California beach hotels really are beach hotels. You either walk out of them right onto the beach, or they’re facing the beach and you have to cross the street to get there. Sometimes that street is the Pacific Coast Highway itself, but when the highway goes through beach towns, it’s very easy to walk across.
So here are some of the best California beach hotels, listed alphabetically by location.
Pavilion Hotel, Avalon
If you want to get away from the city, take the Catalina Express to Santa Catalina Island. There are eight boats which serve several towns along the southern California coast. Only a few thousand people live on the island, and Avalon is the main town. The island has featured in many movies and it has always been a favorite retreat for movie stars. The Pavilion is a modest 3-star hotel but has resort facilities. How far is it from the beach? The hotel’s counted and it’s 14 steps!
Beach Terrace Inn, Carlsbad
This family-run hotel has been in business since the 1960s and gets many repeat bookings from guests. It sits right on a private beach and complimentary breakfasts are served on the terrace that overlooks the beach. There’s also free parking, and if you want to visit LEGOLAND then it’s just a 10-minute drive. It has its own pool, and see if you can get a room with an ocean view.
The Beach House, Half Moon Bay
The Beach House has 54 suites and stands between the beach and the Pacific Coast Highway. It’s only a 30-minute drive south from San Francisco Airport, so within about an hour of landing you could be strolling on the sand or have your feet up on your balcony enjoying a drink and a view of the Pacific Ocean. Three-quarters of the spacious suites have ocean views. There’s a spa, and guests enjoy a free breakfast, free parking, and free use of the fitness center.
The Beach House, Hermosa Beach
The only thing that stands between the Beach House and the beach is part of a 22-mile paved bike trail. It’s an upscale hotel that’s only a 20-minute drive from Los Angeles International Airport. There are 96 studio suites which have over 400 square feet of living space and they all have a balcony or a patio, though not all have ocean views, so check when booking. Free breakfast, free Wi-Fi, and free parking are among the perks.
Pasea Hotel and Spa, Huntington Beach
The Pasea Hotel in Huntington Beach is right on the Pacific Coast Highway, and across from the beach. It’s a stylish and modern hotel with many amenities, including a spa, a restaurant with ocean views, a café, and a rooftop patio with a bar and lounge area. There’s a Happy Hour Monday-Thursday and live music at weekends. Accommodation is split between rooms and suites, the ultimate being the huge Penthouse Suite which has 1,900 square feet and two balconies offering 180-degree ocean views.
Surf & Sand Resort, Laguna Beach
This resort in Laguna Beach stands right on its own stretch of beach, between the ocean and the Pacific Coast Highway. This means great views all around from the rooms, and there’s also a pool with ocean views. Amenities include a spa, gym, restaurant/bar also with ocean views, and a cocktail lounge. There’s a wide choice of rooms and suites available so there should be something to suit every budget.
Malibu Beach Inn, Malibu
This chic Malibu inn is tucked between the beach and the Pacific Coast Highway. The mix of 47 suites and rooms all have private balconies, free Wi-Fi, and an in-room choice of Californian wines. All rooms overlook Carbon Beach. There’s also a spa, fitness center, and a stylish restaurant serving contemporary American cuisine.
Nobu Rayokan, Malibu
This upscale hotel stands between Carbon Beach and the Pacific Coast Highway on a stretch of coast that’s been nicknamed Billionaire’s Beach. The rooms are designed in a calming zen-like style, and the whole hotel is Asian-inspired and has direct beach access. There is a nearby Nobu restaurant serving their trademark Japanese fusion cuisine.
The Inn at Spanish Bay, Pebble Beach
The Inn at Spanish Bay is an upmarket golf resort which is located on the beautiful 17-Mile Drive between Monterey and Carmel. Some rooms have views of the surrounding pine forest and landscaped grounds, and others of the Pacific Ocean. There’s an 18-hole golf course, outdoor pool, tennis courts, and a fitness center, as well as several dining options.
The Ritz-Carlton Bacara, Santa Barbara
This upscale resort is about a 15-minute drive from downtown Santa Barbara and stands in-between the beach and the Pacific Coast Highway. All rooms and suites have private balconies or patios, though not all have ocean views so if you want one, check when booking. There’s a gym, spa, tennis courts, two pools with ocean views, and six restaurants including Angel Oak, which has ocean views.
Dream Inn, Santa Cruz
The Dream Inn is in a dream of a spot overlooking the beach in the heart of Santa Cruz, a few minutes’ walk from the Municipal Wharf. It’s a modern hotel but with a retro feel to it, a little like Santa Cruz itself with its boardwalk and fairground rides. There’s a mix of rooms and suites, most with ocean views. Amenities include a restaurant, also with ocean views, and an outdoor pool. In summer there’s a live music series which has featured stars like Los Lobos and Larkin Poe.
TOWER23 Hotel, San Diego
TOWER23 is across the street from steps that lead down to the beach, right next to Crystal Pier. It’s a 15-minute drive to downtown San Diego while La Jolla is only ten minutes away. The rooms and suites are stylishly decorated and have either balconies or patios, though not all have views of the ocean. Amenities include a rooftop lounge with fire pits, and the JRDN restaurant.
Casa del Mar, Santa Monica
This historic and luxury hotel stands across from the beach on Ocean Way in Santa Monica. There are both rooms and suites, and some have ocean views. There’s a modern American seafood restaurant, also with ocean views, and an Italian beachside restaurant too. There’s also a pool, a spa, and a bar with nightly live music.
Shutters on the Beach, Santa Monica
This is undoubtedly one of the best California beach hotels, directly across from Santa Monica State Beach and a few minutes’ walk from Santa Monica Pier. Most rooms have balconies and some have sea views, so if you want one you should specify when booking. If you don’t feel like the beach then there’s an outdoor pool to swim in or lounge around, plus a spa, a fitness center, a restaurant, and a beachfront café/bar.
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