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11 Best California Beach Escapes

With San Diego, Santa Monica, and Laguna Beach just a drop in the bucket of California’s primo seaside towns, we can see where “West Coast Best Coast” gets its legs. Here, 11 seasonable Golden State spots where you can shed the Canada Goose for at least a couple of days.

A Brooklyn-based writer and editor, Chelsea's work has appeared in Matador Network, The Huffington Post, the TripAdvisor blog, and more. When not planning her next trip, you'll usually find her drinking way too much iced coffee (always iced—she’s from New England) or bingeing a Netflix original series.

See recent posts by Chelsea Stuart

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Monarch Beach Resort, Dana Point

A taste of Tuscany in Orange County, Monarch Beach Resort mesmerizes with a symmetrical stone facade that works off of pillar-supported patios, romantic stone fountains, and sweeping lantern-lit staircases. Sleek interior designs start with cool blues, greens, and whites, folding luxe chaise lounges, marble-topped armoires, and spa-inspired bathrooms (see: oversized soaking tubs) into the mix. While leaving the sand is tough, don't dread the end of the day; there’s nothing like snuggling up in a goose down comforter after a sleep-inducing sea salt scrub at the Miraval Spa.

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La Valencia Hotel, La Jolla

Even at just shy of a century old, La Valencia Hotel (or La V, as it’s lovingly and more commonly known) remains one of SoCal’s most stunning Pacific Coast stays. Impressing guests right out the gate with a distinctive pink exterior, the Old World Mediterranean-style estate leans heavily on European influence with common spaces done up in antique furnishings, Spanish mosaics, and plantation shutters. Guest rooms throw modern amenities like Egyptian cotton sheets and whirlpools into the mix, while private balconies capture romantic views of La Jolla Cove.

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Dolphin Bay Resort & Spa, Pismo Beach

Perched on a bluff overlooking California’s rough Central Coast, just 10 minutes south of San Luis Obispo and midway between San Francisco and LA, is the all-suite Dolphin Bay Resort & Spa. Spacious suites done up in classic beachy decor and a year-round heated infinity pool are enough to make it a solid stay, but its location is really what’s worth writing home about. Take advantage of complimentary bike rentals and navigate nearby coastal trails and the Palisades Bluffs Park—with a little forethought, you can even arrange for gourmet picnic basket. If you’d prefer a liquid lunch, the wineries and tasting rooms of Edna Valley, Arroyo Grande, and Avila Valley are just minutes away.

RELATED: 7 Secret California Beaches Without the Crowds

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Surf & Sand Resort, Laguna Beach

In the eyes of millennials everywhere, Laguna Beach sprung to fame on the early-2000s heels of Lauren Conrad and co., but in actuality, the glitzy seaside town had established itself as a Hollywood hangout decades ago. Surf & Sand’s aesthetic is one that melds LB’s persisting 50s-era glam with bohemian beach bungalow style (think bleached wood, plantation shutters, and an exceedingly bright blue-and-white palette). The seasonally-driven, seafood-centric menu at Splashes is also worth a glance; sautéed king salmon, crisp octopus, and seared scallops are served alfresco in a dining room suspended 25 feet over the beach.

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L’Auberge Del Mar, Del Mar

If hotels could speak, the L’Auberge Del Mar would certainly have tall tales of guests gone by, specifically—we imagine—of Lucy and Desi Arnaz, Esther Williams, and Bing Crosby. Stepping inside the historic hotel is like walking through the pages of an interior design mag thanks to Barclay Butera designs. Rooms feature coastal, garden, and Del Mar Village views, while cohesive elements include plush duvets, marble bathrooms, and beachy accents. For an intimate meal, go for a private cabana at the seasonally-inspired Kitchen 1540; post-dinner walks are to be had at the palm-lined Del Mar Beach—just follow the hotel’s footpath.

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Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay, Half Moon Bay

If it weren’t for the crashing surf of the Pacific Ocean below, this resort could easily pass for a cliffside Scottish castle—especially given the bagpipers who serenade the sun as it sets each night (you read that right). While the dramatic Northern Cali venue puts you in reach of San Francisco, Napa Valley, and Santa Cruz, plush feather beds, alfresco fire pits readied for marshmallow toasting, and balconies with 360-degree coastal views make it hard to leave.

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Shutters on the Beach, Santa Monica

Cape Cod meets the Hamptons meets California at Santa Monica’s Shutters on the Beach. Just a stone’s throw from the Pier, the shingle-sided hotel reads like a cozy family cottage—albeit on a grand scale. Crisp blue and cream rooms are an eclectic amalgam of four poster beds, needlepoint pillows, lithographs, and coffee table books. Shutters has three restaurants, all to varying degrees of refinery; for an inspired (but unpretentious) meal, dine at Coast, a casual patio eatery which rests under a flower-strung trellis.

RELATED: The Coolest Beach Hotels in the USA

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Hotel Casa del Mar, Santa Monica

What operates today as the Hotel Casa del Mar actually debuted in 1926 as “Club Casa,” a lavish beach club for Hollywood’s elite just steps away from the Santa Monica Pier. The Renaissance Revival-style building went through a metamorphosis in 1999, holding onto its 1920s feel while upgrading interiors to echo its ocean surroundings. Now, mod whitewashed rooms have enormous windows (most with views of the Pacific coastline from Palos Verdes to Malibu) draped in sateen curtains, chenille throws are strewn across four-poster beds, and bathrooms are finished in sumptuous Italian Calacatta marble. If you like the idea of the beach but detest the crowds, head for the oceanfront (and blissfully guests-only) Palm Terrace pool.

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The Ritz-Carlton Bacara, Santa Barbara

Carving out a spot on Santa Barbara’s coveted coastline, this celeb-frequented Mediterranean retreat captures the attention of locals and international holiday-makers alike. The sun-drenched resort puts its screen-worthy setting—some 78 oceanfront acres outlined by the Santa Ynez Mountains—to work, housing 358 rooms and suites each with its own private balcony or patio. Accommodations, which are simultaneously spacious and intimate (think luxurious Frette linens and warm colonial Spanish décor), are divided among multi-story villas, all woven together by meandering footpaths and romantic garden courtyards.

RELATED: 10 Incredible Places to Visit in California

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Post Ranch Inn, Big Sur

This little nature-embracing number repeatedly lands ‘Best Of’ lists for just about everything imaginable (see: Places to Sleep in Nature, Honeymoon Hotels, Cliffside Hotels, etc.). But that’s what you get when you’re a 39-room rustic resort elevated 1,200 feet up on a Big Sur cliff. Take your pick of glass-walled, suspended cliff suites; triangular stilted tree houses; Redwood-inspired, circular mountain houses, and more. No matter your choice, you’ll be able to indulge in complimentary yoga classes, guided nature hikes, and stargazing sessions.

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TOWER23 Hotel, San Diego

If a hip scene and ultra-modern aesthetic speak more to you than a secluded, relaxation-centered stay, then turn your attention to San Diego’s TOWER23. The Graham Downes-designed Neo-Modernist pad is three stories of glass right on Pacific Beach, just minutes from La Jolla. When it comes to nightlife, the TOWER Deck is a go-to; the guest (and guest-invited)-only cocktail lounge spreads out on the second floor of the hotel under a sea of string lights.

Women’s Bikini for California Beaches

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