Top 10 California coast hotels

Cruising along California's iconic Highway 1? Here are the hands-down best places to stay on the way

Montage Laguna Beach

Montage Laguna Beach

Montage Laguna Beach

The resort of choice for many SoCal celebrities, the Montage prides itself on exclusivity—not to mention its ideal locale in ritzy Laguna Beach with the Pacific Ocean sprawling out before it. Check out the pool on warm days (of which there are many in Orange County) and see which A-listers you spy.

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Shade Hotel, Manhattan Beach

Joe Schmelzer

Shade Hotel, Manhattan Beach 

Featuring a subtle palette of sea tones, the 38-room boutique hotel's interior evokes the changing moods of the Pacific, which lies just three blocks away from Shade's location in the heart of Manhattan Beach.

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Palihouse Santa Monica Hotel, Santa Monica

Brian Stevens

Palihouse Santa Monica Hotel, Santa Monica

Two blocks from the Promenade, the 36-room Palihouse Santa Monica preserved the bones of its historic 1927 Spanish colonial revival building even as it transformed into a boutique hotel. The grand lobby has Malibu tile floors and a wood-burning fireplace, as well as the original fresco ceilings.

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Hotel Indigo, Santa Barbara

Hotel Indigo, Santa Barbara

The 41-room Hotel Indigo, on the edge of the artsy Funk Zone neighborhood, has in-room murals, and a rotating gallery of local artists’ work fills the airy common areas—the hotel is a satellite exhibition space for the Museum of Contemporary Art Santa Barbara. Ask for one of the rooms with a private garden.

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Cambria Pines Lodge, Cambria

Cambria Pines Lodge, Cambria

The 25-acre woodland site provides a range of accommodations, from pine-paneled cabins to luxury suites; for the full floral experience, ask for a bungalow with a garden view. Stroll through the butterfly garden, organic kitchen plots, and the rest of the themed and unapologetically high-maintenance landscapes.

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Post Ranch Inn, Big Sur

Post Ranch Inn, Big Sur

The most dramatically situated and architecturally ambitious of the Big Sur inns, Post Ranch Inn has rooms set along the bluffs and others tucked away in the forest. And what do we think of the clifftop rooms? Wow. As in: Wow, check out those end-of-the-earth ocean views.

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Carmel Mission Inn, Carmel

Alex Farnum

Carmel Mission Inn, Carmel

South of downtown, Carmel Mission Inn has retro-Mod-turquoise-and-lime decor and a groovy pool. Amenities are all modern, though, including free Wi-Fi, luxury bath products, and even a few pet-friendly rooms.

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The Clement Monterey, Monterey

The Clement Monterey, Monterey

If you’re coming for the famous aquarium, The Clement right next door is your best bet. It’s stylish and has a lovely deck right on the bay. Plus it makes for an easy midday sensory break from the aquarium crowds.

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Inn at the Presidio, San Francisco

Ebbe Roe Yovino-Smith

Inn at the Presidio, San Francisco

It used to be that only campers and soldiers could bed down in the Presidio. Now the Inn at the Presidio, built in 1903 as officers’ quarters, sets 26 comfy rooms right in the middle of the park. The restored brick beauty has tile fireplaces and wide porches whose rocking chairs are perfect for peeping the Golden Gate Bridge.

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Elk Cove Inn & Spa, Mendocino County

Elk Cove Inn & Spa, Mendocino County

The main house, a dainty Victorian, sits on the bluff, but check into one of the Arts and Crafts-style spa suites, and you can enjoy the sea breezes from your balcony. Oceanfront cottages boast cathedral ceilings and picture windows. Enjoy massages at the inn’s day spa, complete with an aromatherapy steam shower and sauna; an afternoon bar serves complimentary wine and make-your-own cocktails.

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