The finest places to stay in the world's most exciting coastal cities

Hotel Arts, Barcelona

Hotel Arts, Barcelona

As its name suggests, the Hotel Arts, housed in a striking 44-storey glass and steel tower, has an extensive collection of art, in this case around 1,000 contemporary paintings by Catalan and Spanish artists. The beach is just a flip-flop stroll away, but if you can't make it that far, lounge beside the pool and the huge fish sculpture by architect Frank Gehry.

Hotel Arts, Carrer de la Marina 19-21 08005 Barcelona Spain (00 34 93 221 1000; Doubles from €540 (£386), without breakfast

Copacabana Palace, Rio

Copacabana beach is one of the world's most legendary sweeps of fine white sand. As the Atlantic waves crash onto the shore, locals play volleyball, surf, and laze in the sun or walk their poodles along the graceful curve of the bay. Presiding over the scene is the Copacabana Palace, an elegant white stucco creation, in stark contrast to the nearby high-rises. The hotel opened in 1923, and past guests include Noel Coward, Orson Welles, Errol Flynn, Dame Margot Fonteyn and Nelson Rockefeller.

Copacabana Palace, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (00 55 21 2548 7070; Doubles cost from $330 (£236) without breakfast

The Tides, Miami

The Tides is a white Art Deco vision designed by LMurray Dixon in 1936 overlooking the ocean on Miami's ritzy South Beach. When the hotel was converted in 1997, the original 115 rooms were turned into just 45 - now their average size is a cavernous 600 square feet. All have ocean views, and all are decorated in light shades, from the crisp white linen to the TV suspended from the wall. There's also a telescope in every room so you can get an eye-full of beach life.

The Tides, 1220 Ocean Drive (001 305 604 5070, Miami, USA. A deluxe ocean-front room costs from $621.50 (£345) without breakfast

La Valencia, San Diego

The baby-pink La Valencia Hotel, topped with a glitzy gold dome, is known affectionately as the Pink Lady of La Jolla. Overlooking the Pacific, the resort of La Jolla spreads along the northern edge of San Diego. The hotel was built in 1926 and soon became a popular hideaway for Hollywood's rich and famous. Stars of the silver screen including Greta Garbo, Groucho Marx and Lilian Gish were all regulars. Gregory Peck, who founded the La Jolla Playhouse in 1947, threw opening-night parties here for Ginger Rogers and David Niven. Inside, the magnificent foyer is reminiscent of a grand Hispanic mansion with stone-flagged floors, mosaics, painted ceilings, iron chandeliers and antique furniture.

La Valencia, 1132 Prospect Street, La Jolla, San Diego, USA 92037 (001 858 454 0771, Doubles start at $304 (£169) without breakfast

The Bay Hotel, Cape Town

Cape Town has around 150km of beaches that curve around the coast and along the Atlantic seaboard. In fashionable Camps Bay, an exclusive seaside strip between the ocean and the soaring peaks of the Twelve Apostles, you'll find The Bay. Contemporary in design, this luxurious hotel looks onto the sandy boulder-backed beach just over the road.

The Bay Hotel, 69 Victoria Road (00 27 21 430 4444, Doubles from R2,450 (£212) without breakfast