Yes, it may be sunny right now at home in Washington. But, it’s freeeeezing cold nonetheless! Does that emphasize enough how crazy cold it is right now?! Aside from the absolutely frigid temperatures (hello 19°f), it’s truly beautiful here on a sunny winter day. That being said, all this PNW golden glow does is make me long for the warm sunny days of summer and Cali vacations down to our favorite Orange County beaches – Laguna and Huntington.
Now that it’s cold enough to freeze your eyelashes when you go outside, it’s time to plan a vacation down South where the days never seem to drop below a mild 65 degrees. The Southern California coastline boasts miles of West Coast beaches known for surfing, volleyball, and professional beach goers working on that signature SoCal glow. As a Southern California native, I’m a beach girl at heart with a love for the salty air and sound of waves crashing along the shore. Nothing beats a full day at the beach filled with SunBum, your favorite bikini, and a stylish beach cruiser to get you from one spot to the next!
So, what are the best hotels to check out on your next trip down to the O.C.? My husband and I always go for pet-friendly hotels so that our Yorkie, Zoki, can travel with us. We like boutique-style, well-kept, and cozy properties that offer views and easy access to our favorite local spots. Looking for killer acai bowls and the best tacos you’ve ever had? Want great shopping and dining options? After countless visits to the area as a “tourist,” I have just the places for you to visit that will fulfill all of your Southern California dreams.
Surf and Sand Resort – This resort style hotel is located in South Laguna right on the Pacific Ocean. If you want to wake up to the sound of waves crashing and enjoy breathtaking sunsets from your own private balcony while sipping your favorite wine, this is your place. I have stayed here at least six times – once for a wedding and all other times for pleasure. I can tell you it’s everything you would want from a beachside hotel. Gorgeous views of the ocean from almost everywhere you walk around the property, a seaside restaurant featuring the beautiful bounty of SoCal seafood and cuisine, a terrace with exquisite views of the Pacific, a pool and hot tub overlooking the ocean, a well-appointed spa with relaxing massages, and cozy rooms that make you feel like you have your own little oasis right in the heart of Laguna Beach. What more could you ask for?
This hotel is just a short walk from downtown Laguna where you can satisfy all of your shopping and dining desires. One of our favorite steakhouses of all time – Selanne Steak Tavern – is just a short walk across the street from the hotel. Sit outside in the enclosed patio where you can enjoy hanging Moroccan-style lanterns and a warm outdoor fireplace. The food and service are on the fancy side, so have fun and dress up for the occasion! In the mood for a healthy, cool treat? Head over to Active Culture for a fresh smoothie or frozen yogurt after a hot day on the sand. Grab an oceanside table for two at The Deck on Laguna for a sampling of this beach town’s best seasonal dishes, and mingle with the locals while you’re at it. And last, but not least, walk into town to peruse the quintessential beach home boutique Tuvalu. It’s the perfect place to grab a souvenir candle or mug that will make you think of your trip to Laguna every time you see it. On two different trips I’ve picked up a mug that says, “Life’s at ease with an ocean breeze” and a wooden art box with a drawing of a whale that says, “Go with the flow.” How cute? And how totally reminiscent of Laguna!
A little backstory about my time in Huntington Beach…
I have a long history with Huntington. When I lived in Irvine, CA from 2004-2006 before moving to Seattle, visiting was a regular weekend activity for me. My uncle, who was the coolest dude in the world while I was growing up, lived in a cute little beach shack right off of Main Street. We would have BBQs, invite all the neighbors over, ride bikes to the beach, and have bonfires on the regular. The people who live in Huntington are the epitome of laidback beach bums (in a good way, of course!), and I loved feeling like it was my second home on the weekends. It’s a town where locals rule and tourists can only dream to be lucky enough to live there. This beach town is very different from the artsy, upscale vibe of Laguna. Expect to see locals, young and old, riding bikes and skateboards, surfing from dawn till dusk, and running around the Main Street area with their friends. Huntington is also a dog lovers paradise with the amazing Huntington Dog Beach (a.k.a heaven on Earth) just a short walk, bike, or ride down to Goldenwest street. Just a heads up – they have yearly events for pups of all kinds including the infamous So Cal Corgi Beach Day. Yes, there will be tons of Corgis in costumes. Surfing rules in HB, so have some fun and get your butt in the water!
Kimpton Shorebreak Hotel – Want to get a real taste of SoCal surf culture? Huntington Beach, or HB as the locals call it, is where it’s at. The Kimpton Shorebreak Hotel is right in the center of it all. Its beachfront location right on Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) and one street removed from Main Street makes it the perfect place to catch all of the action going on around town. From the local Tuesday farmers market Surf City Nights to the Vans US Open of Surfing, there are endless events throughout the year that make visiting Huntington a no brainer. One of the biggest holidays of the year in HB is July 4th weekend. It was the first trip my husband and I ever took together and it was a blast. Be prepared for crowds and A LOT of sunshine! It’s worth it to experience at least once if you’ve never been.
The Shorebreak makes the surf city vibe come to life with an open and airy lobby, a daily surf report displayed on a chalkboard, a flat-screen T.V. with surf videos playing all day long, and an outdoor courtyard with sand and a fire pit for warming up on those cool beach nights. The rooms are bright and airy with old school beach decor. Splurge for the ocean view room and you’ll wake up to a beautiful view, and end the day in a Japanese soaking tub. Beach cruisers are available for use from the hotel as well as other beach supplies for adventurous guests. Grab a cocktail or bite to eat at the onsite restaurant, Zimzala, which also features a fun happy hour menu for pets on the patio. Even Sparky gets to enjoy some gourmet nibbles on your HB vacation.
Venture outside the hotel to try some of Orange County’s best food – fresh, sweet and delicious acai bowls at The Acai King, my favorite tacos of all time at Sancho’s Tacos (I can eat here for breakfast, lunch & dinner), top-notch sushi at Sushi on Fire, and last but not least, CHURROS from The Funnel House. This hotel is one of my favorites and I often daydream about the view you get to see when you pull up to the hotel for the first time. It’s fun, hip, beachy, and right in the middle of everything you want to see and do in Huntington Beach. Book your stay and experience everything that California’s reigning surf town has to offer!
There’s a new hotel in town that I’ve yet to visit…
Paséa Hotel & Spa is a luxury property that opened in the spring of 2016. It’s located just down Pacific Coast Highway on the next block south of Main St. It looks gorgeous and I can’t wait to visit. There’s a pool overlooking the beach, a luxurious spa, and it’s located right next to the new outdoor mall Pacific City. The location is awesome, the photos make me wish I was there now, and I think it just might be the next hotel I’m dreaming about in Orange County.