Southern California

Seven Beachfront Hotels in San Diego for Sun Seekers

Sun, sand and surf are three major reasons to visit San Diego. Here's where to stay to make the most of the beach.

I’ve stood on beaches in Malibu, in Santa Monica, and in beachside communities down the California coast. The Golden State earned its nickname; the ability to stand on the sand under the sun at a moment’s notice is so embedded in the Californian, that it can almost be taken for granted.

But there’s something different about visiting a beach in San Diego. The water might still be the Pacific Ocean, but in so many of these neighborhoods, it can feel like living is centered around that strip of golden sand. I can go out for a surf session in the morning, then grab a late breakfast at a café a block away. I can finish a swim or a run on the sand, then grab a drink and dinner at a restaurant or bar while watching the sunset over the horizon. In the evening, I can retire to a hotel room, open the window and let that salty ocean breeze guide me to sleep.

Since hotel and resort developers are wise to the pull that ocean views have for visitors, the coastline has plenty of options when it comes to accommodations. Below are seven of the best beachfront hotels in San Diego for all types of beachgoers.

Stay Beachside in Beautiful La Jolla

There are few communities in all of Southern California that combine upscale living and beachfronts quite like La Jolla. In that neighborhood, just 12 miles or so north of downtown San Diego, La Jolla Shores Hotel may best combine beach access and amenities.

First, the beach: just cross the sidewalk and you can be walking down La Jolla Shores’…well, shores. With the beach’s gentile waves, it’s become a favorite for beginner scuba classes, especially at the neighboring San Diego-La Jolla Underwater Park – a unique 6,000 acres of reef, kelp beds and sand flats that will keep divers exploring for days. The next-door park provides a green-grass respite if you’re looking to keep sand out of a picnic lunch. You can also grill right on the sand, thanks to a concierge service offered by the hotel.

Back inside, every room comes with a view of the beach, and some of them include kitchenettes. Connecting rooms for extra space are available if you’re bringing the whole family, and with digital access to newspapers across the country plus DVD rentals, no one should lack for reading or viewing options.

Finally, downtown La Jolla is less than two miles away, which is either an easy walk or a free shuttle bus ride. There are more beach options there too (if you need them), along with restaurants and shops for souvenirs.

La Jolla Shores Hotel

Top rated
La Jolla
8.8 Excellent (2783 reviews)

Relax, Party or Both in Pacific Beach

Located on the edge of Pacific Beach, Tower23 is a highly-rated boutique hotel that sits between the sand and the neighborhood’s nightlife scene.

If you want sun and surf, you can plan an all-day adventure on the oceanfront, with three separate beaches within three miles. Tower23 is directly across from North Pacific Beach, a calmer area fit for families in particular. Steps to the south is the “main” Pacific Beach, which is known as the liveliest of the beaches, with bars and brunch spots all along the coastline. To the north, Tourmaline Beach is reserved for surfers, but also known as a great spot for beginner boarders to learn the waves. Rental shops along the boardwalk deal in bicycles, roller blades, surfboards and even wetsuits. Moving inland, Tower23 is about a football field’s length from Garnet Avenue, one of Pacific Beach’s main roads, and is filled with bars, nightclubs, fitness studios and breweries.

However, those looking for calm, rather than the buzzy nightlife of the area, will find no shortage of amusement at the hotel. The in-house restaurant, JRDN, is an upscale local’s favorite, especially popular for weekend brunch. You can enjoy any food or drink on the pool deck or by a fire pit overlooking the ocean. There’s room at Tower23 and its surrounding neighborhood to both party and relax.

Tower 23 Hotel

Top rated
San Diego
9.4 Excellent (2246 reviews)

Beach Life in Del Mar at a Luxury Looker

It’s a short walk (down a private path, no less) from the L’Auberge Del Mar down to Del Mar City Beach, but what you get after traversing that trail is magnificent; no less an authority than San Diego’s tourist board calls the northern strip of the beach “arguably San Diego’s finest.” The hotel makes sure that its guests aren’t just admiring the beauty, but taking part in beach life as well, with complimentary beach gear and even a seasonal “beach valet” to help you get set up.

Once down on the beach, Seagrove Park gives you a grassy place to rest and smell the ocean air, possibly while your kids play at Powerhouse Playground. Fulcrum Surf School, just another few steps away, can teach one-on-one or small group surfing lessons as well.

Back at the hotel, there are tennis courts, a full spa and even bikes for courtesy rental. Explore the neighborhood by two wheels (including Del Mar Race Track, which is about a mile away) or stay in and watch the sunset from the appropriately-named Sunset Terrace, with food and drinks from Bleu Bar. Some rooms here feature balconies or terraces, while all of them include in-room tea and coffee, Bluetooth sound systems and marble bathrooms, making for a luxury experience whether in the sand or under the covers.

L'Auberge Del Mar Resort and Spa

Top rated
Del Mar
8.6 Excellent (1610 reviews)

Explore Sunset Cliffs or Relax on a Terrace in Point Loma

Less than a mile south of Ocean Beach Pier, Inn at Sunset Cliffs is an excellent choice if you’re looking for beachfront on a budget. Updated most recently in 2018, the hotel is nearly 60 years old and sits above Osprey Point, a popular lookout and wedding spot.

With a shoreline that is rockier than the smooth sand beaches elsewhere, the biggest attraction here is the Sunset Cliffs Coastal Trail, a leisurely walk along the cliffs with panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean. Experienced kayakers can take offshoot trails down to the water to get a closer look while paddling, while hardcore hikers can get surfside and explore caves, rock formations and even small, more traditional “sandy” beaches.

For those more interested in the sight of the beach than anything else, the Inn at Sunset Cliffs has terraces that allow you to grab a chair, a drink or some food, and look out over the water. Even the pool has an ocean view!

The rooms themselves have more amenities than you’d expect in a lower-priced option, including microwaves and mini-refrigerators. There’s also a plethora of highly rated restaurants and cafes nearby.

The Inn at Sunset Cliffs

Top rated
San Diego
9.2 Excellent (1504 reviews)

Sand- and City-Adjacent in Pacific Beach

With a trivago rating over nine (!) and a dramatic cliffside view of Pacific Beach, Pacific Terrace Hotel has plenty to offer the sand seeker. A short staircase leads you to the sandy oceanfront, where locals and tourists alike surf, swim and relax. It’s a favorite for both recent college grads looking to let loose and, after a quick stroll to the north, families making sandcastles. The Pacific Terrace includes complimentary rentals of sand toys, boogie boards, beach chairs and umbrellas in its resort fee.

The view from the hotel can be enjoyed in any number of ways. The pool deck takes in the sunset over the ocean, while rooms throughout the property feature their own balconies – and in both cases, food and drinks are available.

The neighborhood is a favorite for nightlife, with bars, nightclubs and breweries everywhere. The hotel is also adjacent to much of what makes San Diego such a sought-after travel destination – it’s four miles from SeaWorld, four miles from the tony La Jolla neighborhood and 12 miles from both San Diego Zoo and Petco Park, home of the San Diego Padres baseball team.

Pacific Terrace Hotel

Top rated
San Diego
9.4 Excellent (2564 reviews)

Red Rooves and Golden Sand Next to Coronado Beach

This Coronado Beach five-star favorite is so much more than its iconic red roofs. Hotel del Coronado is steps away from the sand and fully utilizes its location, with options for surfside dining and activities. After a morning spin class looking out onto the ocean, you can grab a bite at Beach & Taco, then hit the water for an afternoon surfing lesson, followed by dinner and sunset watching at Sheerwater.

Its location is not just perfect for the beach crowd, though. It is practically across the street from the Coronado Golf Course, with 72 holes for the weekend hackers to explore; the course has been previously named one of the best value golf courses in the country by Golf Digest. In addition, it’s 20 miles to Sea World and 10 minutes to the Gaslamp Quarter, San Diego’s nightlife hub.

Rooms at the Hotel del Coronado come with free wi-fi and, if so desired, a balcony with a view of the beach, always reminding guests why they chose a hotel that feels those ocean breezes throughout the day.

Hotel del Coronado, Curio Collection by Hilton

7.5 Good (2890 reviews)

Stay in the Bay at a Family-Friendly Beachside Resort

There are plenty of reasons that Bahia Resort Hotel has garnered a “Popular Choice” badge on trivago, and quite a few of them come from its location – at one end of the Santa Barbara Cove, surrounded by sandy beaches, sun-lovers will enjoy all of the options.

The Bahia is also popular among those who like to enjoy open water from the deck of a boat, with sailboat rentals available from a partner water sports shop. Powerboats, kayaks, paddle and surf boards will get you out on the sea.

If staying on the sand is more your speed, the resort’s cabanas that line the beach are great for reading and relaxing. To ride the whole of Mission Bay, board the Bahia Belle – a ferry between this resort and its sister property, the Catamaran Resort Hotel.

Back on solid land, the Bahia is family-friendly; the on-site Tropical Garden Retreat creates a safe but fun nature walk, while tennis courts and a playground let the little ones burn off that extra energy. In the rooms, mini-refrigerators can keep snacks fresh, while some suites include kitchenettes – even with full stoves. With Sea World less than five miles away and Belmont Park (a shore-side amusement park) just a short walk off the hotel grounds, families will never lack for activities.

Bahia Resort Hotel

San Diego
8.3 Very good (3440 reviews)