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14 Top-Rated Beach Resorts in California

Written by Freddy Sherman and Carri Wilbanks

With more than 800 miles of coastline along the Pacific Ocean, California is home to a wonderfully wide range of beach resorts. There are secluded resorts on rugged, raw stretches of beach, like the Bodega Bay Lodge in Sonoma County, and lively, luxury beachfront options, like Santa Monica's Casa del Mar. These resorts appeal to all kinds of travelers, but couples in search of romance may like the luxury of the Monarch Beach Resort in Orange County and its decadent spa and fine dining, while families will love the Terranea Resort, which is perched high on a cliff overlooking the sea in Palos Verdes near Los Angeles and offers a number of kid-focused amenities, including an educational activity program.

California's beach resorts also fit a variety of travel budgets, with luxurious grand resorts, like the Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara, and more reasonably priced properties, like the La Jolla Tennis Club & Spa outside San Diego in the trendy beach enclave of La Jolla. Find the best place to stay near the sand and sea with our list of the top beach resorts in California.

1. Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara

Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara

Photo Source: Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara

This lavish beachfront resort (it's across the street from the beach) sits on 22 acres of beautiful grounds in Santa Barbara. It's about 100 miles north of Los Angeles and offers every luxury amenity one could want. There are two main restaurants at the resort: Bella Vista, an organic, Italian option, and Tydes, with a seafood menu. There's also a lobby lounge with an outdoor, oceanview terrace. Rooms, suites, and individual bungalows are very luxurious with a California Mission-inspired style and design. The hotel has its own beach club, located across the street. Here, guests have additional dining options, a large seaside pool, and a private beach section with chairs, umbrellas, and daybeds.

Accommodation: Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara

2. Montage Laguna Beach

Montage Laguna Beach

Photo Source: Montage Laguna Beach

Every room at the gorgeous Montage Laguna Beach faces the sea. Overlooking the Pacific Ocean, the art-focused Montage Laguna Beach is a luxury property that has a wonderful locale atop a 50-foot bluff in posh Laguna Beach. There are 248 spacious rooms and suites here, and every one of them faces the sea and comes bedecked with local artwork on the walls, as well as feathertop beds and marble baths. There are also options to stay in beautiful beach bungalows with similarly posh decor. On-site amenities include a 20,000-square-foot spa with a dry redwood sauna and eucalyptus steam room, an outdoor swimming pool with private cabanas, a hot tub, and a kid's play area. Choose from three on-site restaurants, including one that does modern French fare with lovely ocean views.

Accommodation: Montage Laguna Beach

3. Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa

Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa

Photo Source: Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa

The Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa looks out over Monterey Bay and is just a block from the town's famed Cannery Row. It is also within easy walking distance of Fisherman's Wharf and the Monterey Bay Aquarium. The rooms and suites are large, clean, and comfortable with elegant decor and modern amenities like flat-screen TVs and free Wi-Fi. The best suites come with Jacuzzi tubs and fireplaces along with ocean views, patios, and separate living spaces. On-site amenities include a few different dining options - one restaurant does seafood on a lovely outdoor patio, another features lighter far and regular live music. There is also access to the beach, a complimentary car service for in-town trips, loaner bikes, and a spa with a rooftop sundeck and workout room.

Accommodation: Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa

4. The Resort at Pelican Hill

The Resort at Pelican Hill

Photo Source: The Resort at Pelican Hill

The Resort at Pelican Hill sits on the bluffs overlooking the sea in chic Newport Beach in Orange County. The luxury property sits on 504 acres and features beautiful rooms and suites, many of which come with ocean views, but on the downside it is a quite a hike (or a short drive) to actually reach the beach at Crystal Cove State Park. That said, the hotel does offer a luxury van shuttle between the two, which operates hourly during daylight hours. The beach here is lovely and there is even a small historic district with some restaurants and boutiques to explore. The hotel even provides guests with beach chairs and umbrellas. Back on resort grounds, amenities include a number of swimming pools, including one that is round and features more than a million hand-set glass mosaic tiles on its floor. There is also live music nightly and several restaurants to choose from.

Accommodation: The Resort at Pelican Hill

5. Terranea Resort

Terranea Resort

Photo Source: Terranea Resort

Sitting on 102 acres in Palos Verdes, about a 20-minute drive from LAX, Terranea Resort is perched high on a cliff overlooking the sea. To reach the beach, guests must walk down a short flight of steps, which is well worth the climb up at the end, as once you get here, you have access to tidal pools, sea kayaking, and whale watching. Back at the Mediterranean-inspired resort, the rooms and suites are elegant luxe with private balconies. There are also one- and two-bedroom bungalows with full kitchens and indoor and outdoor fireplaces. On-site amenities include multiple swimming pools - one has a waterslide and another is filled with saltwater - along with a spa, championship golf course, and educational programs for kids and adults. You'll also find four restaurants and even an artisanal grocery store on-site.

Accommodation: Terranea Resort

6. Monarch Beach Resort

Monarch Beach Resort

Photo Source: Monarch Beach Resort

This luxury beach resort sits on a bluff overlooking the beautiful Pacific Ocean in Dana Point. The St. Regis property has its own golf course (with ocean views), along with a large spa. The luxurious rooms and suites all have private balconies or patios. There are rooms with views of the resort, rooms with pool views, and some with full ocean views. Some rooms on the ground level have patios and private fire pits. All the rooms and suites have spa-like marble bathrooms and 55-inch televisions. There's a large, main pool and a smaller lap pool at the spa (for spa guests only). The beach is a five-minute walk down the hill, or there's a little golf cart shuttle every 15 minutes back and forth. The resort has complimentary beach chairs and umbrellas, and cabanas and daybeds are also for rent. The hotel's Beach Club also rents beach toys, snorkeling, and water sports gear. The resort is great for foodies. Dining options include the Mediterranean-inspired AVEO and 33 Degrees, a more casual option. There's also a Starbucks and a little take-out market.

Accommodation: Monarch Beach Resort

7. Dolphin Bay Resort & Spa

Dolphin Bay Resort & Spa

Photo Source: Dolphin Bay Resort & Spa

This oceanfront resort is in the quaint beach town of Pismo Beach, almost exactly halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles. It's a luxury boutique hotel with one- and two-bedroom apartment-like accommodations, along with a few larger penthouse units. Some units have full ocean views, some partial, some face the pool, and others have no view (they face the parking lot). All units have private balconies. The resort's restaurant, Lido at Dolphin Bay, serves fresh seafood and other locally sourced fare, with beautiful ocean views. The hotel has a compact yet full-service spa offering a range of treatments, and there's a heated, outdoor infinity pool and a whirlpool spa. Dolphin Bay offers free bicycles to guests and provides suggested riding routes. They also have the full range of water sports equipment and watercraft (jet skis and kayaks) for rent.

Accommodation: Dolphin Bay Resort & Spa

8. Bodega Bay Lodge

Bodega Bay Lodge

Photo Source: Bodega Bay Lodge

This resort is on the rugged and raw Sonoma County coastline, about 90 minutes north of San Francisco. The Bodega Bay Lodge overlooks Bodega Bay and is next to a protected wetland area (great for bird-watching). The resort is also next to a two-mile stretch of usually deserted beach. On the property, there's an infinity-edge outdoor hot tub, a heated outdoor pool, large sauna, and a full-service spa. Cruiser bikes are free for guests, and there's a large fitness center. The accommodations are spacious, with a classic, traditional style and design. Some rooms have ocean views, and all have private balconies or patios. Some of the rooms and suites even feature wood-burning fireplaces. Dining options at the resort include Drakes Sonoma Coast Kitchen, a seafood-focused fine-dining restaurant, and Drakes Fireside Lounge, an indoor/outdoor casual lounge.

Accommodation: Bodega Bay Lodge

9. The Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay

The Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay

Photo Source: The Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay

This resort sits on a cliff above the Pacific Ocean, about 50 miles south of San Francisco. The hotel has its own beach, a short walk along the bluffs and down a staircase. All the rooms and suites have either private patios or balconies. Some have ocean views, while others have views over the golf course. The resort's highlight is a grand, communal lawn, overlooking the ocean. There are many chairs, fire pits, couches, and plenty of places to enjoy the ocean view. Each afternoon at sunset, a bagpiper ends the day on a musical note. The hotel is dog-friendly and also has an extensive kids' program with activities and amenities. The Ritz-Carlton has a large spa, two 18-hole golf courses (along the ocean), and a tennis center. The hotel has its own Drone Academy, where guests can learn to fly drones, while filming the beautiful coastline. They can then take home the images and videos they create.

Accommodation: The Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay

10. Casa del Mar

Casa del Mar

Photo Source: Casa del Mar

This beach resort in Santa Monica offers a more luxurious, exclusive, and refined beach experience than some of its neighboring hotels. It's right on the sand, you just need to cross the beachfront bike path. The rooms and suites do not have private balconies, but Palm Terrace Rooms do have private patios. These rooms face the interior courtyard and pool, but some accommodations do have direct ocean views. The rooms and suites have a light, luxury beach house design, with marble, spa-like bathrooms. Dining options include Terrazza Lounge, a large, oceanfront terrace restaurant, as well as Catch, a fine-dining seafood restaurant. The Santa Monica Pier is almost directly in front of the hotel, and the popular Third Street Promenade shopping area is only a ten-minute walk away.

Accommodation: Casa del Mar

11. The Lodge at Pebble Beach

The Lodge at Pebble Beach

Photo Source: The Lodge at Pebble Beach

Dating back nearly a century to 1919, The Lodge at Pebble Beach is a fantastic pick for families or couples looking for the best of the beach and golf in one property. Located right on the oceanfront and just five miles from Monterey's famed aquarium (another favorite with kids) the property also sits adjacent to the world-class Pebble Beach Golf Links. The rooms are plush and comfortable, and most come with wood-burning fireplaces, which are fabulous on chilly winter nights, as well as private balconies. Away from the rooms, you'll find a number of on-site restaurants, a shopping mall, swimming pool, hot tub, tennis club, and fitness center.

Accommodation: The Lodge at Pebble Beach

12. The Ritz-Carlton Bacara, Santa Barbara

The Ritz-Carlton Bacara, Santa Barbara

Photo Source: The Ritz-Carlton Bacara, Santa Barbara

For a secluded luxury sleep, check into the Ritz-Carlton Bacara, a 20-minute drive west of Santa Barbara. A favorite with celebrities, it is located on 79 acres that slope downwards to the beach. The decor has a Spanish Mediterranean flavor and makes good use of red tiles and a blue, gold, and white color scheme. There are 350-plus rooms and suites, which are all comfortable and elegant in their decor with highlights like huge marble bathrooms featuring separate showers and deep soaking tubs, as well as Frette towels and plush bathrobes. Accommodations are found in multiple two-story buildings scattered across the property, which is lushly landscaped. Away from the rooms, amenities include boutique shops, three saltwater swimming pools, direct beach access, multiple restaurants, and even a movie theater.

Accommodation: The Ritz-Carlton Bacara, Santa Barbara

13. Hotel del Coronado

Hotel del Coronado

Photo Source: Hotel del Coronado

This historic (it first opened in 1888) beachfront resort is on Coronado Island, in San Diego Bay. The beach located directly in front of the hotel is wide and flat. The accommodations are either in the Victorian main building or the more modern tower and poolside cabana wings. Most have private balconies. There are also luxurious cottages right on the sand. This large resort includes a shopping arcade, two heated outdoor pools, and a large spa. The spa has an additional pool and a full fitness center. There are five different dining options plus a very popular Sunday brunch. The Del, as it's known, has its own beach area with chair and umbrella rentals, along with the full range of beach toys and watercraft. The Wi-Fi works on the beach.

Accommodation: Hotel del Coronado

14. La Jolla Beach & Tennis Club

La Jolla Beach & Tennis Club

Photo Source: La Jolla Beach & Tennis Club

This resort, just north of San Diego, has been a private oceanfront country club for more than 80 years. The many amenities and activities are available to guests staying in the hotel. The resort has its own 9-hole, par-3 executive golf course and a full tennis center with 17 championship courts. There's also a large, outdoor heated swimming pool. Many of the guest rooms and suites have private balconies or patios, and there are also individual cottages along the golf course. The resort has a private beach area with beach chairs, umbrellas, and cabanas for rent. There's a beachside cafe and waiter service to the beach chairs. Dining options include The Marine Room, a local icon since 1941, where the waves crash against the windows at high tide. Shores Restaurant is the hotel's casual dining option.

Accommodation: La Jolla Beach & Tennis Club

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