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10 amazing places to enjoy a cocktail & watch the sunset in Southern California

There are many beautiful places in Southern California to have a cocktail and watch the sunset. Here I have listed 10 for you to try when visiting any of these beach cities.

VENICE BEACH

My fave place to watch the sunset in Venice Beach is the High Rooftop Lounge at Hotel Erwin, the only place with 360 degree views of Venice, Santa Monica and the ocean. You want to make a reservation for a table in advance and before sunset. You can enjoy drinks and apps in a comfy booth but bring layers since it can get chilly at night (or ask for a blanket). Order a few appetizers like the hummus, crab dip, guacamole & chips and lamb sliders <– these are WOW.. sooo good. If you don’t have a res, no worries, you can go to the bar, ask for a delicious moscow mule or spicy margarita, walk to the end of the roof and drink your cocktail while gazing into the ocean. You can come casual or dressed up to this place.

Hotel Erwin High Rooftop Lounge Santa Monica

High Rooftop Lounge view Santa Monica

SANTA MONICA

If you plan to stroll over to Santa Monica, Onyx, the rooftop bar at the Shangri-La is another hotel with good drink and apps and you can see the ocean and Santa Monica pier from the top. The rooftop is pretty small. Although there are fire pits, the wind funnels through there closer to the evening so I definitely recommend a jacket. There is also a cool inside portion of the bar (no views there). This is also a beach vibe you can come casual or dressy. People tend to do both. I recommend the fish tacos, they are in a crispy shell, not soft (and spicy). DELISH.

 

View from Shangri La Santa Monica

Shangri La Santa Monica
Photo source: Joey N.

If you want a sunset view but want to be warm inside, I recommend The Huntley Hotel. They also have a beautiful view as it sits high up on the 18th floor. You’ll want to dress up to this place though, it’s more of an upscale vibe and not at all beachy. You can have dinner and enjoy the upscale decor or cocktails at the bar or in a separate sitting area with comfy seating. On the weekends they have a DJ and dancing starting Thursdays at 9pm.

Huntley Hotel Santa Monica
Huntley Hotel Bar Santa Monica

A spot closer to the ground that I enjoy is Loews hotel. Have a drink in comfy seats outside directly facing the ocean.

Loews Santa Monica

This place is beautiful and open and outside near the pool area. They also have an inside bar with a view. When my aunt visits from Northern California, she likes to stay here because the rooms are reasonable for this ocean front property. Prices are in the mid 300’s vs. the other beachfront hotels in Santa Monica that are $500+. Aside from the fact that it is a beautiful hotel. 

Loews Santa Monica

MALIBU

Blue Lounge at Moonshadows in Malibu has a super cool swanky vibe and it sits on the water. There are pretty lights lit up everywhere at night and this place has cool energy. You will want to come dressed up to this trendy place. On the weekends they feature International DJs and hand picked music Thursdays 7-midnight, Fridays and Saturdays 7pm-1am and Sundays 3-9pm. You can also come during the day to view the gorgeous views and eat some seafood.

Moonshadows Malibu

Moonshadows Malibu at night
Photo source: Julie D.

Nobu Malibu is another very popular place and people from all over the world come here while in Malibu. This place is very upscale. Enjoy some amazing Japanese food and nicely crafted drinks. They have tables and also comfy outside seating right in front of the ocean. Great for people watching. Reservations are encouraged, especially in the busy summer months as far in advance as possible. My faves on the menu are the lobster ceviche on limestone lettuce, oysters, tiradito, king crab tempura with amazu, yellowtail sashimi with jalepeno, shishito peppers, crispy okra with garlic ponzu, Kaya toast (if you come earlier for brunch.. it’s amaziiing!) and mini lobster, wagyu or tuna tacos. The cod is very very popular there but I am not a fan of cod fish.

Nobu Malibu
Nobu Malibu dining

Carbon Beach Club at Malibu Beach Inn is my most favorite beach side hotel in all of SoCal. This is a very small and intimate hotel and if you stay here, every room has an ocean view. The rooms are very expensive in the summer. I could just sit out on the balcony of my room all day here. They have a nice restaurant called Carbon Beach Club directly over the ocean so you are much closer to the ocean and sand. They have tasty food and the best ingredients which are locally sourced for their land and sea menus. They have an exceptional wine list from around the world. You can come any time of day for breakfast or lunch but for dinner and a drink you want to come not too late. This is more of a relaxed vibe, not a scene. This place closes at 10pm. I just had to post this on the list because it is my favorite place to get away. Look at the website for more amazing pictures.

Malibu Beach Inn

NEWPORT BEACH

Javier’s is my favorite place for dinner and drinks in Newport Beach. The restaurant is upscale with impeccable decor. People dress to impress. If you are into cars you will see a Lamborghini, Bentley or even a Rolls-Royce parked in front of the restaurant. This is one of Newport’s most popular night spots. Make a reservation a week or 2 in advance to get a good time for dinner and ask to sit on the side patio and mention you want an ocean view. If not, ask to sit near the front of the restaurant so you are in the ambiance of it all or in the front enclosed patio with comfy seating. Come early to enjoy the bar and people watch. You can come with no res but you will wait a while.

Unlike other high end Mexican restaurants, the food and drinks here are authentic with very high quality ingredients and seafood. You can always tell a lot about a Mexican restaurant by just tasting their chips and salsa. It is very good here (latinos will approve) and spiiicy. The drink menu is amazing with plenty of tequilas and margaritas to choose from. I love the tamarindo margarita. To eat, recommend the seafood enchiladas and the fajitas. They are the best I’ve had! The fajita meat is so tender and flavorful it is almost like having filet mignon! My mouth is watering just thinking about it. LOL

Javiers Newport Beach

Javiers Newport Beach

Javiers Newport Beach

Natalie Wilson & Friends at Javiers Newport Beach
Above: Friends & I sitting on the front patio.

LAGUNA BEACH

The view here tops all views.. it is AMAZING. The Montage Laguna Beach is one of the finest hotels in all of California. When you walk in you can see the pool and ocean down below and when you walk outside you can see the cliff and ocean view off in the distance. It looks as if you are in a different country (Europe). This place is so pretty. Enjoy a specialty cocktail and watch the sunset in the Lobby lounge which has inside and outside seating with panoramic views. If you would like to also come for dinner, eat at The Loft for creative American cuisine or Studio which is 5-star and more high end with modern fine French food with California Influences. It is in a bungalow style building at the edge of a 50 foot bluff over looking the ocean. They also have a great wine selection.

The chef also does tasting menus and private dinners at the Chef’s Table. Fresh herbs and vegetables are picked outside Studio’s doors in a private garden and are used throughout the restaurant. Both of these restaurants also have ocean views and both inside and outside seating to watch the sunset. If you come earlier in the day I suggest you visit Mosaic Bar & Grille for casual beach fare and views of the Pacific. The seating is first come, first serve. This includes seating by the pool (or you can reserve a cabana) up until 4:30pm.

Montage Laguna Beach

Montage Laguna Beach View

Montage Laguna Beach water

LA JOLLA 

Ocean Terrace at George’s at the Cove restaurant is a must when in La Jolla! Park at the bottom in front of the ocean so you can walk along there first and look down at the ocean and seals then walk your way up to the restaurant. La Jolla is about 2 hours south of the Santa Monica Beaches, close to San Diego. My boyfriend took me here and I’m very thankful he showed me this place. I came in the summer and walked up to the ocean terrace to enjoy a beautiful view. There is a very nice vibe at the bar; you feel like your on vacation (maybe since a lot of people that go here are on vacation LOL). It is open and airy. Come for lunch or dinner for fine cuisine at a fair price. It is an upscale vibe but you can come here dressy or casual.

The food is scrumdidlyumptious and you MUST try the soup (George’s famous soup). The soup is so flavorful, one of the best if not the best I’ve had. My boyfriend had me try it even though I wasn’t in the mood for soup and once I did I was hooked. Others that have come here under my recommendation also love the soup. Just get it as an appetizer. All the food I’ve had here is good and the seafood is fresh so you can’t go wrong. I enjoyed my cocktails too. The bartenders and servers are very friendly. If you want to eat at the actual restaurant (George’s) it is on a lower level and more of an upscale vibe and the views will not disappoint!

Terrace views:

George's at the Cove La Jolla

George's at the Cove Terrace

Restaurant view:

George's at the Cove view
This area is a little ritsy (as you will notice if you walk around the shops. This is totally off subject but check out my friends National Geographic fine art gallery while you are there in La Jolla. They have beautiful blown up art (national geographic images) from around the world. This is one of several of their locations and the concept is totally new.

It doesn’t get too cold in Southern California (average of 70 degrees year round) so you can pretty much visit these spots any time. That is one of the reasons why I don’t ever think I could move away. I used to live in between LA and San Diego (Mission Beach). Now I’m just in LA but I may be doing both again here soon. 🙂 I just love the beach life and in San Diego it is much more of a laid back friendlier vibe than LA beaches. Don’t get me wrong, I like the fancy places and dressing up too.. once in a while. 😉

I hope you have enjoyed this post and that you get to visit some of these lovely places while visiting SoCal.

xo,

Natalie