Enjoy a Very Merry Holiday Season at One of These Festive Hotels
Ready to swap your annual winter wonderland escape for a California Christmas? Getting cozy by the fireplace with a cup of hot cocoa is the ultimate holiday indulgence, but shoveling snow and icy roads get old fast. That said, why not switch out your skis for some sandals? From sunny skies to a cool ocean breeze, there are several SoCal hotels and resorts that turn on the holiday charm without the winter weather. From Santa Monica to La Jolla, here are the 12 best hotels for the perfect California Christmas escape!
‘Tis the season for a winter vacay by the bay! With ocean-view suites and waterfront access to San Diego’s beautiful harbor, Hilton San Diego Bayfront is the perfect place to unpack your bags this season. The Holiday by the Bay celebration will commemorate the resort’s 15th anniversary, and guests can watch the lobby transform into a magical forest of beautifully decorated Christmas trees! Winter vacationers at Hilton San Diego Bayfront can indulge in one of Eforea Spa’s seasonal treatments for a dose of winter wellness and can cruise over to The Rady Shell at Jacobs Park for the San Diego Symphony’s “Noel Noel” concert—a beloved San Diego tradition by the bay! And when hunger strikes, guests can sample the season’s flavors with a cozy collection of winter dishes at Hudson & Nash, including roasted delicata squash, bacon brussel sprouts and gingerbread streusel. Their Wagyu Beef Cheek and signature Organic Blue Masa Bread are both nonnegotiables (and don’t skip the Sugar Pumpkin Panna Cotta)!
Location: San Diego Bay
This year, enjoy a plethora of holiday happenings at La Jolla Shores Hotel! In November and December, this beautiful, beachfront hotel is hosting tons of family-friendly activities that are sure to get you in the seasonal spirit without the need for snow. Starting Nov. 10, guests will be able to enjoy complimentary apple cider in the lobby, but on Dec. 1, this free treat will change to hot cocoa. Other exciting activities on the agenda include gingerbread house making, holiday card creating and cookie decorating. La Jolla Shores Hotel will also be showing some of the most beloved and classic holiday films of all time. What better way to watch “Elf” than with a cup of hot cocoa or mulled wine in hand? Since the property sits right on one of the best beaches in Southern California, start each morning with a picturesque walk on the sand before enjoying a day of festive fun and holiday cheer.
Location: La Jolla
More interested in boating than snowboarding? Balboa Bay Resort sits on a spacious 15 acres of bayside property surrounded by some of the most pristine yachts in Newport Beach. The elegant and timeless rooms are bright and airy, and the massive balconies ensure that you can wake up to the crisp winter air each morning while you sip on a hot cup of coffee. However, the lobby turns into a true winter wonderland with “snow”-covered surfaces and life-size nutcrackers. A+O Restaurant | Bar is the hotel’s on-site eatery that serves coastal California cuisine like lobster bisque, fresh salads and seared scallops. Snag a spot on the patio next to one of the fire pits and indulge in a glass of local pinot noir as the winter sky dims.
Location: Newport Beach
Get sporty this holiday season! For more than 80 years, the La Jolla Beach & Tennis Club has been a dream destination for tennis pros and players (and even pickleballers!) looking to improve their backhand or dinks by the beach. With 12 different championship hard courts, guests can do everything from lessons to clinics before cozying up in one of the property’s spacious suites that overlooks the Pacific. The two- and three-bedroom suites are ideal for travelers visiting with the entire family, but there are also beachfront studios for those embarking on a romantic holiday escape. For resort guests and members only, the new Walnut Lounge & Bar is perfect for those looking to unwind with an expertly crafted cocktail and front-row view of the waves. Close out your California Christmas getaway, and stop by this oceanfront hideaway for brunch or a sunset snack!
Location: La Jolla
What better way to celebrate the season than at the spa? Located just across from the beach, Paséa Hotel & Spa has plenty of exciting holiday events to look forward to, but the most iconic is none other than the oceanfront skating that takes place Dec. 14-Jan. 2. There’s nothing like being able to glide across the ice while staring at the ocean, so don’t miss your chance! There will also be several gingerbread displays up for admiration along with a tree-lighting ceremony on Dec. 7. Of course, a treatment at the Aarna Spa is a must—we love the Ocean Devotion body ritual.
Location: Huntington Beach12/29
Between its nautical-inspired ambiance and central location, Lido House in Newport Beach is one of the best places for a California Christmas escape in SoCal. During the holidays, the modern decor becomes a bit more nostalgic with Christmas trees in the corner and holiday happenings abound. The custom-designed cottages each have their own personality and style, while the coastal guest rooms provide a calming setting that is sure to quiet any and all holiday stress. For dinner, head to The Mayor’s Table and enjoy elevated bites like the jumbo shrimp cocktail, fresh oysters and diver scallops before ending the evening with a seasonal dessert or cocktail.
Location: Newport Beach
Escape to breathtaking Coronado Island for a true California Christmas. The massive and iconic Hotel del Coronado lights up from head to toe during the holidays. Everything from the trees to the building itself glows, putting you in the holiday spirit despite being feet away from the sand and sea. For 2023, the themed holiday colors will be emerald green, silver and gold, along with accents of velvet and pearl. Skate by the sea at the oceanside ice rink or reserve a fire pit at the Frostbite Lounge (open from Nov. 17 to Jan. 7) to enjoy tons of seasonal food and drink options.
Location: Coronado Island
Tucked away in the mountains of Malibu, Calamigos Guest Ranch and Beach Club offers a peaceful oasis during the holidays. The private 250-acre ranch sits in the heart of Malibu’s wine country, allowing you to sip some of the best reds and whites as you unwind from the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season. You can also take a trip to the nearby Calamigos Beach Club for paddleboarding lessons before heading back to the ranch and hitting the hot cocoa bar in the lobby. Expect Christmas trees around every corner, and don’t forget to drop off your letter to Santa.
Solidify all of your holiday shopping when you stay at Shutters on the Beach in Santa Monica. This oceanfront hotel is known for its charming blue and white exterior, but during the holiday season, it becomes even more spirited. From the patio to the lobby, the resort is adorned in twinkling Christmas lights and classic nutcrackers. Since you can expect many of the decorations to fit the hotel’s iconic blue and white theme, be sure to dress the part so you can snag a color-coordinated Instagram photo. End each evening in your oceanfront room with a hot toddy or glass of red wine as you listen to the waves crash along the shore.
Location: Santa Monica
Located in Dana Point, The Ritz Carlton, Laguna Niguel is a cliffside resort that allows you to spend the holidays in paradise. The annual tree-lighting ceremony kicks things off at the end of November, when the beloved 40-foot tree at the front of the property comes to life. During the event, enjoy everything from festive tunes to sweet and steamy hot cocoa. If you’re lucky, you might even catch a glimpse of Saint Nick himself. The elegant rooms provide the perfect backdrop for those hoping to bring their own stockings or Christmas decor, and the shimmering ocean views are simply unparalleled.
Location: Dana Point
Casa Laguna Hotel & Spa has a Moroccan-inspired ambiance that is enhanced by breathtaking tiles, geometric patterns and a recently redesigned spa. Those who want it to feel like summer during the holiday season will love the bright tones and lush greenery that surround each walkway and path. After a day of Christmas shopping at the nearby boutiques, head to the spa for a hot stone massage. The indoor and outdoor facilities are designed to put you in the ultimate state of relaxation. You can also start each morning with Casa Laguna’s complimentary continental breakfast, which features fresh juices, quiches, pastries and more.
Location: Laguna Beach
Get read to deck the halls at Terranea Resort in Ranchos Palos Verdes. This cliffside property takes holiday luxury to a new level with sweeping Pacific Ocean views, premium dining options and, of course, a massive Christmas tree that is lit to the nines. All December long, Terranea is hosting live music paired with seasonal cocktails in the lobby bar. If you’re visiting with kids, partake in everything from the daily “Elf on a Shelf” activity or decorate cookies at the kids club. Every Saturday, you can also watch your favorite holiday films under the stars on the resort pool lawn.
Location: Rancho Palos Verdes
Located in Carlsbad just north of San Diego, Park Hyatt Aviara pulls out all of the seasonal stops. After being greeted by a giant wreath at the entrance, walk into a decked-out lobby. Even the Splash Pool is transformed into the annual Cabana Christmas Village, where you can enjoy kid-friendly crafts, a special food and drink menu and a potential Santa spotting. Take the kids to a gingerbread-making class while you unwind with a massage at the new Miraval Life in Balance Spa Aviara. In the evening, roast marshmallows by the fire while you sip on hot cocoa or hot cider.
Allie Lebos graduated from the University of California, Santa Barbara in 2017 with a BA in Communication. While in school she was a staff writer at The Daily Nexus for nearly two years. Since graduating she has written for The Palisades Magazine, as well as Hidden Hills Magazine. Currently living in Santa Monica, Allie loves to indulge in good food, hot yoga, and daily walks along the beach; writing articles on travel, special events, as well as features on local businesses and individuals.