The Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel and Paséa Hotel in Huntington make for great family getaways

Living here in the South Bay, we often forget beach life exists outside our own strip of paradise. Not that there’s anything wrong with wanting to stay close to home, but sometimes it’s nice to entertain a change of scenery without sacrificing the sand and surf. With vacation time just around the corner, we suggest trading in those plane tickets for a convenient piece of paradise a freeway or two away.

When’s the last time you really explored Santa Monica? It’s much more than Montana Avenue and 3rd Street Promenade these days, with a boom of new restaurants, hotels and shops that can keep you entertained for days.

The Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel recently received a major renovation, drawing new visitors to its prime beachfront location. With a family-friendly (yet stylish) pool scene, convenient ocean-view bars and restaurants like Ocean & Vine, and an eco-friendly, full-service spa, there’s something to appease everyone in the caravan. If you can pull yourself away from the amenities on property, stroll up Ocean Avenue or take a jaunt down the nearby Pier for an ice cream or loop on the iconic Ferris wheel.

Two restaurants generating a lot of buzz are Cassia (Asian with a SoCal infusion) and Santa Monica Yacht Club, where diners rave about the signature dish, whole fried fish for two with soba noodles and dipping sauce. For quick eats, grab a grain bowl at the chic, boho eatery Flower Child or at the uber casual Sweet Fin Poke. Both are perfect take-alongs to the progressive art galleries at Bergamot Station.

If your gravitational pull is southward, Huntington Beach is another guaranteed crowd-pleaser. Anchoring an amazing complex right on bustling PCH, the brand new Paséa Hotel and Spa mixes artful, modern luxury with cool, coastal chic. Here it’s all about the finer details: a piece of wall art made of flip-flops, floor levels named after shades of blue, painted guitars in the rooms. This place was designed for fun. The pool also sits right above the beach for guaranteed, sensational sunsets, and the in-house restaurant, Tanner’s, packs in both hotel guests and locals who love their tasty Southern California cuisine.

Nearby, the retail hub Pacific City (the original name of the early oceanfront village that would eventually become known as Huntington Beach) offers more food and shopping options, including the Ways & Means Oyster House and Hans’ Homemade Ice Cream.