The Big Six: Coastal hotels in California

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Cavallo Point, San Francisco

City views don't get much more captivating than at Cavallo Point. Here, a former military fort overlooking Golden Gate Bridge and the San Francisco Bay has been remodelled as a luxury resort. Rooms are split between old officers' residences encircling the parade ground and a harmonious modern extension. The vista can also be enjoyed from the Michelin-starred restaurant and garden tea bar.

Cavallo Point, 601 Murray Circle, Fort Baker, Sausalito, San Francisco (001 415 339 4700; cavallopoint.com). Doubles start at $302 (£201), room only.

El Capitan Canyon, Santa Barbara

Twenty miles north of Santa Barbara, El Capitan Canyon offers a rustic retreat from the city. But you can forget roughing it: the "camp" offers a more comfortable take on the canvas experience. Set among sycamore and oak trees overlooking El Capitan State Beach, there are spacious white tents, log cabins and a luxurious safari-style set-up, all furnished with proper beds, rugs and bathrooms. Guests can hike or bike along forest trails or dip a toe into the Pacific.

El Capitan Canyon, Calle Real, Santa Barbara (001 805 685 3887; elcapitancanyon.com). Doubles start at $155 (£103), room only.

Viceroy, Santa Monica

Since it opened eight years ago, the Viceroy has remained the hangout of choice in this eminent beach resort. The hotel features poolside cabanas, an abundance of marble and mirrors and a Mediterranean restaurant.

Viceroy, 1819 Ocean Avenue, Santa Monica, Los Angeles (001 310 260 7500; viceroyhotelsandresorts. com/santamonica). Doubles start at $422 (£281), room only.

Shorebreak Hotel, Huntington Beach

Set in "Surf City USA", the Shorebreak offers a sleek take on Sixties surf culture, with acid colours, a restaurant serving "California comfort food" and an outdoor lounge with fire pits.

Shorebreak Hotel, Huntington Beach, Orange County (001 714 861 4470; shorebreakhotel.com). Doubles start at $277 (£185), room only.

Tower 23, San Diego

Taking its name from the lifeguard post opposite, Tower 23 brings added glamour to San Diego's Pacific Beach. Rooms are bright, white and minimalist with balconies or patios for outdoor lounging. For the best ocean views, head to the Tower Deck with its teak loungers and daybeds. In the evening it's the perfect place to take in the sunsets, martini in hand. And once the sun has gone down, the hotel puts you at the heart of San Diego's nightlife action.

Tower 23 Hotel, 4551 Ocean Boulevard, San Diego (001 858 270 2323; tower23hotel.com). Doubles start at $275 (£183), room only.

Ventana Inn & Spa, Big Sur

The drama of Big Sur's coastline can be marvelled at from this glass-fronted hotel's cliff-side location. Its spectacular views are complemented by impressive interiors. If the waves below are too bracing, have a soak in one of the Ventana's Japanese hot baths.

Ventana Inn & Spa, Big Sur, Monterey (001 831 667 2331; ventanainn.com). Doubles start at $579 (£386), room only.

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