TPG’s 16 favorite hotels in California for every type of traveler

Dec 20, 2021

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Editor’s note: This is a recurring post, regularly updated with new information.

Whether you’re headed for California to chill out at the beach, sample the famous vintages of the wine country, do some big city exploration or road trip around the state with your kids in tow, there’s a hotel (or two, or three) that will up the fun factor and make your trip that much more enjoyable.

Here’s a guide to some of our favorite California hotels, perfectly suited for every type of traveler. And don’t forget, in addition to booking the right property, you can also take your California trip to the next level by trying these expert upgrades.

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In This Post

The best city hotels in California

The St. Regis San Francisco

The St Regis San Francisco. (Photo courtesy of Marriott)

Located in the heart of San Francisco’s downtown art district right next door to the Museum of Modern Art, the St. Regis San Francisco offers the best of both worlds: the ultimate urban immersion and the chance to rise above it all in its 42-story tower. Downstairs, the Museum of the African Diaspora is located within the hotel itself, and the property overlooks the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts and its public gardens. Take advantage of the beloved St. Regis butler service to book a full slate of activities, then relax around the indoor infinity pool.

How to book: This Marriott Bonvoy Category 8 property is available from 70,000 points per night on off-peak dates, and standard award nights will set you back 85,000 points per night. If you need to boost your balance, transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards to your Marriott account at a 1 to 1 rate.

Andaz West Hollywood

The Andaz West Hollywood. (Photo courtesy of Hyatt)
The Andaz West Hollywood. (Photo courtesy of Hyatt)

One peek at the rooftop pool surrounded by bright cushions and igloo-shaped cabanas will prove that the Andaz West Hollywood is as hip as could be expected from its address on this happening stretch of Sunset Boulevard. Once owned by Gene Autry, this hotel has a storied history, becoming the legendary hangout of the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin and just about every rock icon from the 1960s and 1970s you can think of. Today, you can channel your inner rock star while looking out over West Hollywood’s bustling streets from your glassed-in sunroom before heading out to stroll Melrose in search of dinner or get in line for a show at Second City or the Comedy Store.

How to book: Get a free night here with 20,000 World of Hyatt points per night.

Related: Why the World of Hyatt credit card is great for family travelers

The Peninsula Beverly Hills

Ride in a classic Rolls Royce at the Peninsula Beverly Hills.
Ride in a classic Rolls Royce at the Peninsula Beverly Hills. (Photo courtesy of The Peninsula Beverly Hills)

Vacation like a Hollywood star of yesteryear in the carefully guarded privacy of The Peninsula Beverly Hills, where lush tropical gardens and a 4,000-square-foot spa keep the urban hubbub away. Dining al fresco is a Los Angeles tradition year-round, and the Roof Garden is among those doing it best, serving up innovative California cuisine featuring herbs and vegetables grown in the rooftop garden. The lounge chairs around the fire pit are the perfect place to relax while talking over the explorations of the day.

But perhaps this venerable hotel’s smartest feature is its fleet of elegant BMWs or Mini Cooper S Clubmans, complimentary to guests who book a suite. Guests who don’t want to drive are chauffeured around Beverly Hills and nearby Century City in one of the hotel’s house cars, which include a classic Rolls Royce and other glamorous rides.

How to book: This hotel is a member of the American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts program, so if you have either The Platinum Card® from American Express or The Business Platinum Card® from American Express, you’ll probably be able to use Membership Rewards points to book your stay or earn 5x points on prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel. Either way, you’ll get exclusive perks like daily breakfast for two; a room upgrade upon arrival, when available; and a property credit, among other benefits.

The Kimpton Sawyer, Sacramento

Sawyer_Pool_SH_77_1450_WIP copy.jpg
A rooftop pool with a chic modernist lounge is a big draw at Sacramento’s Kimpton Sawyer. (Photo courtesy of IHG)

A gleaming rooftop pool surrounded by outdoor living rooms furnished straight out of “Mad Men” is just one calling card of the Kimpton Sawyer, a luxury boutique hotel that epitomizes Sacramento’s much-heralded renaissance. In Downtown Commons, the newly hip ‘hood (too-cutely christened DoCo) adjacent to the new Golden 1 sports stadium, the Kimpton Sawyer will be a top choice for IHG rewards members, who’ll love the sleek, mid-century modern decor, the new chef’s garden and the complimentary evening social hour hosted by local wineries.

The Kimpton Sawyer also celebrates Sacramento’s obsession with fitness and the outdoors with complimentary custom cruiser bikes by local maker Public and Saturday morning yoga, along with yoga mats in every room. At the hotel’s retro-chic Revival lounge adjacent to the rooftop pool, mixologist Matt Betts entertains guests with clever twists on classic cocktails.

How to book: Standard rooms here can set you back 40,000 IHG Rewards Club points per night and move up based on IHG’s dynamic pricing.

Related: 8 local-approved secrets to planning the perfect California vacation

The best California hotels for food and wine enthusiasts

Napa Valley Marriott Hotel & Spa

The Napa Valley Marriott Hotel and Spa. (Photo courtesy of Marriott)
The Napa Valley Marriott Hotel and Spa. (Photo courtesy of Marriott)

One of Napa Valley’s best-kept secrets, the Napa Valley Marriott Hotel & Spa offers points travelers the chance to redeem rewards and experience many of the same amenities bragged about by far more famous Napa resorts, like morning yoga and on-site wine tastings.

The resort-style swimming pool, one of the biggest in the Napa Valley, is perfect for cooling off after a day of hiking, biking or sampling area wines. And, thanks to an extensive recent remodel, the expansive rooms have a fresh, northern European feel, with matte wood floors, light colors and luxurious touches such as plush robes. Guests can also unwind in the lobby, which welcomes travelers with an in-wall fireplace, deep leather chairs and floor-to-ceiling windows.

How to book: Rooms cost 60,000 points on standard nights. On off-peak dates, when rooms go for 50,000 points, you could redeem an annual up to 50,000-point free night certificate at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy program (certain hotels have resort fees), like the one you get each year after your card renewal month with the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card.

Edgewood Tahoe Resort, Stateline, Lake Tahoe

(Photo courtesy of Edgewood)

Most people don’t think of Lake Tahoe as a food destination, but the quality of the three restaurants at Edgewood Tahoe Resort has made it the choice of food-focused travelers visiting the Sierra Nevada. The resort’s Edgewood Restaurant is a coveted reservation for those from nearby Stateline, who are as impressed as guests with the unparalleled views of the lake through the dining room’s vaulted windows and chef Lonny Huot’s creative combinations such as pinecone-smoked elk loin. The Bistro, the resort’s more casual room, is equally creative, with dishes such as curried mussels and a take on fries and cheese curds, while Brooks Bar & Deck, located in the golf clubhouse, is lively at all hours.

Of course, the food is just the icing on the cake when it comes to this Sierra Nevada resort, which occupies more than 200 acres on the less-traveled Nevada side of California’s most beloved lake with its own private beach and dock. As befits a sort of summer camp for all ages, activities are big at Edgewood, with stargazing nights, ukelele lessons and storytelling around the outdoor firepits, along with gourmet make-it-yourself s’mores every night. And you can’t mention Edgewood without a nod to the resort’s George Fazio-designed golf course, still as renowned as when it opened in 1968 as the first in the mountain region.

How to book: Use miles from your Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card or Barclays Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard® (not available to new applicants) to “erase” a charge coded as “travel” on your statement from the Edgewood Tahoe Resort.

The information for the Barclays Arrival Plus card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

The best secret hideaways in California

Ventana Big Sur

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

About two hours by car from San Francisco, Ventana Big Sur, part of Hyatt’s Alila brand, is situated just off Highway 1, also known as the Pacific Coast Highway, in one of the most picturesque settings in all of America. Rooms are rustic yet refined and the property offers delicious dining options that come included in the cost of entry at this all-inclusive hotel. Relax at the resort’s two pools and take in the sunset at its oversized infinity-edge hot tub at the end of the day. Most of the property’s public spaces are outdoors, which allows guests to more fully embrace the majestic setting of Ventana.

How to book: This Category 7 World of Hyatt property requires 30,000 points for a free night, though note award availability is difficult to come by, so make your reservations in advance if possible.

Ojai Valley Inn, Ojai

woman wearing hat in swimming pool near the mountains
(Photo courtesy of Ojai Valley Inn)

With its red-tiled roofs, whitewashed stucco and fragrant lavender-filled gardens, the Ojai Valley Inn feels like a taste of Greece or Southern Spain just an hour from Los Angeles. And with 220 acres of oak-studded woodlands and expansive lawns, in addition to multiple pools and a golf course, you can fill an entire vacation without leaving the property. The Moorish-tiled Spa Ojai enhances the experience, celebrating the Ojai Valley’s long history as a place of retreat, healing and relaxation with yoga, meditation and guided hiking among its offerings in addition to a full menu of treatments.

How to book: We found rooms through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal from 48,168 points per night, plus taxes and fees.

Holiday Inn Resort, Catalina Island

The Holiday Inn Resort, Catalina Island. (Photo courtesy of IHG)
The Holiday Inn Resort, Catalina Island. (Photo courtesy of IHG)

Wake up on Catalina Island and you’d be forgiven for thinking you were in the Caribbean or Mexican Riviera, when in fact you’re a little over an hour off the coast of Los Angeles by ferry. With its classic Spanish colonial design and expansive ocean views, the Holiday Inn Resort Catalina Island takes full advantage of this secret hideaway vibe. Nestled against the foothills, it’s away from the hustle of the harbor, yet an easy distance from the beaches of Avalon Bay and Lovers Cove. The Catalina Express makes multiple departures from Long Beach, San Pedro and Dana Point to the island’s main port of Avalon, while the San Pedro ferry also has service to Two Harbors.

How to book:  A recent search for award night availability found rates from 26,000 IHG points in October to 40,000 points in November.

The Nakoma Resort, Clio, California

The lodge at Nakoma Resort is based on a design by Frank Lloyd Wright. (Photo courtesy of The Nakoma Resort)

Surrounded by the high meadows and tall pines of the Plumas National Forest, the Nakoma Resort celebrates all the gifts of its remote location in the less-discovered Northern Sierra. But in this case, remote does not mean rugged; everything about the resort is both elegantly understated and abundantly comfortable, with guest rooms averaging a spacious 400 feet, so there’s plenty of room to lounge. Three restaurants make for plenty of dining options, and the gracious lines of the facade and towering four-sided fireplace are based on an original plan by architect Frank Lloyd Wright. The rest of the resort echoes the inspiration with airy spaces and an abundance of glass and natural wood to bridge the gap between inside and outdoors. Families will love the fact that the on-site gym and recreation center features a climbing wall and children’s center and theater for family movie nights. An 18-hole championship golf course is just out the door.

How to book: Use credit card points or miles to “erase” the charges from your stay at the Nakoma Resort.

Related: 6 California trips for every type of traveler

The best California hotels for family fun

Embassy Suites, Napa Valley

The Embassy Suites, Napa Valley. (Photo courtesy of Hilton)
The Embassy Suites, Napa Valley. (Photo courtesy of Hilton)

A pond complete with swans and a chef’s garden to supply the kitchen are just two of the features that set Embassy Suites Napa Valley apart. And, as with all Embassy Suites properties, it’s a favorite of families for the expansive all-inclusive breakfast spread and complimentary evening happy hour and reception, not to mention the indoor and outdoor pools. Located just outside downtown Napa, it’s a quick trip to town and bike rentals are available as well. And it’s pet-friendly, too!

How to book: Depending on your travel dates, you’ll likely need between 62,000 and 70,000 Hilton Honors points per night to stay here.

The Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe

The Lake Club at the Ritz-Carlton Lake Tahoe offers exclusive shore access. (Photo courtesy of Marriott)

With a private, exclusive lake club featuring shorefront lounge chairs and a dock for boating and watersports, the Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe fulfills every family’s vacation dream. Kids will be thrilled at the amount of space to run around on the expansive lawn and the generous pool, and parents will similarly appreciate the spa, golf club and top-notch fitness center. There are also plenty of places to eat and drink on property with something to please every palate, including the pickiest tot. For families seeking even more space, there are two- to four-bedroom cabin-like suites available. And, in the winter, the Ritz-Carlton offers ski-in, ski-out access to the Northstar Ski Resort, a rarity in the Tahoe area.

How to book: This Category 8 Marriott Bonvoy property will set you back 70,000 points per night on off-peak dates, 85,000 points per night on standard award nights and 100,000 points on peak dates.

Related: 12 stops to make on your Southern California family road trip

The best California hotels for sun seekers

Hilton Santa Barbara Beachfront Resort

The Hilton Santa Barbara Beach Resort. (Photo courtesy of Hilton)
The Hilton Santa Barbara Beach Resort. (Photo courtesy of Hilton)

Directly across the street from East Beach, Santa Barbara’s palm-tree-lined white sand mecca, and a short stroll from the pier, the Hilton Santa Barbara Beach Resort offers a beachfront getaway with easy access to town as well. Don’t miss the chance to explore the nearby Funk Zone, filled with galleries, cafes, surf shops and one-of-a-kind boutiques to get a sense of Santa Barbara’s vibrant arts culture. Kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding and whale watching boat trips are easy to book with help from the concierge with bike rentals available onsite. Book a beachfront room to make the most of Santa Barbara’s famed salmon-colored sunsets.

How to book: A single-night standard room will run between 69,000 and 80,000 Hilton Honors points, based on a calendar search through the end of 2021.

Ventura Beach Marriott

The Ventura Beach Marriott. (Photo courtesy of Marriott)
The Ventura Beach Marriott. (Photo courtesy of Marriott)

Picture a tropical terrace with Maui luau vibes and a palm-shaded pool and you can see why the Ventura Beach Marriott tops the list of many locals’ favorite SoCal beach hotels. Just three minutes from San Buenaventura State Beach, it’s a perfect choice for those in search of long stretches of sand, brilliant sunsets and seaside dining. In fact, 10 miles of uncrowded coastline stretches north from Ventura to Santa Barbara, making this the perfect home base for road-tripping up the Pacific Coast Highway.

How to book: A night at this Category 5 Marriott Bonvoy hotel can be yours from 30,000 points per night on off-peak dates, 35,000 points on standard nights and 40,000 points on peak evenings.

Fairmont Miramar Hotel & Bungalows, Santa Monica

The Fairmont Miramar Hotel and Bungalows, Santa Monica. (Photo courtesy of Fairmont Hotels/Facebook)
The Fairmont Miramar Hotel and Bungalows, Santa Monica. (Photo courtesy of Fairmont Hotels/Facebook)

The blue of the ocean is so ever-present at the Fairmont Miramar Hotel & Bungalows it’s a miracle guests ever leave their ocean-view balconies to explore town. But it’s a good thing they do because since it opened its gold-plated gates in 1923, this historic hotel has made the most of its location at the heart of Santa Monica. No wonder President John F. Kennedy, Marilyn Monroe and a long list of other public figures and celebrities chose the Miramar for a seaside getaway. In fact, the demure stucco bungalows at the back of the property could easily be housing a star or two on any given day. Ride in the hotel’s open-air jeep with the proverbial wind in your hair to the guests-only Miramar Beach Club, which is set up to fulfill every sunbather’s need.

How to book: Now that Capital One miles transfer to Accor’s loyalty program, Accor Live Limitless (ALL) at a 2 to 1 ratio, every 4,000 Capital One miles you transfer will become 2,000 ALL Rewards points, about 40 euros (nearly $46) off your stay. Cash rates here start around $450, though Accor Live Limitless members get a 10% discount.

Kona Kai Resort and Spa, San Diego

The Kona Kai Resort lives up to its name with its tropical ambiance. (Photo courtesy of The Kona Kair Resort)

Located on the tip of the Shelter Island peninsula, the 11-acre Kona Kai Resort boasts expansive views of Point Loma and the Kona Kai Marina as well as a private beach and multiple pools and some of southern California’s best sunset views. In addition to the resort’s Vessel Restaurant, the adult-only Paloma poolside serves up craft cocktails and fresh, farm-based cuisine. Nightly bonfires on the beach are a highlight and private beach cabanas are available for rental during the day.

How to book: Offset the cost of a stay at the Kona Kai resort by redeeming credit card points or miles to “erase” the charges from your statement.

Featured photo of courtesy of Ojai Valley Inn.

Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card

Earn 90,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer ends 8/3/2022.

With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 90,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer ends 8/3/2022.
  • Earn up to 20,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) with Status Boost® per year. After you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, you can earn 10,000 MQMs up to two times per year, getting you closer to Medallion® Status. MQMs are used to determine Medallion® Status and are different than miles you earn toward flights.
  • Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
  • Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide including takeout and delivery in the U.S., and at U.S. supermarkets.
  • Earn 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.
  • Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $80 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
  • Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
  • Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck® after you apply through any Authorized Enrollment Provider. If approved for Global Entry, at no additional charge, you will receive access to TSA PreCheck.
  • Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • $250 Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Regular APR
17.24%-26.24% Variable
Annual Fee
Balance Transfer Fee
Recommended Credit
Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.