The Best Beach Hotels to Book in San Diego, California

From stunning beaches to hidden coves, San Diego is filled with coastal fun to be had
From stunning beaches to hidden coves, San Diego is filled with coastal fun to be had | Courtesy of Bahia Resort Hotel / Expedia
Photo of Andrea Schulte-Peevers
8 December 2021
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With near-perfect weather year-round, the 17mi (27km) drive along the San Diego coastline – from hidden coves to miles-long sandy stretches and wave-battered surfing beaches – is naturally among the city’s main attractions. When not spreading your towel in the sand, cycling along the boardwalk, hitting the waves on a surfboard, or watching the sunset cocktail in hand, you may wish to explore this southern California city’s other draws – such as the famous San Diego Zoo and the vibrant dining scene of the historic Gaslamp Quarter. But first, let us introduce you to some of the best San Diego beach hotels – bookable on Culture Trip.

Tower23 Hotel, for boutique digs overlooking Pacific Beach

White bed with private balcony overlooking the ocean at Tower23 Hotel in San Diego
Courtesy of Tower23 Hotel / Booking.com
Whatever you’ve heard about California’s relaxed sophistication, Tower 23 epitomizes it. The only boutique San Diego beachfront hotel overlooks the wooden Crystal Pier, the bustling Pacific Beach – “PB” in local parlance – historic landmark. Watch the sun sink into the ocean from your balcony attached to stylishly minimalist rooms – complete with comfy teak beds draped in high-thread-count white linen. The locally acclaimed JRDN restaurant bar is perfect for winding down a sunny SoCal day with a chili mango margarita and a plate of ahi tuna nachos.

Bahia Resort Hotel, for Mission Bay views

The front beach, with umbrellas, sun loungers and palm trees, at Bahia Resort Hotel
Courtesy of Bahia Resort Hotel / Expedia
Generations of sun-and-sand-seeking families have flocked to this venerable San Diego beach hotel sprawled over its own 14-acre (5.6ha) peninsula in Mission Bay since 1953. While its proximity to popular Mission Beach and calm seas are still the top draws, activity-minded vacationers can get their kicks from the vast menu of water and land-based diversions – from beach bonfires and tennis to bay cruises on an old-timey Mississippi sternwheeler. Relive the day’s exploits while chilling on your balcony or patio, with dreamy views of the waterfront or tropical gardens.

Blue Sea Beach Hotel, for surfer chic near Pacific Beach

The outdoor pool area with wall mural and oceanfront views at Blue Sea Beach Hotel in San Diego
Courtesy of Blue Sea Beach Hotel / Expedia
A lobby filled with cool designer furniture, knickknack-filled shelves and vintage video games delivers a playful welcome to guests of this charming San Diego beachfront hotel right on the 3mi (4.8km)-long Pacific Beach boardwalk. The horseshoe-shaped complex embraces an ocean-facing deck where you can chill in the heated pool and hot tub, overlooked by a hip wall-sized mural. Fall asleep to the crashing waves in surf-chic rooms – where yellow accent walls add a sunny touch and plump premium mattresses help you drift off to dreamland.

Ocean Park Inn, for contemporary cool in Pacific Beach

The lounge area of a suite at Ocean Park Inn
Courtesy of Ocean Park Inn / Expedia
Smack bang in the heart of the Pacific Beach ‘hood, this family-owned San Diego beach hotel has a pedigree going back to 1967 but long ago traded its historic tiki looks for a contemporary-cool vibe. There’s plenty of elbow room in breezy rooms accented with surf photographs and industrial lamps – while the best ones have beach-facing balconies overlooking the iconic Crystal Pier. Only a glass façade separates the pool deck from the boardwalk and the stretch of sand. Pack light: beach towels and robes are free and there’s a laundry facility on-site.

The Dana on Mission Bay, for superb onsite dining

Aerial view of the Dana on Mission Bay, surrounded by the harbor, lawn and palm trees
Courtesy of the Dana on Mission Bay / Expedia
From tots to old-timers, this lushly landscaped resort – with smart rooms and its own marina – makes everyone feel welcome, including dogs: ask for the “Dana for Dogs Arrival Kit”. Splash around in the two pools, hop on the free daily shuttle to SeaWorld or head out on the water by kayak, SUP, or waverunner. The lively poolside Firefly restaurant bar serves local microbrews, over 40 wines by the glass, seasonal cocktails and inventive plates featuring herbs and veg harvested in the on-site garden.

Samesun Ocean Beach, for wallet-friendly boutique digs

The vibrant front entrance to Samesun Ocean Beach
Courtesy of Samesun Ocean Beach / Expedia
Not one for introverts, this upbeat hostel has you based within stumbling distance of happening bars, breweries, buskers and indie boutiques in Ocean Beach. The color-drenched façade and interiors channel the hip neighborhood’s “never-die” hippie flair – as do the ample communal areas with hammocks, wicker sofas and guitars for impromptu strumming sessions. Freshly renovated dorms and private rooms – some with sinks or attached bathrooms – feature plenty of space and small lockers. Freebies include linen, towels, Wi-Fi, breakfast and access to a well-equipped guest kitchen.

Humphreys Half Moon Inn, for tropical-themed accommodations on Shelter Island

The palm tree-lined riverfront view of Humphreys Half Moon Inn
Courtesy of Humphreys Half Moon Inn / Expedia
What’s 1.2mi (1.6km) long and a few hundred feet wide? Shelter Island: the enviable location of this upscale resort that injects a dose of Aloha spirit into SoCal. High-ceilinged rooms at this beloved San Diego beach hotel flaunt tropical sophistication accented by beamed wooden ceilings and plantation shutters. Entertainment is taken very seriously here – with happy hour, a nightly live music club and a summertime outdoor concert series that brings in international acts. Fun fact: Shelter Island is actually a built-up sandbank.

Paradise Point Resort and Spa, for a ton of luxe amenities

Aerial view of the outdoor lagoon-style pool area of Paradise Point Resort and Spa in San Diego
Courtesy of Paradise Point Resort and Spa / Expedia
Built by a Hollywood movie producer in the 1960s, this fantasy island resort in Mission Bay has more tricks and activities up its sleeve than most small towns. Tackle the 70ft (21m) tower for a birds-eye view of all that is on offer – including four restaurants, five pools, basketball and tennis courts, a top-notch spa and fitness center and a mile-long (1.6km) sandy beach. Bungalows sprinkled across villages radiate nautical sophistication – thanks to a crisp blue-and-white color scheme and spacious patios equipped with Adirondack chairs.

For more options, discover our guide to the best hotels in Chula Vista, San Diego, and book now on Culture Trip.

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