With a huge terrace overlooking the crashing waves and the Ocean Beach Pier, the Inn at Sunset Cliffs is one of the only San Diego hotels that’s right on the waterfront -- in this case, quite literally. Perched on one of Ocean Beach’s famous sandstone cliffs, the blue-and-white hotel sits just above the roiling sea, making for truly spectacular views, especially at sunset. The charming two-story inn, originally built in the ‘50s and recently renovated, features comfortable rooms and a courtyard with paper lanterns and a pool. Parking is free, sandy beaches are a short walk away, and nearby Ocean Beach has a famously laid-back boho vibe with lots of casual boutiques, restaurants, and bars.
The 68-acre Sunset Cliffs Natural Park extends 1.5 miles along the Point Loma peninsula's western shoreline. The scenic stretch of coast features dramatic cliff formations and caves, pocket beaches, and unique intertidal areas.
Inspired the Greek island of Santorini, the hotel’s exterior is painted in crisp white and blue. Airy, recently overhauled rooms feature hardwood or tile floors and a casual coastal look, with a mix of wood and leather furniture and a color palette of sand and sky blue. The entry-level room is a studio-style poolside queen -- very basic. The suites are a major upgrade, with a living area with cushy sofas and chairs, a full kitchen, and a handsome four-poster wood bed. Some even have ocean views. No matter which room you choose, you’ll fall asleep to the soothing sound of the sea.
YOU SHOULD KNOW Such an awe-inspiring location doesn’t come cheap. Summer room rates start at $200 for a studio. The Presidential Suite, which is $550 a night, comes with a king bed, a two-person jetted spa tub and French doors that open to the ocean.
In most of the rooms, bathrooms are on the small side, with beige tile floors and a walk-in shower.
The inn’s small, light-flooded reception office has a beachy vibe, with tile floors, a few cushioned chairs, and complimentary morning coffee for guests.
String lights and paper lanterns criss cross above the courtyard, which features a pool bordered by lovely landscaping, including fragrant roses, as well as cushy chaise lounges. The pool area has views, but the property’s showstopper is a huge terrace, a few steps down from the pool area, which has teak seating and a transparent glass guardrail that doesn’t affect the views one bit.
Not surprisingly, the terrace is a hugely popular place for weddings.
From this part of San Diego, it’s really easiest to explore by car (public transit exists, but will seriously cut into your vacation time). Ocean Beach is close to Interstate 8, an east-west highway that connects with Interstate 5 (known to locals as “The 5”), a major freeway that runs south-north along the entire West Coast and connects with many other highways. Once you’re on I-5, you can get just about anywhere. Self-parking is complimentary at the inn.
Start your day at the darling Little Lion Cafe (1-minute walk), which has one of the best breakfasts in San Diego. With European-inspired decor and a menu that ranges from classic breakfast items like eggs benedict and Belgian waffles to healthy, SoCal-style breakfast bowls. The tiny spot also serves lunch and dinner. Just look for the black-and-white striped awning out front and be prepared to wait on weekends. The rest of Ocean Beach’s noteworthy restaurants are in OB proper, not far from the Ocean Beach Pier, which is a 20-minute walk (or 5-minute drive) from the hotel. With three locations in San Diego, Hodad’s (5-minute drive) is known for its huge, mouthwatering burgers, thick steak fries, and delicious milkshakes. This Hodad’s, a favorite with hungry surfers, doesn’t look like much from the outside, but inside it’s a funky, beachy spot with great food. On the fancier side, the rustic-chic BO beau kitchen+bar (10-minute drive) serves French-inflected fare like Moules Mariniréres and duck-fat fettuccine.
When it comes to boozing, you’ll want to head to OB proper, about a 5-minute drive or a scenic 20- to 30-minute walk. Close to the pier and the sandy beachfront, there are lots of options, most on the casual side. Wonderland Pub (5-minute drive) is one of the most popular. The mellow restaurant-bar, which features huge windows that overlook palm trees and the coastline, is an ideal spot for sipping cold beers at sunset. Wonderland serves food, making it a good choice for drinks and apps, though there are better places for a full meal. Craft beer lovers should check out Kilowatt Brewery (5-minute drive) off the main strip. It doesn’t have killer views but the suds are spot-on. Finally, the divey Pacific Shores (5-minute drive) is an Ocean Beach classic, with strong drinks and a loud crowd. It’s cash-only.
WHY WE LIKE IT
Perched above the dramatic coastline, the Inn at Sunset Cliffs has truly awe-inspiring views. The charming hotel, which has a retro vibe and newly renovated rooms, features a courtyard pool and a huge terrace overlooking the crashing waves below. Though a stay here doesn’t come cheap, it’s a small price to pay for such a stunning setting. Plus, who doesn’t love to fall asleep to the sound of the sea?