14 Top-Rated Beach Resorts in Southern California
Southern California, stretching roughly from San Diego to Santa Barbara, offers a wide range of beach resort experiences.
The area's beach resorts appeal to couples seeking a romantic getaway or families looking for an activity-filled vacation. There's also something for every budget, with expensive luxury resorts like Montage Laguna Beach, which is perched on a bluff over the sea, and Shutters on the Beach in trendy Santa Monica, as well as more affordable properties like the Catamaran Resort Hotel and Spa on a private beach in the Mission Bay part of San Diego or the La Jolla Beach and Tennis Club, also near San Diego in gorgeous La Jolla.
Find the best place to stay with our list of the top beach resorts in Southern California.
1. Rosewood Miramar Beach, Santa Barbara
Accommodation: Rosewood Miramar Beach
Southern California's only five-star resort right on the sand, Rosewood Miramar Beach is a gorgeous, newish property on 16 acres of rolling green hills. Located about an hour north of Los Angeles in the seaside community of Montecito, the property boasts a casual luxe vibe throughout. The grounds have the manicured garden landscaping.
Choose from 160 rooms, 36 suites, or freestanding bungalows with multiple bedrooms. The latter are a perfect pick if you are traveling with the family or a number of friends. The Rosewood caters to families with a number of amenities. Besides the sweeping beachfront with sand seemingly made for building castles, there is also a kids' club on-site to entertain little ones.
Other amenities include two swimming pools; a fitness center; yoga classes; and a spa with a full range of treatments, from deep tissue massages to rejuvenating facial therapies.
Grab a meal at the Revere Room, which serves fresh California fare and stays open all day. Or make a dinner reservation at Caruso's, which has ocean views and indoor and outdoor seating.
The Rosewood is also known for its top-notch service. It is very personalized without being annoying, and the staff caters to your every whim. Just let them know what you need, and it will be taken care of.
2. Montage Laguna Beach
Accommodation: Montage Laguna Beach
Every room at the gorgeous Montage Laguna Beach faces the sea. Overlooking the Pacific Ocean, this art-inspired, luxury property has a fantastic locale atop a 50-foot bluff in posh Laguna Beach. There are 248 spacious rooms, suites, and beach bungalows, which feature local artwork on the walls, marble baths, and ridiculously comfortable feathertop beds.
Away from the rooms, you'll find a 20,000-square-foot spa with delightful amenities like dry redwood saunas and eucalyptus steam rooms. There is also a lovely outdoor pool lined with private cabanas, as well as a Jacuzzi and a children's play area.
There are also three on-site restaurants. Check out Studio for contemporary California coastal cuisine, as well as chef's tasting menus and options to arrange for private dinner parties at the chef's table. For something more casual, The Loft, is a favorite with locals and guests and does modern American fare paired with stunning views on the hotel's fourth floor.
3. The Resort at Pelican Hill
Accommodation: The Resort at Pelican Hill
This luxury resort in Newport Beach is located on the bluffs overlooking the ocean. The hotel and some of the beautiful rooms and suites have ocean views, but it's a long walk or a short drive to actually get to the sand (the resort itself is 504 acres).
The hotel has a luxury van, which operates hourly between Pelican Hill and the quaint Crystal Cove State Park beach area. It's a clean, protected state beach, and the nearby small historic district has some shops and restaurants. Beach chairs and umbrellas are provided for guests.
Back at the resort, the pools are beautiful. The main Coliseum Pool is a round swimming pool, almost 150 feet in diameter, with more than a million, hand-set glass mosaic tiles forming the bottom. There's a separate children's pool and another separate pool for villa guests.
The hotel has live music nightly in several lounges and poolside music during the summer season. For dining, there's Andrea, a fine-dining Italian restaurant; the Pelican Grill, with upscale yet casual California cuisine; and a pool terrace cafe.
4. Terranea Resort
Accommodation: Terranea Resort
This 102-acre seaside luxury resort is also high on a cliff overlooking the ocean. It's in Rancho Palos Verdes, only 40 minutes from downtown LA (DTLA) or 20 minutes from LAX. The beach is a short walk down the stairs, as is whale watching, tide pool exploring, and water sports like sea kayaking and boogie boarding.
You may not want to leave the resort and its 5,000-square-foot pool with a 140-foot-long waterslide. For a quieter experience, there's another large saltwater pool (for guests 13 years and older) and a third pool at the resort's amazing spa. Terranea has a championship golf course and the full range of outdoor activities, from bike riding to tennis.
There's also a changing menu of educational and cultural programs for adults and kids, everything from nature walks to photography classes to cooking experiences with the resort's chefs.
For food, there are four different restaurants to choose from, along with several lounges that serve food, a pool café, spa café, and a small coffee shop. One of the top restaurants is Catalina Kitchen. It serves Mediterranean bistro fare and has lots of outdoor dining space.
5. Waldorf Astoria Monarch Beach
Accommodation: Waldorf Astoria Monarch Beach
Waldorf Astoria Monarch Beach is a fabulous luxury choice for families. The top-end resort sits on a hill overlooking the beach in Dana Point, which is on the coast between Los Angeles and San Diego.
The rooms and suites here have a beach house casual vibe but are very comfortable and spacious, with a blue, green, and white color palette and fully furnished balconies.
Away from the rooms there are seven restaurants to choose from serving a range of cuisine, from Mediterranean to modern Mexican/Californian fare.
The resort is also home to the first coastal Miraval Life in Balance Spa, which offers some 40 different wellness and fitness classes per week along with the usual assortment of treatments; a championship golf course; tennis courts; kids' club; and a multi-level swimming pool design, which features a family pool and adults-only spa pool.
6. Shutters on the Beach
Accommodation: Shutters on the Beach
This grand beachfront luxury hotel sits right on Santa Monica's wide, flat beach, almost in front of the Santa Monica Pier (an amusement park), and right next to the opulent Casa del Mar. It's a great place to stay for both families or romantic getaways.
The guest rooms have a beachy, shabby chic design with cool touches like yo-yos and juggling kits. Most rooms have full or partial balconies.
There are three dining experiences: 1 Pico is the hotel's fine-dining, yet still beach-casual restaurant. Coast is an even more casual option, and the Living Room is a part of their spacious and homey lobby area, serving coffee and a light menu of food throughout the day.
Only the bike path separates the hotel from the sand, and guests have access to a range of outdoor, indoor, and water-related activities.
7. The Ritz-Carlton Bacara, Santa Barbara
Accommodation: The Ritz-Carlton Bacara, Santa Barbara
About 20 minutes' drive west of Santa Barbara, The Ritz Carlton has direct beach access and a secluded, luxury vibe, which makes it a favorite celebrity hideout. It sits on 78 gently sloping acres and features a mix of Mediterranean and East Coast beach styles in its decor.
Expect plenty of Spanish tile, as well as a color palette of various hues of blue, gold, white, and cream in the 354 rooms and suites, which also feature giant marble bathrooms with deep soaking tubs and Frette robes. The rooms are spread across the property in more than a dozen different Spanish Revival-style buildings, which each come with a courtyard graced by a fountain and lushly landscaped gardens.
There is much to do on the property away from the rooms, including shopping at three high-end boutiques, relaxing in the giant spa or one of the three saltwater swimming pools, walking on the beach, or watching a movie in the screening room. There are also a few dining options on-site.
8. Hotel del Coronado
Accommodation: Hotel del Coronado
This beachfront resort has been welcoming guests with its beautiful beach for more than 100 years. The Hotel del Coronado is on Coronado Island in San Diego Bay, so its wide, bright sandy beach is protected and great for swimming. The beach here is bright and shiny due to the sand's high mica content. It's one of the reasons the hotel (and its beach) were featured in the Marilyn Monroe movie Some Like it Hot.
There are many different types of luxurious accommodations at the Del, some in its historic Victorian building, some in a modern low-rise tower, and some in the Club-Floor-like Beach Village. The historic building offers the most character, with no two rooms the same size and a rumor that this area is haunted. Many feature walk-out patios.
If you're traveling with the family or just want a more private experience, you'll want to book one of the Beach Villa cottages. These come with personalized service and amazing views.
There are almost 20 different shops at the resort, multiple swimming pools, and three different dining experiences. Head to the Crown Room for brunch in ornate environs. While at Sheerwater, you can find American bistro fare, ocean views, and a large patio space for al fresco meals.
9. Catamaran Resort Hotel and Spa
Accommodation: Catamaran Resort Hotel and Spa
This hip, Polynesian-style resort has its own private beach in Mission Bay (part of San Diego). The waves are calm and gentle, so it's perfect for families. The hotel isn't new, but the rooms are nicely maintained, and all of them have balconies or patios. There are studio rooms with kitchenettes and some suites as well.
The resort is right on the beach, with a range of water sports equipment (kayaks, rafts, boogie boards, surfboards, snorkel sets, etc.). The resort also offers a spa; fitness center; and a big, outdoor pool and whirlpool.
The Catamaran has a few popular restaurants, including one with an outdoor terrance and another that does Polynesian fare in tiki-style environs.
10. Malibu Beach Inn
Accommodation: Malibu Beach Inn
This posh beachfront, boutique hotel sits right on Malibu's ultra-exclusive Carbon Beach. There are no other hotels around, just million-dollar beachfront mansions. It's an easy five-minute walk to Malibu Pier, where there is a cool public beach and a few restaurants.
The Malibu Beach Inn has beautifully designed rooms and suites, and this luxury hotel is better for couples and romantic getaways than family outings. All the rooms have private balconies with glass fronts, and all face the ocean.
The Malibu Beach Inn has its own fine-dining restaurant (with an oceanfront terrace) featuring a seasonally changing menu of fresh, California cuisine. The hotel has a small spa with a range of luxury treatment options, which are popular with Malibu locals in addition to hotel guests.
11. Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach Resort & Spa
Accommodation: Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach Resort & Spa
In Surf City USA, Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach Resort & Spa is a great 4-star choice for anyone looking to ride some waves. Connected by a pedestrian walkway to the gold-sand beach, which runs for eight miles here, the resort boasts Spanish Andalusian-style architecture throughout. The grounds are also lush and well maintained, and the property caters to couples and families alike.
Rooms and suites have laid-back, elegant decor with a white and cream color scheme. All have floor-to-ceiling sliding glass doors leading to private terraces, and most have ocean views.
Amenities are plentiful. There are two swimming pools with sun loungers and umbrellas, a few hot tubs, a fitness center, kids' club, and a full-service spa. There is also no shortage of dining choices, with five restaurants on-site along with a grocery store. If you are traveling with a dog, the hotel is pet friendly.
12. Pier South Resort, Autograph Collection
Accommodation: Pier South Resort, Autograph Collection
Located at the very tip of Southern California (the Mexican border is a short walk down the beach), the Pier South Resort is in Imperial Beach, south of San Diego. The newly constructed Marriott Autograph Collection property is right on the sand, with only the bike path between the building and the beach.
Most of the rooms and suites have sweeping beach and ocean views, and all of the accommodations have private balconies with a table and chairs to enjoy the view.
There's a spa, a heated outdoor pool, a rooftop lounge and restaurant, and a large fitness center. The resort also offers beach yoga and fitness classes, along with bikes to ride and water sports equipment to rent. Aside from the beach, the hotel is near miles of protected wetland area and offers walking tours and nature hikes.
13. La Jolla Beach & Tennis Club
Accommodation: La Jolla Beach & Tennis Club
In beautiful La Jolla, an upscale San Diego suburb known for its picturesque cliffs-meet-ocean landscape, this resort is a good-value beachfront property.
The rooms and suites are airy and comfortable, with ocean views and kitchenettes in the best rooms, and full kitchens with separate living spaces and pullout sofas in the suites, making them a popular pick with families.
Away from the rooms, you'll find a private beach area with fireplaces and grills, a nine-hole golf course, tennis courts, an outdoor swimming pool, and a fitness center.
There are also multiple restaurants, including one focusing on fresh seafood with a lovely patio. If you'd rather not worry about what you spend on each meal, book the all-inclusive package here.
La Jolla Beach and Tennis Club is also just five miles from the famed Torrey Pines Golf Course.
14. Grand Pacific Palisades Resort
Accommodation: Grand Pacific Palisades Resort
If you are taking the kids to LEGOLAND California Resort, check out Grand Pacific Palisades Resort in Carlsbad as a sleeping option. It connects to the attraction via a private pedestrian walkway. The 3-star resort also looks out onto the Carlsbad Flower Fields and has panoramic Pacific Ocean views.
Accommodation is in multi-bedroom condos that are also a plus for families, as they have plenty of space to spread out, and full kitchens. Children stay free, and the resort has a kids' club with activities on-site.
Other amenities include a spa, sauna, fitness center, and a game room. There are two swimming pools. One is Olympic sized and reserved for adults. The other is a family pool with water features. You can also grab a bite to eat at the resort restaurant.