Those who say it’s all about the journey haven’t made a trip to these Southern California hotels that make checking in the highlight of your travels. Take your lodging to the next level with Instagram-worthy amenities, cool design and—of course—prime real estate. With so much to do and see, leaving the property may actually put a damper on your otherwise pampered experience.
1) Although Southern California’s beaches may frequently steal the spotlight, the mountains offer just as much natural beauty. Located only a quick, scenic two-hour drive from either San Diego or Los Angeles, Lake Arrowhead is a small community nestled into the San Bernardino Mountains surrounding a 780-acre reservoir. Lake Arrowhead Resort and Spa is perched just above the reservoir, within close walking distance to Lake Arrowhead Village, where most of the local shops and restaurants are located. The resort has an outdoor pool and jacuzzi offering prime views of the lake, plus fire pits spread throughout the property, a dedicated game room, full-service spa and fitness center (with free exercise classes), and an onsite restaurant. During winter you can expect to see snow on the ground, but during the summer months everyone heads to the lake for boating and kayaking, water skiing and swimming. Lake Arrowhead Resort and Spa is the perfect place to unplug for a relaxing, secluded getaway.
2) Sitting just steps from the ocean in the heart of Venice Beach, Hotel Erwin has the area’s only rooftop bar where guests and locals alike go to watch the sun set on the Pacific. Enjoy a complimentary welcome cocktail on your way to the room and admire the graffiti art adorning the hallways in between. The trendy guestrooms have bright pops of color, plus wallpaper that incorporates handprints of the hotelier’s friends for a personalized welcome. The bathroom door makes for the perfect photo backdrop, resembling a postcard with the inscription “wish you were here!” For more photo ops of the funky neighborhood, head to the iconic Venice sign one block from the hotel (wait for the traffic signal to get the best shot mid-intersection). Since Hotel Erwin borders the Venice Beach Boardwalk, you won’t have to go far to find good people watching or a sandy spot to lay. And in the morning, you’ll be glad to wake up next door to Eggslut, where you’ll find stellar breakfast sandwiches.
3) Surfers should make their way to Kimpton Shorebreak Resort in Huntington Beach, where the surf culture is alive and well, and the beach is nearly at your door. Located directly across from the Huntington Beach Pier, Shorebreak is full of photo-worthy art, murals and neon signs, and has a courtyard with a giant chess set, corn hole and fire pits (s’mores are available nightly). Guestrooms have beach-themed pop art and large soaking tubs. The pet-friendly resort has a fully-stocked gym open 24/7, replete with a climbing wall. Beach cruisers, chairs, towels, umbrellas and other staples are available for rent at the front desk, and a surf ambassador is on hand to offer tips. Pacific Hideaway is their impressive onsite restaurant serving modern American cuisine with ample seafood options, plus elaborate cocktails with clever names.
4) Stepping inside the new Moxy San Diego in the Gaslamp Quarter is like arriving at a fun party. Guests check in at the bar, where they receive tokens for a complimentary welcome cocktail, while classic ‘90s hip-hop and R&B hits flow through the speakers. Designed with lighthearted fun in mind, Moxy’s lobby area has neon signs, an LED light fixture, a shipping container, modern artwork and games (board games, Jenga, shuffleboard, Connect Four, etc.). Elevator rides provide a quick photo op as guests snap their reflection in the mirror containing messages written in lipstick. Guestrooms are spartan yet functional, with the same cheeky design aesthetic seen in the lobby. There’s no need to leave the hotel in search of nightlife, since Moxy’s hidden speakeasy Room 56 is tucked just behind the lobby’s mezzanine library wall. Follow the winding staircase down to find this elegant bar serving outstanding cocktails. Reservations are recommended since space is limited.
5) For a Vegas vibe without the drive, look no further than Harrah’s Resort Southern California, dropped into the dessert about an hour’s drive from San Diego on the Rincon Indian Reservation town of Funner. The vacay vibes will be strong whether you reserve a cabana by the pool, hang at the swim-up bar or simply float down the lazy river. Gambling is always an option, as is a relaxing massage at their newly remodeled spa. Indulge on steaks and seafood for dinner at their signature restaurant Fiore, followed by cocktails at Spiked or craft brews at the new SR76 Beerworks. Catch live entertainment at their event center, which draws crowds with their national headlining music and comedy shows. The best part is that you won’t have to go far at the end of the night once checking into a guestroom suite, where the walk-in showers are more like spa facilities. Anything you may need is at this all-encompassing desert oasis.
6) To encourage self-reflection and human interaction, Hotel Palomar in San Diego created the Kimpton Stay Human Project (available through May 31, 2019). Besides being a stunning skyline corner suite on the 18th floor, this interactive guestroom is stocked with in-room activities such as a marker board asking guests “What will you do with a second chance?”; a Polaroid camera to take selfies in front of surf boards stashed as props on the balcony; an iPad where you can add to their curated Spotify playlists; and a bucket of craft brews from Second Chance Beer to sip while pondering life. And you can’t miss the neon sign above the bed that reminds you to post about your experience using #KimptonStayHumanProject. If you need an excuse to venture out from this Instagram-ready room, Palomar’s rooftop pool on the fourth floor and their on-site Mexican restaurant, Curadero, are well worth the trip. The hotel is also located next door to House of Blues where you can catch a live show.