Where to Stay in California | 6 Top Cities & Cool Hotels

a bird's eye view of the ocean and houses

Home to celebrities, pristine beaches, and the major creative industries in the world, California is one of the most loved states in the US. So, if you’re headed there and you’re wondering where to stay in California, then you definitely need to check out this guide!

Los Angeles is the best area to stay in California! The City of Angeles is where you’ll get a glimpse of the Californian style and visit countless attractions. But that’s not the only city I included! You’ll find 5 more places in this blog post that are great: San Diego, San Francisco, Santa Monica, Santa Barbara, and Palm Springs.

All the hotels you’ll find in this post are the best of the best. This can only mean one thing: that they will sell out super fast (California is one of the most popular states in the US). That’s why I recommend booking yours super early to avoid any disappointments (or high prices).

Ready to stroll on Sunset Boulevard and sunbathe in Palm Springs?

Let’s go!

If you are in a hurry

Don’t have time to read the whole post? I’ve got you covered with this short list of the best hotels, all located in Los Angeles:

luxury hotel
bedroom

The Ritz-Carlton

Best luxury hotel

airbnb
front porch sitting area

Speakeasy Apartment

An Airbnb with amazing reviews

mid-range hotel
sitting area on the terrace

Proper Hotel

Best value for money

budget hotel
lounge area

Miyako Hotel

Best affordable accommodation in the center

Since we’re talking about the whole state, I decided to make a map that will help you visualize all the areas in California that I’ll talk about in this post: 

Where to stay in California MAP
Los Angeles
for first-timers
San Diego
for families
Santa Monica
for the beach
Santa Barbara
for history lovers
Palm Springs
for luxury

1. Los Angeles – where to stay in California for the first time

a freeway with a bunch of cars driving on it

There’s no second-guessing! The City of Angeles has to be your first destination when traveling to California!

You’ve probably seen it in numerous videos and movies and read about it in books, but there’s nothing like spending an entire holiday here!

Home to numerous creative industries, celebrities, and pristine beaches, LA has conquered the hearts of many travelers, and I’m sure you’ll fall in love with this city, too!

There are many amazing areas to stay in Los Angeles that cater to all interests! Whether you want to stay in Hollywood near all the celebrities, or in downtown LA or even Beverly Hills, you’ll find plenty of hotels!

Besides the fabulous atmosphere, Los Angeles is also filled with lots of fun attractions! You’ll find many in downtown Los Angeles but also in all the other main areas.

Yep, this city does have it all! Including big tourist crowds, which is why I recommend booking your hotels for this California adventure in advance, because trust me, they will sell out super fast!

Luxury hotel
collage with swimming pool, bedroom and lounge

Wake up to a stunning view of Downtown Los Angeles at this luxury hotel with spacious guest rooms with large windows, a restaurant, and a spa. When you’re not out exploring Sunset Boulevard or Beverly Hills, you can relax on the rooftop pool with a cocktail by your side!

Other accommodation options in Los Angeles

mid-range
restaurant

Chill by the rooftop pool of this centrally located hotel that has stylish guest rooms and a fitness center

budget
bedroom

An affordable hotel with a great location that offers family rooms, a restaurant, and free Wi-Fi

airbnb
garden area

This place is perfect for 2 guests, and it comes with a cool design, a kitchen, and a balcony

Things to do in Los Angeles

  • Explore the exciting Sunset Strip
  • Admire all the beautiful houses in West Hollywood
  • Have fun at Universal Studio Hollywood
  • eBike on Venice Beach & Santa Monica Pier
  • Snap a pic of the Hollywood Sign
  • Go shopping in Beverly Hills
  • Check out celebrities’ homes on this tour

2. San Diego – the best place to stay in CA for families

a view of a city with tall buildings

This city in Southern California is unmissable!

Home to numerous boutique hotels, fabulous attractions like the San Diego Zoo, amazing beaches, and pine forests, San Diego offers what I consider to be the best of both worlds: urban life and nature!

Filled with numerous incredible areas like downtown San Diego, where you’ll find the major attractions, the Gaslamp Quarter which is packed with bars and nightclubs, and La Jolla, where beach lovers will feel right at home!

It’s impossible not to love this city, and I definitely recommend exploring all its hidden corners while visiting! Whether you’re coming with your family, your partner, or friends, you’ll find that San Diego has something for all the travelers who pass through its doors.

Luxury hotel
collage with swimming pool, bedroom and lounge on the terrace

Spend an unforgettable trip in this fabulous Mediterranean-inspired resort with 5 outdoor pools, private balconies, multiple tennis courts, a golf course, and a spa center where you can relax! Start your day with some room service, and then head out to play some golf or chill in the hot tub.

Other accommodation options in San Diego

mid-range
swimming pool

This stunning hotel comes with an outdoor swimming pool, spacious guest rooms, and a restaurant

budget
bedroom

A great hotel with a central location near the attractions that has free Wi-Fi and a shared kitchen

 

airbnb
lounge

You’ll love this gorgeous home that has a lush garden, a balcony, a kitchen, and free parking 

Things to do in San Diego

  • Party all night in the Gaslamp Quarter
  • Spend a fun day at San Diego Zoo
  • Catch the big waves at La Jolla Cove
  • Explore San Diego’s Old Town
  • Visit the beautiful Coronado Island
  • Take the kids to SeaWorld San Diego

3. San Francisco – where to stay in CA for architecture lovers

a row of painted houses in San Francisco in front of a city skyline

 We’re moving now to Northern California, and this region has some stunning cities as well!

One of my favorites: San Francisco! Known for its unique architecture, famous landmarks like the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, and Fisherman’s Wharf, and unmissable boutique hotels, this city should definitely make it in your California itinerary!

Of course, you’ll find plenty of museums, scenic streets, and cultural attractions, and also lots of modern buildings. Yep, the city is a major tech hub, and many companies, such as Adobe and Nvidia, originated in the Bay.

There are numerous areas to stay in San Francisco, and downtown is usually where lots of tourists look for a hotel, but I would also check out Fisherman’s Wharf or Soma, especially if you’re not a big fan of the crowds.

Luxury hotel
collage with rooftop terrace, bedroom and lounge

Enjoy San Francisco’s best views from the spacious suites at this luxury hotel with an on-site restaurant and a rooftop terrace where you can enjoy some drinks after a day of exploring! The hotel also has a spa and a bar.

Other accommodation options in San Francisco

mid-range
bedroom

This super chic boutique hotel in Union Square comes with an Italian restaurant and a rooftop lounge

budget
lounge

An affordable place in the Financial District that offers a shared bathroom, breakfast, and free Wi-Fi

airbnb
garden

You’ll love this stylish home that has a private backyard, a balcony where you can chill, and beach access

Things to do in San Francisco

  • Catch a sunset at the Golden Gate Bridge
  • Visit Alcatraz, the famous prison
  • Enjoy a picnic in Union Square Park
  • Go on a stroll on Lombard Street!
  • Take a luxury limo trip to Napa Valley
  • Explore the Cali ski resorts at Lake Tahoe
  • See some sea lions at the Sea Lion Center

4. Santa Monica – the best place to stay in CA for the beach

a ferris wheel on a pier next to the ocean

Can’t stay too far from the beach? Then you better head to the California Coast, as that’s where you’ll find the most fabulous sandy shores!

And you can’t mention the coast without talking about Santa Monica! This incredible beach town has become more famous during the last few years, and we can’t wonder why since it’s home to many cool boutique hotels and fun attractions!

Plus, the beach town is super close to Los Angeles, which means you can visit the City of Angeles whenever you want.

But back in Santa Monica now! We’ve already established it’s a great place for beach lovers, but the town also has 22 miles (35 km) of bike paths (yay!), which means you can rent some bikes and explore the main areas!

You should also check out the Santa Monica Pier (especially if you’re coming with the little ones), as it has yummy food, carnival stuff, and shops.

Luxury hotel
collage with swimming pool, bedroom and lounge

What a hotel! Loving the style, the soft colors used that blend perfectly with the location, the rooftop pool that overlooks the entire town, and the fabulous rooms, which are beautifully decorated! The hotel also has a spa center and a restaurant.

Other accommodation options in Santa Monica

mid-range
bar area

One of the coolest hotels in town that comes with an outdoor fireplace, stylish rooms, and a terrace

budget
lounge

Set near the beach, this hostel has modern rooms with free Wi-Fi, a garden, and a shared kitchen

airbnb
bedroom

A simple yet super cool studio that comes with great guest reviews, a kitchen, and a TV

Things to do in Santa Monica

  • Spend a fun day at Santa Monica Pier
  • Visit Santa Cruz, another beach town
  • Go for a swim in the Pacific Ocean
  • Explore downtown Santa Monica
  • Take the kids to Cayton Children’s Museum

5. Santa Barbara – where to stay in CA for history lovers

beach view in Santa Barbara

Located on the Central California Coast, Santa Barbara is also known as the American Riviera, thanks to its fabulous beaches, vineyards, and fine dining restaurants!

Perfect for those who want to relax in the most luxurious hotels, eat in the fanciest restaurants and sunbathe on the most incredible beaches, this town is definitely a place you cannot miss out on!

Santa Barbara is home to many one-of-a-kind boutique hotels, many of which share this super Spanish influence that will make you feel as if you’ve landed in a resort in the Mediterranean!

California is the ultimate nesting place for many celebrities. Although some of them live in Los Angeles and Beverly Hills, there is a fair amount of stars like Oprah Winfrey and Rob Lowe who at some point called Santa Barbara their home.

There are lots of cool areas to stay in Santa Barbara for every taste and budget and just as many cool attractions that you should check out, like the Santa Barbara Museum of Art!

Luxury hotel
collage with outdoor sitting area, bedroom and lounge in the garden

History lovers, you’ll love me for recommending this hotel that dates back to the 1800s! The Victoria B&B is an absolute gem set in a beautiful location! The accommodation has special decor, vintage furnishings, and a lush garden, and it even offers free bikes to all its guests!

Other accommodation options in Santa Barbara

mid-range
bedroom

A lovely accommodation that offers comfortable rooms, an English-styled garden, and a sun terrace

budget
swimming pool

This affordable inn comes with everything you need, including an outdoor pool, family rooms, and a restaurant

airbnb
patio

You’ll fall in love with all the details of this cottage with unique wallpapers, an indoor fireplace, and a garden

Things to do in Santa Barbara

  • Visit the Santa Barbara Museum of Art
  • Spend a fun day at Santa Barbara Botanic Garden
  • Sunbathe on Leadbetter Beach
  • Go on a wine-tasting tour 
  • Book your tickets for a visit to Santa Barbara Zoo
  • Take a day trip to San Luis Obispo on your California road trip

6. Palm Springs – where to stay in California for luxury

aerial view over downtown Palm Springs

Can you even say you’ve been to California if you haven’t popped in for a visit to Palm Springs?

Umm, I guess not! This fabulous city near the Coachella Valley is all about having fun in the sun, relaxing in the spas, and basically living the good life!

You probably won’t be surprised that, over the years, Palm Springs was the home of some major celebrities like Frank Sinatra, Marilyn Monroe, and many others!

Filled with lots of cool areas and boutique hotels, this city will offer its travelers an unforgettable time! Whether you prefer to go hiking, biking, or just cool off by the swimming pool during those hot summer days, I’m sure you’ll find Palm Springs to be one of the best places in California!

Luxury hotel
collage with swimming pool, bedroom and lounge

This is undoubtedly the best hotel in Palm Springs! Just look at those mountain views from the pool! The accommodation has some amazing rooms, an outdoor fire pit, and a spa where you can relax!

Other accommodation options in Palm Springs

mid-range
bedroom

Love the soft decor at this boutique hotel that comes with a swimming pool and spacious rooms

budget
swimming pool

A great hotel that offers rooms with a flat-screen TV, an outdoor pool, a garden, and free parking

airbnb
patio area

This stylish accommodation is perfect for 2 guests, and it has a shared pool, a kitchen, and mountain views

Things to do in Palm Springs

  • Stargaze at Joshua Tree National Park
  • Go hiking in the Coachella Valley
  • Take a tour of Palm Springs
  • Visit the Palm Springs Air Museum
  • Play some golf at the Cimarron Golf Resort
  • Enjoy the views from the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway
📍 Best area:Los Angeles
🛎️ Best luxury hotel:The Ritz-Carlton
💵 Best mid-range hotel:Proper Hotel
👛 Best budget hotel:Miyako Hotel

FAQs about where to stay in California

a view of the golden gate bridge from the beach

🤔 What is a good location to stay in LA?

Downtown LA or Hollywood are 2 great areas to stay in Los Angeles! You’ll find lots of attractions there and cool hotels like The Ritz-Carlton.

📅 What month are the hotels cheapest in California?

January and November are the perfect months to visit California if you’re traveling on a budget!

🏨 Which are the top hotels in California?

Simpson House Inn in Santa Barbara and Fairmont Grand Del Mar in San Diego are some of the best hotels in California! Both places have great reviews and come with fabulous facilities like spas and gardens.

🎥 Which are the best cities in California?

Los Angeles, San Diego, and Santa Barbara are some of the top cities that you should visit while you’re in California!

Conclusion

a pier that is next to a Beach

Who’s already looking for a way to move to California? I must confess, I’m guilty of that charge, too! This state is incredible!

And today, we’ve got to see some of the best cities where to stay in California, plus a bunch of great hotels!

As always, I recommend booking your favorite place super fast! These hotels in California won’t be on the market for too long, especially in cities like Los Angeles and San Diego.

For those who need a bit of inspiration picking their favorite hotel rooms, I thought I’d help you with that as well by offering below my 2 favorite accommodations, both set in LA:

  • The Ritz-Carlton – Admire the stunning city view from this hotel which has an outdoor pool and a spa.
  • Proper Hotel – Enjoy the Californian sun by the rooftop pool of this hotel, which has outdoor fire pits and a bar.

You better hurry and start planning this trip, and if along the way you get any other questions, just drop me a comment below, and I’ll answer ASAP!

Safe travels,

Victoria


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collage with Disneyland and beach view in California

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image with a lounge area from a resort in California

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