A clock tower in Downtown Redlands, one of the author's top choices for where to stay in San Bernardino

Where to Stay in San Bernardino (An Area Local’s Top Places)

One of the biggest counties in Southern California, there are some great options for where to stay in San Bernardino.

San Bernardino is just an hour from Los Angeles, and an entertainment mecca in the Inland Empire with some of the best Mexican food in California. There are endless options for things to do in San Bernardino, whether you’re more into city skylines or nature escapes. 

As a local, I’ve put together this list of the best places to stay in San Bernardino. With this guide, picking a spot is made easy. All you have to do is choose whether you want to stay closer to the hiking trails or the entertainment and shopping centers.

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Best Places to Stay in San Bernardino

View from the Big Bear Lake during winter season
Big Bear Lake, San Bernardino in the wintertime

Just looking for a quick answer for the best places to stay in San Bernardino? Here are my top picks: 

All of these options would make a great base while you explore San Bernardino. Ok, let’s do a deep dive into the best areas and neighborhoods in San Bernardino:

3 Best Neighborhoods & Areas to Stay in San Bernardino

There are many great places to stay in the San Bernardino city center and surrounding neighborhoods. The city of Redlands, for example, is close to entertainment venues and shopping centers. Lake Arrowhead and Big Bear Lake, two of the best day trips from LA, are also sought-after towns for their peaceful and quiet environments.

Of course, San Bernardino is a huge California county and public transit isn’t the most efficient. Book a rental car for when you arrive at the Los Angeles International Airport to help you get from LA neighborhoods to the San Bernardino National Forest and surrounding cities.

San Bernardino City Center

Overlooking view of the San Bernardino city center during sunset
Sunset over the San Bernardino city center

👉 Best Area For Entertainment | ✨ Best SB City Center Hotels: Days Inn by Wyndham San BernardinoWigwan Teepee MotelMotel 6 San Bernardino

The San Bernardino city center is a great place to stay that is close to many of the attractions, event centers, and popular hotels in the area.

The city center is in the heart of San Bernardino and is home to 33 recreational parks as well as the San Bernardino National Orange Show Events. 

Learn about San Bernardino history at the San Bernardino History and Railroad Museum or catch a minor league baseball game at the San Manuel Stadium. There are things for the whole family to do in the San Bernardino city center.

Pros of Staying in the San Bernardino City Center:

  • Close to all of the events and attractions
  • Hotel deals and inexpensive accommodation options per night
  • Bars and restaurants are within walking distance
  • Many San Bernardino CA downtown hotels have an outdoor pool and free parking
  • Free wifi and free breakfast are also available

Cons of Staying in the San Bernardino City Center:

  • Not many luxury hotels are available
  • Can be noisy at night
  • There can be traffic going in and out of San Bernardino CA downtown

📚 SB City Center Mini Guide 📚
Best Area to Stay for Entertainment
Google Map

Redlands

A clock tower in Downtown Redlands
The downtown Redlands clock tower

👉 Best Area For Shopping & Entertainment | ✨ Best Redlands Hotels: Ayres Hotel RedlandsDynasty Suites RedlandsSpringHill Suites by Marriott Redlands

60 miles northeast of Los Angeles, the city of Redlands sits at the base of the San Bernardino mountains. The city’s iconic Spanish-style buildings date back to the early 1800s and attract millions of visitors from all over the U.S. each year.

The Redlands Bowl Amphitheater from the 1920s is one of the best free things to do in San Bernardino CA. The Redlands Shakespeare Festival is a fun local event that is held there every May. 

If it’s your first time here, you will also want to check out Caprice Cafe for the best salad and seafood on State Street in downtown Redlands.

Pros of Staying in Redlands:

  • Close to shops and attractions
  • Access to multiple farmer’s markets to buy fresh produce
  • Many San Bernardino hotels to choose from
  • Bars are within walking distance of the hotels
  • Historic downtown center with shops and museums

Cons of Staying in Redlands:

  • There may be a lot of city traffic on the weekends
  • The hotels are more expensive
  • There is a lot of noise
  • Drinks can be expensive
  • The San Bernardino hotels can fill up fast on the weekends

📚 Redlands Mini Guide 📚
Best Area to Stay for Shopping & Entertainment
Google Map

San Bernardino National Forest

View during a hike in San Bernardino National Forest
Views from a hiking trail in the San Bernardino National Forest

👉 Best Area For Hiking & Camping | ✨ Best San Bernardino National Forest Hotels: The North Shore InnLake Arrowhead Resort and SpaHampton Inn Suites San Bernardino

The San Bernardino National Forest is the best place to stay in San Bernardino for a quiet vacation in the heart of nature. You will be far away from the noise and pollution of the major surrounding cities and able to get a better night’s rest.

The area is also home to some of the best hikes in California. Major attractions in San Bernardino National Forest include the Pine Knot Trail in Big Bear, the Deep Creek Hot Springs trail, and the hard San Gorgonio mountain summit hike. 

Pros of Staying in San Bernardino National Forest:

  • Access to hundreds of hiking trails
  • The best location in San Bernardino for camping
  • Less traffic than San Bernardino CA downtown
  • Quiet clean rooms and better sleep
  • Beautiful sunrises and sunsets
  • The average nightly price is not too expensive

Cons of Staying in San Bernardino National Forest:

  • Farther away from attractions
  • Most hotels offer fewer amenities than in the city center 
  • Many hotels don’t offer free cancellation

📚 San Bernardino National Forest Mini Guide 📚
Best Area to Stay for Hiking & Camping
Google Map

Tips for Staying in San Bernardino

Hike Early to Catch a Gorgeous Sunrise

View of the sunrise over the San Bernardino mountains
Just before the quiet morning sunrise in the San Bernardino mountains

Witness some of the most beautiful sunrises in the San Bernardino, CA mountains. You are guaranteed to run into fewer crowds on your sunrise hike than on a sunset hike and you will get to hear the forest birds waking up.

Stay at one of many hotels in San Bernardino near the national forest to get to your trail in time for the sunrise.

Be Careful When Exploring the San Bernardino City Center

San Bernardino is one of the most populated counties in California. Like any major city, take extra precautions when traveling in the city center. Don’t wear anything too flashy and keep an eye on your purse at all times.

Try to always avoid wearing backpacks in busy cities. If you need a backpack, however, make sure to wear it on your front to monitor your belongings. Osprey backpacks have some secure options, or check out our travel backpacks guide to help you choose the best one.

Check Out Free Things to Do in San Bernardino 

Before you pay big money for attractions in San Bernardino, check out free activities first. The Original McDonald’s Site and Museum is a free attraction close to many San Bernardino hotels.

The Rim of the World Scenic Byway is another free activity in San Bernardino that takes drivers through windy mountain roads with incredible views.

Apply for National Forest Permits in Advance

View of the author during her winter climb in San Gorgonio
My winter climb of San Gorgonio in the San Bernardino National Forest

You will need a permit to hike and camp in many places in the San Bernardino National Forest. Shorter day hikes typically don’t require a permit but longer summit hikes do.

San Gorgonio Peak and San Bernardino Peak are the major mountain climbs in the area that require a permit. You can apply for permits ahead of time at sgwa.org.

Consider Staying Near San Bernardino National Forest for a Quiet Vacation

There are many hotels in San Bernardino that are close to the beautiful national forest. Staying closer to the San Bernardino National Forest allows you to have a quieter stay away from the noise and pollution of the big city.

Check Out Day Trips From San Bernardino

Colorful sky during sunset in Huntington Beach
A beautiful Huntington Beach sunset

Some of the best beaches in Los Angeles are a short day trip from San Bernardino and well worth the drive. Check out Huntington Beach or Laguna Beach if you have extra time in San Bernardino.

You are guaranteed to see amazing sunsets at iconic Southern California beaches.

FAQs for Where to Stay in San Bernardino

What are the best hotels near San Bernardino National Forest?

The North Shore Inn and Lake Arrowhead Resort and Spa are the best hotels near San Bernardino National Forest. You can easily access the national forest hiking trails and campgrounds from these hotels.

What are the best cheap hotels in San Bernardino?

The Hilton San Bernardino, Wyndham San Bernardino, and Motel 6 San Bernardino are the best cheap hotels in the San Bernardino city center. There are rooms available for less than $150 per night.

What are the best areas of San Bernardino?

The San Bernardino CA Downtown area and San Bernardino National Forest are the best areas of San Bernardino. 

Is San Bernardino a good place to live?

San Bernardino is a good place to live depending on the neighborhood. Redlands, Riverside, Loma Linda, and near the San Bernardino National Forest are all great neighborhoods to live in. 

***

I hope you learned all you need to know about where to stay in San Bernardino and the surrounding areas. Next, check out this guide to where to stay in Los Angeles to help plan your trip!

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