The most beautiful, unique, and overall best hotels along the Pacific Coast Highway to rest and recharge during your road trip.
Spanning most of the California coastline (around 700 miles to be exact), the Pacific Coast Highway is easily the most beautiful coastal road trip you can take in the Golden State.
There are endless things to see and do, redwoods to walk underneath, ocean views to take in, and windswept roads that hug golden cliffs and beaches.
But with so many things to do along the way, it’s important to have a nice place to rest your head at the end of each day, which is where this guide comes in.
After decades of driving (and even living near) different parts of Highway 1, the PCH is one of the highways I know best in California.
With my love of the coast and California road trips, I’ve visited most of the major sights, restaurants, and even stayed in a good number of hotels off the Pacific Coast Highway.
So, I put all of that first-hand knowledge into this guide.
In it, you’ll discover the best places to stay along the Pacific Coast Highway so you can enjoy the trip of a lifetime in one of my favorite parts of California.
Note: this post contains affiliate links, which help run this site at no extra cost to you so I can keep providing free travel advice and tips.
Best Hotels Along Pacific Coast Highway
The Brewery Gulch Inn (Mendocino)
One of my favorite places to stay along the Pacific Coast Highway, the Brewery Gulch Inn is tucked away near downtown Mendocino.
Although it’s conveniently located, it’s still far enough away from town that you can enjoy the quiet and peaceful nature of the cozy property without the noise.
When I stayed here last, I was in a room with a plush bed and a balcony with a view of the ocean in the distance.
But it’s more than just the rooms that make this Mendocino property such a good one to stay at. The Brewery Gulch Inn also offers various little touches that make a stay here memorable.
These include things such as their made-to-order breakfast, their free wine and cheese hour in the evenings, their delicious fruit-infused water near reception, and their great DVD selection for watching movies in your room.
Nick’s Cove (Marshall)
One of the more unique hotels on the California Coast, Nick’s Cove is a popular restaurant in Marshall that also happens to rent out historic cottages on Tomales Bay.
Their 12 cottages aren’t cheap and they book up quickly but if you can snag one you’ll be treated to a one-of-a-kind luxury stay on Highway 1.
The property has a lot of layered history to discover but one fun fact is that it was once bought by Henry W. Hallock, who was President Lincoln’s chief of staff during the Civil War.
This is one of the most pet-friendly California coast hotels. Six out of the 12 cottages are pet-friendly and their pastry chef even makes homemade dog treats for your pooch to enjoy.
As another bonus, once you’re checked in you can enjoy a meal at Nick’s Cove, which is one of the best oyster restaurants in the Tomales Bay area.
Get your FREE California Travel Planner – including printable checklists and my favorite two-week itinerary for the state.
Pelican Inn (Muir Beach)
If you’re looking for coastal hotels near San Francisco that aren’t right in the city, I highly recommend checking out Pelican Inn.
This relaxing hideaway is located in Muir Beach and offers a lot of English cottage vibes, which are reflected in the onsite restaurant’s menu and the touches around the property.
The Inn has seven cute rooms to rent and features an English-style bar and restaurant, and a garden patio.
Pelican Inn is also nestled near a bunch of Marin County sights like Stinson Beach, Muir Woods, the Marin Headlands, and the Golden Gate Bridge.
It’s an ideal place for those looking to spend a day or two in the Bay Area before continuing on the Pacific Coast Highway.
Stanyan Park Hotel (San Francisco)
If you’re looking to stay in San Francisco but still along the Pacific Coast Highway (which cuts through the city), I’d recommend checking into Stanyan Park Hotel.
This Victorian-style hotel is located right in the Haight-Ashbury near Golden Gate Park and offers a more relaxing stay than what you might find in the Financial District or Fisherman’s Wharf.
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, this property dates back to 1883 when it was a saloon and boarding house.
The hotel offers 36 rooms and features things like a delicious breakfast buffet, freshly baked cookies, wine & cheese hours on the weekdays, an evening tea service, and friendly customer service.
I may be biased since I lived in the Haight for two years, but this is one of my favorite parts of San Francisco and this area would be one of my first choices if you’re looking for a quieter stay that’s not too far off the PCH.
Bella Notte Inn (Santa Cruz)
It took me a while to actually stay at a hotel in Santa Cruz since it’s my hometown and I usually just stay with family.
However, I had the chance to stay at the Bella Notte Inn last time I was in town and I fell in love with this Tuscan-inspired property.
Right along East Cliff Drive and walking distance to two of my favorite beaches in Santa Cruz – Twin Lakes and Sunny Cove, Bella Notte Inn features luxurious rooms and some nice touches like heated bathroom floors, plush bathrobes, and free parking.
The hotel is also in the process of adding a spa to the top floor where you can get massages and facials at an additional cost.
Just note that Santa Cruz accommodation fluctuates a lot throughout the year. When I stayed here in early spring, I paid about half as much as what the prices were in the summer.
Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa (Monterey)
Just on the other side of the Monterey Bay, you’ll find the Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa.
Right in the midst of Cannery Row and some of the most popular sights in Monterey, this hotel is one of the most convenient places to stay in town.
And location isn’t the only thing it has going for it. The Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa is right on the water and features luxurious rooms and suites.
It also has a fitness center with Peloton bikes, and a rooftop spa (complete with hot tubs looking out over the Pacific Ocean).
Lastly, there’s a good coffee shop and an oceanfront restaurant on-site, which is the perfect place to enjoy a fresh seafood meal with a beautiful view before continuing your road trip.
Mid-Range Alternative in Monterey
If you’re looking for something a little less expensive, The Jabberwock Bed & Breakfast is a good runner-up.
This Victorian-style accommodation was named after Lewis Carroll’s poem in his book, “Through the Looking Glass” and is one of the most relaxing places to stay in Monterey.
The property is surrounded by gardens and offers free parking, a good breakfast, and a wine hour for guests.
Candle Light Inn (Carmel-by-the-Sea)
If you’re looking for a good place to stay before you tackle the Big Sur area, the Candle Light Inn in Carmel-by-the-Sea is an ideal option.
Conveniently located near the 17-Mile Drive, Pebble Beach Golf Course, and Carmel Beach, the Candle Light Inn is the perfect place to explore the adorable downtown area of Carmel-by-the-Sea and its surrounding sights.
At the inn, you’ll find large rooms with a modern and elegant aesthetic, French linens and plush beds, fluffy and bathrobes. Some upgraded rooms also offer a fireplace and a two-person jet tub.
Don’t miss the freshly baked cookies they offer daily too!
Fernwood Resort (Big Sur)
Big Sur can be a tricky one when it comes to finding good accommodation, it often seems like your choices are either camping or a luxury resort with nothing in between.
However, the last time I was in the Big Sur area, I discovered Fernwood Resort (finally something in between)!
Although it’s called a ‘resort’, Fernwood is actually a motel (although a fairly fancy one).
They also offer other types of accommodation at the property, including campsites, forest cabins, tent cabins, and RV sites.
Fernwood Resort is not only one of the best motels along highway 1, it’s a great budget option for the overpriced Big Sur area.
One thing to note – I say budget, but that’s in comparison to most other hotels in Big Sur – rooms at Fernwood can still get up to $235/night.
The rooms are on the smaller size, but most have a deck with a private hot tub, which makes up for the smaller room size.
The hotel is literally right off highway 1 and in a prime location in the northern Big Sur area that’s only a short drive away from most major sights.
There’s also a general store with an espresso bar on-site and a tavern that serves pizza (we took some down to Pfeiffer Beach at sunset and it was delicious).
Alternative Luxury Stay in Big Sur
If you have the budget and you’re looking for something a little more luxurious for a bucket list stay, Ventana Big Sur is a good alternative.
Ventana Big Sur is easily considered one of the best hotels on the Pacific Coast Highway and one of the most popular and sought-after places to stay on the Big Sur coastline.
They offer glamping and hotel suites on the property, as well as a relaxing spa and two restaurants.
Madonna Inn (San Luis Obispo)
One of the best places to stay along the Pacific Coast Highway if you’re looking for a quirky experience, the Madonna Inn in San Luis Obispo is probably the most famous PCH hotel on this list.
This whimsical accommodation features themed rooms, a pink cottage exterior, a bar with a view, a heated infinity pool, two hot tubs, and other amenities like a gym, tennis and basketball courts, and a spa.
And they have plenty of dining options on-site too, including a steakhouse restaurant, a cafe, and a bakery.
The hotel is conveniently located just a short drive from San Luis Obispo and not too far from Pismo Beach and other Southern Central Coast destinations.
Even if you choose not to stay here, make a stop to have a bite to eat and check out the downstairs bathrooms, which I’ll just say are a treat for the eyes.
A Less Quirky Alternative in San Luis Obispo
If mixed patterns and seven different colors in one room freaks you out, I’d recommend checking out the Apple Farm Inn in San Luis Obispo instead.
This is more of a traditional Victorian bed and breakfast along highway 1 that offers comfortable and cute rooms in a relaxing atmosphere.
Hotel Californian (Santa Barbara)
“On a dark desert highway, cool wind in my hair…” Okay, technically not called “Hotel California,” but the name of this popular Santa Barbara hotel still conjures up images of a breezy road trip down the coast with The Eagles on blast.
Hotel Californian is one of the best hotels along the California Coast and the best option for a Santa Barbara stay.
Featuring Spanish Colonial Revival architecture with Moroccan-themed touches, the Hotel Californian offers a boutique experience in one of the most beautiful spots on the California Coast.
The hotel features a variety of rooms and suites, all with a slightly different design, a spa, an outdoor pool, and plenty of dining options on-site. These include pool-side dining, a cafe, a restaurant, and, my personal favorite, a library bar.
With how beautiful the property is this is also a very popular place for weddings in Santa Barbara so don’t be surprised if you spot a bride or two while you’re there.
Mid-Range Alternative for Santa Barbara
If you’re looking for something that’s not quite so luxury-focused, Hotel Santa Barbara is a good alternative.
This 3-star hotel is conveniently located right on State Street and only a short walk from the beach and Stearns Wharf.
Hotel Santa Barbara doesn’t have quite the same boutique feel as the Californian but you can still expect comfortable rooms and friendly service.
The Surfrider Malibu (Malibu)
If you’re looking for good Pacific Coast Highway hotels, you can’t get much more quintessential than what you’ll find in Malibu.
Although it’s not the cheapest place to stay on the California Coast, Malibu offers a ton of quality accommodation options with stunning properties and views that are just steps from the beach.
One of these options is The Surfrider. This is one of those hotels on the California Coast that looks like it’s from a glossy travel magazine and the price of the rooms reflects that.
However, if you can swing it in your budget, a stay at The Surfrider is well worth it.
The hotel features cozy rooms that ooze laid-back California charm, complete with a hammock on your private balcony. Think fresh linens, coastal views, waterfall showers, and neutral colors, and you’ll have The Surfrider.
There’s also the on-site Roof Deck Bar and Restaurant that looks out over the water and is a stunning place to grab dinner or a cocktail around sunset.
Just note that parking is $20 per night at the hotel.
Hotel Erwin (Venice Beach)
Venice Beach has a lot of cool and funky options when it comes to accommodation, but one of the best PCH hotels in the area is Hotel Erwin.
This boutique hotel is right off the Venice Beach Boardwalk provides an eclectic stay just steps from the beach and the buzzing atmosphere of downtown Venice.
At the hotel, you’ll find colorful rooms with a unique 70s-esque decor (and some with coastal views from the balcony) and a breezy rooftop lounge with delicious cocktails.
The Queen Mary (Long Beach)
If you’re looking for ocean view hotels on the Pacific Coast Highway, you can’t get much more extra than staying on a boat next to downtown Long Beach.
A historic ocean liner named The Queen Mary, to be exact.
Before it was a Long Beach hotel and tourist attraction, The Queen Mary was a British ocean liner that was in operation from 1936 to 1967.
If you were to book a cabin on the boat today, you’d find all of the usual modern amenities of the 21st century in the rooms like flat-screen TVs, WiFi, and plushy beds.
And there are some extra touches that come with staying in a historic boat, like art deco decor and portholes.
On the boat, you’ll also find a restaurant, a cafe, a British pub, spa, tearoom, and 1930s-inspired bar. Did I mention it’s a huge boat?!
Lastly, you can also take a ghost tour through the hotel (even if you’re not staying there) to learn more about the boat’s spookier past.
Crystal Cove Beach Cottages (Newport Beach)
Another historic stay on the PCH, the Crystal Cove Beach Cottages were once part of a seaside colony in the 1920s and 40s and are now part of Crystal Cove State Park.
There are 24 vintage cottages in total, all run by the Crystal Cove Conservancy.
There are 14 individual cottages and 10 that are dorm-style cottages where you can book a private room in a shared cottage. All cottages have a full kitchen and a deck with ocean views.
The cottages range quite a bit in terms of size and price. They can hold anywhere from 2-8 people and start around $200 per night for the individual cottages and $80 per night for the dorm-style ones.
One thing to note is that the cottages book up very quickly, sometimes a year in advance so you’ll want to book as soon as you know your trip dates.
If you’re able to book one of the cottages, you’ll have the unique experience of staying in Crystal Cove State Park.
At the park, you’ll have access to plenty of coastal hikes, tide pools, and scenic coves and beaches. Plus, you’ll be right in the midst of some of the most beautiful Orange County beaches.
More Pacific Coast Highway Accommodation Options
Although they didn’t make the main list, these Coastal California hotels deserve an honorable mention and are good alternatives if you don’t find what you’re looking for above.
- Moonstone Landing (Cambria)
- Inn at Avila Beach (Avila Beach)
- Victorian Mansion Bed & Breakfast (Los Alamos) – Just off Highway 1 but well worth the detour
- Blue Lantern Inn (Dana Point) – the endpoint of the PCH
Get your FREE California Travel Planner – including printable checklists and my favorite two-week itinerary for the state.
Looking for more California travel inspiration? Check out these related posts below!
- How to Lazy Float the American River (American River Tubing Guide) - July 23, 2021
- Backpacking the Trans-Catalina Trail in 5 Days | Full Guide - July 22, 2021
- How I Made $6,598 From My Blog in June 2021 - July 8, 2021