The Best Hotels in California (For Every Type of Traveller)

From a Barbie-pink motel extravaganza to an adobe design house pitched against the dusty desert horizon, we’ve rounded up the best stays in California for you to book right now.

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Slow-paced, health-conscious surf lodges, sultry desert boltholes decked out in hand-picked objets d'art, ranch-style hideaways, gloriously kitsch motels and stalwart spa stays: whatever your persuasion, California has your dream accommodation covered. We've cross-checked the road maps, fuelled up the Cadillac and cruised along iconic west coast highways to compile this list of the very best sleepover spots for every type of traveller in the Golden State. Whatever your travel tribe ­- beach-ready surfer babes, Sonoma County wine buffs, cowboy boot-wearing thrifters or Skims-sporting LA devotees - you'll find a place to rest your head and restore your equilibrium among our top 14 Cali addresses. Time to check-in.

Book now: the 14 best hotels, motels and stays in California



1 Hotel West Hollywood

West Hollywood, LA

Best for: eco-conscious city slickers

This one's for luxe-seekers with a social conscience. Turning the Sunset Strip green, this sleek bolthole is redefining star-studded LA living with its sustainable approach. Biophilic design puts fresh foliage centre stage, while a moss-covered wall and hanging gardens help keep the hotel cool in the sizzling Californian heat. Elsewhere, surfaces feature wood that's been reclaimed from fallen trees (to reduce commercial cutting), carpets are made from recycled ocean plastics and the hotel takes the crown of being one of the city's most energy-efficient. On top of all this, visitors can expect floor-to-ceiling views of the Hollywood Hills, a sun-drenched pool deck and a rooftop cocktail bar beloved for its seasonal pours.

Photo credit: Eric Laignel


8490 Sunset Boulevard, CA 90069



White Water


Best for: active adventurers

Squeezed between coastal curves on the mystically named Moonstone Beach, this 25-bedroom seaside lodge offers a Californian take on wholesome Scandi living, and easy access to the great outdoors. You'll be swapping fjords for a surf-blessed beach, mountain hikes for coastal strolls along rocky expanses and New Nordic food for casual Californian, with freshly baked pastries delivered to your door each morning. In your suite, Stockholm-style birch-wood panelling, white walls and textured linens meet accents of warm mustard, indigo blue and sage green, while bathrooms come stocked with Aesop Geranium products, perfect for soothing post-walk muscles. We recommend starting your day with an almond butter-spiked smoothie and plate of blue-corn waffles at nearby Hidden Kitchen, then grabbing one of the hotel's minty-green bikes and pedalling up to the Paso Robles wine region for some tasting sessions. After a windswept afternoon stroll along the shore, head down the little dirt track, lantern in hand, to well-loved local oyster bar Sea Chest, where you can feast on steamed mussels and buttery bay scallops.


6736 Moonstone Beach Dr, Cambria, CA 93428



Merchant House High Desert

Palm Springs

Best for: California dreamers

If there were ever a place suited to a listening party tuned into Joni Mitchell's shimmering harmonies, it would be this Morongo Valley escape. Bookended by arid desert curves, the three-bed adobe rental's sultry interiors provide a serene counterpoint to the craggy rock formations outside. Under exposed beams and Mission-style plastering, the airy space is kitted out with eclectic furnishings from owner Denise Portmans' Venice Beach homeware store Merchant Modern, as well as with pieces sourced on her travels around Morocco's Atlas Mountains. It's a liveable art gallery - all hand-woven rugs, vintage ceramics, rattan loungers and desert-toned walls moulded into soft, natural shapes. Bring your vinyl LPs for the waiting turntable, because this is a home that begs to ring with the dulcet tones of Carole King and the Eagles' guitar twangs. Outside, a saltwater plunge pool and open-air bath provide salvation from the city heat, while the nearby Frontier Café and La Copine will keep you well fed.

Photo credit: Kate Berry


Morongo Valley, CA 92256



The Sea Ranch Lodge


Best for: community-loving conservationists

This secluded Sonoma Coast lodge is a feat of sustainable development. One of the oldest buildings in the Sea Ranch community, the cedar-and-redwood clapboard property on the dramatic, rock-strewn expanse above the churning waves of the Pacific at Black Point Beach is being thoughtfully restored into guest accommodation that aligns both with the beauty of this stark spot and with the beliefs of its community-minded architect owners. Rooms won't open until later this year, but, in the meantime, you can stop by to browse the general store, feast in the restaurant or attend one of many discussion sessions, classes and programmes open to locals and weekenders alike. Run by Eric Piacentine, of Big Sur Bakery fame, The Dining Room is the place to savour New Nordic dishes expertly prepared using fresh-off-the-boat Sonoma Coast fish, foraged seaweeds and stellar produce from small-town producers based nearby.


60 Sea Walk Dr, Sea Ranch, CA 95497



Cara Hotel


Best for: work-from-anywhere warriors

The honeyed exterior, silvered planting and understated design of California's new Cara Hotel bring to mind balmy summer evenings on the Med. Despite its city location, the property's olive tree-lined courtyard - accessed through an oversized arched door - transports visitors straight to a Greek oasis, albeit one frequented by MacBook-touting LA creatives and the work-from-anywhere nomads who've made this chic stay their forever office. Airy rooms are characterised by a pared-back design, softened by earthy tones and natural linens, and showcase ceramics and artworks by a raft of young city artists. Dishes at the Michael Patria-helmed restaurant are plucked straight from Italy's cookbook, using produce sourced from local farmers, all paired with an excellent wine list with a focus on natural bins. We recommend sipping a Lemon Drop beside the lantern-lit pool (and leaving your laptop back in your room, please).


1730 N Western Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90027


Sparrows Lodge

Palm Springs

Best for: grown-up summer campers

Confirming that not all Palm Springs stays have to conform to the city's modernist flex, this ranch-style log cabin puts a new spin on an age-old American tradition. Nestled just outside the city, under the shadow of the San Bernardino peaks, Sparrows Lodge offers a woodsy take on 1950s design - we're talking log-cabin aesthetics, bathtubs made from old horse troughs and gently distressed wood cladding. Think of it as channelling the ambience of a classic US summer-camp experience, without the enforced archery lessons. Native planting trickles into cottage-style veg patches, inspired by American farm living, and you'll dine on long, country-style communal tables shaded by the property's citrus grove (there's no ignoring your neighbours here). Most guests opt to end their night around the backyard fire pit, Steinbeck novel and gooey marshmallow s'mores in hand, as is the summer-camp tradition. ­


1330 E Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs, CA 92264, US



Hotel Covell


Best for: alternative LA lifestylers

Located in the hills of the breezy Loz Feliz neighbourhood, this nine-suite boutique bolthole shuns the glitz and glamour of downtown LA for the low-fi living favoured by the city's creatives (those sans a Casablanca condo). Opened by respected Eastside restauranteur Dustin Lancaster - the mastermind behind nearby L&E Oyster Bar and El Condor - this light-flooded hotel offers a distinctive take on Cali cool: think clean white lines paired with choice antiques, time-worn Turkish rugs and rustic wooden floors. Funky, but luxe, it's a great reflection of the neighbourhood it calls home - and perfect for return visitors to LA wanting to explore the city's outer edges. Downstairs, Bar Covell has local beers on draft, as well as a good selection of wine by the glass.


4626 Hollywood Boulevard 90027


Mar Vista Farm + Cottages


Best for: rural romantics

Not all Cali stays sport mid-century furnishings and a typical west coast colour palette. Tucked behind a grove of redwoods and pine, Mar Vista Farm's 11 buttercup-yellow cottages are instead notable for their antique furnishings and characterful fireplaces. Nestled in a sun-bathed meadow surrounded by wilderness, these softly lit homes are connected by forest trails, along which inhabitants can meander through dappled woodland towards a secluded private beach. Owners Deanna and Cab run an on-site organic farm, and will deliver breakfast ingredients to your door, including freshly laid eggs and just-plucked-from-the-earth veggies. The focus here is on slow and sustainable exploration. You can join gardening classes, feed the goats or head down to the nearby Gualala Seafood Shack for comforting clam chowder, before taking a wander into the grounds of nearby sustainable vineyard Annapolis Winery. The family-run site is open daily for picnicking and tastings.

Photo credit: Nicole Lamotte Photography


35101 CA-1, Gualala, CA 95445



The Surfrider Malibu


Best for: beach babes

No Californian road trip would be complete without a stopover in the state's sunniest city. Malibu might be known for its paparazzi-pursued residents, but this well-heeled enclave's first claim to fame was as a prime surfing spot - all tie-dye sunsets, sandy feet and beachy waves in hair. Times might have changed, but new coastal hotel The Surfrider reminisces beautifully on Malibu's golden era, while adding luxe Tinseltown touches to cater for 21st-century whims. Stepping into the lobby is like entering a high-spec beach home: expect reclaimed teak floorboards, wicker lampshades, scented candles and a well-curated collection of coffee-table books to peruse. The 20 boutique rooms are decked out in bone white and pale wood, complemented by linen furnishings, jute rugs and hammock seats. Upstairs, you'll find a residents-only rooftop restaurant, overlooking those oh-so-famous waves. Lunch on Buddha bowls piled high with quinoa, houmous, avocado and seared tuna, while a breakfast must-try is the energy-giving bircher muesli.

Photo credit: Brecht Vant Hof


23033 Pacific Coast Hwy, Malibu, CA 90265



Thacher House


Best for: off-grid gurus

With chickens pecking outside your door and goats grazing the surrounding pasture, it's easy to lose all track of time at Thacher House. Founder Calvin Zara renovated this old Ojai estate with his own hands, putting his carpentry skills to good use in creating five dwellings that are now filled with books, thoughtfully chosen contemporary art, antique furnishings and objets d'art. Guests may feel more like they're in Provence than on the Pacific coast, thanks to the lavender-scented valley breezes wafting through the open windows. Zara's vision is of a slow-paced stay for guests, personalised to their preferences, but guided by the spiritual power of this ancient land. Hence, cheese- and yoghurt-making classes are included in your stay, meals are seasonal, made with produce grown on the property, and additional classes in pickling, preserving and vinegar-making are available on request, alongside hiking and biking your way around this sleepy Cali enclave.


4100 Matilija Canyon Rd, Ojai, CA 93023



Madonna Inn

San Luis Obispo

Best for: Instagram exhibitionists

A hotchpotch of faux-alpine chalets, turrets and rooms with names such as Jungle Rock, Caveman and Country Gentleman, this kitsch motel is a California landmark. Part drive-in accommodation, part spa and part remote office for the parade of creatives looking to be inspired by its extravagance, it's a stopover for the outlandish and the kind of traveller who needs a trolley to exit LAX, following a detour to the bulky luggage desk. Each of the 110 rooms has been individually designed and decorated by founders Alex and Phyllis Madonna. Rest your head in the rock-panelled Yosemite Rock grotto, or chill out atop the hot pink shagpile carpet in the Love Nest suite. The overwhelming explosion of gauzy gloriousness doesn't end in the rooms, either. Settle in at one of the booths in the Barbie-pink Gold Rush Steak House restaurant, grab a Madonna Cadillac cocktail, or book in for a Day-Glo-coloured Arctic Berry Peel at the much-loved day spa.


100 Madonna Rd, San Luis Obispo, CA 93405



Skyview Los Alamos

Los Alamos

Best for: high-end road-trippers

Road trips call for motels, but we're inclined to look for a little OTT luxury when deciding on our Pacific coast pit stops. Step forward, Skyview Los Alamos - a 33-room Santa Barbara crashpad that pairs all the classic motel tropes with vineyard views and five-star feels. Head to Norman restaurant and start with a glass of locally produced wine on the airy terrace, or perhaps a refreshing Michelada - a Mexican beer-based Bloody Mary. The casual dinner menu pairs modern California fare with Southern touches: think skillet-cooked cornbread with fermented pepper honey, a summery farm salad drizzled in a blackberry balsamic vinaigrette and Skuna Bay salmon on a bed of earthy celery root purée - all complemented by golden California views.

Photo credit: Carly Mask


9150 US-101, Los Alamos, CA 93440



Dr Wilkinson’s Backyard Resort & Mineral Springs


Best for: spa junkies

In California's sprawling Calistoga wine country, this 1950s-built landmark has been drawing in the crowds to its three mineral pools and mud baths since the heyday of California mineral waters. Spend a day indulging in "The Works", an immersive full-body pampering session that includes a mud bath, face mask, spin in a mineral whirlpool, steam bath, plus blanket wrap and massage, then slink back to your recently renovated room - decked out in warm colours and cool mid-century furnishings - for a pre-prandial nap (we'll be skipping the Peloton King room, but feel free to book it if you fancy a pre-dinner cardio workout). Mealtimes at the House of Better restaurant see top-notch produce star in a wellness-led menu created by Trevor Logan, of San Francisco's Green Chile Kitchen. Expect the likes of kale and mushroom omelettes and huevos rancheros for brunch, crispy chicken tacos for lunch and wood-fired flatbreads topped with roasted green peppers, maitake mushrooms and toasted hemp hearts for dinner.

Photo credit: Katie Newburn


1507 Lincoln Ave, Calistoga, CA 94515



Mendocino Grove


Best for: discerning glampers

Calling all lazy hikers: grab your Snow Peak gear and get down to the Mendocino coast. Dappled by sunshine refracting through emerald leaves, the picturesque camping spot in this peaceful redwood grove offers all the breathtaking beauty of a traditional hiking holiday without the sweaty-under-the-tarp realities. You'll be bedding down beneath crisp white canvas in luxurious tents fully outfitted with heated beds, French linen, woollen blankets and elegant design touches, all set within 15 hectares of Pacific coast forest. Group activities are low-key: think guided nature hikes rather than Into the Wild-style climbs. Evenings, meanwhile, belong to the fire pits, where you'll grill dinner over open flames and keep cosy after dark. Our favourite part? The campsite bathhouse, which is stocked with locally produced EO toiletries, fluffy towels and hot, steamy showers. We'd hardly call it camping.


9601 CA-1, Mendocino, CA 95460

The Lowdown

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