Mommy Frog's Note: We know these are trying times. Some of us are facing major challenges, whether they be from illness, the economy or simply the unknown. All of us are living under a new normal. While the Southern California theme parks are currently closed, they will reopen soon. (Many Florida theme parks, including Universal Orlando Resort, SeaWorld Orlando, LEGOLAND Florida and Disney World have begun phased reopenings!) In the meantime, we're looking for ways to help keep the magic hoppening at home. One of the ways we're doing that is by helping you plan your next trip!
When we think of Southern California, we envision sunny beaches, sand castles and toes in the warm sand. Surfers, dolphins and palm trees also come to mind. Los Angeles, Orange County and San Diego have many awesome family beaches, from baby beaches with no waves to famous surf spots. At low tide, you may be able to go tide pooling to meet some cool creatures. Have you ever seen stressed-out surfers? No brah, we haven't either. Take their lead, relax and reserve a few days to kick back SoCal style. That means staying at the beach so you don't have to let traffic and parking wreck your good vibes. You’ll want to check out our favorite hotels for a low-key beach getaway in SoCal.
Our Favorite Hotels for a Low-Key Beach Getaway in SoCal
There’s never been a better time to go for a beach vacation with warm sunshine and fresh salty sea air. But it can be hard planning a trip from afar and deciding where to go. Here’s a look at some family-friendly hotels that are right at or near the beach in Los Angeles, Orange County and San Diego. Join us as we hop down the coast to explore the best beach hotels for families in SoCal. Whether you want to be a beach bum and sunbathe, learn to surf or body board, or go on a whale watching tour or jet skiing, you'll find a beach hotel in a beach town that offers that perfect getaway for your family. Grab those buckets and shovels and let's dig into the best hotels for a low-key beach getaway in Southern California!
Favorite Los Angeles Beach Hotels
We are starting in Los Angeles and hopping southward down the coast. Santa Monica has great family beaches and a famous pier with rides and arcades. Kick back at the pool with views of the sand and the Santa Monica Pier from either Loews Santa Monica Hotel or the Casa Del Mar. Rent a bike or walk to the pier, or head south to Venice Beach. Sporty families can check out free sports equipment in Venice Beach for a family game of basketball, handball or paddle tennis. Watch the power lifters at Muscle Beach or skaters at the skate park. Find out a lot more things to do and see in Los Angeles.
Favorite Orange County Beach Hotels
Orange County is nestled between Los Angeles to the north and San Diego to the south. It’s Home to Disneyland and so many beaches. You’ll find a variety of Orange County Beach adventures that vary from town to town.
Starting in the north and moving south, you have Seal Beach, perfect for a quiet getaway. Then Huntington Beach, aka Surf City USA according the Beach Boys. Huntington Beach has huge, sandy beaches with bike trails heading up and down the coast, a pier, volleyball courts, fire pits and famous surf spots. The Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach is just across Pacific Coast Highway (Highway 1) from all the action. Rent bikes to explore or take a walk along the coast to downtown HB (as the locals call it) for restaurants and shopping.
If you want to be a tad closer to downtown but still across from the beach, Paséa Hotel & Spa has it all. After a day of surfing and cycling, kick back with drinks and snacks in the rooftop bar with cabanas, swinging chairs and lush sofas. This hotel offers beach cruisers for exploring the coast and beach butler service with pedicab rides to the sand. There's also day use of towels, chairs and umbrellas. They even offer dog-friendly amenities (for a fee) if you want to bring your fur baby!
Just south of HB is the more posh Newport Beach. A larger family will be comfortable at Marriott’s Newport Coast Villas, with two-bedroom villas and full kitchens. This hotel sits on a bluff of the opulent Newport Coast area and is just minutes from beautiful beaches, shopping, restaurants, golf and hiking trails.
Access nearby beaches at Crystal Cove, as well as Corona del Mar to the north and Laguna Beach just to the south. Rent a duffy boat to explore the waters in Newport Harbor. Take a trip to Balboa Island for a Balboa bar (ice cream dipped in chocolate) or frozen banana. Rent a kayak or paddleboard to explore the Newport Back Bay. Or take a ferry to the Balboa Fun Zone and access games, rides, more beaches and a pier.
In South Orange County, hop into the Laguna Cliffs Marriott Resort & Spa for casual elegance. This hilltop hotel sits above above Doheny State Beach and the Dana Point Harbor. With breathtaking views and refreshing ocean breezes, this is the ultimate getaway. The hotel has a kid-friendly pool and nearby parks and playgrounds. You can rent bikes, beach chairs, umbrellas and surf boards at Doheny. Rent jet skis or go out on a whale watching or dolphin tour from the harbor. At the north end of the harbor, visit the Ocean Institute on weekends with your tadpoles for some hands-on learning. At low tide, put on your walking shoes and hike to the tide pools.
There are a ton of other beaches in the area. Salt Creek Beach is another beautiful beach in Dana Point. A drive a few miles to the north will take you to Laguna Beach. (You can use the free trolley system to get between Laguna Beach and Dana Point in summer). Laguna Beach has beautiful beaches, great restaurants and shopping.
A few miles to the south of Dana Point, you’ll find the beach town of San Clemente (also accessible via free trolley). San Clemente has well-known surf spots, a pier, historic downtown area and a beach trail that runs along the beach the entire length of the town. It's a great place to take a walk or run. You can enroll your tadpoles in surf camps in San Clemente and Doheny during the summer. If you are looking for a beach with no waves, Baby Beach in the Dana Point Harbor is a tadpole-friendly beach spot and a great place to paddle board.
Favorite San Diego Beach Hotels
As we continue to travel south, we head into north San Diego county beach communities of Oceanside and Carlsbad. Carlsbad is home to LEGOLAND California, so you can build on your beach vacation with a visit to the nearby LEGOLAND theme park, water park and aquarium. The Cape Rey Carlsbad Beach Hilton Resort and Spa sits across from the beach. Kids will love the Kids Club (and the fact that the hotel is just two miles away from LEGOLAND).
The Omni La Costa Resort and Spa is not right at the beach, but it sits at the end of a lagoon in Carlsbad and the beach is a short drive away. You do get eight pools, including a family beach pool, waterslides and a splash pad for the tadpoles. Speaking of tadpoles, your little ones will get a backpack with activities upon check-in. Plus tadpoles can get up to two hours of daily care for children 6 months to 3 years. Older kids can attend camps.
Speaking of lagoons, San Diego has a few. We enjoy visiting the Carslbad Lagoon for kayaking, jet skiing and other water fun in a contained environment without waves.
Moving south, it’s rare to find a hotel that is right on the sand, but the La Jolla Beach and Tennis Club is one of them. This small resort has been there for over 75 years. It allows you to enjoy the sand on a quiet private beach. Be sure to explore more of La Jolla while you are there! You can go snorkeling and take kayaking tours. La Jolla Shores is known for having the gentlest waves. You'll see seals and sea lions sunning themselves at La Jolla Cove and various spots around La Jolla.
The San Diego Mission Bay Resort has a lot to offer a busy family, from seasonal Kids Kamp, swimming, beach games, bike rentals, dive-in movies at the pool and s’mores at fire pits on the bay. Enjoy the beach games without fear of big waves in the gentle bay. For a little more excitement, rent jet skis or stand-up paddle boards, go water skiing or sailing. Rent a bike or surrey to do a little exploring. Plus, Mission Bay is home to SeaWorld San Diego in case you want to meet some sea animals.
If you love boats and do not mind a 15-minute (1-mile) walk to Mission Beach, then the Hyatt Regency Mission Bay Spa & Marina puts you on the water with a full-service marina. It’s a great way to launch a water vacation with access to jet skis, sailboats, kayaks, whale watching and fishing. The hotel has three heated pools and a waterslide.
You cannot go wrong with staying at one of the hotels on Coronado Island. They offer golden sand beaches and a whole lot of relaxing fun. The historic Hotel Del Coronado is right on the beach. You can take a spin class on the beach or even take a mermaid fitness class! Kids will love the Kids Activity Center while parents will enjoy a night out.
Loews Coronado Bay Resort may not be on the sand, but you can walk or take a shuttle to the beach. The resort provides complimentary beach chairs, towels and boogie boards in the summer. They offer year-round beautiful heated pools and stunning views. On select dates, kids can sign up for the Go Wild! Kids Camp.
Coronado Island is about 140 miles south of where we began our journey in Santa Monica. There are many other beach towns we didn't mention in between. Whether you want to sit on a beach chair, ride the waves, or go on a boat tour, Los Angeles, Orange County and San Diego have plenty of beach getaway fun for a weekend or weeklong SoCal beach vacation.
When to Visit SoCal for a Beach Getaway
You'll want to choose the right time to plan a SoCal beach getaway. In some other beach places, June is a perfectly nice time for a beach vacation. But June is possibly the worst month for a beach vacation in SoCal if sun is what you are looking for. If you want fog and clouds, then maybe it's the best. "June Gloom" is a weather pattern that brings a marine layer, causing overcast mornings and coastal drizzle. It can start in May, causing what we call "May Gray." It's strongest at the coast and is less likely to affect inland cities. But then it's like the gloom magically lifts by July 1, making way for sunshine and warmer temperatures.
You'll see from our posts on when to visit San Diego and when to visit Los Angeles that July through September are the sunniest and hottest months to visit, but it's usually warm through October. November to March tend to be the cooler and rainier months, although some years are drier than others. But those autumn sunsets are strikingly beautiful with pinks and reds and oranges. April can be warm and sunny or cool and foggy. It's hit or miss. But any time of year can provide a beautiful beach day.
Also if you are used to the warm waters of the Southeastern U.S. or Hawaii, the cool water of SoCal can be a bit of a shock. Winter water temperatures dip into the 50s, spring temps are generally in the 60s and summer temperatures are often in the high 60s. If the water reaches the 70s, it's considered quite warm for the region. So what does that mean? Bring or rent a wetsuit or shorty if you want to stay comfortable. Once you get used to it, it will feel refreshing.
The sun is strongest late March through early October. Be sure to protect your skin with a mineral sunscreen (mineral sunscreens are safer for marine life than chemical). Also, wear a hat, sunglasses and UV clothes or wetsuits. Use an umbrella to provide shade at the beach! Some SoCal beaches have more rocks than others, so a pair of beach shoes or booties can help protect those flippers.
We hope our guide to our favorite hotels for a low-key beach getaway in SoCal is hopful in your beach vacation planning. If you are looking for more fun things to do while on your beach getaway, be sure to check out our hoppin’ deals on the California Explorer Pass and San Diego Go Cards.
Related: Where to Stay in Los Angeles
Related: Where to Stay in San Diego