The Best Hotels in California for Every Traveler

Californias varied hotels match the diversity of the landscape
California's varied hotels match the diversity of the landscape | Courtesy of Belmond El Encanto / Expedia.com
Casey Hatfield-Chiotti

The Golden State stretches over 900 miles (1450km) from the Mexican border along the wildlife-dense Pacific, via sprawling urban centers, sleepy beach towns and redwood-studded countryside in between – with destination hotels to match the diversity of the landscape. In fact, there’s a hotel to satisfy every taste and sensibility in California, from sophisticated city hotels with eye-catching design to rustic coastal lodges. Here are the best for every type of traveler, from foodies to wellness warriors and die-hard romantics.

1. Ace Downtown

Chain Hotel

Ace Hotel Downtown Los Angeles
Courtesy of Ace Hotel Downtown Los Angeles / Expedia

Ace Hotels are synonymous with cool scenes, and the DTLA location is no different. Committed drinkers will find the rooftop bar of their dreams perched on top. The Upstairs has fireplaces, fabulous city views and a long spirits list featuring everything from Japanese whiskey to Jamaican rum. Enjoy the latter neat or incorporated into an excellent Dark and Stormy with lime and ginger beer. The Ace Downtown is located in the Broadway theater district’s heart, surrounded by craft breweries and speakeasies.

2. Proper San Francisco

Boutique Hotel, Hotel

San Francisco Proper Hotel
Courtesy of San Francisco Proper Hotel / Expedia

The Kelly Wearstler-designed Proper San Francisco will wow design fans with its upscale apartment feel. The so-called “grande dame of West Coast design” has layered furniture and art from different periods and places, so guest rooms have European mid-century furnishings mixed with vintage Scandinavian rugs and floral-motif monochrome wallpaper. The building, a mini NYC-esque Flatiron from 1909, has great bones and hides a rare rooftop bar in San Francisco, Charmaine’s, with zebra-striped chairs and snug fire pits.

3. Pendry San Diego

Chain Hotel, Luxury

Pendry San Diego
Courtesy of Pendry San Diego / Expedia

One for foodies, this sleek, contemporary hotel in San Diego’s Gaslamp Quarter is as much a destination for dining and drinking as it is for catching some Zs. The Pendry lays on a veritable feast of six restaurants and bars, including a rooftop lounge and a beer hall, serving upscale takes on informal classics (try the burger on a buttery brioche bun or carnitas tacos with lime crema and cilantro). The hotel’s sustainable seafood restaurant Lionfish, helmed by celebrated chef Jose “JoJo” Ruiz, is one of San Diego’s best. We’re also very much into the hotel’s champagne vending machine… Enough said.

4. Avalon Palm Springs

Boutique Hotel

Avalon Hotel, Palm Springs
Courtesy of Avalon Hotel / Expedia

The Avalon Palm Springs has everything digital detoxers need to unwind: free rise-and-shine yoga, guided meditation, tai chi, even life coaching. But guests give up nothing while decompressing in a garden hacienda with a glass of bubbly or a CBD-infused skincare treatment in the Estrella Spa. Restaurant Chi Chi serves fresh California fare ranging from healthy (poke bowl with cucumber and seaweed) to indulgent (rigatoni alla bolognese with parmigiano-reggiano and a fried egg). Avalon’s Spanish-style studios, suites and bungalows, dating back to the 1930s, are surrounded by citrus trees, gardens and secluded swimming pools.

5. Hotel Healdsburg

Boutique Hotel, Spa Hotel

Hotel Healdsburg
Courtesy of Hotel Healdsburg / Expedia

Wine lovers only have to step out the door of the Hotel Healdsburg to sip many of Sonoma’s best vintages. Dozens of tasting rooms are located on the streets surrounding Healdsburg’s town plaza including LIOCO, Hartford Family Winery and Idlewild Wines, a winery specializing in northern Italian varietals. The hotel’s Charlie Palmer’s Dry Creek Kitchen – with tables under a vaulted ceiling and floor-to-ceiling windows – has a wine cellar offering 500 selections from well-known producers to up and coming vintners. Tranquil guest rooms feature bed frames made of salvaged wood, pale blue throws and cloud paintings by Wade Hoefer.

6. AutoCamp Yosemite

Camping, Glamping

AutoCamp Yosemite
Courtesy of AutoCamp Yosemite / Expedia

This glamping stay on a wooded property in Midpines, 40 minutes from Yosemite National Park’s Arch Rock entrance, is heaven for finger-on-the-pulse outdoorsy types with an eye for what’s cool. AutoCamp Yosemite’s retro-style ‘rooms’ include light-filled suites in converted airstream trailers and a restored pine cabin with a porch swing, rounded off with plenty of rustic wood mixed with minimalist white kitchens and tan throws. Each room has a dedicated outdoor space with a fire pit for roasting s’mores under the stars.

7. The Landing

Boutique Hotel, Resort, Spa Hotel

The Landing Resort & Spa
Courtesy of the Landing Resort and Spa / Expedia

Wellness seekers will find a dose of tranquility at this hotel on Lake Tahoe’s south shore no matter what the season. During the winter, guests can curl up by their stone gas fireplace with a glass of red wine after a day on the slopes, as the hotel is within walking distance from the Heavenly gondola. For summer months, the hotel also has access to a semi-private beach, and guests can eat breakfast on their own sun-dappled private patio or go for a dip in the lake. The Landing also has a heated outdoor pool and a spa offering a coffee-and-coconut body wrap and hot-stone massages.

8. Post Ranch Inn

Resort, Inn, Hotel, Treehouse

Eco lodges at Post Ranch Hotel,Big Sur next to National Highway 1,PCH, California,U.S.A.,United States of America,
© Paul Quayle / Alamy
Located on a wooded cliffside, cantilevered over the ocean, die-hard romantics will fall hard for Big Sur’s Post Ranch Inn. With no televisions or alarm clocks and trails that crisscross the property, guests have plenty of chance to reconnect with each other and nature. The guest rooms are in luxe treehouses on stilts, Pacific-spying ocean houses with curved grass-topped roofs or private houses with one and two bedrooms. The two infinity-edge hot tubs overlooking the sea may be the most romantic spot on Earth.

9. Auberge du Soleil

Boutique Hotel, Resort

Auberge Du Soleil, luxury hotel room with a bathtub on the balcony
Courtesy of Auberge du Soleil / Expedia
Francophiles will feel at home at Auberge du Soleil – aka the cheerily named “Sun Inn” in French. Guest rooms, with tawny leather furnishings and French doors, are located in Provençal-style houses, and each maison is named for a town in the south of France. Gallic restaurateur Claude Rouas founded the property in 1981 on a sun-dappled hillside with olive and oak trees because it reminded him of Provence. Decades later, the property still ranks as one of wine-loving Napa’s most understated and elegant spots. Make a beeline for the Michelin-star restaurant for French specialties like smoked salmon tartine and sautéed scallops with grilled radicchio and brown butter.

10. Hotel Erwin Venice

Boutique Hotel

Spacious living-dining room with large yellow sofa and soft blue carpet and ocean-view balcony at Hotel Erwin, Venice Beach
Courtesy of Hotel Erwin / Expedia

A fixture on the world-famous Venice Beach Boardwalk since the Seventies, Hotel Erwin gives sun-worshippers plenty to see and do, with the beach just across the way. Bring a towel and soak up some rays or improve your tan while doing pull-ups at Muscle Beach – the birthplace of physical fitness. The hotel’s rooftop lounge is a watering hole transported to a sunny terrace serving cold beer and honest cocktails. Low buildings surround the hotel, so each room has a view of something: either LA’s rose-hued buildings or the sand and surf.

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