If you're looking for California beach resorts, you need the skills of the famed Mr. Holmes to find them. Why is it so hard, you may be thinking. Here's why:
All too often, a hotel calls their property a "resort" when it has no amenities. And places with the merest glimpse of the ocean stick the word "beach" into their names.
You could try to sort through all the so-called resorts to find the real ones yourself.
And then try to weed out the places that are so far from the beach that a grain of sand never makes it in the door. But all of that could add to the stress you're trying to escape.
Fortunately, I did all that work for you.
The dictionary says a resort is: "a place providing recreation and entertainment especially to vacationers." I go further. I say it's not a beach resort unless it's on the beach. Not across the street or somewhere with an ocean view, but right on the beach.About the California Beach Resorts
These California beach resorts are either on the beach or so close you can almost get sand in your shoes just by looking out the window. All of them are more than just fancy hotels. They have a spa, pool, recreation, and dining on the premises. They may be surrounded by beautiful, landscaped grounds and might even have a golf course.
And that's not all. After you figure out which places are truly beach resorts, you still have to decide whether you'll like them.
Again, you'll have no worries here. All of my recommended hotels meet strict standards and are well-rated by their guests.
Places with all the amenities to get on this list of California beach resorts aren't cheap, but this might help. All of the links below will take you to Tripadvisor, where you can read reviews, see guest photos and compare prices.California Beach Resorts in San Diego County
In the City of San Diego: There are quite a few beach resorts in San Diego, Coronado and on Mission Bay. Sadly none of them made it through our screening. Several are on the beach and have the required amenities, but they don't pass the test for guest reviews. If you're looking for an excellent beach resort in Southern California, head north to Carlsbad or up to Orange County instead.
In nearby Carlsbad, the Seapointe Resort has a gorgeous, half-moon-shaped swimming pool and a beach to squiggle your toes in. People who stay there praise the friendly staff and rave about the view.California Beach Resorts in Orange County
In Dana Point, the Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel sits in a beautiful spot. It overlooks a beach with easy access.
In Newport Beach, try the Balboa Bay Resort. It faces the harbor, which protects the beach from big waves.
In Huntington Beach, resorts in are nice, but you have to cross a busy, four-lane, divided highway to get to the sand. That means none of them made our cut.California Beach Resorts from Los Angeles to Santa Barbara
You can't beat Shutters on the Beach in Santa Monica for oceanfront luxury.California Beach Resorts on the Central and Northern Coast
San Francisco has few beaches and no resorts, but you'll find a few nice places north and south of the city. The best of them are the SeaVenture in Pismo Beach, Ritz Carlton Half Moon Bay, and the Bodega Bay Lodge & Spa.
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Where North Carolina and the Atlantic meet, 300 miles of pale sand line the water’s edge to create a vacationer’s heaven on Earth. Here, we’ve rounded up the best beach resorts and hotels this peaceful paradise has to offer.North Carolina’s Coastline
Where the Tar Heel State greets the Atlantic Ocean, 300 miles of barrier island beaches sprinkle the coastline (perhaps the most known being the collection of islands that make up the Outer Banks), creating a vacationer’s heaven on Carolina's eastern shore. Series of quiet stretches of sand make up larger, unspoiled territories—the Outer Banks, Brunswick Islands, and Wilmington, to name a few. Along Wrightsville Beach and Ocean Isle Beach, beach bums can be found relentlessly riding the surf, while quaint little beach towns, like Southport, lure visitors and full-time residents alike to meander their charming seaside avenues. Off the southernmost coast of North Carolina, the Brunswick Islands (popularly explored by kayak) play host to hundreds of bird species. The natural splendor that is North Carolina's coast is worth a gaze, whether on a weekend getaway or a summer vacation. Here, we’ve rounded up the best beach resorts for your southern stay.Blockade Runner Beach Resort
Once the site of stately hotels—The Seashore and The Ocean Terrace—Blockade Runner continues to uphold its coastal heritage in the most family-friendly, laid-back fashion, but with a cool retro-hip look in the lobby and poolside spaces. With harborfront and oceanfront suites, the resort can offer sweeping vistas of the bustling boats or the calm open ocean—take your pick.
Sprawling beach chairs and bright blue umbrellas line the sandy shore, as attendants provide rental services for lounging back in them. For beach-goers in search of a more adventurous beach experience, watersports like kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding, surfing, and sailing are conveniently available on the property—certified instructors included. A brief one-mile walk down the sandy beach will land you at Johnnie Mercer’s Pier—the only concrete fishing pier in the state (and the only pier that charges a small fee for a stroll down it).Sanderling Resort
When it comes to a luxury vacation experience on the Outer Banks, Sanderling Resort knows how to deliver. Situated along the wide, private beaches (but narrow mainland) of Duck—a stretch of North Carolina’s northernmost coastline—the elegant beachfront resort offers Atlantic Ocean views from nearly every angle.
Kimball’s Kitchen serves up world-class local seafood dishes (and world-class Currituck Sound views), while the Sandbar provides beach bites and specialty cocktails for visitors longing to perch, well, slightly closer to the sand. Make the getaway complete with a visit to the spa, and soothe your soul further with a Beach Sunrise yoga session.Shell Island Resort
With 169 balcony rooms overlooking the Atlantic, Shell Island Resort—the only all-ocean-facing, all-suite stay on the island—fronts 3,000 feet of sweeping sand and surf.
Indulge in fresh fare—from seafood to steaks—for breakfast, lunch, and dinner at the Shell Island Restaurant and Oceanfront Lounge. For a more casual approach, grab a bite (and a happy hour cocktail!) at the poolside bar and grill. Afterward, rent a surfboard to ride the waves, or hop on a bike to cruise the town. Or simply return to your shaded beach chair with a Tiki drink in hand.The Winds Resort Beach Club
With enough retro charm to wow the simplest of lodgers, The Winds Resort is a quaint, family-owned slice of paradise nestled on North Carolina’s southern coast. Choose from one-, two-, and three-bedroom suites that overlook tropical flora and grassy dunes, or opt for the grandeur of three-, four-, and five-bedroom cottages with Atlantic Ocean views.
Turquoise pools, beach cruisers and breakfast buffets abound, but the poolside Tiki bar is the shining beacon of the resort property—a true siren call to all guests with a desire to pull up a bar stool, sip on a boozy beverage, and sway to the sounds of the surf.Sea Trail Resort
Nestled on 2,000 acres among three world-class golf courses, Sea Trail Resort’s tight-knit community feel can’t be beat. You also can’t beat its ideal blend of golf courses and stretches of sand (a short five-minute drive from the resort). With private suites and vacation rentals, families or golf groups can linger for a weekend or a month.
And golf isn’t the only active option here. Horseback riding, kayaking, deep sea fishing, and yoga and Zumba classes are also available to keep you busy. When mealtimes roll around, country club-style dining at Magnolia’s Restaurant and Brassie’s Pub (the more laid-back of the two) serve up scrumptious bites of Southern cuisine and cold beverages. Kick back poolside, golfcart-pathside, or beachside—the best of every vacation world.
Look into staying at one of these Southern California beach resorts when you really want to splurge and be pampered on your romantic getaway or family vacation. Most resorts offer at least one extraordinary swimming pool, usually more, and often have beach equipment for use or to rent. Some offer activities for the kids. Just double check to see if your resort of choice has all the amenities that you personally require for a spectacular beach vacation holiday.The Bacara Santa Barbara
Starting at the northern end of Southern California in Santa Barbara, there are two favorite beach resorts and the first is the stunning, relatively new Bacara. This ocean front luxury resort is in an incredible location with the Santa Ynez Mountains rising behind, and a two mile sandy beach spread out in front.
Among the amenities included are two 18 hole golf courses, a tennis center, three swimming pools and a thousand acre hilly ranch for hiking or picnics. Avocado trees and an organic garden cultivated for the resort grow on a section of the ranch.Four Seasons Santa Barbara
Also in the Santa Barbara area, a second superb choice of the ocean front resorts is the newly renovated Four SeasonвЂ™s Resort Santa Barbara Biltmore. It is actually located just south of Santa Barbara in the small exclusive community of Montecito. The Four Seasons Resort canвЂ™t be beat for the sheer pleasantness of its beachside location, expansive grounds and Spanish Mediterranean splendor.
They really welcome kids with things like child size bathrobes, childrenвЂ™s own toiletries, and childrenвЂ™s menus. Babysitting is available, but they also have a kidвЂ™s club.
Complementary resort amenities include a fitness center and spa with steam room, saunas and a whirlpool. A croquet lawn, putting green and bicycles are also available for recreational fun. The swimming pool has poolside food and beverage service.Embassy Suites
Mandalay Beach Resort Oxnard
There is a wonderful hotel in Oxnard just south of Ventura called the Embassy Suites Mandalay Beach Resort.
This all-suites resort is right on the beach. It is just a short drive to Channel Islands Harbor. Full, hot breakfasts are included. They also offer childrenвЂ™s activities and babysitting services.
Some of the recreational activities include a swimming pool, tennis court, fitness room, ping pong table and pool table. Boogie boarding and other beach equipment is available, but check if it is off season.Montage Resort Laguna Beach
Of the vacation resorts in the Laguna Beach area, there is the Montage, which is spread out along the bluffs overlooking the ocean. Read more.Ritz Carlton Laguna Niguel Dana Point
In Dana Point, just south of Laguna Beach is another: the Ritz Carlton Laguna Niguel. This resort is located on the bluff above the ocean. It features suites and a club level room in addition to their guest rooms. Two miles of beach and eighteen splendid acres of garden courtyards grace the property.
There is complementary shuttle service to the beach below and to the adjacent golf course (but itвЂ™s a nice walk if you are so inclined).
Their fitness center overlooks the Pacific ocean as well. Among the spaвЂ™s many features is an eucalyptus steam room, a wall of cascading water and fountains. There also are tennis courts, two outdoor pools and 2 outdoor spas.
A unique program they offer for those on a family beach vacation is "KidвЂ™s Night Out" on Friday and Saturday nights. They also have a program for kids full of fun activities.
Other recreational activities include croquet, volleyball, badminton, and biking. The Dana Point Harbor is just a few minutes down the coast.Hotel del Coronado San Diego
One of the best and oldest California beach resorts is in the San Diego area, called the Hotel del Coronado, or "Hotel Del". Built in 1888, this Victorian hotel is a National Historic Landmark. There is an old world elegance to this place that makes one feel they are "on holiday at the seaside" rather than "on a beach vacation." It is right on a white sandy beach and just a short walking distance to Glorietta Bay Marina, where the Boathouse offers rentals of various watercraft.
Coronado itself has a charming, small village atmosphere, and is a mere ferry or bridge trip away from the excitement of downtown San Diego.
The Hotel del Coronado is unique in that it has a Coast Club Teen Lounge in addition to a kidвЂ™s camp. Teens can also take surfing or kayaking lessons if they so choose.
Other amenities offered include an oceanfront fitness center, private poolside cabanas to rent, and yoga and surfing lessons for adults. Beach chairs are offered to guests at no charge, but other beach equipment including surfboards, wetsuits and bicycles can be rented. Get rates and reviews.
These are just a few of the many fabulous Southern California beach resorts, and you will find more listed in the accommodation sections of the individual beach town vacation guides on this website. Here is a good place to start.Special Mention.
California beach resorts that have won AAA prestigious five diamond awards in the past include:
By reserving your next beach vacation resort now, you can spend the next few weeks or months basking in delightful anticipation.
Full disclosure: Hotel links on this page go to TripAdvisor.com, from whom I do receive a small commission. I think they have a really cool site with useful reviews and price comparisons.
If you liked this page, please share with your friends using one of the buttons below. And many thanks!Recent Articles Upcoming Cruises From Southern California In January 2017
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When Peter and I want to get away for the weekend we have numerous choices in our home state of California, but one Northern California coastal town we frequently visit is Santa Cruz. Santa Cruz is known for its Boardwalk and cliffside surfers, but we love the fact that it not only has gorgeous beaches but provides us with old-growth redwood forests with multiple hiking trail options for peaceful nature walks. We’ve also found that its laid-back vibe makes it the perfect location for a relaxing getaway.
On our recent weekend getaway to Santa Cruz, we chose to stay at the Chaminade Resort & Spa. This Northern California resort is located on a mountaintop nestled between large redwood and eucalyptus trees with sweeping views of the ocean. It’s a combination that we found truly unique.Northern California Resort: Chaminade Resort & Spa
Chaminade Resort & Spa is an award-winning resort, luxurious and playful at the same time. While the resort property is 200 acres in total, the villas housing the guest rooms, spa, and restaurants are all located within walking distance of one another and all surrounded by towering eucalyptus trees.
Recently renovated, this Northern California resort’s guestrooms have a charming feel that embodies the Santa Cruz spirit. Our room featured an abacus headboard, comfy feather bed, funky lamps, and colorful quirky touches like the oversized dominos that acted as our room number. In addition to our deluxe guest room, there are junior suites and luxury suites (and Fido is welcome, if you decide to bring him along).
The property has two restaurants on site: Linwood’s Bar & Grill and Sunset Restaurant. We had two delicious meals at Linwood’s, seated overlooking the ocean with a view all the way to Monterey Bay and even a glimpse of the Santa Cruz Mountains. A great bar bites menu, tasty margaritas, and a really decadent chocolate layer cake were the highlights. Everything we tasted was fresh, flavorful, and artfully presented.
The grounds of this Northern California resort are perfect for both nature lovers and those with an active lifestyle. There is the requisite heated pool and whirlpool tub, a fitness center, tennis courts, volleyball courts, and a croquet lawn. Additionally, there are a number of hiking trails that meander through this large property, providing ample opportunities for both novice and experienced hikers. If you are looking for something a bit different in the outdoor arena, Chaminade Resort & Spa now offers a Geocaching Adventure Course for its guests. Get your hiking in while looking for caches and get rewarded for your efforts!Hiking Trails
Our favorite amenity of this Northern California resort was the fantastic nature trails. On Saturday we spent the morning enjoying some crisp coastal air and the gorgeous surrounding environment. I love being outdoors and this resort was perfect for doing just that.
There are two major hiking trails at Chaminade Resort & Spa, blue trail, and red trail. The blue trail is 1.75 miles and the red trail is 1.25 miles. We did the red trail at a leisurely pace. The private path winds you through Chaminade’s own redwood and eucalyptus forest. There are some steep sections and winding paths along the trail, so be sure to walk carefully.
Weekend Getaway in Northern California – Santa Cruz
Santa Cruz is the quintessential beach town. Everywhere you look there are cars (and bikes!) with surfboards and surf racks. The dress code is casual—shorts, flip-flops, tanks—and there is nothing pretentious about this town.
If you only have a weekend in Santa Cruz make sure to do/visit these:Beach Boardwalk
This oceanside amusement park is fun for all ages. From people watching to roller coasters, saltwater taffy to fried foods, street performers to arcades, there is something for everyone. In addition to all the rides, there are free concerts and movies, miniature golf, bowling and an arcade featuring games both old and new. Definitely worth a few hours of your time.
There are some great shopping and food in the downtown area of Santa Cruz. Most of the shops are independently owned and operated, from hip clothing stores to art galleries, surf shops, toy stores and the obscure, like the Academy of Arcana Myth, Magick, and Mysterie! Shop. If you’re hungry, you’ll find some great food, a lot of it uber healthy, local, organic and fresh. Coffee shops and bars are on every block, so there is no problem handling your thirst. And the myriad street performers will keep you entertained whether you are strolling around or sitting enjoying a cup of tea or frosty craft beer.Santa Cruz West Cliff Drive
This 3-mile scenic walking/biking trail (6 miles round-trip) follows the Pacific Ocean around Seal Rock and provides you with some really gorgeous (postcard-worthy) views. You’ll see surfers and swimmers, maybe even whales and dolphins, and you can make a pit stop at the Santa Cruz Surfing Museum to learn about local surf history.Check out the surfers
Santa Cruz is one of the premier surfing spots in California, offering waves for all levels of surfers. For spectators, there are a number of spots worthy of your time to oooh and ahhhh. Check out Steamer Lane which features hardcore, professional surfers; the Hook over by 41st Avenue, where locals rule the roost; 30th & East Cliff, also home to professional surfers; and, Natural Bridges, where surfers battle kelp around the large arched rock that is home to flocks of birds.
And last, but not least, spend some time on the beach. Get some sand between your toes, walk along the surf, or just hang out and watch the kiddies frolic or the surfers catch some waves.
I hope this post has inspired you to visit this Northern California resort and spend some time outdoors.
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