California is known for its iconic beaches, of which there are many fantastic examples. From the Golden State’s northwest tip to the southern border with Mexico, the beaches of California have lured visitors with sun, surf and warm sand. In Southern California, the beach mystic has reached epic proportions. But here’s a little known fact. There are actually very few California resorts on the sand. We put together a list of our top favorites to help guide you if you crave putting your toes in the sand from your hotel room.
In some places along the Southern California coast the beaches are wide and long,. In others the waves crash close to the land at high tide. But the one thing these top California resorts all have in common is their location right on the beach.
California Resorts on the Sand
For those that have visited California a few times already, you may have stayed in a beach community. And you may have noticed that a beachfront resort is often not exactly on the beach. This has occurred for a variety of reasons, including California’s fascination with boardwalks that span for miles. Or perhaps it has to do with the terrain on the bluff overlooking the beach that makes it difficult to build a hotel. The State of California is also extremely protective of our beaches, and it is increasingly difficult to get approval to develop anything close to the ocean.
Our list of California resorts on the sand allow you to enjoy all the best things our beaches have to offer. And yes, you can put your toes in the sand by just walking out of your room at these California beachfront resorts.
Put Your Toes in the Sand at These Southern California Resorts
Hotel Del Coronado, Coronado Island/San Diego
The queen of California resorts on the sand, the venerable Hotel Del Coronado has been a beachfront destination since 1888. The resort has been featured in movies with Marilyn Monroe, in TV series and a host of other high-image honors throughout the years. With 757 rooms and a recently opened new addition, this hotel is unique in many ways. Perhaps most important, the Hotel Del (as locals call it) is positioned right on the beach on Coronado Island. It’s a quaint and quiet coastal city just across the bridge from San Diego. Guests can walk from their hotel rooms on to the sand in moments, and enjoy the surf, shelling, sand castles, marshmallow roasts and more. The resort even has a beach club on the sand where anyone can reserve a cabana or lounge to enjoy a day in the sun with food, drinks and cocktails.
The Hotel Del Coronado is part of the Curio Collection by Hilton, and guests can book rooms through the Hilton Hotels website or by visiting this direct link to the Hotel Del.
Tower 23 Hotel, San Diego
One of our boutique favorites, Tower 23 Hotel is located in San Diego’s Pacific Beach area. As the name would suggest, Tower 23 is located just across the boardwalk from the sandy shores of Pacific Beach. It got its name from the iconic lifeguard stations that dot San Diego beaches, numbered from south to north. The actual lifeguard tower #23 is located on the sand just near the hotel, thus the name. The property has just 38 sleek, modern and gorgeous rooms. Although not large, the views from this hotel are mighty and the JORDN restaurant superb. As locals, we often enjoy going here for a meal to watch the beach activity. Guests are even more blessed, going to sleep with the sound of waves and waking to a sunny coastal morning.
To learn more about this awesome example of California resorts on the sand, visit the Tower 23 Hotel website.
Beach Terrace, Carlsbad
Nestled along the Carlsbad shoreline, Beach Terrace is a beachfront boutique hotel offering unmatched ocean views right on the sand. The property has been around since the 60s, and just went through a major renovation and update to its quintessential Southern California vibe. Beach Terrace offers 48 rooms including 18 exquisitely appointed ocean-front suites with stunning coastal views. Oversized guestrooms average 600 square feet in size and nearly all feature private balconies with ocean views. Plus it offers private beach access! If you have not yet visited Carlsbad, this is a chance to enjoy the walkable village, restaurants, shops and more. Biking, golf, water sports and more are all within steps of the hotel.
For a fresh new way to enjoy California resorts on the sand, visit the Beach Terrace website for more information.
Montage Laguna, Laguna Beach
Laguna Beach in California’s Orange County has long been a famous art colony. The village is nestled nicely between Los Angeles and San Diego. Its beaches, cliffs and oceanfront charm have been the subjects of many paintings and pieces of art. Maybe that’s why seeing the real thing is so special. Montage Laguna Beach delivers it all with a luxurious touch, offering guests a unique beachfront experience. Known for its spectacular spa and three signature restaurants, Montage Laguna Beach offers a variety of rooms with ocean views. The sand is just steps away, and there are several pools for those that prefer viewing the beach rather than walking on it. (Come on, you know people who don’t like sand!) The Spa Montage, Studio restaurant and the entire resort have won numerous awards of excellence, and it is easy to see why.
Find out more about Montage Laguna Beach here.
Terranea Resort, Rancho Palos Verdes
One of the things we enjoy most about Terranea Resort is its pristine coastal position on the bluffs above a private beach. The views stretch for what seems like miles. And luxury here abounds all the way down to the beach below. Guests can enjoy a variety of room types, from oceanfront villas to casitas to ocean view suites and rooms. All are meticulously appointed with a seaside theme that entices guests to the ocean. Even if you never set foot on the sand at Terranea, there are plenty of ways to enjoy its oceanfront location. The four swimming pools all have ocean views. The restaurants do as well, including Nelson’s which sits right on the cliff overlooking the coastline. Sunsets here are epic.
Click the link for more information about Terranea Resort.
Shutters on the Beach, Santa Monica
The name says it all – Shutters Resort is on the famous Santa Monica Beach. A true example of California resorts on the sand, Shutters is just south of the iconic Santa Monica Pier. The hotel is the epitome of Southern California luxury. This is for good reason – Shutters on the Beach is a true seaside haven with prestige and reputation. We know people who have checked in and never left the resort during their entire stay. Others love to explore the wide, clean sand and ocean waves that have made Santa Monica known the world over. Sun drenched and breezy, this is where California chic comes to life. Tap the beach concierge to set you up on the sand, or wander into town to explore the boutiques and galleries of Santa Monica. The people watching here is epic, both in the hotel and out on the sand.
Check out Shutters on the Beach for more details.
Ritz-Carlton Bacara, Santa Barbara
The Ritz-Carlton Bacara Resort has been a top choice for our family since the girls were little. We’ve stopped here many a time on a road trip to Monterey County or San Francisco. Located about 15 minutes north of downtown Santa Barbara, this resort has all the bells and whistles – plus a beautiful beach. Topping an oceanfront bluff, the resort has many room types that include interior fireplaces and deluxe bathrooms with soaking tubs. On the well landscaped, 78-acre grounds, three infinity-edge swimming pools, restaurants and a spa are easy to reach. On a recent stay, our suite had a panoramic view overlooking the pool in the foreground with the beach and ocean behind. An early morning walk on the beach with coffee in hand was a delight.
Visit the Ritz-Carlton Bacara Resort website for more details.
Vespera Resort, Pismo Beach
With a central coast location right on the sand, Vespera has a beach cottage vibe with luxury overtones. This sweet property is big enough to deliver a great resort experience, yet small enough to feel intimate. All 124 rooms have private balconies overlooking the ocean, with choice of classic rooms to suites. The resort’s name comes from the evening star Vespera, once used by local indigenous people to navigate the sea towards the Channel Islands. Of note is the resort’s signature restaurant Pequín, which serves breakfast, lunch and dinner in a unique Baja style. The saltwater swimming pool is oceanfront, and guests can also opt for ocean saltwater with supplies from the hotel. Or guests can venture out on their own to explore the walkable village and picturesque vistas. This is a great spot to stay along the way to San Simeon and Hearst Castle farther up the coast.
View the details of Vespera Resort on Pismo Beach here.
More California Resorts on the Sand
We’re beach junkies. Our family has been on more beach vacations than most I think, and we’ve gathered some favorites along the way. Although these beach resorts might not be right on the sand, they are just across the street or very near it.
Check these out for more ideas: