The 15 Best Luxury Hotels in California

These are the 15 best luxury hotels to book in the Golden State, where experiences range from world-class culinary destinations and beachfront retreats to storied city hideaways.

Large rectangular pool with palm trees at Montage Laguna Beach along the  coast of Orange County

The Montage Laguna Beach sits along the sun-soaked coast of Orange County.

Courtesy of Montage Laguna Beach

From abundant sunny days to epic surf spots and snow-topped mountains—not to mention towering stands of redwoods and desert landscapes—it’s no wonder why California is the most visited U.S. state, with a projected 278.3 million visitors in 2023. With such a wide range of experiences, choosing a hotel or resort is a crucial part of your trip planning.

As part of our Hotels We Love series, we’ve rounded up 15 of the top luxury hotels in California that showcase the diversity of landscapes and urban vibes. Whether you adore a thriving city, live for a mountain adventure, enjoy exquisite wine and food pairing, or are dreaming about a dip in the Pacific Ocean, there’s a hotel on this list for you.

In no particular order, here are our picks for the 15 best hotels across California.

1. SingleThread

Guest rooms at SingleThread feature high ceilings with redwood beams.

Guest rooms at SingleThread feature high ceilings with redwood beams.

Courtesy of SingleThread

  • Location: Healdsburg, Sonoma County
  • Why we love it: Stylish inn meets Michelin three-starred restaurant
  • Book now

Foodies flock to the modern-day legend that is SingleThread, the three Michelin–starred restaurant and inn in Sonoma’s Dry Creek Valley, part of the culinary-focused Relais & Châteaux hotel collection. The hotel portion consists of five exquisitely designed suites inside the two-story building that farmer-chef owners Katina and Kyle Connaughton (with CEO Tony Greenberg) revamped to replace the old burned-down Healdsburg post office. The property’s Japanese sensibility is visible in such details as vases and dishes made by eighth-generation master potters from Japan and origami-like onion flower paper lanterns.

The accommodations, with 14-foot ceilings, are designed in cool grays with hardwood floors. They’re outfitted with heated flooring in the bathroom, California-made Botnia skincare kits, and onigiri welcome snacks. They’re also stocked with locally made libations including Pliny the Elder limited-edition beer and SingleThread wines. Guests have the exclusive privilege of booking an in-room donabe hot pot dinner, which might feature wagyu shabu shabu or seafood nabe. Staying overnight here also means you get to bypass the infinite restaurant wait list (all guests are guaranteed a reservation during their stay). Don’t miss a tour of SingleThread’s 24-acre regenerative farm, four miles away. It grows hundreds of crops that end up on your plate at the inn and restaurant, ranging from Italian summer squash to purple Thai basil. From $1,400

2. Farmhouse Inn

White interior of a junior suite at the Farmhouse Inn in Sonoma, with high ceilings and a large porch

A junior suite at the Farmhouse Inn in Sonoma County

Courtesy of Farmhouse Inn

  • Location: Forestville, Sonoma County
  • Why we love it: A culinary and wellness getaway in an idyllic setting
  • Book now

Tucked away on 10 tree-shaded acres in a quiet corner of Sonoma County, Farmhouse Inn has a storied past, having had previous lives as a horse farm, bathhouse, and the first gay resort in the Russian River Valley. Today, the luxury hotel is owned and operated by siblings Joe and Catherine Bartolomei, whose family goes back five generations in the wine-growing region. Farmhouse Inn comprises 25 rooms, suites, and cottages, each with a unique footprint and handsome white-washed furnishings. They feature fireplaces, patios, large bathtubs, and steam showers (with local artisanal soaps and scrubs). The farmhouse-chic aesthetic continues in the Wellness Barn spa, which offers body treatments using local remedies and holistic modalities meant to realign body and mind, as well as private yoga sessions and workshops.

Food and drink feature prominently in the hospitality experience here. There’s welcome wine on arrival, while gourmet s’mores kits are set out by the firepit each night. Chef Craig Wilmer oversees the Farmhouse Restaurant, which serves prix fixe feasts that might include line-caught albacore. The inn’s poolside Farmstand serves casual, regionally sourced bites ranging from fried chicken sandwiches to burrata. Dedicated foodies can hop in one of the hotel’s Volvos to explore the nearby world-class restaurants and wineries, some of which offer rare private tastings in partnership with Farmhouse Inn. From $561

3. Stanly Ranch, Auberge Resorts Collection

Interior of beige guest room at Stanly Ranch, with sliding glass door open to private veranda

Stanly Ranch sits on more than 700 acres of vineyards.

Courtesy of Stanly Ranch, Auberge Resorts Collection

  • Location: Napa Valley
  • Why we love it: Handsome digs with access to the region’s best wineries
  • Book now

In April 2022 Stanly Ranch debuted on 712 acres in Carneros. The resort, part of the Auberge Resorts Collection, has 133 stand-alone cottages and suites. Most accommodations have sliding glass doors that lead to a private patio with daybeds for whiling away the afternoon. Wellness fanatics swear by the resort’s Halehouse Spa.

Specialists are on hand to customize experiences with emphases on hydration, nourishment, sleep, and movement. In most cases, plans incorporate a massage with herbs grown and sourced locally. A circuit program (featuring a cold plunge, tepidarium, and saunas) integrates contrast techniques to optimize physical performance and improve health. A movement studio offers HIIT classes, outdoor experiences, physical therapy, and more. The spa pool delivers memorable views of San Pablo Bay. From $1,090

4. Carneros Resort and Spa

White interior of guest room at Carneros Inn, with glass door opening onto patio

Carneros Resort and Spa sits on 28 acres in Napa Valley.

Photo by Rachel Weill/AFAR Media

  • Location: Napa Valley
  • Why we love it: Chic, residential-feeling digs that are family friendly
  • Book now

Located at the southern end of Napa Valley, Carneros Resort and Spa is a collection of 100 freestanding cottages set among 28 acres. The vibe is cozy and chic: high ceilings, wood-burning fireplaces, and large verandas with private backyard areas to enjoy sunsets with a glass of Napa Valley wine in hand. For extra space, book a two-bedroom residence, complete with a full kitchen and dining room.

The resort is ideal for families: There’s a kid-friendly pool (in addition to the adults-only one) and kid-approved dining like Boon Fly Café, housed in a red barn with a solid kids menu. In 2022, the property unveiled a fun Camp Carneros program for younger guests that offers a “backyard campout” experience complete with a kid-size tent, sleeping bag, lanterns, faux campfire, and a s’mores kit that families can have set up in the backyard of their accommodations. From $1,200

5. Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe

Aerial view of large Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe, surrounded by evergreens

The Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe offers ski-in, ski-out access to the slopes in the winter.

Courtesy of the Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe

  • Location: Lake Tahoe
  • Why we love it: Ski-in, ski-out access with a cozy après scene
  • Loyalty program: Marriott Bonvoy
  • Book now

Set midmountain with ski-in/out privileges to Northstar California Resort (an extinct volcano once known as Mount Pluto), the 170-room Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe capitalizes on ease of entry. Epic Season Pass holders have ready access to Northstar’s 3,170 skiable acres, including eight terrain parks and 100 trails.

The Ritz-Carlton offers ski/snowboarding lessons (ask for Adrienne), snowshoeing, snowmobiling, sledding, tubing, and cross-country skiing directly out the resort’s doors. After a day on the slopes, warm up by one of the hotel’s numerous stone fireplaces—every guest room has at least one, and they’re scattered throughout the restaurants and lounges. Flaskology (ask for Yvonne) allows guests to perfect their flavor profiles and cocktail skills via an hour-long class with an in-house mixologist at Manzanita restaurant.

The 17,000-square-foot slope-side spa focuses on the juxtaposition of water and woods. The Ritz’s winter seasonal spa treatment, Journey Through the Forest, includes a full body exfoliation and private soaking tub, followed by a restorative massage. From $1,114

6. Fairmont San Francisco

Some of the suites at the Fairmont San Francisco feature balconies.

Some of the suites at the Fairmont San Francisco feature balconies.

Courtesy of Fairmont San Francisco

  • Location: San Francisco
  • Why we love it: A reinvented grande dame steeped in history
  • Loyalty program: Accor Live Limitless
  • Book now

Built by California architect Julia Morgan, who also designed Hearst Castle, Fairmont San Francisco opened to much fanfare in 1907 at the top of Nob Hill. Today it’s filled with a century’s worth of stories: It was the first U.S. hotel to hire a concierge, and served as a film location for Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo. The late Tony Bennett sang “I Left My Heart in San Francisco” for the very first time here in 1962. The Polynesian-themed, Mai Tai–slinging Tonga Room & Hurricane Bar is legendary. In 1926, the hotel added a 6,000-square-foot penthouse suite with a two-story library that prominent guests (including John F. Kennedy and Mick Jagger) have checked into; today it goes for $18,000 a night.

The hotel has evolved with the times—having added everything from a health club to honeybee hives—while serving as a perennial playground and meeting place in the heart of San Francisco, with views of the city and bay to match. The historic building and newer tower together feature 606 guest rooms and suites that were recently renovated with a palette of grays and browns; for some of the best views, ask for a Golden Gate suite. From $382

7. Cavallo Point Lodge

Distant aerial view of Cavallo Point grounds, with Golden Gate Bridge (at left) and Marin hills in background

Cavallo Point Lodge is within easy reach of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.

Courtesy of Cavallo Point Lodge

  • Location: Sausalito
  • Why we love it: A historic escape within easy reach of San Francisco
  • Loyalty program: I Prefer
  • Book now

Just north of the Golden Gate Bridge in the former residences of high-ranking U.S. Army officers, scenic Cavallo Point Lodge is surrounded by some of the 75,000 acres that make up the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. The 142 accommodations at the LEED Gold-certified luxury resort are located in either the original colonial revival residences with large verandas or newer lodgings with floor-to-ceiling windows facing San Francisco Bay. Contemporary interiors feature wood and leather furnishings and gas fireplaces.

Fresh-air activities range from paddleboarding and surfing in the bay to hiking and private yacht trips. Guests can also explore the area on one of the hotel’s complimentary vintage electronic bicycles. On-property pursuits include the Cooking School, a state-of-the-art facility for hands-on classes and demonstrations that focus on locally sourced and sustainable ingredients. The 11,000-square-foot Healing Arts Center & Spa offers soaks in a heated outdoor meditation pool and healing sessions with an shaman. Launched in fall 2022, the New American–meets-Mediterranean restaurant Sula showcases regional ingredients in such dishes as Dungeness crab pappardelle and Niman Ranch beef filet. Cavallo’s Mercantile shop is worth a stop for its Bay Area–focused selection of crafts, jewelry, and clothing. It hosts wine and cheese tastings and sits next to an art gallery with rotating exhibits by local talent, including photographer David Liittschwager. From $735

8. Post Ranch Inn

Outdoor deck with firepit and empty tables and chairs for dining at Post Ranch Inn at dusk

Sierra Mar restaurant at Post Ranch Inn overlooks the Pacific Ocean from a rugged cliffside in Big Sur.

Courtesy of Post Ranch Inn

  • Location: Big Sur
  • Why we love it: Sustainable luxury with ocean views
  • Loyalty program: I Prefer
  • Book now

For more than 30 years, the Post Ranch Inn, which sits along a cliff 1,200 feet above the Pacific Ocean, has been a go-to retreat for devotees who believe well-being starts with a place that honors its natural environment—and treads lightly on it, too. Big Sur architect Mickey Muennig designed the 40 guest rooms that rely on solar power; all were fashioned out of recycled wood, and the structures blend in with the Santa Lucia Mountains. Views through enormous windows face either the Pacific Ocean or the mountains. Wellness plays a role in every experience on offer, whether it’s a reflexology treatment, a shaman healing session, a doctor-led sleep program, or a private guided hike or meditation session in the nearby ancient forests. From $1,825

9. Inn at Mattei’s Tavern, Auberge Resorts Collection

Interior of white two-bedroom suite at the Inn at Mattei's Tavern features a fireplace and hardwood floors

A suite at the Inn at Mattei’s Tavern in the Santa Ynez Valley.

Courtesy of the Inn at Mattei’s Tavern, Auberge Resorts Collection

  • Location: Santa Ynez Valley
  • Why we love it: History meets contemporary style in California wine country
  • Book now

Opened in February 2023, the Inn at Mattei’s Tavern, Auberge Resorts Collection, is set in a converted stagecoach stop and tavern, smack in the middle of Los Olivos. Designed by AvroKO, the resort’s 67 guest rooms and cottages have a luxurious modern farmhouse look and feel. There are four historic cottages that date to the 1910s on the 6.5-acre property, while the rest of the accommodations are in new buildings designed to blend in with the existing architectural vernacular of the region (think wooden barns and white exteriors). In rooms, guests can enjoy Nespresso machines, Felt + Fat mugs, St. George Spirits gin, kilim-covered window seats, and outdoor patios or decks.

Since opening in 1886, Mattei’s has served as a lively watering hole for residents and travelers passing through. Though the building and grounds have been completely remodeled and expanded, the vibe is still welcoming to both locals and hotel guests. Today, executive chef Rhoda Magbitang oversees all the hotel’s food and beverage. Her food is hearty and refined, inspired by regional ranch cooking, with a menu featuring lots of wood-fired fish and meats. Equally delicious are the vegetable dishes, such as crispy cauliflower with tahini and dukkah, and Okinawan sweet potatoes, hickory smoked and served with black garlic and yuzu aioli. From $767

10. Beverly Hills Hotel

A row of iconic pink cabanas beside the pool at the Beverly Hills Hotel

The Beverly Hills Hotel has long been a favorite getaway destination of the Hollywood elite.

Courtesy of the Beverly Hills Hotel

  • Location: Los Angeles
  • Why we love it: Old-school Hollywood glamour
  • Loyalty program: Dorchester Collection Diamond Club
  • Book now

When the iconic Beverly Hills Hotel first opened for business in 1912, Beverly Hills was just a suburb of Los Angeles, and the hotel provided a place for people to stay when looking at parcels of land to live on in the area. But as the city of Beverly Hills developed, the hotel—nicknamed the Pink Palace—became a perennial favorite among the Hollywood set ranging from Golden Age stars like Charlie Chaplin and Marilyn Monroe to modern-day celebrities like the Kardashians, Saweetie, and Mark Wahlberg. Today the hotel is run by the global luxury hotel group Dorchester Collection, and the famous cursive sign, whose font was created by architect Paul Revere Williams, one of the few Black architects at the time in L.A., still greets guests upon arrival.

The 210 guest rooms in the main building and 23 bungalows sit on 12 landscaped acres. The guest rooms feature midcentury modern–inspired design, some of the most comfortable hotel beds in the game, and marble bathrooms. They include a dreamy one-bedroom, Rat Pack suite in the Crescent Wing that was a favorite of Frank Sinatra; it’s decked out with a full bar, grand piano, and a patio. Each bungalow is unique: Some are themed after famous former patrons. The Marilyn Monroe bungalow is resplendent with touches of pink while the Howard Hughes is aviation themed and features dark woods and forest greens.

The Beverly Hills Hotel feels like an urban resort, with a 19,000-square-foot spa, an iconic pool and lounge area decorated in a Barbie-esque pink, a bar, and three dining options. The poolside Cabana Cafe is best for soaking up those Southern California rays (the McCarthy chopped salad is especially popular), while the Polo Lounge is said to be a favorite among Hollywood executives. The Fountain Coffee Room, famous for its pies, cakes, and breakfast options, was where Geffen Records signed Guns N’ Roses onto its label. From $955

11. Oceana Santa Monica, LXR Hotels & Resorts

Interior of a signature suite, with a separate living and bedroom area, at the Oceana Santa Monica

The Oceana Santa Monica is an all-suite hotel.

Courtesy of Oceana Santa Monica/Lisa Romerein

  • Location: Santa Monica
  • Why we love it: A handsome newcomer away from the crowds
  • Loyalty program: Hilton Honors
  • Book now

With its world-famous pier, bustling beaches, and chill, but lively nightlife scene that draw 8 million visitors annually, Santa Monica can feel crowded in the summer high season. But not at Oceana Santa Monica. Set within the posh neighborhood of Wilshire Montana, the hotel is across the street from peaceful Palisades Park, dotted with fig and palm trees, alongside the Pacific Ocean. Just stepping into the lobby feels far from the hustle and bustle of the Santa Monica pier.

Formerly known as the Oceana Beach Club Hotel, the property debuted in 2019 after it was purchased by Hilton’s upscale LXR brand and underwent a $25 million transformation. The 70 apartment-style guest rooms—most featuring ocean views—surround a heart-shaped pool. Each suite has a separate living room and bedroom, Loro Piana bedding, large bathrooms, and walk-in closets. The are two-bedroom suites have en suite kitchens and balconies. The interior design is by Anna Busta of Busta Studio; expect moody blue couches and gold and wood design accents.

Though Santa Monica’s dynamic culinary scene sets a high bar, Oceana Santa Monica’s Sandpiper stands up. Seafood-forward menu items include chilled prawns served with summer melons, pan-roasted sheepshead fish plated with littleneck clams, and chopped salads. Pair the meal with a house cocktail like the Stan Laurel (named after the actor of Laurel and Hardy fame who once called the Oceana home), composed of Empress gin, Cointreau, lavender syrup, and lemon juice. From $950

12. L’Horizon

Pool surrounded by white lounge chairs at L'Horizon in Palm Springs

L’Horizon is a stylish retreat located in Palm Springs, California.

Photo by Lisa Corson, AFAR Media

  • Location: Palm Springs
  • Why we love it: A desert oasis for wellness
  • Book now

When you’re staying at the historic L’Horizon, it’s worth waking up early to watch the sun rise and turn the sky pink against the San Jacinto Mountains. Romance suffuses this upscale three-acre resort of low-slung bungalows, designed in 1952 and later refreshed by acclaimed designer Steve Hermann. The light-drenched Fireplace Junior Suite Bungalow—once Marilyn Monroe’s room of choice—is a favorite for couples, with its private outdoor shower and wood-burning copper fireplace, plus Frette robes and L’Horizon-branded eye masks.

The property’s restaurant, SO•PA, is equally alluring, thanks to a linear firepit and fountain outdoors and sparkling modern metallic chandeliers inside. While the menu of New American fare is inspired—try the honey mussels paired with an Infinity Paloma cocktail—the chef will also create, with advance notice and upon request, a personalized tasting menu riffing off the day’s best produce and in keeping with any dietary restrictions. Pro tip: The deep-tissue rubdown at the indoor-outdoor spa is unparalleled, but pampering doesn’t need an occasion here—hit the poolside sun beds early for complimentary back and foot massages. From $700

13. Montage Laguna Beach

The Montage Laguna Beach's rectangular, oceanside mosaic pool, surrounded by double rows of white lounge chairs

The Montage Laguna Beach features an oceanside pool lined with mosaic tiles.

Courtesy of Montage Laguna Beach

  • Location: Laguna Beach
  • Why we love it: A seaside retreat near a flourishing arts community
  • Loyalty program: I Prefer
  • Book now

With its Pacific Ocean panoramas, long golden beach, and grand lawns, Montage Laguna Beach is a go-to for a luxurious immersion in California’s signature laid-back hospitality. The flagship property for luxury hotel group Montage sits on 30 oceanfront acres in Laguna Beach, a haven for artists since the early 1900s. Renovated in 2019, the 260 ocean-facing rooms and suites feature crown moldings, residential-feeling seating areas, and large balconies that capitalize on the ocean views. Consciously sourced in-room products include plush Madison Collection bathrobes, Matouk throw blankets, and Bloom Coco Mat natural fiber baby mattresses. Organic ingredients take center stage at the spa, with such treatments as a California Wildflower Massage. The resort’s four restaurants include the bluff-side Mosaic Bar and Grille, with its menu of just-caught seafood and an ocean-view lounge that serves cocktails alongside live piano music.

Laguna’s beaches are known for skimboarding, and the resort’s partnership with Adventure IO includes a lesson with one of the world’s best: Blair Conklin. Yacht trips to Catalina Island are on offer, as are virtual reality snorkeling sessions in the pool. For those who want to tap into the creative scene, there are 165 art galleries within a five-mile radius of the hotel. Ask the resort for tips on which ones to visit during your stay, or if you time it right, join the city’s monthly First Thursdays Art Walks for gallery events and free admission to the Laguna Art Museum. From $1,037

14. Waldorf Astoria Monarch Beach

Outdoor deck with blue shade umbrellas and beach in background at Monarch Bay Beach Club

The Monarch Bay Beach Club is accessible via a tram and offers family-friendly activities.

Courtesy of Waldorf Astoria Monarch Beach

  • Location: Dana Point, Orange County
  • Why we love it: A coastal escape with family-friendly activities
  • Loyalty program: Hilton Honors
  • Book now

Located on a 150-foot cliff along the sun-soaked coast of Orange County, Waldorf Astoria Monarch Beach is fresh off a $30 million refreshment in 2022 that transformed all 400 guest rooms and suites, including upgraded firepits for the 77 ground-level Fireside Terrace Rooms. Hacienda-style Spanish colonial buildings and aquamarine striped pool umbrellas lend a quintessential SoCal feel, while the accommodations feature a palette with sandy and blue hues inspired by nature.

Visitors can stroll the property’s 175 acres studded with pools and palms, explore via e-bike, or soak in whirlpool hot tubs with infinity edges. Golfers flock to the resort for the 18-hole Robert Trent Jones, Jr. course, while wellness buffs take advantage of the spa’s 40 plus weekly classes, including kickboxing and beach yoga. Multiple dining options include Bourbon Steak Orange County, where chef Michael Mina’s menu leans into American steakhouse classics (filet mignon, steak tartare, black truffle mac and cheese). The crown jewel of the resort is the private Monarch Bay Beach Club, accessible via tram. Here, staff deliver drinks and bites to guests, who sit with their feet in the sand on Adirondack chairs next to firepits. Families can spend an entire day at the club taking advantage of SUP or surf lessons, or playing games like cornhole and giant Jenga. From $810

15. Alila Marea Beach Resort

Distant view of coastal Alila Marea Beach Resort in Encinitas, with ocean at right

The coastal Alila Marea Beach Resort puts sustainability at the center of its operations.

Courtesy of Hyatt

  • Location: Encinitas
  • Why we love it: Sustainability meets style in a SoCal surfing paradise
  • Loyalty program: World of Hyatt
  • Book now

There’s a new place for travelers to rest their heads in Encinitas, a city along the Pacific Ocean 25 miles north of San Diego. The Alila Marea Beach Resort collaborated with sustainable-tourism advisory group Earth Check to ensure it contributes zero waste to landfills in the next five years. Some of the tactics Alila employs: no single-use plastic water bottles and composting all unused food and paper products. Four EV charging stations allow guests to plug in their vehicles, and visitors can borrow electric bikes to explore Cardiff-by-the-Sea, a beach community within Encinitas known for its surf spots. The 130 guest rooms, with Pacific Ocean or lagoon views (some with patio firepits), use the property’s smart LED system that turns lights off when areas are not in use, which is estimated to reduce energy consumption by 80 percent. From $927

Julia Cosgrove, Alexandra Cheney, Matt Villano, Mae Hamilton, and Michelle Baran contributed to the reporting of this story.

Kathryn Romeyn is a Bali-based journalist and devoted explorer of culture, nature and design, especially throughout Asia and Africa—always with her toddler in tow.
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