The 50 Best Places to Stay on the Pacific Coast Highway

Hotels. Motels. Cabins. Let’s go.

August 24, 2016 9:00 am
big sur hotels, pacific coast highway hotels, coastal california hotels, california beach hotels
Cristofer Jeschke/Unsplash

Maybe you’ve summited seven peaks. Maybe you’ve sailed seven seas.

But until you’ve driven the 655 miles of golden coast that make up California Route 1 (aka the Pacific Coast Highway), you’ve missed one of the world’s greatest getaways.

The only question that remains: Where should a discerning gent stay along the way? Hotels, motels, cabins, campsites … the PCH has ’em all in spades.

So we went ahead and narrowed things down to the 50 finest, from a 1,600-square-foot Laguna Beach treehouse to a balcony overlooking the most picturesque golf course in the country.

Pack the car, prep the playlist and get to booking.

Monarch Beach Resort
Dana Point
Check in for: The Italian archways and the fact that your kids will be entertained by the resort’s Sandcastle Club.

Ritz Carlton Laguna Beach, California beach hotels
Ritz Carlton Laguna Beach

Ritz Carlton
Laguna Beach
Check in for: The private beach access and rooms with balconies overlooking the Pacific.

Laguna Beach
Check in for: A laid-back vibe and the golf course perched on a cliff above the ocean.

The Ranch
Laguna Beach
Check in for: The farmy feel and the 1,600-square-foot treehouse.

Crystal Cove Cottages State Beach
Crystal Cove
Check in for: A chance to stay at location steeped in California’s history … just beware that the wait list is crazy long.

The Resort at Pelican Hill
Newport Beach
Check in for: Opulent appointments and secluded beaches.

The Queen Mary
Long Beach
Check in for: The stately cabins with plush beds, and the fact that you’re on a historic cruiseliner.

Palos Verdes
Check in for: The only resort perched on the bluffs at Palos Verdes. Be sure to take a hike down to the secluded tidepools.

Hermosa Beach House
Hermosa Beach
Check in for: The proximity to Chef Tin Vuong’s delicious restaurants: Steak and Whiskey, Abigail and Dia Del Campo.

Shade Hotel
Manhattan Beach
Check in for: A short walk to Chef David LeFevre’s restaurants: Fishing with Dynamite, MB Post and the Arthur J.

California beach hotels, Ritz Carlton Marina Del Rey
Ritz Carlton Marina Del Rey

Ritz Carlton
Marina Del Rey
Check in for: The five-star rooms and a paddleboard through the harbor full of stunning yachts.

Hotel Erwin 
Venice Beach
Check in for: The rooftop bar that overlooks one of the most iconic boardwalks in the history of boardwalks.

Casa Del Mar
Santa Monica
Check in for: The stately charm of the lobby, with its fresh, cold seafood and stiff martinis.

Santa Monica
Check in for: The beachy, blue-blooded vibe, the airy balconies and the hotel bicycles, which you can ride up and down the coastal bike path.

Santa Monica
Check in for: The cabanas. Pretend you’re a celebrity, like the one who is most likely in the cabana beside you.

The Georgian
Santa Monica
Check in for: The recently renovated suites in Santa Monica’s most historic landmark hotel.

The Fairmont Miramar
Santa Monica
Check in for: A rowdy party at the Bungalow followed by the peace and quiet of the pool.

Santa Monica
Check in for: The off-the-beaten-path quaintness of a Moorish-influenced Mediterranean Revival building.

Malibu Beach Inn
Santa Monica

Check in for: The only hotel on the beach in Malibu worth staying at, then walk over to the country’s best Nobu (in our humble opinion, at least).

Belmond El Encanto
Santa Barbara

Check in for: The private bungalows overlooking Santa Barbara and the Pacific from the top of the Santa Barbara Mountains.

Four Seasons Biltmore
Santa Barbara

Check in for: The historic Coral Casino Beach Club, with its Olympic-sized swimming pool,
spacious cabanas and direct beach access.

San Ysidro Ranch
Santa Barbara
Check in for: The 2,100-square-foot Channel Island cottage, with enough room for the entire family (if your family can fit in a two-bedroom suite), allowances for the dog, a rose-covered pergola and views of the titular islands.

El Capitan Canyon
Santa Barbara
Check in for: A unique experience that melds luxury appointments with access to nature. You’ll choose from en-suite Canyon Cedar Cabins, some with a deck, grill and Safari Tents.

Check in for: The topless sunbathing on the rooftop.

Alisal Ranch
Check in for: The mountain biking and horseback riding trips over 10,000 acres of private land, followed up by evening barbeques.

Granada Hotel + Bistro
San Luis Obispo
Check in for: The perfect small-city getaway, with a downtown location, brick-walled rooms with a Juliet balcony, and easy access to the French-inflected Granada Bistro.

California Beach Hotels, Madonna Inn
Madonna Inn

Madonna Inn
San Luis Obispo
Check in for: The best kitsch you could possibly experience — just be sure to do so on a Saturday so you can swing dance with their big band.

Cass House
Check in for: The sound of waves crashing as you sleep and an open-air restaurant that grills and fire-roasts vegetables grown on site.  

Cambria Pines Lodge
Check in for: A serene HQ on the Central Coast — with Hearst Castle, the tidepools at Moonstone Beach and the underrated Cambria Center for the Arts all nearby.

Ventana Inn & Spa
Big Sur
Check in for: An evening spent in the exquisite Japanese Baths — heated year-round and open until 2 a.m. every night.

Glen Oaks Big Sur
Big Sur
Check in for: Luxurious accommodations deftly integrated into the surrounding nature; we like the Big Sur cabin, with wood-burning fire pit and view of the Big Sur River.

Post Ranch Inn
Big Sur
Check in for: Sunset in a heated infinity pool overlooking the ocean — followed by sorting through constellations during a guided stargazing session with the inn’s telescope.

Carmel Mission Inn
Check in for: A rambling, family- and pet-friendly resort with a happening pool scene and handy access to Carmel’s attractions, like the beautiful, historic mission that gives the inn its name.

L’Auberge Carmel
Check in for: A Relais & Chateaux property with an Old World, antiques-positive vibe and the chance to prepare your lunch alongside executive chef Justin Cogley.

The Inn at Spanish Bay
Pebble Beach
Check in for: A view from your private balcony of the daily bagpipe evening ceremonies and the most renowned golf resort in the country.

Casa Palmero
Pebble Beach
Check in for: A more exclusive experience than its sister property, the Lodge at Pebble Beach, with access to all of its amenities, spectacular golf and fewer day visitors.

Monterey Tides
Check in for: A relaxed take on the Monterey stay, with a beachside location slightly east of downtown.

Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa, California Beach Hotels
Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa

Monterey Plaza Hotel + Spa
Check in for: Hot tubs overlooking the Bay in a bustling location right on Monterey’s Cannery Row — why not book into the 2,100-square-foot Presidential Suite, with its wraparound balcony and ocean views?

Dream Inn
Santa Cruz
Check in for: The Ventana surfboard package — pick up a surfboard and take a room in a “Cloud-Level” suite as well as lunch and surfing with Ventana’s Martijn Stiphout.

Ritz Carlton Half Moon Bay
Half Moon Bay
Check in for: The luxury fire pit suites, just in time to privately take in sunset over the Pacific, wine in hand and s’mores on the way.

Beach House Hotel, California beach hotels
Beach House Hotel

Beach House
Half Moon Bay
Check in for: A family-sized ocean-view penthouse — the best place to relax following an afternoon biking on the Coastside Trail, which leads directly from the hotel into Half Moon Bay.

Cavallo Point
San Francisco
Check in for: The amazing Frank House, formerly officers’ lodging in Fort Baker, with two bedrooms, its own kitchen and floor-to-ceiling windows for watching the fog roll in and out.

Mill Valley Inn
Mill Valley
Check in for: A best-in-class continental breakfast, with Creek House rooms underneath redwood trees and Muir Woods an easy hike away.

Casa Madrona, California Beach Hotels
Casa Madrona Hotel & Spa

Casa Madrona
Check in for: The Hillside Cottage suite, with views of two bays (Richardson and San Francisco) plus a smack-central location in Sausalito and top-notch service.

Smiley’s Schooner Saloon + Hotel
Check in for: “The oldest saloon west of the Mississippi” with a legitimately incredible history (it operated behind blacked-out windows twice — during Prohibition and World War II, to fool potential Japanese bombers) and a great, $100, first-come first-served same-day deal.

Point Reyes Seashore Lodge
Check in for: Long afternoons exploring Point Reyes (the park headquarters is only a half-mile down a trail from the hotel) followed by Hog Island Oysters at the the lodge’s Farm House Restaurant.

Bodega Bay Lodge
Bodega Bay
Check in for: Whale watching from the Whirlpool Room’s balcony — and then retreating to the suite’s signature attraction, a two-person private hot tub.  

Albion River Inn
Check in for: Out-of-this-world coastal views from your private deck, plus a wood-burning fireplace; our pick is Room 19.

Elk Cove Inn and Spa
Check in for: Stargazing on the beach pre-bonfire at one of the darkest spots on the California coast.

Packard House, California Beach Hotels, Sausalito Hotels
Packard House

Packard House
Check in for: Kit’s Cabin, a French cottage in the middle of an English garden, with Adirondack chairs out front and a wood-burning fireplace within.


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