Given its grand-scale splendor along the California coast, simply pitching a tent in Big Sur can be a life-changing experience. Add infinity pools, organic contemporary architecture, and edge-of-the-world views, and you start to understand why this luxury, nature-filled retreat frequently tops best hotel lists. Rooms and suites vary – from a modern treehouse to a luxury home with infinity hot tub overlooking the Pacific – and come stocked with complimentary wine and goodies. Mornings offer outdoor yoga, guided hikes, and a hosted breakfast buffet at Sierra Mar, the resort’s signature restaurant, which features glass walls and ridiculous ocean vistas.
More than a place to crash for the night, the best California hotels have for decades now offered a chance to revel in the state’s sunshine, style, and natural splendor. A famed diversity of landscapes means you can spread out amidst Napa vineyards, cozy up at a Tahoe mountain retreat, or stow your surfboard at a modern surf shack—there are as many types of lodging in this state as there are amazing things to do. Even roadside motels – a California creation from the 1920s – are experiencing second lives with hip, reimagined designs. Because thread counts alone do not a good hotel make, the following spots offer loads of personality and a taste (sometimes literally, in adjoining restaurants) of the enviable California lifestyle. They take in an alpine-inspired bolthole, a Technicolor fantasy land, a resort set in striking 1905 military buildings and yes, of course the most storied of all Tinseltown’s hotels, the Chateau Marmont.