Our Picks: Best Waterfront Hotels in America

Our Picks: Best Waterfront Hotels in America

BY Matt Meltzer | February 5, 2023

Spring is almost upon us, and as the weather warms up and lakes thaw out the pull of a waterside vacation gets strong. There’s something sublime about waking up to an ocean or lakeside view, where you can enjoy your morning coffee as the sun glimmers off the surface, then spend afternoons splashing and swimming just steps from your room. Great waterfront hotels aren’t limited to the coasts either, as even places like Colorado offer resorts close to H2O. Here, we look at our picks for the primo places to post up by the water in America.

As always, our Fifty Grande sights are not on the ultra-luxurious hotels, but the cool, notable and accessible. Check ’em.

Columbia Point Resort

Kettle Falls, Wash.

With 4.5 acres situated above the Columbia River and easy access to Lake Roosevelt, Columbia Point Resort is an off-the-grid experience surrounded by mountainous terrain and thick old-growth forest. Rent a beautiful, rustic bungalow or bring your own RV to this stunning site, with Colville National Forest and Roosevelt Lake nearby for some of the best walleye fishing in the nation. The resort also pioneers some next-level farm-to-table dining:  Guests can source their eggs from resident chickens and pick their own produce for an afternoon salad. 

The Estes Park Resort 

Estes Park, Colo. 

Colorado — maybe not the first place one imagines when thinking of a waterside retreat. But at the Estes Park Resort you’ll breathe in crisp Colorado air, take in breathtaking views of the larger-than-life Rocky Mountains and stroll by the glittering waters of Lake Estes lapping at the grassy shoreline. The resort puts you right in the middle of the beauty and serenity of the mountains and provides rentable paddleboards in the summer months, as well as barbecue pits and fire pits for s’more making and relaxation. Rent a hotel room, suite or cabin to enjoy days filled with hiking around the property and nights of gazing at the western stars above.

The Geneva Inn

Lake Geneva, Wis.  

Lake Geneva earned the nickname “The Newport of the West,” as its abundance of activities, luxury hotels and stately homes made it a mainstay Midwestern summer getaway. The Geneva Inn is the standout property even if you’re not Gilded Age royalty, with its elegant design, tranquil atmosphere and stunning, unobstructed views of the sparkling surface of Lake Geneva. Reserve one of 37 guest rooms and suites to experience the Geneva Inn’s private pier, The Grandview Restaurant onsite and scenic trails and paths located around the hotel that disappear into the environment.

Hallmark Resort and Spa Cannon Beach

Cannon Beach, Ore. 

Phenomenal views of Cannon Beach and the picturesque surrounding scenery await guests at the Hallmark Resort and Spa Cannon Beach. Travel to this resort for a massage and exquisite spa experience at the Elements by the Sea Spa, two spectacular indoor salt pools, a hot tub and a fitness center all under the watchful eye of Haystack Rock (you may recognize it from “Goonies”). The surrounding town is full of shops, spectacular eateries and art galleries for you to explore, and hiking around the property and surrounding wilderness is an instant way to immerse yourself in the nature of the Oregon coast.  

The Lakehouse Hotel & Resort 

San Marcos, Calif. 

The Lakehouse Hotel & Resort bases its 144 rooms, suites and cottages around one of the last hidden gems in California: Lake Marcos. Enjoy an active vacation by taking a dip in one of two pools onsite, or pick up a racket and learn to play pickleball or tennis on the courts at the St. Mark Golf Club. The hotel also offers paddleboard rentals if you want to get out on the lake, or fishing gear for some catch-and-release fun. 

La Siesta Resort and Marina

Islamorada, Fla. 

One of two Florida resorts on this list, La Siesta Resort and Marina delivers a tropical getaway experience to guests in the form of a private suite, oceanfront cottage or private villa rental with full access to the resort’s many amenities. When staying here, you can book a Jet ki or wild dolphin tour, sign up for a two-day scuba certification course, rent a kayak to explore crystalline waters or simply kick back and have a light lunch at the resort’s poolside eatery Wild & Lime. Want to bring your dog or boat? Not an issue. Marina slips can be rented at $150 per night, and dogs are welcome on the property.  

Mirror Lake Inn

Lake Placid, N.Y.

Nestled away in the Adirondack Mountains on the edge of Lake Placid, this rustic, upscale inn has been awarded the AAA Four Diamond “Exceptional” Award for nearly three decades running. Spend a night or two and you’ll understand why, as the hotel has exceptional dining, unparalleled scenery and a luxurious spa experience. In the winter months, enjoy skiing at the home of the 1980 Winter Olympics. Then in the summer, fish or hike around Lake Placid and drink up the views. The Mirror Lake Inn also offers packages such as the “‘Pamper Yourself’ Package” or the “Culinary Weekend Getaways,” which theme your activities with your accommodations. 

Pelham House Resort 

Dennis Port, Mass. 

Situated on the edge of its own private beach with gorgeous views of the serene Nantucket Sound, the Pelham House Resort cultivates both elegance and adventure to its guests. Whether you’re into drinking cocktails by the private pool while live music floats through the crisp air around you or you’d rather venture out into the blue sea on a whale watching expedition or deep-sea fishing charter, the Pelham has got you covered. The hotel offers planned day trips to Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket, but with this hotel’s renovation and sophisticated, bright and beachy decor, you might not even want to leave the property. 

The Pelican Hotel

Miami Beach, Fla.

Strolling down Ocean Drive, one might find it difficult to pick the Pelican out of the lineup of Art Deco hotels with streetside cafes. But step inside and you’ll find a property unlike anything else in South Beach, where 33 individually themed suites with real period furniture create a different experience in every space. Want to live like “Mad Men”? Spend a couple days in the Sixties Executive Suite complete with mid-mod furniture and an ocean view. Or you can submerge yourself in the tropical environs of the Go Bananas suite, or the Sin City glam of the Vegas room. Each room feels like a movie set done up with impeccable detail, and makes for a perfect place to slip into a food coma after gorging on Italian delights in the ground-floor cafe.