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Just about anyone can surf, or learn to surf, on vacation, but where you hang your towel and kick off your flip-flops at day’s end ultimately determines your level of stoke (that’s surf talk for euphoria).  Whether you are a newbie on a foamie or a seasoned pro, we’ve sought out the best surf hotels for all tastes and budgets in Southern California. And you don’t even have to surf to love these hotels! Each is so distinctive, that no matter what brings you to check in, you’ll definitely check out with a deeper appreciation of classic California surf culture…and quite possibly, sandy toes.

RELATED: San Diego is the California dream city and here’s 26 reasons why

Shorebreak Hotel: Huntington Beach

Iconic surf photography on display at Shorebreak Hotel in Surf City USA. | Photo: Kymri Wilt

Huntington Beach, a.k.a “Surf City USA,” is home to the International Surfing Museum and the Surfing Walk of Fame (dedicated to “the father of surfing,” Duke Kahanamoku). Several major surf events, including the Vans US Open of Surfing, are held here. The Kimpton Shorebreak Hotel is your best bet for diving into the heart of the Surf City scene. The surf-inspired decor features a rotating gallery of spectacular art by ocean photographer Aaron Chang. The bellmen at the Shorebreak work double duty as “Surf Ambassadors,” offering a wealth of information on local surf conditions, history and events.  Bikes and beach amenities are complimentary for guests, but if you didn’t bring your own board, just head to the Rip Curl Shop and present your Shorebreak room key for a discounted rental rate. 

House of Trestles Surf Hostel: San Clemente

House of Trestles Surf Hostel is a budget-friendly mecca for true blue surfers. | Photo: Kymri Wilt

When all you care about is surfing and hanging with a chill crew, check out the budget-friendly House of Trestles in San Clemente. As far as hostels go, you won’t find a more laid-back and welcoming vibe. Here, surfing is not just a hobby, but a lifestyle. You can rent an electric beach cruiser with surf racks to get you to the 16 nearby breaks. If you didn’t bring your own board, there’s a full quiver of sticks from short to long available to rent onsite. (They will happily set you up with a lesson if needed.) After a gnarly day of surfing world-class Trestles, unwind in the evening with complimentary yoga or strum a guitar. Accommodations vary from a privacy pod in a shared bunk room (perfect for solo nomads) to a 3-bedroom penthouse suite. House of Trestles is the place to make friends and memories…where you surf, sleep and surf some more.

The Shore Hotel: Santa Monica

The solar heated pool at The Shore Hotel, Santa Monica. | Photo: Courtesy of The Shore

Eco-consciousness and sustainability are nothing new to those who surf. The Shore Hotel in Santa Monica is hard to miss, what with its gleaming solar-reflecting roof, native landscaping and architecture that invites natural light and ventilation. LEED certified and the recipient of numerous Green awards, The Shore aims to raise awareness of the delicate ocean environment, and invites guests to take action in ways large and small. Enjoy the solar heated pool and eco-conscious rooms with environmentally-friendly amenities, while being just steps from the sea.

Laguna Beach House: Laguna Beach

Classic, comfortable and chic define the Laguna Beach House. | Photo: Kymri Wilt

If you are a fan of vintage chic, Laguna Beach House is a must. Originally established in the ’50s as “The Cliffs,” today it showcases a tasteful harmony of vintage surf artifacts and chic coastal decor. The 36 rooms are light, airy and barefoot-worthy clean. Each room features a pristine surfboard over the bed, and a curated selection of historical surf-themed coffee table books and magazines, plus special beach amenities for purchase—you’ll love the glorious Convivial beach blankets! Though steps  from the beach, you’ll also enjoy the outdoor heated pool and spa. The unique design elements are matched by great service and extraordinary experiences. For example, the hotel has a partnership with local craftsman Donald Brink where guests can take part in hand-shaping your own custom board as you learn the nuances of design.

ALSO: Earn instant rewards, plus travel perks, while riding the waves—only with Orbitz Rewards!

The Goodland: Santa Barbara

At The Goodland, the classic Woody out front says it all.  | Photo: Kymri Wilt

So maybe you don’t need to be exactly on the beach, but you still appreciate the vintage California surf aesthetic. The Goodland in Goleta (just north of Santa Barbara) will have you feeling those good vibrations in no time. This boutique property is spattered with throwbacks and surf nostalgia, starting with the classic Woody parked out front. Guest rooms surround a courtyard pool and poolside bar terrace. Shacking up at The Goodland means creating your own vibe, with in-room record players and curated selections available from the “Record Concierge” and Vinyl Library. If your idea of fun is outdoor movie nights by the pool, or shooting a game of pool, you’ll love this classic California surf lodge.

Tower 23: San Diego

Tower 23, a boutique beachfront oasis in San Diego.  | Photo: Kymri Wilt

Tower 23, aptly named for the lifeguard tower situated on the nearby beach, is San Diego’s only truly beachfront boutique hotel. Set in Pacific Beach (PB to the locals), each of the rooms has a balcony with partial or full oceanfront views. The relaxing roof terrace is for hotel guest use only; here you can warm up by the fire pits after a glorious sunset. Bike and board rentals are just steps away on the boardwalk, and a vibrant bar and nightclub scene is not far, though you’d never know it at this peaceful and sleek oasis.

DoubleTree Inn: Doheny Beach

The all-suite DoubleTree Inn on Doheny Beach welcomes families and dogs. | Photo: Kymri Wilt

Let’s say you decide this is the summer to pack up the kids (and dog) and take up surfing. Head for the all-suite DoubleTree Inn right on Doheny State Beach. The bright blue and white retro architecture is an iconic landmark, but the interior spaces were most recently refreshed in 2017. A range of rooms is available, including 8 spacious “Surfside Suites” on the top level featuring prime ocean views. “Drop In” at nearby “Girl In the Curl” Surfshop to rent a board, book a lesson, or book an entire week of surf camp right there at the beach. For a dive into surf history, check out the Surfing Heritage and Cultural Center (SHACC) nearby in San Clemente—admission is free.

Bay Shores Peninsula Hotel: Newport Beach

Roof deck harbor view from the Newport Beach Bay Shores Peninsula Hotel | Photo: Kymri Wilt

When checking out Newport Beach’s surf scene, you’ll be happy as a clam situating yourself at the family-owned Bay Shores Peninsula Hotel. This homey B&B style hotel is as authentic as they come, with rooms featuring artwork of surf legend John Severson. Your stay includes a full breakfast buffet and free coffee, fruit and fresh baked cookies through the day. The usual beach amenities are available, as well as complimentary parking and a relaxing roof terrace. Walk to plenty of white sandy beaches and surf-worthy waves for everyone from pier-paddlers to adrenaline junkies. Don’t miss “the Wedge,” a legendary powerful shore break attracting skilled surfers, bodyboarders and bodysurfers alike. When the surf is really pumping, it is a spectacle to watch.

Surfrider: Malibu

Wake up at home in the Malibu Surfrider Suite. | Photo: Kymri Wilt

If your California surf dream is an exclusive beach house property steps away from the break, the Surfrider Malibu on Pacific Coast Highway is your happy place. Twenty rooms make up this boutique hotel which was beautifully transformed from an iconic 1950s-era motel. Honestly, it feels more like you’re visiting friends. Like any classic California beach house, the surfing owners have built a surf shed stocked with curated boards available for your use. After a dawn patrol session at First Point, head back “home” and rinse off in the heated outdoor shower. Nothing beats an aprés-surf smoothie, right? You’ll feel so at home at the Surfrider, no one will judge you for forgetting to wear shoes. Your bare feet will thank you for indulging them with the clean floors and delightful textures and textiles.

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Tagged: California, Los Angeles, San Francisco

Note: Orbitz compensates authors for their writings appearing on this site.

Kymri Wilt
Kymri Wilt is a freelance travel photographer, videographer, and blogger based in Cardiff by the Sea, California. Follow her on twitter & instagram @kymri.
Kymri Wilt

@kymri

Travel photographer/writer, tour leader, actor. Orbitz/Travelocity blogger. I go luxury, family, solo. Love dogs, surf, planet earth.
@Jenojen I saw them too! Took these with an SLR / zoom lens handheld https://t.co/SJyXSUbTje - 4 days ago
Kymri Wilt
Kymri Wilt

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