America's Best Coastal Hotels
“The Post Ranch Inn is a serene, almost spiritual, place that feels miles in the sky. The majestic view of the Pacific Ocean and the misty bluffs of Big Sur from its cliff-side patio is like none other in the world,” says Anastacia Maggioncalda, a San Francisco–based film producer who honeymooned there with her husband, Steve.
While hotels and resorts have long leaned on Mother Nature to enhance their guest experiences, few wild assets rival that of prime waterfront real estate—be it on a sugary sand beach or a dramatic rocky bluff. Fortunately for travelers, there’s a lot of choice for those seeking a great coastal getaway.
Culled from Travel + Leisure’s annual World’s Best Awards, the following hotels were rated highly by readers—and come with ocean breezes, water views, and ultra-scenic shores. Asked to evaluate properties for categories including rooms/facilities, location, and service, survey-takers made it clear that a coastal location can be one of a hotel’s greatest features.
On Hawaii’s Big Island, the Four Seasons Resort Hualalai at Historic Ka’upulehu is an intimate isolated resort spread among low-rise bungalows just steps from crystalline Pacific waters and a volcanic rock coast with black lava outcroppings. Bungalow 8 even overlooks a saltwater snorkeling lagoon.
For a New England spin on coastal living, check in to Rhode Island’s renovated Ocean House. Expansive decks overlooking a private white-sand beach and manicured croquet lawns are a nod to old-time glamour, while the light-filled rooms suites have oversize soaking tubs and custom-made dark wood furnishings.
No matter your definition of what makes a great coastal hotel, from the Florida Keys to Oregon, there’s one clear characteristic that all of the properties flaunt: location, location, location. —Adrien Glover
No. 1 The Lodge, Sea Island, GA
Genteel lodge with 40 country-style rooms and on-site access to a legendary golf course. A bagpiper roams the grounds every evening.
Room to Book: Nos. 2 and 3 have enormous balconies that overlook the 18th hole at Plantation Golf Course.
Insider Tip: Guests have access to the amenities of the lodge’s sister property, The Cloister, including its 65,000-square-foot spa and the Georgian Room restaurant.
No. 2 The Cloister, Sea Island, GA
A historic 1928 Mediterranean-style resort with 4 pools, set on a secluded beach.
Room to Book: Beach Club suites have kitchens, fireplaces, and balconies.
Insider Tip: Take a 90-minute tour ($100 per person) of the salt marsh onboard the Cloister Belle, a restored antique yacht. You’ll see oyster beds and live shrimp.
No. 3 Elizabeth Pointe Lodge, Amelia Island, FL
Off the coast of Florida, the Elizabeth Pointe Lodge has configurations for every type of traveler. Each of the four suites of the nearby Ocean House opens onto a private deck. The Miller Cottage is built for families or groups, with two bedrooms and bathrooms, a living room, and a patio. And the 20-room Main House’s lawn fans out into beachgrass-tufted sand dunes.
Room to Book: No. 16 is a corner room with a rainforest shower for two and ocean views from the king bed.
Insider Tip: Set aside a day to tee off. Amelia Island has 117 holes of championship golf, including a PGA tournament course.
No. 4 Market Pavilion Hotel, Charleston, SC
Charleston's newest luxury hotel delivers the best skyline and harbor views in town, plus a charming rooftop bar and pool from which to take them in.
Room to Book: Even-numbered rooms on the second floor with balconies.
Insider Tip: Enjoy one of many taste experiences: sipping a sunset cocktail at the chic rooftop Pavilion Bar; savoring a center-cut strip steak, wet aged for 42-50 days at the hotel's Grill 225; tasting pastry chef Gerry Elliot's flamed Baked Carolina.
No. 5 Grand Del Mar, San Diego, CA
Opulent 2007 property swathed in Italian marble and European refinement—plus hiking trails, golf, and a family-friendly pool.
Room to Book: Most of the Veranda rooms look out over The Grand Golf Club.
Insider Tip: Check out the list of the resort's outdoor tours (for a fee) from a sea cave kayaking trip to a guided coastal hike.
No. 6 Cavallo Point – The Lodge at the Golden Gate, Sausalito, CA
With a prime location in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, Cavallo Point blends old and new to great effect. The restored buildings of Fort Baker, a former U.S. army base, house its 142 rooms and suites. And there’s plenty to do on site, beginning with a Healing Arts Center & Spa, an organic Tea Bar, a cooking school, and yoga classes.
Room to Book: The Historic Deluxe with View rooms in the Contemporary building have just that—sweeping panoramas of the San Francisco Bay—along with gas fireplaces, buttery-leather armchairs, and vintage crown molding.
Insider Tip: Try the hotel’s healing arts services, which range from acupuncture to clinical massage, hypnotherapy to energy work.
No. 7 Four Seasons Resort Hualalai at Historic Ka’upulehu, HI
String of 2-story bungalows built upon ancient lava rock. The updated Hualalai Spa now has 10 outdoor treatment rooms.
Room to Book: Each Deluxe Ocean View suite comes with a concierge, a private beach cabana, and daily delivery of fresh tropical fruit.
Insider Tip: Locals give lessons about Hawaiian history, lei making, and the art of hula at the resort’s Hualalai Cultural Center.
No. 8 Sunset Key Guest Cottages, A Westin Resort, Key West, FL
White-washed cottages—with a spa of individual suites and a Todd Holender-run restaurant—on a secluded island near Key West.
Room to Book: One of the two luxury cottages fronting the beach—they have full gourmet kitchens, private plunge pools, and sunken bathtubs.
Insider Tip: Fish caught off the resort’s own pier can be prepared at Latitudes restaurant.
No. 9 White Elephant, Nantucket, MA
One of Nantucket Town’s plushest resorts, on a prime spot on the edge of the harbor, with an expansive waterfront patio and chaise-dotted green lawns.
Room to Book: Harbor-View Rooms cost quite a bit more than standard doubles (about $150 more in high season)—but the stunning views over passing sailboats are worth it.
Insider Tip: Try the Brant Point Grill’s New England Little Neck Clams, peppered with vine-ripened tomatoes and lathered with champagne butter.
No. 10 Stephanie Inn Hotel, Cannon Beach, OR
Shingled sanctuary overlooking Haystack Rock. All 41 rooms are equipped with fireplaces and private balconies.
Room to Book: Nab the oceanfront king rooms on the second and third floors for the best views of Haystack Rock.
Insider Tip: The hotel provides everything you need for a crackling bonfire on the sand.
No. 11 Ocean House Watch Hill, RI
Built in 1868 on a windswept bluff, the Victorian hotel is looking grand again thanks to a major overhaul. Croquet lawns nod to old-world glamour, while rooms and suites have modern bathrooms and custom-made furnishings. The verandah, with an outdoor terrace overlooking a private white-sand beach, makes the perfect spot to idle away an afternoon.
Room to Book: Grand Deluxe Room 301 for its blue-tiled fireplace, freestanding bathtub with ocean views, and private terrace.
Insider Tip: Consider a visit in the off-season—moody skies, long walks on the empty beach, and cozy treatments at the hotel spa make for easy romance.
No. 12 Inn at Palmetto Bluff, Bluffton, SC
Southern-style resort on coastal marshland, with 50 cottage rooms and suites, spa treatments, and outdoor activities.
Room to Book: The 8 Cottage suites have river views and separate living rooms, plus the standard antique pine floors, fireplaces, and screened verandas.
Insider Tip: Bird lovers can paddle a complimentary kayak or canoe through the May River to see more than 100 species, including bald eagles, great blue herons, and snowy egrets.
No. 13 Watercolor Inn & Resort, Santa Rosa Beach, FL
New Urbanist enclave on the Panhandle made up of a David Rockwell–designed inn and rental residences near a coastal dune lake.
Room to Book: Units on the first floor have outdoor showers and easy access to the beach.
Insider Tip: Make your reservations through the official WaterColor Vacation Program to get complimentary bikes, kayaks, canoes, and Kids Camp sessions.
No. 14 Marco Beach Ocean Resort, Marco Island, Naples, FL
Ninety-eight one- and two-bedroom suites equipped with full-size kitchens make this resort an easy choice for vacationing families. Enjoy a concierge-arranged golf outing at an award-winning championship course until sunset, marked by the ringing of the captain’s bell each night.
Room to Book: Guests staying on the top floor are treated to swell views and higher ceilings, which make the suites appear even roomier.
Insider Tip: Time your lounging wisely—the resort offers complimentary smoothies at 3 p.m. daily at its private beach and pool.
No. 15 Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea, HI
This modern 380-room retreat has a slew of free activities including twice-daily scuba lessons, plus a salt-water infinity-edge pool with an underwater sound system.
Room to Book: Avoid Mountainside rooms, which primarily overlook the driveway (Haleakala is far in the distance). Garden View rooms—each with a lanai overlooking the resort's landscaped grounds—are a better bet.
Insider Tip: Sign up for a free outrigger canoe excursion to learn Hawaiian paddling techniques—and perhaps glimpse a green sea turtle.
No. 16 Weekapaug Inn, Westerly, RI
Waiting at the edge of a pond on its own peninsula, the Weekapaug Inn (est. 1899) got a tasteful update in 2010. Its 27 rooms and four suites have an inviting, simple elegance: pastel walls, marble baths, local artwork, wicker and wood furnishings, and vintage touches. A wood fireplace burns in the locavore restaurant.
Room to Book: The Great Egret suite. Enter through a private elevator and head for the deck, where Atlantic Ocean views extend to Block Island.
Insider Tip: Mark Bullinger, the on-site naturalist, leads daily barrier beach walks, fly-fishing seminars, and bicycle trips to Watch Hill.
No. 17 Post Ranch Inn, Big Sur, CA
40 solar-powered rooms in freestanding cottages made from wood, glass, and slate overlooking the Pacific coast.
Room to Book: Triangular, foliage-shrouded Tree Houses are situated on 9-foot stilts and have views of the Santa Lucia mountain peaks.
Insider Tip: Reserve a gratis convertible from the inn’s fleet of Lexus vehicles, pick up a picnic lunch from Sierra Mar, and cruise down the Pacific Coast Highway for an idyllic—and quintessentially Californian—day trip.
No. 18 Kahala Hotel & Resort, Oahu, HI
338-room Hawaiian classic with furniture by notable designers (Ralph Lauren) in refurbished suites.
Room to Book: Oceanfront Koko Head rooms have the best views of the craters at Koko Head and Diamond Head.
Insider Tip: The Seafood Tower—a staggering vertical display of nine types of seafood—is served by request only at Hoku’s restaurant. A limited number are available every night, so call ahead.
No. 19 Resort at Pelican Hill, Newport Coast, CA
204 bungalows and 128 villas (the smallest is 847 square feet) reminiscent of seaside Tuscany. The world’s largest circular coliseum pool is an attraction in its own right.
Room to Book: The most impressive vistas are from bungalows 143–150, 316–323, and 419.
Insider Tip: Rise early to join the free guided hike through Crystal Cove State Beach, 3 miles of preserve-protected sand adjacent to the resort.
No. 20 Four Seasons Resort Lanai, The Lodge at Koele, HI
An upcountry Hawaiian sensibility pervades this 20-acre central-highland property on Lanai. The 102 rooms and suites have verandas, many fronting the manicured lawns where croquet and lawn bowling are played. The backdrop is green hills, pines, and gardens interspersed with glimpses of ocean from the Lodge's entrance.
Room to Book: Room 110, one of two second-floor Great Hall Fireplace Suites, has a 118-foot balcony, marble bathroom, and the better view overlooking the reflecting pond.
Insider Tip: Shoot sporting clays at the Highlands center.
No. 21 Ponte Vedra Inn & Club, Ponte Vedra, FL
A hotel for the sporty type; the 40 rooms in the Florida and Georgia House recently underwent a $4 million renovation, but the golf-and-tennis center remains the top attraction.
Room to Book: No. 292, in the Atlantic House, takes up a corner spot on the second floor and has unbeatable ocean views.
Insider Tip: Sample the resident pastry chef’s ice cream at the Gourmet Shop; flavors include Peanut Butter Beach Road Chocolate, Strawberry Cheesecake and Key Lime.
No. 22 Ritz-Carlton, Key Biscayne, FL
450 rooms in tropical colors, 4 restaurants, and 11 tennis courts, on a barrier island south of Miami Beach.
Room to Book: An 800-square-foot, one-bedroom Residential suite: with full kitchen, Jacuzzi tub, and balcony, it’s slightly more expensive than a regular suite and perfect for families.
Insider Tip: Rent a bike and explore neighboring Bill Baggs State Park and the historic Cape Florida Lighthouse.
No. 23 Inn at Spanish Bay, Pebble Beach, CA
Low-lying hotel on the Monterey Peninsula. Guests (of at least two nights) have access to the Pebble Beach Golf Links.
Room to Book: Most ending in -02, -04, -06, and -08 overlook the hotel’s communal fire pits and offer a great vantage point for both seeing and hearing the sunset bagpipe recital.
Insider Tip: Concierges will create personalized maps for local hiking, jogging, and wine tasting.
No. 24 Ritz-Carlton, Naples, FL
A 450-room stronghold (plus 2 pools, a spa offering a new spiced mud wrap, and a small-plates restaurant, Bites) set along the Gulf of Mexico’s Paradise Coast.
Room to Book: South—facing Coastal rooms offer views of the Gulf of Mexico—at a lower price than west-facing Gulf Front rooms.
Insider Tip: The hotel has a great children’s program, Nature’s Wonders, that introduces them to turtles, baby alligators, and eels (in aquariums). A staff of certified naturalists leads walks and boat rides in the surrounding ecosystems.
No. 25 Marquesa Hotel, Key West, FL
Restored 1884 conch houses set back from busy Duval Street. A no-cell-phones-in-public-spaces policy helps to keep the peace.
Room to Book: The third-floor standard room has dormers and window seats with views of Key West’s Victorian rooftops.
Insider Tip: Visit the Key West Botanical Garden, the only “frost-free” botanical garden in the United States, five miles away from the hotel.
No. 26 Tu Tu-tun Lodge, Gold Beach, OR
Fronting the Rogue River and flanked by old-growth rain forests, with an emphasis on genial service.
Room to Book: Deluxe king rooms have wood-burning fireplaces and soaking tubs on private balconies overlooking the Rogue River.
Insider Tip: Ask to go chinook salmon fishing with one of southern Oregon's local guides.
No. 27 Boston Harbor Hotel at Rowes Wharf, Boston, MA
Ideal for first-time Boston visitors, the 230-room property at Rowes Wharf is within walking distance of familiar attractions (Faneuil Hall, Boston Common) and landmarks, such as the glass-walled Institute of Contemporary Art. Rooms are detailed with nautical accents and offer views of either the harbor or the city skyline.
Room to Book: The Admiral’s Suite has a 200-square-foot terrace (the largest of the hotel’s private outdoor spaces), plus marble work, built-in bookcases, and a spacious sitting area.
Insider Tip: Thanks to its Rowes Wharf location, the hotel can arrange for water taxi service to take guests to more than 30 waterfront destinations, such as historic Charlestown.
No. 28 Fairmont Heritage Place, Ghirardelli Square, San Francisco, CA
A short walk from Fisherman's Wharf, this all-suites hotel offers sweeping views of San Francisco and Alcatraz from its location within a cluster of circa-1890’s buildings from the old Ghirardelli chocolate factory. The site is now an enclave of high-end eateries, food markets, boutiques and spas.
Room to Book: Residence 229 is a two-bedroom suite boasting a second-story loft with private balcony, high in the historic clock tower. It offers views of the bay from its rooftop patio, although it’s categorized as a city view suite.
Insider Tip: Generally, residences ending in odd numbers face the city, while even numbers face the bay or Ghirardelli Square.
No. 29 The Sanctuary Hotel, Kiawah Island, SC
Stately 255-room hotel on the grounds of one of the country’s top golf resorts.
Room to Book: Book one of 17 corner rooms for beach, sunset and sunrise views.
Insider Tip: Have a post-round drink in the Ryder Cup Bar at the Ocean Course, site of the 2012 PGA Championship.
No. 30 Acqualina, Miami Beach, FL
Sunny Isles is North Miami’s rapidly developing answer to South Beach, and Rosewood Hotels & Resorts stepped into the skyscraping fray with Acqualina, a grand 97-room Mediterranean-inspired tower that mixes touches of Collins Avenue grooviness with old-world nostalgia.
Room to Book: The two- and three-bedroom suites offer a separate living room, a private bar and terrace, a gourmet kitchen, and ocean views from the master bedroom.
Insider Tip: Each year, endangered sea turtles lay their nests right in the hotel’s backyard (typically May through October). Families will appreciate the complimentary AcquaMarine children’s program, which includes private swimming lessons and crafts.