The Best Beach Hotels in America 2021
Photo Credit: The Pearl/C Williams THIS WAY TO THE BEACH: THE BEST WAY TO CELEBRATE SUMMER IS AT THESE
STUNNING SEASIDE HOTELS.
SOUTH WALTON, FLORIDA
Photo Credit: The Pearl/C Williams
Pardon our pun, but the Pearl is a total gem. Its location on Rosemary Beach, along the Gulf Coast’s illustrious 30A, where white-sand beaches merge with the inexplicably emerald-colored ocean, is the most perfect beach in America. And on that beach, the Pearl holds court: a 55-room boutique hotel highlighted with local artwork, a poolside spa with treatments that utilize — naturally — the healing powers of the pearl itself, and a central, walkable location. It’s the little things that make the experience here so unforgettable: from the cocktail greeting at check-in and the complimentary valet to a hand-delivered, freshly baked treat at bedtime, each detail is made to feel like it was specially created for you. Just as its name implies, the Pearl is meant to be slowly unpacked and enjoyed (in front of a stunning Gulf sunset with a glass of bubbly in hand).
Photo Credit: THE LODGE AT KUKUI’ULA
There is perhaps no better place to take in jaw-dropping views on vacation than at the Lodge at Kukui’ula, situated on the Garden Isle’s south shore. From the comforts of a private Club Cottage, Club Bungalow or Club Villa, guests have a view of the legendary Spouting Horn, framed by the lush, tropical landscape and white-sand beaches, without ever having to leave their lanai. With proximity to Poipu Beach Park, the Na Pali Coast (think Jurassic Park!) and Waimea Canyon (the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific”), the Lodge at Kukui’ula is a gateway to some of the most stunning views in the world. And they’re also available from every hole of the Tom Weiskopf-designed, 18-hole Kaua’i golf course. The challenging 14th hole has become legendary — and not just because of its dramatic ocean views or sightings of spinner dolphins and humpback whales. As a bonus, the Lodge is comprised of luxury residential accommodations, located at the entrance to the Club at Kukui‘ula, that provide world-class indoor/outdoor island living. Each well-appointed home boasts generous living space, a gourmet kitchen, dining areas, spacious lanais and private outdoor garden showers.
THE HAMPTONS, NEW YORK
Photo Credit: Gurney’s Montauk
Located on a glorious 2,000-foot stretch of pristine sand reserved exclusively for guests of this Hamptons mainstay, Gurney’s Montauk is definitely the place to be this summer (and not just because there are epic, king-size daybeds available to rent, either). Regulars love the panoramic ocean views from the resort’s 158 rooms, suites and beachfront cottages, access to the hotel’s Beach Club (which packs out early during summer weekends, especially if you’re hoping to secure a cabana… so come early!) and the fabulous fare at Scott Conant’s Scarpetta Beach. There are also new bamboo-designed bungalows for summer — a partnership with acclaimed event designer and Fête founder Jung Lee — where up to six people can enjoy an open-air firepit, curated cocktails and seasonal fare from executive chef Robert Hamburg. They only last until Labor Day, so get booking!
SANTA MONICA, CALIFORNIA
Photo Credit: Casa Del Mar
Casa Del Mar means “House of the Sea.” But truly, that phrase is only apt here in sunny, opulent SoCal: anywhere else, this “house” would be called a mansion. “Beach house fit for a billionaire” is certainly the most accurate description of this tucked-away, eight-story brick manse located just steps from the shore. With a history that dates to 1926, this uber-exclusive Santa Monica property, once an exclusive beach club designed by the architect Charles F. Plummer, remains one of the very few hotels in Los Angeles County with direct beach access. While its rooms have had a dramatic, ethereal white refresh, its lobby retains a vintage feel thanks to the original soaring ceiling and dramatic windows (which show off those spectacular SoCal sunsets and ocean views to their best advantage). New for the warmer months at the hotel’s Terrazza restaurant is its charming “La Vie en Rosé” menu, which features six different French rosés by the glass, along with a slew of Mediterranean-inspired nibbles.
THE FLORIDA KEYS
Photo Credit: Little Palm Island
Who wouldn’t want to head to the Florida Keys for some hazy, lazy beach time come summer? The place to chill (Netflix optional) is Little Palm Island, a stunner situated on a 4.5-acre private island in the Lower Keys. Its ambiance is intentionally romantic, with surreal vistas during the day, dramatic sunsets and nightscapes dotted with twinkling stars and miles of shimmering water shattering the moon’s reflection into a thousand pieces. With just 30 thatch-roof bungalows, the island is private, too: there are never more than 60 guests at a time, offering necessary anonymity for the rich and famous. And because of the elite clientele, most every whim is met — whether that’s a floating Madrugada Water Massage at sunrise, mangrove maze kayaking, or a private Chef’s Table dinner for two. There’s also a Romance Concierge (yes, believe it) and some of the best hotel dining anywhere in America, thanks to the international fusion stylings of chef Luis Pous.
VIRGINIA BEACH, VIRGINIA
Photo Credit: The Cavalier
The Cavalier has all the markers of a gentile Southern mansion — a modern-day Tara, if you will — and we say this with reverence. This epically beautiful Virginia Beach resort complex will have you clapping your hands in wonder at the postcard perfection of it all, set high on a hilltop overlooking the Atlantic Ocean (and only minutes away from the actual beach). The 1927 landmark — it’s on the National Register of Historic Places — officially reopened its doors in 2018 after a four-year renovation that cost nearly $85 million, which is apparent in its multitude of offerings. Everything is at your disposal here: 62 darling guest rooms and 23 suites, poolside vistas and loggias, a spa, a fitness center, an on-site bourbon distillery and tasting room (the Tarnished Truth Distillery is the first and only distillery fully integrated into an American hotel), three signature eateries, a fitness center and even a museum. Yet the Cavalier still bears the hallmarks of its past, from its original four-column portico and brick porte cochere to its magnificent lobby, which captures the feel of the roaring ’20s and the jazz age. Soaring ceilings, sparkling fixtures and ornate architectural moldings instill a sense of place and history, while rooms are outfitted with claw-foot tubs and marble baths; there’s even an indoor saltwater pool with a magnificent glass rotunda, and an actual billiards room. This is a blast from the past we’re happy to shoot back to time after time.
RANCHO PALOS VERDES, CALIFORNIA
Photo Credit: Terranea Resort
For those who want to get away from it all (but be close enough to modern life that they can go, say, shopping), Terranea Resort offers the best of both worlds. This hidden treasure, poised above coastal bluffs with sweeping views of the Pacific on the Palos Verdes Peninsula, is a Mediterranean-inspired slice of stay for travelers who want sophistication and nature wrapped in one. Celebrated for its natural beauty, the 102-acre eco-friendly estate features 582 guest rooms and suites, including spacious casitas and villas, and the Bungalows at Terranea, a collection of accommodations featuring spa- and wellness-focused amenities. Additional offerings include nine distinct dining experiences; a full-service, 50,000-square-foot spa and fitness center, complete with an oceanfront yoga and Pilates studio; an award-winning nine-hole par 3 golf course; a PGA professional-led golf academy; four heated swimming pools (including one with a 140-foot waterslide and two adults-only pools); and an Experience Academy. But there are other unique selling points, too. Terranea is a great place to spot gray whales and a regular location for Hollywood film crews (blockbusters shot here include Pirates of the Caribbean, The Aviator, Pearl Harbor and Charlie’s Angels), and its falconry program offers encounters with falcons, Harris hawks and Eurasian eagle owls. Plus, an ancient ritual — the ringing of the Singing Bowls — marks the end of each day here. Conducted on the terrace of the resort lobby, this sunset ceremony is known for healing and relaxing through the pure sound and vibration of the quartz crystal as it resonates into the night. Which pretty much sums up a stay here.
LAGUNA BEACH, CALIFORNIA
Photo Credit: Montage Laguna Beach
When travelers talk about Laguna Beach, it’s typically with veneration. The weather, the views, the wealth… it’s all there in one quietly incredible enclave. At its beating, indulgent heart is the hedonist’s paradise that is Montage Laguna Beach, located on 30 glorious oceanfront acres. That there is a private balcony or patio and ocean view from each of its 258 guest rooms and 57 suites, beach bungalow-style rooms and multi-bedroom villas is testament to its greatness, as is that each is done with elan. Think marble bathrooms with oversize bathtubs, lavish bath amenities, Irish-woven towels and plush bathrobes. Meanwhile, the amenities are so extra: the 20,000-square-foot resort spa; the two outdoor pools; Cadillac house vehicles for local rides; a breathtaking open-air fitness center and movement studio; a dry redwood sauna and eucalyptus steam room; a cascading outdoor whirlpool with cold plunge; a full-service salon and nail studio; and all the water sports imaginable. Plus there’s afternoon tea and next-level fine dining at the Studio restaurant. When coupled with new offerings, including Adventure IO, a proprietary mobile platform offering premier exclusive adventure experiences led by professional athletes and local experts; surf and skim sessions with professional skim boarder Blair Conklin; and family photography excursions with Lululemon ambassador and Soul Cycle fitness instructor Remi Sullivan — well, let’s just say it’s going to be very, very hard to leave.
SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA
Photo Credit: Hotel Del Coronado
Set on one of America’s most iconic beaches, the legendary Hotel del Coronado has been welcoming guests for over 130 years to its imposing yet oh-so-magical property just outside San Diego. Devotees return time and time again to experience SoCal lifestyle at its best. (Don’t believe us? The ghost of Marilyn Monroe is said to haunt the property to this day because, in life, she loved it that much.) The resort is still tweaking a $400 million renovation plan, which includes the Cabanas — 97 oceanfront and poolside rooms, four renovated and expanded culinary concepts and a new resort pool. This summer, the Del will debut new guestrooms in the Views, its Ice House Museum, and a refreshed welcome experience in its fully restored front porch and lobby.
Photo Credit: Andaz Maui at Wailea
In the luxurious resort community of Wailea, on a 1.2-mile-long oceanfront path that connects five golden-sand beaches, is the resplendent Andaz Maui. This too-cool-for-school property offers much more than those glorious, picture-perfect sunsets Hawaii is famous for: there are cascading outdoor pools, a full-service spa and salon, award-winning dining, and access to championship golf as well as activities such as coconut-leaf weaving, outrigger canoeing, ukulele lessons, a GoPro editing lab and even hula lessons. A stay this summer is even more special thanks to the resort’s new luau experience. An epic beach party gets started right with a special in-room pickup that includes the blowing of a conch shell (a Hawaiian tradition to announce the arrival of royalty) before you’re transported to a private terrace where champagne, candles and a four-star dinner await.
THE OUTER BANKS, NORTH CAROLINA
Photo Credit: The Sanderling Resort
North Carolina’s Outer Banks — a 200-mile-long strip of barrier islands stretching across half of the state’s coastline — have a charm that’s widely recognized in the South but that few on the West Coast can claim knowledge of. And that is power, because these beaches are national treasures, hidden gems, secrets that few are willing to share. And here, the Sanderling, sprawled across 13 acres between the Atlantic Ocean and serene Currituck Sound, surrounded by almost 360 degrees of water, reigns supreme as the only true luxury resort in the area. The resort offers immediate access to a breadth of activities that immerse visitors in the Outer Banks experience, including the beach, golf, boat tours, kayaking, horseback riding, bicycling, tandem hang gliding and bird-watching at the nearby 2,600-acre Pine Island Audubon Sanctuary. Sanderling’s unpretentious presence showcases a nostalgic Outer Banks architecture, with cedar shake siding aged by the sea and sand and wide, inviting porches. Whether you’re enjoying Babor spa treatments in the 6,000-square-foot Spa at Sanderling or bourbon flights in the evening, this is the place to kick back, relax and let it all go.
Photo Credit: The Henderson
Reminiscent of a luxurious grand seaside manor of yesteryear, the Henderson, a Salamander Beach & Spa Resort, seamlessly blends the present and past framed by the quintessentially picture-perfect beach resort town of Destin. Adjacent to 200 acres of pristine preserve and steps away from miles of sugar-white sand beaches and the endless emerald green ocean of Florida’s northwest Gulf Coast, this resort manages to be both a home away from home and also a true paradise. The romance of traditional coastal architecture — striking shingles and steep gable rooflines — merges with fresh coastal décor in each of the 170 guest rooms and suites, which, by the way, all have sweeping balconies or terraces where you can watch the spectacular sunsets over the Gulf of Mexico. Trust us: A trip here is like discovering one of life’s greatest little secrets.
Photo Credit: Life House Nantucket
What’s in a name? At Life House, a technology-forward lifestyle hotel brand (the first of its kind to ever be fully backed by Silicon Valley, in fact), well, everything. Though the property caters to Gen Z — its check-in, opt-in mobile app and social network allow guests to interact with one another, along with vetted locals — it manages to seamlessly blend the new with the old, thanks to its location in an 1830s-era Federal-style mansion that once belonged to a former sea captain. In honoring its history and location, the design narrative of Life House Nantucket is that of a nonchalant innkeeper’s humble abode. The House also reflects a nostalgic musing for the island’s native botany, fostering a retreat for holistic wellness, with raffia writing desks and botanical walk-in shower details. Each of the 14 rooms is individually styled with local art, vintage artifacts and inspired textures, Diptyque scents, Le Labo bath products, Marshall speakers and Revival luxury linens. For those sick of social distancing, this is the place to be: there’s a 300-square-foot living room and kitchen with plentiful seating, as well as a 675-square-foot garden lounge with daybeds and a communal minibar, perfect for safe yet necessary engagement.
EDGARTOWN, MARTHA’S VINEYARD, MASSACHUSETTS
Photo Credit: Read McKendree
The hottest new hotel in the quaint and ritzy seaside town of Edgartown — the preppiest of locales on Martha’s Vineyard — is the Richard. At this Edgartown Collection property just a stone’s throw from the Atlantic, guests will discover 16 handsomely decorated guest rooms in warm neutrals and bright whites punctuated by deep, sumptuous accents of pure black, emerald and regal purple, as well as luxe lounges that pay homage to the quintessential coastal New England aesthetic. A wraparound porch and sleek cement fire pit surrounded by modern wicker seating and lush greenery provide the perfect setting for a relaxing summertime escape. The Edgartown Collection, a series of four, Edgartown-based, recently renovated properties, is owned by Charles Hajjar, a Milton, Mass.-based developer, and his family. The properties also include the Sydney, which features the culinary stylings of gourmet eatery L’Etoile; the Christopher, a chic boutique hotel on Water Street; and the Edgartown Inn Hotel, a classic coastal Captain’s home.
AMELIA ISLAND, FLORIDA
Photo Credit: Ritz-Carlton Amelia Island
Situated on a remote barrier island, the Ritz-Carlton Amelia Island is an idyllic beachfront escape with 13 miles of expansive private beaches and nature-driven experiences, perfect for those who prefer to spend their days soaking up endless amounts of sunshine. This year, the resort began a new chapter with the debut of a renovation of guest rooms and suites — redone in a sophisticated palette grounded in the rich neutral tones of the land and accented with the colors of the sand, sea and lush Spanish moss and live oaks indicative of the area, as well as multiple large-scale custom panoramic photographic artworks by Jorge de la Torriente; three new culinary venues; nature-based experiences, such as an ecology field trip and personal wellness retreats; and a Year of the Pearl campaign in celebration of the hotel’s 30th anniversary, featuring pearl-themed programming and partnerships. The Year of the Pearl package includes a knotted 54-inch necklace with freshwater coin pearls, overnight accommodations on the Ritz-Carlton Club level or in an Ocean Front Suite, a commemorative Year of the Pearl pastry amenity and breakfast for two, among other offerings.
SEA ISLAND, GEORGIA
Photo Credit: Sea Island
Sea Island is an exclusive coastal resort island surrounded by five miles of private, pristine Atlantic Ocean beach. Designed by renowned Palm Beach architect Addison Mizner in 1928, the Cloister at Sea Island is a Mediterranean masterpiece that preserves the original architecture’s lustrous history and Southern essence. Uniquely designed rooms are defined by elegance, sophistication and comfort, featuring gleaming wood furnishings, exposed beam ceilings, overstuffed chairs, hardwood floors and handmade Turkish rugs. From a bird’s-eye view, the Cloister encompasses a sprawling range of world-class buildings and amenities, including the Sea Island Yacht Club, the Spa at Sea Island and the Sea Island Beach Club. Travelers also come for the plethora of amenities here, the standout of which is golf. The Sea Island Golf Performance Center is a state-of-the art facility that offers an indoor video studio, 300 yards of teeing area, target greens, short-game areas and an exclusive club-fitting service; the Performance Center, with its holistic, multidisciplinary approach to the game and exemplary instructors, welcomes some of the top PGA professionals for training. Sea Island Golf Club’s 18-hole championship courses are situated on some of the country’s most breathtaking landscapes. There’s also tennis, squash, beach horseback riding, a shooting school, nature curation and education programming, a beach club and more. If a beach vacation is all you’re after, you can have that here… and so much more.
Photo Credit: ManiBrothers/Malibu Beach Inn
If there’s a beach more beloved by the jet set anywhere in America outside of Malibu’s Carbon Beach, we haven’t found it — especially given that this mile-long stretch of sand is commonly referred to as “Billionaire’s Beach.” And for those who want to stay and play like Oracle founder Larry Ellison and entertainment guru David Geffen, only the Malibu Beach Inn will do. Quite simply, this 47-room hotel is glorious. Each of its nautically themed, well-appointed guest rooms — part of a recent redesign by Waldo Fernandez that includes Toto toilets, Smeg teakettles, Nespresso coffee machines and Bose entertainment systems — showcase amazing views of the Pacific Ocean (with provided binoculars for dolphin and whale spotting, no less), so the soothing sound of waves lull you to sleep each night. Make sure to check out the Pacific- and Mediterranean-inspired menus of the on-site Carbon Beach Club restaurant (CBC), which uses locally sourced ingredients from One Gun Ranch and resident farmers markets, as well as new summertime culinary offerings like an intimate beachside picnic for two designed by the Picnic Collective. There are a slew of new wellness options too, including a 45-minute guided meditation with the Mindry, a local Malibu meditation studio, as well as private Fliteboard lessons.