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From the iconic surf breaks in San Diego to the rugged cliffs up in Mendocino, the California Coast boasts a wealth of natural beauty and diverse terrain prime for all sorts of outdoor adventure. While there are many large, well-known resorts to call home for a California vacation, we’ve found some hidden gem hotels that offer more charm, character and calmness for your next Pacific Coast getaway. From a surfer-cool hotspot on Pacific Beach to a serene waterfront lodge in wine country, these seven hotels shouldn’t be kept a secret any longer!

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Albion River Inn: Mendocino


Mendocino is one of the most romantic towns in Northern California. About a 3-hour drive north from San Francisco, you’ll find stunning views of the dramatic coast, vibrant plant life, a plethora  of butterflies and hummingbirds, and a buzzing wine country. The charming Albion River Inn serves as the perfect home base for a visit. This boutique property features 22 accommodation options split between rooms and cottages; some have huge soaking tubs, while others have cozy fireplaces; all have incredible views of the rugged coast. After a day exploring charming Mendocino, there is no better place to enjoy dinner than the Albion River Inn’s restaurant. The menu is seafood-focused and the chef prides himself on serving coastal cuisine. You’ll feel right at home at this quaint, coastal Inn.

Bodega Bay Lodge: Sonoma County


There’s more to Sonoma than velvety pinot noir and buttery chardonnay. Hugging the quiet coastline is tranquil Bodega Bay Lodge. A wonderful home base for exploring the rugged coastline with a hike along Bodega Head Trail and watching the waves crash into the cliffs below, the lodge offers an idyllic place to recharge and unwind by the water after a long day. Grey shingled buildings pepper the grassy bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean, blending in seamlessly with nature. Well-appointed and spacious guest rooms open up to a patio with lounge chairs, waiting for you to sit back and catch that famous California sunset. Afterward, head to Spud Point Crab Company (across the Bay from the schoolhouse featured in Hitchcock’s The Birds) for a cup of their famous clam chowder. For dinner, head back on property for delicious seafood fare at Drake’s Fireside Lounge. Don’t miss the BBQ Oysters—always a fan fave!

Cypress Inn: Half Moon Bay

This cozy Inn is perfectly situated just steps from Miramar Beach in Half Moon Bay. Fireplaces warm each of the 18 rooms at Cypress Inn and almost all have stunning ocean views. Breakfast is included, as is a cheese and wine happy hour each evening, giving you a chance to mingle with fellow guests and the innkeeper. Cross the street in front of the property, scoot down the sandy dunes, and you’ll find yourself right on the beach. If sandy toes aren’t your thing, there are miles of walking and biking paths nearby and great restaurants like Miramar Beach Restaurant, just a few minutes walk away. For another adventure, an easy 10-minute drive will land you in downtown Half Moon Bay, where you’ll find dozens of chic boutiques, casual bars and fun shops.

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Bernardus Lodge & Spa: Carmel Valley


Nestled among the rolling hills of Carmel Valley, Bernardus Lodge & Spa is a postcard-perfect oasis. Three years ago, the property underwent an impressive multi-million dollar renovation and the results are stunning. The first thing you’ll notice when you arrive is the smell of lavender permeating the air. Rows and rows of the relaxing purple herb line the sidewalks; not only do they smell amazing, they are gorgeous to look at, too. At check in, you’re offered a glass of wine produced by Bernardus Winery and then shown to your gorgeous accommodations.  Each room is beautifully appointed, with a patio or terrace. Lush gardens weave through the 28 acres, 73 suites carefully dot the property, and you’re only about a 10-minute drive to the coast and charming downtown Carmel.

Canary Hotel:  Santa Barbara

The Canary Hotel is tucked away on a side street in downtown Santa Barbara. This beloved Kimpton property perfectly compliments the city, known as the American Riviera. Designed with equal parts old-school charm and Spanish-style influence, the property’s architecture mesmerizes and inspires. On the roof, you’ll find the pièce de résistance—a stunning rooftop pool. Guestroom highlights are the huge four-poster beds that beckon you to lie down and rest. The space is bright and sun-drenched, the amenities are modern and chic, and the views aren’t half bad either. This being a Kimpton, the hotel hosts a complimentary wine and appetizer happy hour each evening. On-site restaurant, Finch & Fork, serves some amazing farm-to-table fare like buttermilk fried chicken and slow-roasted prime rib. Surrounding the hotel, you’ll find dozens of boutiques, bars and restaurants, and a fun, lively atmosphere. Plus, you’re just minutes from the beach—which is never a bad thing.

Tower 23: San Diego

On the shores of San Diego’s famed Pacific Beach lies surfer-chic Tower23. The boutique beachfront property offers a laid-back getaway where you can watch the surfers catch waves in the morning and the sky turn brilliant shades of pink and orange over the Pacific at sunset. Guest rooms at Tower23 are modern, bright, and very spacious. The cloud-like beds are outfitted with crisp white linens and wonderfully fluffy pillows. If you can, snag a room overlooking the property’s back patio with the ocean in the background. In the mornings, get up early and wander the buzzing boardwalk. Search for a good coffee spot and sit and watch the rollerbladers zipping by, surfers riding the morning waves and dogs playing fetch with their owners in the sand. In the afternoon, head to the hotel’s huge deck space with pool area, loungers, fire pits and twinkly lights dangling above. Come dinnertime, Tower23’s restaurant, JRDN, is one of the most popular spots on Pacific Beach. Enjoy a strawberry basil gin outside on the patio then head indoors to dine on the fresh Catch of the Day!

Inn at Rancho Santa Fe

In the hills of San Diego’s North County, inland from Encinitas and Del Mar, lies a lush landscaped oasis called the Inn at Rancho Santa Fe. The boutique property consists of 80 guest rooms spread out over 21 acres of immaculate gardens and lush green lawns. Bougainvilleas drape Spanish Colonial-style buildings and intricate blue and white tiles accent the rustic terra cotta floors of the patio and terrace spaces. For a complete day of relaxation, spend your morning unwinding at the 3,000 square foot, sanctuary-like spa, then make your way to a lounge chair alongside the heated salt water pool for the afternoon and soak in that SoCal sun. Guests of the inn also have access to the famed fairways of the Rancho Santa Fe Golf Club and Har-Tru clay courts at the Rancho Santa Fe Tennis Club. With a magnificent spa, access to acclaimed sporting clubs and the Pacific Ocean only 10 minutes away, the Inn at Rancho Santa Fe is charming retreat that you might just want to keep secret.

Tagged: California

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Compass + Twine
Sarah Driggs and Lindsay Ridenour are the story-tellers behind the NYC-based luxury travel blog, Compass + Twine. Follow along on Instagram @compassandtwine as they unearth some of the best hotels and travel experiences around the globe. From scenic landscapes to local cafés, they reveal the true character of a destination, always highlighting the best place to stay on compassandtwine.com .

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