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It’s no secret that Northern California has an incredible coastline, and along with it, unique hotels. Spanning from Big Sur all the way up north to Humboldt county, there is so much to discover.

Best Hotels on the Northern Coast of California

Being a Northern California native, I’ve made it a goal of mine to explore as much of this part of the state as possible. Each county is different from the next, making it what I think the ultimate place to travel. You can have such a wide range of experiences, and truly, it’s a road trip lover’s dream.

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Along the way, there are some incredible hotels. This part of California has taking lodging to the next level, with luxury hotels and what I call “destination hotels.” They’re the kind of places you’d book for a honeymoon, an anniversary trip (like these Valentine getaways in Northern California), or even just for a weekend escape.

So after exploring most of the coast, I’m sharing my list. Most of these I’ve stayed at and a few are still on my bucket list.

Here’s a look at the best hotels on the Northern Coast of California.

Short on Time? Here Are My Top Picks for the Best Hotels on the Northern California Coast:

  1. Timber Cove Resort, for the best luxury resort
  2. Ritz-Carlton Half Moon Bay, for the best romantic hotel
  3. Alila Ventana, for the best all-inclusive resort

Best Hotels on the Northern Coast of California

1. Post Ranch Inn (Big Sur)

Post Ranch Inn
Image via Post Ranch Inn

It’s the best hotel on the coast by a longshot. Winning numerous awards for both service, luxurious rooms, and fine dining, the Post Ranch Inn would be a dream to stay at. Coming with the steepest price point on the list, it would be a bucket list trip indeed. Book the best rates here.

Address: 47900 CA-1, Big Sur, CA 93920

2. Alila Ventana (Big Sur)

Best Hotels on the Northern Coast of California
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Big Sur is one of the most special places along the coast and with ocean views, the Alila Ventana is a luxury stay right in the heart of it. During the warmer months, they even put up luxury glamping tents to stay in, making it feel like you’re camping but with the service of a five-star hotel. Book the best rates here.

Address: 48123 CA-1, Big Sur, CA 93920

3. L’Auberge (Carmel)

Best Hotels on the Northern Coast of California
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A little further up the coast is the town of Carmel. In the heart of it, the classic and iconic L’Auberge hotel. I’ve been to Carmel so many times, I’ve lost count. I adore it there — so much to do on the coast, incredible restaurants (check out this list), and more. If you’re headed there, be sure to check out this guide as well. Book the best rates here.

Address: Monte Verde St &, 7th Ave, Carmel-By-The-Sea, CA 93923

4. Dream Inn (Santa Cruz)

Best Hotels on the Northern Coast of California
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For the surfers, there’s no better place to ride the waves than Santa Cruz. It makes for an awesome pitstop along the way on the coast, and the Dream Inn is a cozy stay. With beachfront access, there’s not a better spot to book for a weekend in Santa Cruz. Book the best rates here.

Address: 175 W Cliff Dr, Santa Cruz, CA 95060

5. The Ritz-Carlton (Half Moon Bay)

Best Hotels on the Northern Coast of California
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For anyone in San Francisco looking for a quick weekend getaway, this is only forty-five minutes away! For those who love golf, you’ll love it even more. Right on the coast, the Ritz-Carlton has an incredible property with a spa and golf course. Be sure to try the marshmallow kit as well for around the firepit. Book the best rates here.

Address: 1 Miramontes Point Rd, Half Moon Bay, CA 94019

6. Cavallo Point Lodge (Sausalito)

Best Hotels on the Northern Coast of California

One of those tucked-away gems right near San Francisco, Cavallo Point Lodge is one my favorite weekend escapes near San Francisco (read about my stay here). The hotel has stunning views of the city and the Golden Gate Bridge. A few highlights include their recently renovated spa where you’ll want to book an appointment ahead of time. Their brunch on the patio is something not to miss as well. Book the best rates here.

Address: 601 Murray Cir, Sausalito, CA 94965

7. Nick’s Cove (Point Reyes Station)

Best Hotels on the Northern Coast of California

Best Hotels on the Northern Coast of California

Staying at Nick’s Cove for a night, I was absolutely smitten with the cute waterside cabins. I had been before to eat at the restaurant but never had stayed at the cabins here. One of the loveliest parts of the stay was the in-room breakfast that was delivered in a picnic basket. So delicious and so cozy in the room! Point Reyes is a special part of California, take a look at this weekend guide if you’re headed there. Book the best rates here.

Address: 23240 CA-1, Marshall, CA 94940

8. Bodega Bay Lodge (Bodega Bay)

Best Hotels on the Northern Coast of California
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Bodega Bay is a childhood classic. Set on the water’s edge, it’s a fishing town and an incredible beach destination. Set on the Sonoma Coastline, the Bodega Bay Lodge is an incredible option for a luxury stay in this area. You can spend your days at the beach, explore the small town, and chow down on killer chowders and crab rolls! Book the best rates here.

Address: 103 CA-1, Bodega Bay, CA 94923

9. Timber Cove Resort (Jenner/Timber Cove)

Best Hotels on the Northern Coast of California

Best Hotels on the Northern Coast of California

Oh my, what a spot on the northern coast. Timber Cove Resort is one of my favorite design hotels and it sits perched out on the ocean. I spent one of the best nights here and the food is truly great. Even if you’re rolling through, I’d pop in for a drink or a bite. It is a wonderful escape for those looking to be a bit more removed from the crowds but has access to coastal hikes and wineries in the Guerneville area. Book the best rates here.

Address: 21780 North Coast Highway 1, Jenner, CA 95450

10. Harbor House Inn (Elk, Mendocino County)

Best Hotels on the Northern Coast of California

Best Hotels on the Northern Coast of California

Named one of the best hotels in the area, the Harbor House Inn has several claims to fame. First and foremost, the renovated hotel is a dream. I stayed here one night and the service and style are perfect. The second fame is their Michelin-star restaurant, which is reason enough to visit. I’d book 2 nights here, dine at least once, and enjoy the sights. Book the best rates here.

Address: 5600 CA-1, Elk, CA 95432

11. Brewery Gulch Inn (Mendocino)

Best Hotels on the Northern Coast of California
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As you get further into Mendocino County, the coastline opens up. Speckled with pine trees and rolling hills, the Brewery Gulch Inn is right off Highway 1. Its rooms are cozy, most set with fireplaces. You can see the ocean from here and you’re minutes from the town of Mendocino. If you’re headed this way, be sure to check out this weekend guide to Mendocino. Book the best rates here.

Address: 9401 CA-1, Mendocino, CA 95460

12. SCP Mendocino Inn and Farm (Little River, Mendocino County)

One of my favorite Mendocino hotels is the SCP Mendocino Inn and Farm. Both rustic and charming, this inn is set off the main road and has slight ocean views. Right on the property are llamas (love this!) and even their own chickens — they use the eggs for a fresh breakfast delivered to your room! This is a wonderful hotel to stay at while exploring Mendocino. Book the best rates here.

Address: 8211 North, CA-1, Little River, CA 95456

13. Inn at Newport Ranch (Fort Bragg)

The Inn at Newport Ranch
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A bit more remote, the Inn at Newport Ranch feels a world away. The large house that is now turned into an inn has spacious rooms with private bathrooms. You can even rent out the entire inn as well for special events. It’s a luxurious stay at the edge of Mendocino County. Book the best rates here.

Address: 31502 CA-1, Fort Bragg, CA 95437

14. Turtle Rocks Oceanfront Inn (Trinidad)

Turtle Rocks Oceanfront Inn
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I really loved spending time in Trinidad on this road trip this year. There is so much to do here and you can get a taste of Humboldt County in a few days. The Turtle Rocks Oceanfront Inn comes highly rated for both location and attention to detail. You can easily access most of the Redwood Coast and have a charming stay with it. Book the best rates here.

Address: 3392 Patricks Point Dr, Trinidad, CA 95570

FAQ: Visiting the Northern California Coast

How To Get To the Northern California Coast

For arriving in Northern California by flight, the most convenient airport is San Francisco. Depending on where you’re flying from and where you’re headed, you could also consider flying into:

  • Monterey Airport
  • San Jose Airport
  • Oakland Airport
  • Santa Rosa Airport

For exploring, you will need a car. I’d recommend booking it wherever you fly into and returning it to the same location for the best pricing. Driving in Northern California is quite easy. Roads are well marked, the speeds are average, and it’s doable for most drivers. Find the best car rental deals here.

The part which most travelers tend to share is the most challenging are the windy roads. Undoubtedly the coastal Highway 1 is curvy and often high in elevation. I’ve driven it my entire life so I feel pretty confident but I could see how it would be a bit scary the first time. I’d recommend not driving at night if this is the case and taking it slow.

How Much Time on the Northern California Coast?

Best Hotels on the Northern Coast of California

This entirely depends on where you plan to go. I think one week is the right amount of time for getting a good feel. One of the popular reads on the blog is this, called the “Ultimate One Week Road Trip Itinerary for a Northern California.” It breaks out an ideal first time trip with destinations like San Francisco and Carmel, and even brings you inland to Yosemite.

Alternatively, I’d recommend the most read Northern California blog post — “The Ultimate Northern California Coast Road Trip Itinerary” This has all of my must-see destinations with even a Google Maps itinerary.

One to two weeks is a good amount of time to get a feel for this part of California. Or if you’re local, you could bounce out for a weekend.

Where to visit along the Northern California Coast

Best Hotels on the Northern Coast of California

Best Hotels on the Northern Coast of California

Options are endless! I love a combination of something like Big Sur, San Francisco, and Sonoma Coast. Or you could go north and be more remote, hitting destinations like Mendocino and Humboldt County.

Here are a few blog posts to help inspire you:

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Best Hotels on the Northern Coast of California

PS — Are You Booking a Trip Soon? Use My Booking Checklist!

These are the sites I use most to book my own trips. Using the links below is a great way to support Bon Traveler’s travel journalism at no extra cost to you. If you need help organizing your itinerary, get my free travel itinerary template here.

1. Book Your Flights

Use Skyscanner to find the best flights. It searches 100s of airlines and websites across the globe to ensure you’re not missing out on any route options or deals.

2. Book Your Accommodations

Use for hotels and guest houses. They have the biggest inventory and consistently offer the best rates.

3. Book Your Tours & Experiences

Use Viator or Get Your Guide to find the best tours and experiences. They are my favorite tour search engines. I always check both as their inventory varies depending on the destination.

4. Book Your Car

Use Discover Cars or to find the best car rental deals. I recommend comparing rental agency reviews on Google to ensure you are booking with the best company in that destination, as the reviews are often more accurate than the car rental search engines.

5. Don’t Forget Airport Lounge Access

Get a Priority Pass membership to gain access to 1,400+ VIP lounges and airport experiences worldwide. The Priority Pass app is the first thing I check when I have a layover. I’ve been a member for over a decade, and having a comfortable place to relax before and between flights makes air travel so much more enjoyable.

6. Don’t Forget Travel Insurance

I never leave the country without travel insurance. It provides comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong (ie. illness, injury, theft, and cancelations, etc.). I use it frequently for my travels to stay protected.

My favorite companies that offer the best coverage and rates are:


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