Where to Stay in Lake Tahoe
Wondering where to stay in Lake Tahoe? From Tahoe Vista to Truckee, here's all you need to know.
There’s no room for debate: Lake Tahoe is beautiful. With its string of beaches and panoramic water-meets-mountain vistas, Mark Twain described it as “surely the fairest picture the whole earth affords” in his 1871 book Roughing It. Miners used to unwind on its beaches during the gold rush, while more recently, its mountains were used for the 1960 Winter Olympics and one of its luxury lakeside mansions served as a filming location for Francis Ford Coppola’s Godfather II.
So staying on Lake Tahoe means beaches, boat trips, skiing in the winter or mountain hikes in the summer (the 170 mile-long Tahoe Rim Trail loops around the whole thing). And when it comes to where to stay in Lake Tahoe, there’s a choice of historical mountain towns and beachside beauty spots. The South Shore is generally more developed, with more in the way of entertainment spots from bars to glitzy casinos, while the North is your place for wilderness adventures, where the night sky’s clear enough to see the stars.
Lake Tahoe is one of our new Plum Guide destinations, which reflect a newfound desire for more outoorsy, slower-paced destinations over capital-city jet setting. And if you’re looking for accommodation, our holiday rental homes are vetted by professionals who make sure only the top 3% make it into our listings. So you know you’re in for a luxurious and stress-free stay in a Plum Guide home. And now, without further ado, here's our expert-curated pick of the best places to stay in Lake Tahoe.
South Lake Tahoe
If you prefer to position yourself where the action is, stay in South Lake Tahoe, the biggest city on the lake’s banks. There is plenty to keep you occupied in this California city, which owes much of its success to it proximity to Nevada’s casinos over the state border. If you’re not here to gamble, don’t let that put you off. This southern-shoreline sprawl is an excellent base for snow-oriented activities in winter (there's everything from skiing to snowshoeing and snowmobiling) and summer hikes with lake views in the Van Sickle Bi-State Park (take your pick from easy to expert trails). Nearby Nevada Beach and Timber Cove Marina offer kayak rental and private sailing opportunities, respectively, if you’re ready to get out on the water. And Lake Tahoe Yoga on El Dorado Beach has you covered for
wobbling majestically balancing your way through a yoga session on a stand-up paddle board.
The North Shore offers peace, luxury and lake views. Compact and easily walkable Tahoe City is a little enclave of gold-rush history, chic boutiques and lakeside restaurants – with natural beauty on all sides. With the Alpine Meadows and mountains of Olympic Valley (home to the 1960 Winter Olympics) on one side, and the lake to the other, expect majestic vistas and easy access to snow and water sports. You’re also well-placed for exploring the West Shore, whose thick woodland makes it easy to see why it earned the “Black Forest of Lake Tahoe” moniker.
You might have a celebrity neighbour if your Plum Guide home is in Incline Village, which has long been popular with the rich and famous. Warren Buffett owned a home here in the 1980s, while these days tech billionaire Larry Ellison, Beach Boys founder Mike Love, Whitesnake’s David Coverdale and Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers all have properties in Incline Village. Expect all the natural beauty and luxury holiday properties that come with being in an exclusive location (this one has a grand piano). While you're in the area, book into restaurants with lake views from this Nevada-side location (try the Modern American Christy Hill). Again (surprise, surprise) you're well positioned for ski and beach.
Truth first: it's a 12-mile drive to Lake Tahoe from here, so this one’s not one for waking up to those vast Lake Tahoe waterside vistas. But what Truckee – AKA the “gateway to Lake Tahoe” – does offer is Old West mountain charm; a quality you'll find in spades in our Plum Guide properties in Truckee. The historical logging town was also a big base for railroad construction in the 1860s, but today its renovated downtown buildings are filled with galleries and concept stores (such as Riverside Studios, the independent bookstore Word After Word and artsy store Atelier, which offers workshops on everything from illustration to weaving). Book a stay here for the laid-back independent downtown, residential feel and proximity to mountain trails and ski slopes.
The literally named Tahoe Vista does exactly what it says it’s going to do: offer expansive views from the edge of the lake. This Californian-side North Shore spot is excellent for anyone looking for a quiet base for a quintessentially outdoorsy summer Lake Tahoe break. Set yourself up here, then take a kayak out to explore a few hidden beaches (or sun-worshippers can hop a little eastwards to bathe on King’s Beach). Inland slightly, there’s the 124-acre North Tahoe Regional Park for tennis courts, trails and mountain biking.
If peace, quiet and views across the water are your top priorities when you're looking at where to stay in Lake Tahoe, our Plum Guide homes in Tahoe Vista serve up all three. We're particularly fond of the floor-to-ceiling windows in this stunning lakeside home.
For those looking for a well-rounded break with town comforts (good coffee, morning juices, up-to-scratch restaurants), Carson City will do just fine. Find culture in the museums and Victorian-style buildings of Nevada's Historical Capital, and on the Kit Carson Trail (Carson was a 19th century frontiersman who mapped out parts of California and Nevada). Didn’t come to Lake Tahoe for a history lesson? Fine by us. Carson City’s great for outdoor pursuits, from the scenic Ash to Kings Canyon Trail to the beaches. You’re in close proximity of the picturesque bays on the East Shore: try Chimney Beach for clear blue waters or the equally beautiful hidden Secret Cove for its relaxed policy on clothing (no judgement from us). If it's winter, head to Carson Hot Springs Resort for a warming dip.