Today I want to share my guide to cool places to stay in California. Whether you’re looking for an unusual hotel or quirky accommodation, the Golden State has something unique for you. California is full of fun and non-traditional options, from tree house hotels to historic luxury properties and glamping sites with yurts. My guide will help you find the perfect place to stay for your travel style and preferences. I’ve included a map, too.
Cool Places to Stay in California
There’s no one-size-fits-all definition of cool. Personal perspective might lead one individual to a hip luxury hotel and another to a shabby-chic beach bungalow. Add to that variations in budget, and many factors lend themselves to different options.
In light of that, my guide aims to show you a range of cool places to stay in California and let you choose the one that fits your interests best.
Regardless of your style and circumstances, there are plenty of fun spots to stay when you visit California. From coastal icons like Big Sur to cities like San Francisco and hotspots like Palm Springs, this state has something for everyone.
Whether you’re into high style, want to live like a local, love immersing yourself in California culture, or enjoy experiencing under-the-radar places, there’s a cool place to stay in California for you.
No matter how much time you have in the state, there will be a spot that checks all your boxes.
1. Treebones Resort
First on my list of cool places to stay in California is Treebones Resort in Big Sur. It’s famous for glamping, and there are lots of unique styles of lodging here. You can sleep in everything from a spacious luxury yurt to a tree house and a human nest.
I’ve stayed in one of the yurts here, and I loved how luxurious and unusual it was. The space was fitted out with a king-size bed and all the trimmings, and I could hear sea lions barking in the distance.
Treebones also features pathways with sweeping coastal views, an organic garden, a swimming pool and hot tub, and a sloping lawn leading to a yoga pavilion. I’ve had dinner at the famous sushi restaurant, too, and it’s worth a special trip.
You can learn more about my experience at Treebones in my Big Sur itinerary. It also has other cool places to stay in Big Sur if you want more options.
2. Ace Hotel Downtown Los Angeles
Another of the coolest places to stay in California is the Ace Hotel in Downtown Los Angeles. This unique boutique hotel is famous for its hip location, stylish restaurant, buzzing rooftop bar, and creative space in the 1920s United Artists Theater next door.
I stayed at the Ace in DTLA right when it opened, and I loved the hipster, no-frills vibe with exposed concrete walls and patchwork felt on the bedspread. I had drinks on the roof, and I couldn’t believe how amazing the views over Downtown Los Angeles were.
If you want to live like a hipster, you can book a room here. It’s a fun place to stay in the thick of things in Los Angeles.
3. Madonna Inn
Next on my list of cool places to stay in California is the Madonna Inn in San Luis Obispo. This classic destination resort offers individually-themed guest rooms, a spa, pool, restaurants, bar, bakery, shopping, horseback riding, and more.
But really, the rooms. Each one is uniquely designed, and many have features like rock waterfalls, spiral staircases, and patterned wallpaper and carpet. There’s even one with a bed with wagon wheels.
Having grown up in the Golden State, I can tell you that this is an iconic hotel (I used to beg my parents to let us come here as a kid). It’s worth a stay if you want something quirky and unusual on a California road trip. You can book a room here.
4. Delta King Riverboat Hotel
If your travels take you to Sacramento, the Delta King Riverboat Hotel is one of the most unique places to stay in California. Originally built in 1927, this authentic paddlewheel boat has been revived to its former glory. It now offers accommodation and dining from its mooring along the Old Sacramento Waterfront.
The Delta King Riverboat Hotel’s original state rooms have been converted into boutique chambers with period touches and outdoor verandas. Rooms offer views of the Old Sacramento Historic District, Tower Bridge, and the Sacramento River.
I’ve had lunch on board the boat. Its original grand dining room offers guest the chance to be transported back in time and experience the historic atmosphere of paddlewheel riverboats.
If you want to stay here and discover what it’s like to sleep on board a piece of California history, you can book a room here.
5. The Ahwahnee
When it comes to cool places to stay in Yosemite, The Ahwahnee is hard to beat. Designed to highlight its natural surroundings, including Yosemite Falls, Half Dome, and Glacier Point, this landmark property is known for its heritage interiors and stunning Arts and Crafts architecture.
Dating back to 1927, The Ahwahnee is the jewel in the crown of Yosemite hotels. Everyone from royalty to heads of state has stayed here, and it’s listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It’s a National Historic Landmark, too.
In addition to guest rooms and cottages, the hotel has a stunning historic dining room, a gift shop, a sweet shop, a bar, and a heated outdoor swimming pool. If this sounds like your kind of place, you can book a room here.
6. Inn San Francisco
If your idea of a cool place to stay in California is a local home, look no further than the Inn San Francisco. This unique B&B is set in a Victorian house that dates back to 1872. Staying here is a fun way to experience one of the city’s iconic Painted Ladies while living like a local in San Francisco’s most hipster neighborhood.
When it comes to cool places to stay in San Francisco, it’s hard to beat a Victorian in the Mission. You can book a room here.
You can also see more options for accommodation on my blog post about the best area to stay in San Francisco. It not only features lots of great hotels in the city, but also advice on choosing the right area for your style.
7. Capitola Venetian
Another of my top picks for cool places to stay in California is the Capitola Venetian. Located right on the beach near Santa Cruz, this all-suite boutique hotel is known for its colorful facades that brighten up the waterfront in Capitola Village.
The Capitola Venetian offers a range of guest room types with ocean views and amenities. Some rooms have fireplaces for cool nights, too. Given the rooms are spacious, it’s a popular choice for families.
If you want to stay in this classic, colorful beach hotel on Monterey Bay, you can book a room here.
8. The Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay
If luxury is your thing, one of the coolest places to stay in California is The Ritz-Carlton Half Moon Bay. This stunning hotel is perched on a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Known for its spa and golf courses, it’s a great place for a West Coast getaway.
The Ritz-Carlton Half Moon Bay is a great choice when it comes to cool places to stay in Northern California. From luxurious guest rooms and suites with ocean views to outdoor fire pits with Adirondack chairs and a Club Lounge with spa treatments, it’s hard to go wrong here.
You can also enjoy fine dining indoors or out, cocktails, and other culinary treats in the hotel’s restaurants and bars.
If a luxury stay just 30 minutes south of San Francisco sounds like your kind of thing, you can book a room here.
9. El Encanto
Speaking of luxury, if you’re traveling to Santa Barbara, El Encanto is one of my favorite cool places to stay. This secluded five-star Belmond luxury hotel features historic architecture and stunning views of the Pacific Ocean below.
I’ve stayed here, and I loved my beautiful room nestled among lush gardens and trees in the Santa Barbara hills. Between the cozy fireplace and inviting bathtub, I didn’t want to leave. And that’s to say nothing of the dreamy sunsets I watched form the pool terrace.
Opened in 1918, El Encanto also has a luxurious spa and a range of dining options in its restaurants and bars. If this sounds good to you, you can book a room here.
10. Pelican Inn
If something unusual is more your thing, the Pelican Inn in Muir Beach is one of my top picks for cool places to stay in California. Located just north of San Francisco, this British pub with rooms offers a taste of the UK in the heart of Marin County. Replete with 16th-century Tudor charm, it’s a special spot to call home-away-from-home.
The seven cozy bedrooms at the Pelican Inn feature English antiques, heavily-draped canopy beds, and oriental rugs. There’s even a private snug for hotel guests to enjoy. And as you might expect, room rates include a full English breakfast.
Downstairs there’s a proper British pub where guests and other visitors can enjoy all the classics in a warren of wood-paneled rooms. I’ve eaten here many times, and it has a truly authentic feel of ye olde England on the California coast.
11. The Saguaro Palm Springs
If you’re looking for cool hotels in Palm Springs, The Saguaro is just the ticket. Surrounded by mountains in Coachella Valley, this hip boutique hotel is a colorful place to spend a night (or more) in the desert.
Near enough to the downtown area that you’ll get the best of both worlds, The Saguaro features a buzzing pool scene and guest rooms with private balconies or patios (some even have gardens).
In addition to the pool, the hotel has a fitness center, yoga, desert cruiser bikes, and an in-house spa. The restaurant and cantina serve great food and drinks, too.
If you want to channel your inner hipster in the desert (and who wouldn’t?), you can book a room here.
12. Hotel del Coronado
If you’re looking for cool places to stay in San Diego, the Hotel del Coronado is just the thing for you. This historic beachfront resort is one of the most famous hotels in California.
Built in 1888 in flamboyant Victorian style with white facades and red rooftops, the hotel has hosted everyone from celebrities to heads of state. It’s a National Historic Landmark, and a destination in its own right.
Guest rooms at the Hotel del Coronado range from classic 19th-century numbers to cool SoCal cabanas and beachfront cottages and villas. There are loads of options for dining, from high-end restaurants to casual outdoor eateries. I’ve been here for a post-wedding brunch, and it’s truly impressive.
This is one of my top picks for cool places to stay in Southern California. If it appeals, you can book a room here.
13. HI Pigeon Point Lighthouse
Next on my list of cool places to stay in California is the HI Pigeon Point Lighthouse. Yes, a lighthouse. This unique accommodation on the coast in Pescadero is a fun and unusual spot to call home. It’s budget-friendly, too.
The HI Pigeon Point Lighthouse hostel offers vacation-rental-style accommodations spread out over several buildings at the foot of a 116-foot-tall lighthouse. Perfect for groups of family and friends, each rental house can accommodate as many as 15 people. There are rental units available for smaller parties and solo travelers, too.
Set in a state park, the grounds of the hostel feature native plants and panoramic ocean views. There are tide pools, harbor seals, and a secluded beach, as well as miles of hiking trails and plenty of stargazing opportunities at night.
Located along Highway 1 just 50 miles south of San Francisco, this is a great place to stay if you want to get away from it all. You can book a room here.
14. Indian Springs Calistoga
If you’re heading to Northern California’s wine country, one of my favorite cool places to stay in Napa is Indian Springs. This historic property in Calistoga is comprised of an eclectic collection of cottages, bungalows, and Mission Revival-style buildings set on 17 acres of land.
One of California’s original spas, this iconic resort features a mineral swimming pool from 1910, mud baths, thermal waters, and more. There’s also an on-site restaurant serving cuisine made from local ingredients.
I’ve stayed in one of the cottages here, and I loved its unique sense of history. The spa and pool were relaxing (although the mud bath made me feel slightly claustrophobic), and the whole experience was unique and unforgettable.
If you want to soak in the springs and indulge in a wine country retreat, you can book a room here.
15. The Andiron Seaside Inn & Cabins
Another of my favorite cool places to stay in California is The Andiron. Just south of Mendocino, this retro-chic hideout features 1950s cabins spread across five acres of meadow and woodland on the iconic Highway 1.
Each cabin is individually decorated and entirely unique. The interiors feature vintage, salvaged, rehabbed, and recycled decor. Think ’50s fabrics, Viewmasters, and old-school games and puzzles, and you’ll be on the right track. You can bring your pet, too.
The Andiron’s cabins aren’t all vintage, though. They feature deliciously comfortable beds, modern amenities, and decks with views. Some even have kitchenettes and wood-burning stoves.
Outside you can indulge in the hot tub and enjoy weekend happy hours, too. I’ve stayed here and I loved the rustic atmosphere, quirky cabins, and beautiful natural surroundings. This is an underrated part of the California coast, and it’s worth a special trip.
If this place gets your inner vintage lover excited for all things throwback, you can book a room here.
Map of Unique Places to Stay in California
I’ve created an interactive Google map of all the hotels and accommodations I’ve included in my list. You can view it here. If you click on the blue pins you’ll see more information about each one.
Cool Places to Stay in California
I hope my guide to cool places to stay in California has helped you choose a unique hotel or accommodation that fits your style and preferences. Wherever you end up, I’m sure you’ll have a great escape in the Golden State. Happy travels!
Find this helpful? Buy me a coffee!
Some of the links in this blog post are affiliate links. At no cost to you, I earn a small commission when you click on them and make a purchase. It doesn’t affect the way you shop, and it’s a great way to support the California Wayfaring blog.