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It's not just another day at the beach, as the O.C's waterfront hotels get a makeover

Surf City never looked so good.

New restaurants, hotels and shops have changed the face of Huntington Beach, adding a clean, well-organized look to the city's oceanfront that capitalizes on its greatest asset — crashing waves and a popular beach.

Many of the dive bars, T-shirt shops and burger joints that once lined Pacific Coast Highway here are gone, replaced by high-rise hotels and Pacific City, a trendy mall that's full of restaurants and shops. Residents grumble that traffic is horrific, but beach-area merchants are happy.

Huntington Beach's renaissance is one of many coastal improvements taking place in Southern California. Beach-side hotels, especially in Orange County, are being built, rebuilt, renovated and upgraded to grab a bigger share of the tourist dollar.

Here's a look at some of the new things you'll find on the coast.


Huntington Beach

Paséa Hotel & Spa

The Tree House Bar at Tanner's on the Paséa Hotel & Spa's roof-top deck.
The Tree House Bar at Tanner's on the Paséa Hotel & Spa's roof-top deck. (Paséa Hotel & Spa)

It's early summer and a marine layer is hanging over the beach in front of the Paséa Hotel & Spa, a new high-rise that altered the Huntington Beach skyline last year. Outside the front door is a chalkboard with four words: Waves: Small; Temp.: COLD.

Visitors don't seem to mind. They're clustered around the hotel pool, waiting for the sun to appear.

Paséa has a nice vibe, with 250 ocean-view rooms, a Balinese-inspired spa, two pools and large conference space.

Artwork conveys a sense of place, with huge photos of the sea and pieces such as “Wavelength,” an ocean of color created by Jorg Dubin. You have to look at it twice to realize it was made from hundreds of rubber flip-flops.

The property's trendy décor and design seem aimed at millennials, but almost anyone would be happy hanging out at the fire pit at the Tree House Bar at Tanner's, on the hotel's rooftop deck, or getting help from its beach butler.

Info: Paséa Hotel & Spa, 21080 Pacific Coast Highway, Huntington Beach; (844) 814-2483. Summer rates from $367 per night, double occupancy.

Waterfront Beach Resort

The Waterfront Beach Resort, a Hilton Hotel in Huntington Beach.
The Waterfront Beach Resort, a Hilton Hotel in Huntington Beach. (Hilton Waterfront Resort)

Can't find a beach-view room in town? Just wait.

New construction going on at Hilton’s Waterfront Beach Resort will add rooms, event space and a laid-back rooftop bar called Offshore 9.

The new suite-centric Twin Dolphin Tower was scheduled to open this summer, but California's over-the-top rainy season has held up construction. The current estimate for completion is September.

Other Hilton changes: new restaurants such as the Boardwalk and the Driftwood Beach Club, a pool with water slides and a sandy faux beach with fire pits.

Info: Waterfront Beach Resort, 21100 Pacific Coast Highway, Huntington Beach; (714) 845-8000. Rates from $389 per night, double occupancy.

Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach Resort & Spa

Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach.
Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach. (Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach Resort & Spa)

Everyone loves the surf at Surf City, but it's not everyone's idea of a great place to swim. That's why family-friendly Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach Resort & Spa decided to overhaul its main pool.

The result is a fresh poolside experience with new colors and fabrics, expanded seating, plush cabanas, new landscaping and a sunset-viewing deck above Mankota's Grill, where you can catch the last rays of the day over a mojito or margarita.

The deck surrounding the lagoon-style pool has been expanded with more than 100 additional seats and sun lounging options. Cabana fans will find flat-screen TVs, refrigerators and overhead fans to make their day in the sun more fun.

While you're there, be sure to try some of the resort's splashy new foods, the result of a redesign of its menus.

You can get your morning off to a fast start with the hotel's new breakfast bar concept that offers morning bites featuring detox elixirs, spirulina bowls and an array of toasts such as avocado, sun butter, bee pollen and sprouts.

Info: Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach Resort & Spa, 21500 Pacific Coast Highway, Huntington Beach; (714) 698-1234. Summer rates from $519 per night, double occupancy.

Kimpton Shorebreak Hotel

A room with a view of the Huntington Beach Pier at the Kimpton Shorebreak Hotel.
A room with a view of the Huntington Beach Pier at the Kimpton Shorebreak Hotel. (Kimpton Shorebreak)

Not to be outdone by the other ocean-view hotels along Pacific Coast Highway, Kimpton Shorebreak Hotel launched a $3-million renovation this year, offering summer guests new furnishings and experiences.

The makeover includes rejuvenated rooms, a new look and furnishings in common areas, and an updated fitness center, complete with a 40-foot-wide rock-climbing wall.

Also new this year: Pacific Hideaway, a Pacific Rim-inspired restaurant that opened its doors in May.

The hotel has something else pleasant in store for summer guests. It's offering a 20% discount through Sept. 5. “Be the first to experience Kimpton Shorebreak's renovated digs and new restaurant," reads the online promotion.

Info: Kimpton Shorebreak Hotel, 500 Pacific Coast Highway, Huntington Beach; (714) 861-4470. Summer rates from $389 per night, double occupancy.

Dana Point

Monarch Beach Resort

Monarch Beach Resort in Dana Point.
Monarch Beach Resort in Dana Point. (Lily Stein)

The big news along this pretty stretch of coastline is Monarch Beach Resort, where there's been a name change and a whole lot more.

The hotel, formerly a St. Regis, underwent a $40-million transformation last year that added several new luxe components, including a spa partnership with Miraval Group and a Robert Trent Jones Jr.-designed golf club.

The famous names aren't the only changes, however. The resort also has a new look, literally.

Spend a little time on the lobby patio, sip a drink and you'll see it: a panoramic view of the Pacific that wasn't visible before. You'll also see the green lawns of the golf course, the turquoise-striped umbrellas and white cabanas of the pool, and the rugged cliffs of south Orange County.

Then visit the Miraval Life in Balance Spa to meditate, get a sea salt body treatment or try an aromatic stone massage.

Looking for a golf break? Stop by Monarch Beach Golf Links and try the resort's GolfBoards, designed by surf legend Laird Hamilton. The stand-up-and-ride electric vehicles add a new twist to cruising from shot to shot.

Info: Monarch Beach Resort, 1 Monarch Beach Resort, Dana Point; (800) 722-1543. Summer rates from $759 per night, double occupancy.

Laguna Beach

The Ranch at Laguna Beach

Ranch at Laguna Beach in Laguna Beach.
Ranch at Laguna Beach in Laguna Beach. (Ranch at Laguna Beach)

Tucked into a rugged canyon just off Pacific Coast Highway is a laid-back resort that gives guests a touch of western hospitality combined with a beach vibe.

The Ranch at Laguna Beach, which opened last fall, is just 350 yards from Aliso Beach and the Pacific Ocean, but once you leave the sand and walk to your cottage, you leave the crowds far behind. You might as well be in Montana.

Just sit down on the rocking chair on your porch and let the tension slip away.

The family-friendly hotel is furnished in a style it calls "coastal rustic," with weathered boards and comfortable sofas and chairs.

It has a restaurant and a nine-hole golf course that's carved into the canyon. And there's an arrangement with nearby Hobie Surf Shop for paddleboards, surfboards and other water activity equipment.

The Ranch at Laguna Beach is the first new resort in town since 2003 and is the first and only California resort so far to be designated a National Geographic Unique Lodge of the World.

Info: The Ranch at Laguna Beach, 31106 S. Coast Highway, Laguna Beach; (949) 499-2271. Rates start at $309 per night, double occupancy and include parking.

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