Life's a Beach

June gloom is (hopefully) behind us, so it’s the perfect time to explore the sun-filled beaches and slightly warmer surf of our more southern shores. To help you figure out where to bunk up for the night, we’ve sifted through the options and narrowed them down to our favorite twelve hotels right on the beach.

Click on the name of each destination to learn more information about it

Santa Barbara

Having the coolest toe dip in our lineup, the ocean water in Santa Barbara in July hovers around 63 degrees. This little chill, however, doesn’t stop throngs of locals and tourists from enjoying the various beaches. East Beach, sandwiched between the harbor and bustling Cabrillo Boulevard, is a popular swath of sand great for families who want to enjoy a day of boogie boarding or a take a stroll in the sand. Parking is relatively easy on the street, though on crowded days it might take a while to find a spot. Surfers will gravitate about 3 1/2 miles south to Hammonds and even further south (just beyond Carpinteria) to Rincon Point, famous for having one of the best breaks on the coast. Butterfly Beach is a favorite for locals with its long stretches of white sand and dog-friendly rules. And if you happen to step on a small tar ball — the gloopy surprises are common on these beaches — just hum the classic Jack Johnson song “Bubble Toe”; it comes off in a couple washes.

Bacara Resort and Spa
Sprawled over 78 beachfront acres, Bacara is nestled between the Pacific Ocean and the Santa Ynez mountains. Get into the water in Bacara’s ocean playground with sailboat, yacht or catamaran excursions; surfing; windsurfing; or paragliding, or stay by the pool in one of the 26 cabanas. Prefer dry ground? Hike one of the Spanish Mission-style property’s trails in 1,000 acres of natural terrain backing the Los Padres National Forest. For bigger families or groups, opt for the 3,700-square-foot residence, which is the closest accommodation to the ocean and features all the comforts of home — with room service.

Rooms 360, from $475–$2,300 per night
Coolest feature An elaborate 12,000-bottle wine cellar features 1,200 labels from 13 countries.
On site The property includes three infinity-edge pools, a 42,000-square-foot spa and two 18-hole golf courses. Three restaurants — Miro, The Bistro, and the Spa Cafe — utilize fresh ingredients from the nearby 1,000-acre Ranch at Bacara, in which you’re welcome to hike among the avocado and citrus groves. 
Details 8301 Hollister Ave., Goleta, 805.968.0100,

Fess Parker’s Doubletree Resort
Sure, your guestroom isn’t sitting on the sand, but this 24-acre Mission-style Santa Barbara hotel is directly across the street from the ocean. Fess Parker, who became a real estate developer after making a living playing Davy Crockett in films, created a resort that encapsulates classic California beach accommodations without the big-ticket price of more luxurious options nearby. Bring the kids: The family-friendly hotel features large lawns for the little ones to run around on and a wind-protected pool.

Rooms 360, from $261–$1,050 per night
Coolest feature The resort was once the site for two locomotive roundhouses and is now a popular spot for weddings. At the resort’s Plaza del Sol, take in 180-degree views of the Pacific Ocean and head to the upstairs rotunda for a 360-degree view of the mountains, ocean and Santa Barbara harbor.
On site Three tennis courts, a pool and bike rentals are available. With five restaurants — Rodney’s Steak House, Cafe los Arcos, Java Del Mar, Barra Las Arcos and Tarraza Del Mar Pool BBQ — dining options seem endless, and the resort’s boutique-style Spa Del Mar is an ideal place to unwind.
Details 633 East Cabrillo Blvd., Santa Barbara, 805.564.4333,

Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara
“My favorite thing about the property is seeing whales and dolphins right across the street,” says the hotel’s concierge Caitlin Gillmore. The clay-tiled roof property sits on Butterfly Beach, where migrating pods pass by to offer a rare show. The luxe property used to welcome Golden Age icons like Greta Garbo and Bing Crosby but is still glamorous today, playing host to privileged Montecito locals. (The people-watching is prime.) As an added perk, all guests — famous or not — have access to the members-only beach club.

Rooms 207, from $395–$3,800 per night
Coolest feature Take a tour of the resort’s expansive gardens, which house the world’s largest collection of kentia palms as well as a Moreton Bay fig tree that dates back to the 1800s.
On site Aside from a jungle-themed pool with underwater music, three tennis courts and complimentary bicycles, the resort offers three restaurants — Bella Vista, Tydes and Coral Cafe and Bar. Guests can also relax in the spa or treat themselves to a makeover at the Kevin Charles Salon.
Details 1260 Channel Drive, Santa Barbara, 805.969.2261,

Los Angeles

While there are many beachside options in L.A., the expansive white sand of Santa Monica Beach — complete with an amusement park, bathrooms and plenty of places to grab a bite to eat — is the most popular. To protect their biggest natural asset, the City of Santa Monica has the sand cleaned and raked daily, and a “trash valet” service is offered on Fridays, weekends and holidays. South of the pier is Venice Beach, probably more famous for its throngs of unique personalities than its west-facing stretch of white sand. Swim with caution in this area, however; the water was rated “a bummer” from Heal the Bay, a nonprofit organization focused on making Southern California coastal waters healthy and clean. For better water quality and fewer people (during the week), head north to Zuma Beach, where the waves are great for body surfing.

Shutters on the Beach
Sure, you could try to sneak into the White House or the homes of Steven Spielberg and Cindy Crawford to experience the flair of famed interior decorator Michael Smith, but why bother when you can experience it firsthand for a couple of days at Shutters on the Beach? Smith had full reign over the look and feel of this 2010 Condé Nast Traveler’s Gold List winner, from the rooms and suites to the lobby and all three restaurants. Cozy couches and chairs in tones of white and navy positioned in various arrangements throughout the lobby allow for ample solitude in comfort and style to finish reading that novel.

Rooms 168 rooms and 14 suites, from $575–$4,000 per night
Coolest feature It’s a tie between the television set in the bathroom (not to mention a large tub with a view of the water) and the set of juggling balls in each room.
On site A private pool and Jacuzzi are almost hidden on the roof of the original building and offer a great place to take an almost-
private dip before or after a massage in the One Spa. The hotel also features three restaurants: Pico, which received a 2010 award of excellence from Wine Spectator; Coast (a great breakfast spot); and The Living Room (just off the Lobby). Bike rentals are only $10 an hour, and beach chair and umbrella service is also available.
Details One Pico Blvd. Santa Monica, 310.458.0030,

Hotel Erwin
Recently relaunched from the Marina Pacific Hotel by boutique hotelier Joie de Vivre, the hotel features pop-style furnishings including framed photos of graffiti and rock stars that underplay its beachfront location. “Venice is perfect for guests wanting a beach experience that is a little more urban, even a bit edgy,” says Joie de Vivre founder Chip Conley. Overlooking Muscle Beach and the Venice boardwalk, the property is just 200 feet from the sand and blocks from shopping on Abbott Kinney Boulevard. Don’t miss a trip to the rooftop lounge, High, which has 360-degree views of Catalina Island and the Hollywood sign.

Rooms 119, from $179–$777 per night
Coolest feature Forgot your shades? No problem. You can borrow a pair for the day from the honor-system sunglass bar.
On site Dine at Hash for breakfast on the beach (and the signature Bloody Mary menu).
Details 1697 Pacific Ave., Venice Beach, 800.786.7789,

Malibu Beach Inn
“We want to make our guests feel like it’s their home away from home,” says general manager Jill Allison Jennings. And whether your home is on a 300-foot stretch of private beach or not, the Malibu Beach Inn will succeed. The David Geffen–owned hotel sits on the sands of the famed “Billionaires’ Beach” (Carbon Beach) in downtown Malibu. Small and intimate, the hotel provides mingling opportunities with other guests at the oceanfront dining room, which offers both indoor and seaside seating with views of the surf below.

Rooms 47, from $325–$1,650 per night
Coolest feature Aside from the on-the-sand location and star-sighting potential, the resort has a world-class art collection.
On site The Carbon Beach Club restaurant offers coastal cuisine and boutique wines, and the resort’s Cure Spa is the perfect place to unwind.
Details 22878 Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu, 800.462.5428,

Orange County

Grab your stand-up paddleboard and enjoy the Orange County waters, which settle at around 69 degrees in July. The sunshine-filled beach communities here are known for their surf culture, clean beaches and waterfront restaurants, where hours can be spent watching the sailboats breeze past. Huntington Beach is the spot to watch surfers take on waves and also the location for the annual U.S. Open of Surfing. Newport Beach is better known for it’s luxe harbor teeming with yachts and year-round kayaking on the Back Bay. For easy parking ($15 in a lot), fire pits and tide pools, Little Corona del Mar Beach and Corona del Mar State Beach are the best bets. Laguna Beach has become one of the area’s biggest vacation towns with well-known restaurants, a thriving art scene and resorts dotting the coast. Hang with the locals and head to Laguna’s Victoria Beach, a hidden gem only accessible through stairs off Pacific Coast Highway and Victoria Drive.

Montage Laguna Beach
“Set on 30 oceanfront acres in the heart of Laguna Beach, we are fortunate to have such a beautiful location with extensive panoramas of the Pacific Ocean,” says Montage general manager Todd Orlich. Named one of America’s Best Hotels for Families by Travel+Leisure magazine in 2009, the hotel opened less than 10 years ago. In that time it has become the go-to property for a luxe, indulgent vacation. (The hotel staff has been known to buy potatoes at the nearby grocery store to serve handmade French fries for a guest and once purchased board games for a Scrabble-fanatic family.) All public areas in the resort have floor-to-ceiling windows to capture the seaside views, but the resort’s mosaic-tile pool, complete with well-appointed and attended cabanas and just steps to the beach, could be the best place on property to take in the ocean air.

Rooms 250 plus 1 three-bedroom ocean front villa, from $595–$6,500 per night
Coolest feature Try one of the ocean-inspired therapies at Spa Montage — a 20,000-square-foot indoor/outdoor oceanfront facility with ocean-inspired therapies, a lap pool and a yoga studio. The resort is also pet-friendly, so long as your companion is less than 25 pounds.
On site The resort offers three outdoor pools and three restaurants: Studio, the Loft and the poolside Mosaic Bar and Grille. The Lobby Lounge is a relaxing space with live entertainment and panoramic views of the Pacific.
Details 30801 South Coast Highway, Laguna Beach, 888.715.6700,

Surf and Sand Resort
“Our guests have always come to us for that authentic Laguna Beach experience where you are so close to the ocean, you can smell it, hear it and feel the mist from the waves,” says Blaise Bartell, vice president of operations for JC Resorts, which runs Surf and Sand. We agree: The recently renovated hotel’s location on a 500-foot white-sand beach is hard to beat, and choosing a room is easy; each has views of the Pacific.

Rooms 167 guest rooms including 3 penthouses, from $505–$1,260 per night
Coolest feature Aside from the fact that every room and suite faces the Pacific, and most also include a private balcony, the rooms themselves (part of a $3 million renovation in 2010) are decorated with coastal flare.
On site The resort’s pool area features modern cabanas, cozy chaise lounges, a bar and a tile mural by a local artist, and the oceanfront Aquaterra Spa offers respite of another sort. For dinner, you can choose between the hotel’s three restaurants: Splashes Restaurant, 15FiftyFive, and Splashes Bar.
Details 1555 South Coast Highway, Laguna Beach, 888.869.7569,

The Retreat in Laguna
With villa names like Sea Mist and The Wave, every detail at The Retreat in Laguna reminds you of the beachside locale. And with only five rooms, this place gets some serious buzz. If sunset power yoga sessions and outdoor oceanfront massages aren’t enough to keep you occupied, the property also offers a “Health Retreat” package geared toward those looking to lose weight or cleanse. Chef Nena Neissan can create specialized raw food menus that include daily wheat grass shots along with local and organic fare. Don’t worry, you can still indulge in an evening cocktail on the expansive resort deck, but your toast will include fresh juices and shots of wheatgrass. If you’re looking for a heartier experience, complimentary breakfast can be had at the nearby Beach House restaurant. No room at the Retreat? Check next door at affiliate hotel, Seven4one, which has a dozen more rooms and the same healthy vibe.

Rooms 5 villas, from $998–$1,382 for three nights
Coolest feature For those who are health-conscious, the resort offers rejuvenating yoga classes, a health package, and a raw-food chef.
On site The expansive, communal outdoor deck is the perfect gathering spot with its expansive views of the ocean. Beachside cabanas are also available, and if you’re in the mood for complete relaxation take advantage of the in-cabana massage service.
Details The Retreat in Laguna, 729 Gaviota Drive, Laguna Beach, 949.376.7170,

San Diego

With 70 miles of coastline, from Oceanside to Imperial Beach, San Diego County is home to more than 30 individual beaches. Like its neighbor Orange County, water temperatures here in July hover in the high 60s. At calm-water beaches like Mission Bay and La Jolla Shores, don’t forget to do the “stingray shuffle” with your feet to ward off any that might be in your path. For tide pool exploring, stick with Cabrillo National Monument, the Oceanside Point Loma base, Sunset Cliffs in Ocean Beach and La Jolla. Heading to the area in July? Stop by Imperial Beach for a “swimmers only” stretch of coast and the annual U.S. Open Sandcastle Competition in late July.

Park Hyatt Aviara
“Park Hyatt Aviara is sprawled upon 200 acres of natural beauty,” says general manager Mark Stiebeling. A former Four Seasons property, the expansive land the resort sits on includes the Batiquitos Lagoon, where 130 species of migrating birds can be found. If the lagoon doesn’t meet your seaside needs, have the hotel’s surf concierges and private beach butlers take you to shore and point out the best spots for kayaking and snorkeling. Tip: book a room on the upper floor for a view of the lagoon.

Rooms 120, from $280–$1,100 per night
Coolest feature Hypoallergenic rooms have undergone an elaborate six-step process to assure a reduced amount of airborne particles and other allergy triggers.
On site The resort features two pools — one for families and one for adults only. The athletic will appreciate the 18-hole Arnold Palmer–designed championship golf course and six tennis courts. With four restaurants and a lobby lounge, dining options are plentiful, and the 15,000-square-foot Spa at Aviara, selected as one of the “World’s Best” in 2010 by Travel+Leisure magazine, provides the perfect place to unwind.
Details 7100 Aviara Resort Drive, Carlsbad, 760.448.1234,

Hotel Del Coronado
The 120-year-old historical hotel has a deep history — every U.S. president since Lyndon Johnson has stayed here, and the grounds provided the backdrop for the movie Some Like It Hot — but a recent $150-million transformation has brought new life to the property. Check out the new Beach Village, a community of 25 ocean cottages with full kitchens, private balconies and terraces with ocean views and some with fire-equipped patios, where concierge services include grocery shopping. With 248 sunny days a year in Coronado (which isn’t actually an island at all; it’s more of a peninsula), take advantage of the four-seater Surrey bikes available and ride around the entire 7.4-square-mile island.

Rooms 757, from $300–$1,250 per night
Coolest feature If you’re facing bad weather and the kids are restless, then swing by Kidtopia, several beach-themed rooms on the property set aside for arts and crafts for children ages 4–12. On a typical sunny day, be sure to take advantage of the morning sunrise yoga classes.
On site With six restaurants, three bars, a cafe, a bakery and an ice cream shop, you won’t have to eat at the same place twice. Pamper yourself at the 21-room spa, consistently on Condé Nast Traveler’s annual Hot List; get a mani-pedi at the Yamaguchi hair salon; or shop in one of the resort’s many boutiques.
Details 1500 Orange Ave., Coronado, 800.468.3533,

L’Auberge Del Mar
“This San Diego resort is reminiscent of a private, coastal estate — complete with a landscaped footpath to the beach,” says L’Auberge Del Mar vice president Michael Slosser. The resort, named to Travel+Leisure’s World’s Best Resorts list this year, recently underwent a multimillion-dollar renovation that included an interior transformation by designer Barclay Butera. Opt for a ground-floor room; their cabana-style patios are perfect for entertaining.

Rooms 112 plus 8 suites, from $395–$495 per night
Coolest feature Marin-based Nana Wall Systems create an inviting indoor-outdoor lobby with fold-open doors that usher in the outdoors and the ocean breeze. Also, your canine companion will be pleased to hear that L’Auberge welcomes petite pooches less than 15 pounds.
On site Enjoy the luxury of Spa L’Auberge,
work up a sweat in the resort’s fitness room and two tennis courts, or do laps in the pool overlooking the Pacific. Dine in one of the two restaurants: the Waterfall Terrace and Kitchen 1540.
Details 1450 Camino del Mar, Del Mar, 858.259.1515,