We Californians are so fortunate to have the Pacific Ocean at our doorstep. Whether you make a splash in the water, ride the waves or stroll on the beach, you can enjoy the glistening backdrop at any of these oceanfront accommodations, suited for any budget. Below are some recommendations, from Northern California’s Half Moon Bay, to La Jolla Beach in Southern California (plus a few points in between) for luxury stays, moderately priced options and camping on the beach. Try mixing it up: splurge one night and low budget the rest.
Ritz-Carlton Half Moon Bay
One Miramontes Point Road
Half Moon Bay, California 94019
Reminiscent of the rugged coast of Scotland, the Ritz-Carlton Half Moon Bay makes a grand, sweeping statement sitting on a dramatic cliff along the Northern Californian coast. If you’re going to splurge, this is where to do it. Personalized service and luxury is apparent throughout the elegant resort, from marble bathrooms, feather beds and duvets to a world-class spa and fine dining.
To get better acquainted with the property, take a guided Segway tour along the resort’s coastal trail or hop on a complimentary bike, available for guests’ use. Play a round of golf on a championship golf course overlooking the ocean or take a tennis lesson with a pro. Other activities include horseback riding, swimming, surfing, bird watching and wine tasting.
The newly redesigned Navio, the resort’s signature restaurant, has revamped their menu with more of a seafood focus, highlighting local flavors of the region. Stand out dishes include: Sardines a la Plancha (from Monterey) with bulgur wheat panzanella, spicy tomato jam and fennel-parsley salad; and the Roasted Local Black Cod with grilled Monterey calamari, chorizo chickpeas and a seared Berkshire pork belly.
Head up the coast a few minutes to Half Moon Bay Brewing Company, one of America’s Best Beach Bars, and a favorite among locals, known for its’ sustainable seafood, laid-back vibe and great beer. The in-house brewery pipes their signature Mavericks beer directly to the bar (beer bread made daily). Fresh, seasonal and local ingredients are used throughout the menu, resulting in tasty and satisfying pub grub. Sit outside on the patio for a peaceful view of the harbor and kick back with a Mavericks IPA.
Moderate option: The Beach House Half Moon Bay is located next to Surfers Beach and overlooks the Pillar Point Harbor. The New England-style décor complements this cozy boutique hotel and the rooms, which are junior suites, come with a fireplace and a balcony or patio.
Camping option: Half Moon Bay State Beach is a popular location for camping, surfing and picnics. A trail leading to the beach is less than 100 yards from anywhere in the campground.
Dolphin Bay Resort & Spa
2727 Shell Beach Rd
Pismo Beach, CA 93449
A great place to stay midway between San Francisco and Los Angeles is the Dolphin Bay Resort & Spa, located on Highway 1 in Pismo Beach. The spacious one and two-bedroom suites feature all of the amenities and comforts of home, plus much, much more. After scoping out the new digs, my son enthusiastically asked, “Mommy, can we live here?!”
The gorgeous two-bedroom suite is more like a house with a well-furnished, gourmet kitchen complete with granite countertops and stainless steel appliances, an Aire jet tub, a large walk-in closet, private laundry room, complimentary Internet, flat-screen televisions and DVD players and a private terrace. Free popcorn, board games and DVDs are included with your room rate. A grassy lawn provides a great space to run around and play games with the ocean as a backdrop and a short trail along the bluff line leads to Shell Beach, accessible by stairs just north of the property.
If you’re looking for water activities, the Guest Services Team can arrange surf lessons, kayak tours, paddle boarding and whale watching expeditions. On the property, you can go for a spin on a complimentary bicycle, swim in the infinity saline pool, or soak in your own deep tub with massaging jets. As you fall asleep to the lull of the ocean, you won’t want to leave the Dolphin Bay Resort & Spa either.
Moderate option: The Inn at Avila Beach is located in a quaint beach town, between Pismo Beach and San Luis Obispo. Its most unique feature is the rooftop “sundeck,” which is more of a communal living room with a wet bar, refrigerators, grills, televisions and DVD players. Some of the rooms have LP record players – vinyl albums are available to borrow.
Camping option: Pismo State Beach has tent sites on the sand dunes bordering the beach with pine trees offering privacy and wind protection. The park has the largest colony of monarch butterflies migrating in the winter. Reserve a spot through Reserveamerica.com.
Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel
One Ritz-Carlton Drive
Dana Point, California 92629
Situated atop a 150-foot bluff, the Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel has been a luxurious seaside destination for nearly 30 years. Guests can enjoy exceptional dining, ocean front golf, relaxing spa treatments and surf experiences.
Walk down to Salt Creek Beach (or hop on a golf cart), directly below the resort, and have a beach butler get you set up for a relaxing day on the beach with towels, chairs and an umbrella. Enroll the kids in a Beach Bonzai (body boarding) class through Eco-Adventures (on-site), where they’ll learn how waves are created and gain new skills riding them.
Be sure and explore Laguna Beach nearby, an artists’ haven for more than 100 years, with superb art galleries and restaurants, along with quaint cottages and sandy coves.
Moderate option: Finding a chic, budget hotel on one of the prettiest beaches in Laguna is practically unheard of, but the Pacific Edge Hotel fits the bill. Great activities are offered at the hotel, from Family Fun Night in the game room, to Wine Hour in the lobby, Yoga on the Beach and Fireside S’mores at the Surf Pool.
Camping option: Doheny State Beach, Dana Point. Known for its stellar surfing conditions on the north end of the beach and campsite on the south side, just steps from the beach. A five-acre lawn makes a nice spot for a picnic and a game of volleyball. Book at reserveamerica.com.
100 Terranea Way Drive
Rancho Palos Verdes, CA 90275
Perched atop a dramatic coastal bluff on the Palos Verdes Peninsula, Terranea Resort is located along one of the most stunning oceanfront settings in Southern California. Open since 2009, Terranea offers guests a sophisticated and relaxed retreat with eight dining options, a full-service spa and fitness center, award-winning golf course, three swimming pools, kids’ club and ecological enrichment programs.
Take a walk on the coastal Discovery Trail and drink in panoramic ocean views. Just past Cielo Point, you’ll find a secluded beach cove where water activities launch from, such as kayaking, paddle boarding and snorkeling. Make a day of it at the pool and rent a cabana, which comes with cold beverages, a fruit plate and comfy seating in the shade. The kids will enjoy the water slide and splash zone, as parents enjoy a cool drink by the pool.
One of the restaurants on-site, Nelson’s offers California comfort cuisine in a casual setting, with a scenic view of the coastline. It’s a great place to gather around the firepit on the patio, microbrew in hand, chatting and enjoying a spectacular sunset. If you’re looking for something more upscale with a Mediterranean twist, try the Catalina Kitchen (near the main pool), which also serves a great breakfast buffet on the weekends.
Moderate option: Crystal Cove Beach Cottages offer a glimpse of a beach colony from a bygone era (1930s and 40s), with charming individual or dorm-style cottages located right on the beach in the Historic District of Crystal Cove State Park. To book any of the 13 restored seaside cottages, you have to plan ahead and get lucky. Book through ReserveAmerica at 8 a.m. sharp on the first of each month.
Camping option: Dockweiler Beach RV Park, located off Highway 1 in Playa del Rey, is a state park but run by L.A. County. Each campsite has complete RV hook-ups, a picnic table and barbeque, plus hot showers and a laundromat. Explore more of the coastline on the 22-mile bike trail that will take you from Redondo Beach north to Santa Monica.
La Valencia Hotel
1132 Prospect Street
La Jolla, CA 92037
A grand icon in La Jolla since 1926, the La Valencia Hotel, known as “The Pink Lady,” offers a blend of old world-charm and elegance, and is just steps away from the beach, shopping and world-class art galleries in the village of La Jolla.
Mediterranean-inspired architecture is seen throughout the hotel in hand-painted murals, Spanish mosaics and charming courtyards. Coastal-inspired luxury guest rooms and suites are surrounded by lush tropical landscaping and decorated with warm tropical hues, luxurious textiles and custom furnishings.
La Valencia’s lobby lounge, La Sala, is a great place to take in the view of La Jolla Cove through its large bay windows. A more formal dining option with outstanding service and cuisine can be found at the newly renovated Mediterranean Room.
Moderate option: La Jolla Inn is reasonably priced for an exclusive neighborhood like La Jolla. Rooms are small, but clean and many of them have ocean views and views of La Jolla Cove, one of the most photographed beaches in Southern California. Continental breakfast is included.
Camping option: South Carlsbad State Beach is one of the most popular camping destinations in the San Diego area. Stairs lead from the campgrounds down to the beach for fun in the sun, swimming and surfing. It’s a very busy site, and reservations recommended through Reserve America.
Liz Laing is a writer, web designer and photographer who lives in Los Angeles. Her latest projects may be followed on Liz Laing.