Expert Tips


10Best Stays in OC Style at the Beach (and with Mickey)

With 42 miles of coastline and rolling hills, your chances of finding a beach vacation-worthy hotel in Orange County are high.   It’s not difficult to find a hotel with a view which is why so many top-rated hotels and resorts are concentrated on the coast where the more touristy towns are located.  Families will find that the resorts offer additional kid-friendly activities throughout the summer to keep young ones entertained.

If you want a low key vacation try San Clemente in South Orange County.  It’s a surfing community with a vibrant pier and a few mom-and-pop type hotels.  It also has a real Main Street downtown, called Del Mar, lined with shops and restaurants.

Laguna Beach is a very popular summer vacation destination with hotels for all budgets and a beach for every surfer and sunbather.  Laguna, as the locals call it, is a small town with a big art community and a plethora of dining and boutique shopping choices.   Take advantage of the free trolley offered by the city during the summer; parking is challenging.

For those interested in a retail vacation, stay in Newport Beach and get the best of the boating world and the shopping scene.  You’re also just 20 minutes away from the nirvana of all shopping centers; South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa.

Disneyland draws year round crowds and if the big mouse is calling your name, head inland to Anaheim, stay overnight and experience the parks at a leisurely pace.  There are three Disney hotels and dozens of less expensive Disney-close hotels, some just across the street.

If you’re visiting during summer, plan far ahead as Orange County’s beaches draw vacationers from around the world.



Shorebreak Hotel is part of the Joie de Vivre chain of hotels that consistently delivers an interesting stay. Complimentary wine hour paired with a location that's a 2-minute walk to the beach, bars and restaurants in a boutique setting makes Shorebreak Hotel a rare find in Orange County. The vibe extends to the room decor which is retro meets hip surfer. Fido is completely at home in the pet-friendly hotel and it's common to see dogs and surfers walking through the lobby. One thing that you won't find at Shorebreak Hotel is a pool but with the ocean just steps away you won't miss it.

Recommended for Best Hotels because: In the land of big resorts, it's refreshing to find a boutique hotel at the beach.

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Marriott's Newport Coast Villas is a Marriott Vacation Club property with a coveted location overlooking Crystal Cove State Beach with views of Catalina Island. The two-bedroom villas have fully equipped kitchens and a pullout sofa in the living room to accommodate more guests. There is a complimentary resort shuttle to the beach, area shopping centers and downtown Laguna Beach. Parking and Wi-Fi are also complimentary. Three pools and two whirlpools are scattered throughout the resort along with picnic areas, barbecues and fire pits where you can make s'mores. The location is very convenient for day trips up and down the coast.

Recommended for Best Hotels because: The location and convenience of having separate bedrooms with full kitchens paired with resort amenities is a rare find on the coast.

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The Disneyland Hotel was built in 1955 and exudes Disney at every turn. The renovated hotel is a Disney fan's dream; there are hidden Mickeys scattered throughout, Jacuzzis shaped like mouse ears and an iconic water slide. The character breakfast at Goofy's Kitchen is a highlight for many families and birthday celebrations are common. For a more upscale dining experience where kids are always welcome, Steakhouse 55 serves breakfast and dinner in a supper club atmosphere. The pool area is large and is more crowded in the afternoons when park guests return for a swim break. The slides close earlier than you think so don't miss your turn.

Recommended for Best Hotels because: Whether or not you stay the night, it's worth checking out the interesting details and history at the Disneyland Hotel.

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With 517 guestrooms, the Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach Resort & Spa is a mini-city complete with restaurants, multiple pools, arcade, bike and surf board rentals and lounging areas throughout the spacious grounds that take in the ocean views. The resort sits across the street from world famous Huntington Beach and Pier that's filled with surfers, beach goers and families on bicycles. A bridge over the highway connects the resort to the beach and is a popular spot for photos. For families, Slyders water playground and Camp Hyatt kids club provide continuous entertainment.

Recommended for Best Hotels because: It's a one stop vacation experience. The only reason to leave the resort is to go to the beach.

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The Resort at Pelican Hill sits on a hill between Laguna Beach and Newport Beach overlooking the ocean. The resort is spread out over 500 acres including a 36-hole golf course. Service is emphasized at the luxury resort and guests are regularly shuttled around the expansive grounds in SUVs and golf carts. Over a million glass mosaic tiles were used in the construction of the resort's most recognizable feature: the perfectly round Coliseum Pool which is a gathering spot. Guests stay in bungalow rooms or private villas which are located in a gated area within the resort and come with 24-hour personal butler service. A 5-minut shuttle ride takes you to the beach at Crystal Cove State Park which has excellent tidepooling and casual dining options at Ruby's or the very popular Beachcomber Cafe.

Recommended for Best Hotels because: The Resort at Pelican Hill is an over-the-top luxury experience like no other in Orange County.

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Monarch Beach Resort
Photo courtesy of Kristi Marcelle

The St. Regis, Monarch Beach is an elegant slice of the Mediterranean located in Dana Point, CA. The resort is well known for golf, the spa and its private beach club. While not on the ocean the resort has panoramic ocean views throughout and a shuttle that takes guests to the private beach club where the beach butler awaits to set up chairs and umbrellas. Dinner at Michael Mina's Stonehill Tavern is a leisurely affair or head to the beach club for a sunset dinner. Guests staying in suites have access to the renowned St. Regis Butler Service which provides packing and unpacking services and assistance with any request.

Recommended for Best Hotels because: It's an elegant resort with fantastic pools, views and a private beach club - what more could you ask for on vacation?

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Disney's Grand Californian Hotel & Spa evokes images of the great American lodges of the 1920's but with Mickey and friends added to the grandeur. The craftsman style hotel has a great room with a floor-to-ceiling fireplace that's a popular spot for tired park guests to take a break. The convenient, direct entrance into Disney California Adventure is only available for hotel guests. Rooms have a North Woods feel and some have views of the World of Color water show. Even after a long day at the parks, the location of the hotel, adjacent to the Downtown Disney entertainment district, makes it easy to go out for a quick bite or a stroll.

Recommended for Best Hotels because: The location adjacent to Downtown Disney and Disney California Adventure is convenient and saves time when visiting the parks.

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The Surf and Sand Resort has a boutique meets flip flops vibe where couples and families blend seamlessly. All but two of the 167 guestrooms have ocean views. The hotel is located impossibly close to the ocean and ear plugs are provided in all rooms just in case the crashing waves keep you up. There are a few cozy spaces to lounge in the hotel but the beach and the location in the heart of Laguna Beach are the big attractions. A 15-minute walk takes you into the heart of the shopping district and during summer the free city trolley has a stop in front of the hotel.

Recommended for Best Hotels because: Other than being on a ship, there's no way to sleep this close to the ocean without getting wet. The casual-chic vibe mirrors Laguna Beach.

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With pelicans flying overhead, surfers and dolphins playing in the waters below and Catalina Island on the horizon, a stay at The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel is the quintessential California beach vacation. The vibe is upscale mixed with beach casual and the rooms are traditionally decorated. Perched high on a cliff, the resort is flanked by two beaches with access to walking trails that wind throughout the canyons. A highlight is the complimentary beach butler service that shuttles guests to the beach, provides umbrellas, chairs and towels and even sandcastle building on request. The Eco-Adventures program for children and families is a fun science-themed program where kids learn about the environment; some classes are free. During the summer, a complimentary city shuttle takes guests to Laguna Beach.

Recommended for Best Hotels because: The views are some of the best in Southern California and especially at 180Blu outdoor patio bar.

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The Montage Laguna Beach sits on a bougainvillea dotted bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. The resort is luxurious with Craftsman style architecture and impeccable service that never feels stuffy. A walking path and stairs lead directly to the beach below where local docents are on-hand to point out marine life in the tidepools. The Montage Laguna Beach exudes a California beach style vibe that attracts celebrities, locals and lots of families; the camp-style Paintbox kids club is legendary. There are on-site upscale dining options at The Loft and Studio and more casual options across the street in the shopping center. During the summer, a free trolley stops in front of the hotel and takes guests on a 5-minute ride into downtown Laguna Beach.

Recommended for Best Hotels because: Montage Laguna Beach is elegantly casual with amazing service. It's comfortable with a dream location on the bluff.

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Meet Kristi Marcelle

Originally from Wisconsin, Kristi Marcelle found her passion for travel after studying and volunteering in Quito, Ecuador for two years.  She’s lived in Southern California for over ten years...  More About Kristi