Travel & Leisure readers pick their No. 1 resort in the U.S. It’s in California

It may have taken a quarter century to develop a luxury waterfront hotel in Oceanside, but it’s apparently paid off.  The Mission Pacific Beach Resort, which made its debut three years ago, has been named the No. 1 resort in the continental U.S. by Travel and Leisure’s readers.

The 161-room, seven-story hotel, which boasts a Michelin-starred restaurant on the premises, was also named the top resort in California. It outranked many long acclaimed properties, including Rancho Valencia in Rancho Santa Fe, which frequently garners recognition in national rankings. It came in at No. 11 in this year’s reader survey of best resorts in the U.S., although it was fourth in 2021.

“I think everyone was completely surprised,” Tim Obert, area managing director of Mission Pacific Beach Resort, said of Tuesday’s announcement. He also manages the hotel’s sister property, The Seabird Ocean Resort & Spa, which was ranked 14th.

“It’s our guests who voted for us, and they’re well traveled and experienced. They know what great is, so it’s flattering that they were kind enough to take the time to vote for us. We had hoped we would score well, but I don’t think any of us expected that we would be No. 1.”

View of Oceanside pier from Mission Pacific Beach Resort. (Mission Pacific Beach Resort) 

Travel and Leisure’s article announcing the top resorts is headlined, “The Resort Voted Best in the Continental U.S. Overlooks an Underrated California Beach and Has a Michelin-star Mexican Restaurant.”

It describes the resort on N. Myers Street, as “a place you never really need to leave to have a good time. It’s home to both a Michelin-starred restaurant (Valle, which serves tasty Mexican bites) and a rooftop bar serving craft cocktails that are ideal at sunset.”

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Included within the resort is the “Top Gun” Victorian house featured in the 1986 movie. (Mission Pacific Beach Resort) 

The resort, it points out, is also home to the original “Top Gun” house, a 19th century Victorian cottage that appeared in the original Top Gun film released in 1986.

Mission Pacific Beach also made it onto Travel and Leisure’s Top 100 Hotels in the World for 2024, ranking No. 11. The only other California hotel to rank higher was the Pendry Newport Beach.

To compile the list of top resorts, Travel and Leisure asks its readers each year to weigh in on their travel experiences, not only for hotels and resorts, but also for cities, cruise ships, airlines and other hospitality segments. More than 186,000 readers completed the 2024 survey, the magazine said, and more than 700,000 votes were cast across all categories.

Hotels were specifically rated on such criteria as rooms and facilities, location, service, food and value.

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The two sister resorts in Oceanside had something of a tortured history as the city sought to bring a destination resort to the oceanfront site since the 1970s. It began courting developers in the 1980s for the two-block site bisected by the western end of Mission Avenue, with boundaries at Pacific and Myers streets, Pier View Way and Seagaze Drive.

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Back in 2005, the city of Oceanside chose S.D. Malkin Properties from a field of three finalists. It was Oceanside’s fourth try in 25 years to land a luxury hotel for the site. The project would eventually break ground in 2019.

“When it opened in May of 2021, it opened during COVID, a difficult time to launch any hotel,” Obert said. “So it started slowly and now has gained its footing and competes very well in the market. We run around 67, 70 percent occupancy for the year, but this year we’ll be closer to the low 70s. Like all resorts during the summer through Labor Day, we run well north of 80 percent occupancy.

“Our owners continue to reinvest in the property on a regular basis. They have a luxury retail background and they continue to reinvent the product to be current and relevant.”

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