Sand, Surf, Sun Supreme

Four beach escapes to explore as the California coastline opens up




Balcony views of Malibu’s First Point surf break from SURFRIDER. Photo by Trevor Tondro.


Stay: At only 20 hotel rooms, the Surfrider already feels like an intimate getaway, but with its rooftop deck and restaurant — complete with bar, lounge area, firepits and dining exclusively for hotel guests — the property can also feel like a private club. On any given day, you’ll likely spot visiting surfers alongside international fashion editors, road trippers and musicians, all on the spectrum from barefoot to bejeweled and everything in between.

While nearly every room features a balcony and ocean breezes, the heart of the property is its rooftop, as there’s no better vantage point in Malibu for PCH and the local surfers catching waves. The culinary focus here is on botanical, organic, sustainable California fare (the chef trained under Thomas Keller); the Gjusta sourdough bread and house-made butter deserve specific mention for their creative additions of sweet peas, lemon myrtle, wattle seed and wildflowers. The property lends out its fleet of Mini Coopers for local excursions, and new for the season is a collaboration with McTavish surfboards which will offer guests complimentary longboards for summer in stunning hues.


SURFRIDER’s in-house mixologists infuse cocktails with locally sourced fresh produce. Photo by Brecht Van’t Hof.


Do: Have the hotel pack a picnic of farmers-market finds and charcuterie, and enjoy it in any of the locales on co-owners Matt and Emma Goodwin’s “guide-to-Malibu treasure map.” Non-surfers will enjoy the kayak rentals just across the street from the hotel, allowing you to explore the coastline of coveted Carbon Beach. Just up the road, the Cross Creek shopping center is the pulse of Malibu, with a collection of outdoor venues that make up a non-stop hub for both locals (spot them barefoot and in board shorts with surfboards strapped to their Porsches) and tourists (who stand out in anything flashy): take a complimentary yoga class at the Lumber Yard, and then sip a billion-dollar smoothie from Sun Life Organics while browsing the boutiques at the Malibu Country Mart, which range from the popular (Paige, Vince and John Varvatos) to the independent (Bleusalt for sustainable fashion; Canvas, which combines an art gallery with a retail concept; Sunroom for clothing and accessories). Taverna Tony and Tra di Noi have always been popular hot spots for dining — and now Lucky’s can be added to that list, as the Santa Barbara institution has brought its steak house just south. The filet is top-notch, and the potato skins do not disappoint.

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Santa Barbara

SAN YSIDRO RANCH’s famous lavender-lined entrance.


Stay: Tucked away into the foothills of Montecito, San Ysidro Ranch is the kind of magical escape that makes the property a destination in itself. From the fragrant lavender-lined driveway to the 400-year-old oak trees and lapping creek, it’s clear this isn’t just another beach-town resort. Just 41 guest rooms are available in clusters of bungalows and cottages that perch among the hills, offering glimpses of the ocean and ample privacy. After mudslides, the property endured a major renovation, and this past winter the upgrade was completed, with three new cottages given full backyard gardens as well as hot tubs with mountain or ocean views. Updates also include a refreshed interior of the spa and salon, which was expanded to the outdoors for socially distanced styling spaces that can accommodate groups and weddings.


The lily pond and lush gardens at SAN YSIDRO RANCH.


Do: The on-site Stonehouse and Plow & Angel restaurants emphasize local ingredients, including those sourced directly from the property’s own garden (citrus groves, lettuce patches and root vegetables). Oenophiles will appreciate the comprehensive wine cellar and rare scotch and tequila offerings. Seventeen miles of hiking trails are available directly from the property, but those who wish to venture into town might enjoy new haunts including Sevtap Winery, the new tasting room in the Presidio from winemaker Art Sevtap (former baker for Emeril Lagasse), who also serves freshly baked breads and tapas with his wine. When it comes to shopping, there’s the new Idyll Mercantile, a plant boutique; Pura Luna Apothecary, which specializes in herbs and self-care; and Zone Studios, an artisans’ collective; not to mention C Magazine’s concept store Studio C at the Montecito Country Mart, which stocks the very best designed-in-California brands. Consider a stop in Summerland as well to explore the revitalized town’s new shops, including The Well Summerland, offering a curated mix of European antiques and contemporary outdoor furnishings.

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Laguna Beach

HOTEL JOAQUIN’s poolside loungers and double daybeds.


Stay: If you’re a resident of Los Angeles or San Diego, it’s easy to take Laguna Beach for granted. However, the former bohemian bungalow town is a refreshingly hip change of scenery from SoCal’s other top beach destinations, with its charming art galleries and bevy of outdoor delights, as well as clearer water and a dramatic rocky coastline that butts right against the shore. Check into the Hotel Joaquin, which opened in May 2018 with 21 rooms designed by Robert McKinley for a Saint Bart’s-meets-midcentury-modern vibe. The intimate property is set just above Shaw’s Cove — a beach so hidden it’s almost private. The hotel’s “adventure garage” is packed with equipment like kayaks and snorkels for guests to use at the beach.


SALINE, the indoor-outdoor eatery at HOTEL JOAQUIN.


Do: Restrictions are still in the process of being lifted at the property’s on-site restaurant, which specializes in California cuisine merged with Middle Eastern spices and flavors, but you can always relax at the rectangular pool (there are always enough lounge chairs) and intimate beach. Off-site, explore the nearby surf shops and boutiques like Stitch and Feather for the perfect elevated beach-life look. When it comes to relaxing, check out the new Spa Del Rio, which offers everything from facials to massages and bodywork.

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Big Sur

Sweeping views of Big Sur from the world-famous POST RANCH INN. Photo by Kodiak Greenwood.


Stay: Partially known for its 1992 iconic earth-sheltered architecture, courtesy of local architect Mickey Muennig, and partially revered for its incomparable cliff-top setting, 1,200 feet above the Pacific, Post Ranch Inn has long been a bucket-list destination for people across the globe. While the dramatic cliffs and a bounty of wildlife from birds to whales remain intact, recent improvements to the rooms have made the boutique resort all the more compelling. The 40-room property completed the renovation of its North Ocean Houses earlier this year, adding stainless-steel custom two-person soaking tubs and new stone patios overlooking the ocean. Fully remodeled bathrooms now offer added privacy for guests (no more paper-thin doors), as well as walk-in showers with sea views. The South Ocean Houses were also revitalized with updated plumbing, radiant-heat stone floors and restored wood paneling, soft goods and more.


From left: A fig tartine at the Post Ranch Inn restaurant. The cocktail menu at SIERRA MAR’S BAR boasts organic liquors and beers. Photos by Kodiak Greenwood.


Do: There’s no reason to leave the property, as its 100 acres of redwoods, organic gardens and landscaped fields offer a holistic experience. Unwind at the spa, shop at the on-site art gallery and mercantile, partake in the falconry program, lounge at any of the three stunning pools (two infinity-edge pools on opposite ends of the property and one larger pool in the center of the grounds, better designed for swimming and sunbathing) and of course don’t forget to book your table (well in advance) at Sierra Mar. The dining venue features local ingredients as well as those grown on-site (such as squash, kale and every herb you can imagine) at the chef’s garden. New for this season is The Outpost, a dining venue within the chef’s garden with a barbecue, pizza oven (guests can even pick their pizza toppings directly from the garden and top their pizzas as they like), cocktail program and light bites.


Feature Image: A  sun-drenched beach chair at SURFRIDER in Malibu. Photo by Trevor Tondro.


This story originally appeared in the Summer 2021 issue of C Magazine.

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