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In the world of mattresses, the Queen is the queen of sizes.
At the same time, King and California King are quite popular too. But I often come across many people who believe these two are the same.
And that is not entirely true.
In this article, I will point out the main differences between the Cal King and regular King sizes and share my reviews of the 4 best California King mattresses that can give you the heaven-quality rest.
So, if you want to make your shopping easier, continue reading!
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Best Overall - Editor's choice
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Best for Back Pain
AS3 by Amerisleep
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Best for Heavy Couples
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Best for Stomach Sleepers
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Reviews of 4 Best California King Mattresses
Best Overall - Editor's choice — Puffy
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- slow-moving feel to prevent motion transfer and ensure undisturbed partnered sleep;
- gel-infused foam for cooler sleep without neglecting proper pressure relief;
- firm core support layer to ensure proper weight distribution and tension alleviation.
The Puffy surely deserves to be the best California king mattress, and there are multiple reasons for that. The main one, however, is the slow response of the foam this model uses. Not only does it work to deliver close conforming and adaptive pressure alleviation, but also absorbs shock from motion to ensure undisturbed partnered sleep.
Another cool thing about this mattress is that the Puffy’s warranty duration exceeds even some of the more expensive competitors. I mean, let’s compare the 25-year warranty of the Botanical Bliss and the Puffy’s lifetime warranty. To me, the Puffy seems like a real steal for the money.
Best for Back Pain — AS3 by Amerisleep
- plant-based foam to increase the mattress’s ability to resist mold growth and dust mites, great for allergy sufferers;
- open-cell design for cooler sleep;
- zoned transition layer to deliver pinpoint support.
Coming in as the best California King mattresses for back pain, the AS3 is a medium firm model that provides a balance between comfort and support for spinal relief. Using a zoned HIVE transition layer, this mattress adjusts to the body and offers optimal support for each specific area. This leads to even weight distribution that can help you feel weightless and fully relaxed. For example, I sometimes experience lower back pain and tension build-up in that area. However, sleeping on the AS3 mattress made me feel completely pressure-free.
AS3 by Amerisleep also makes an excellent choice for sleepers with environmental allergies. This model uses Bio-Pur foam, which is considered safer than regular foam. Why? Because it’s less prone to attracting dust mites or growing mold. I also appreciate that the AS3 comes with a removable cover. It makes cleaning much easier, allowing allergy-prone sleepers to prevent allergen build-up without that much effort.
Read our full Amerisleep AS3 mattress review for more information.
Best Cal King Mattress for Heavy Couples — Winkbeds
- extra-firm variation to offer reliable support for heavier individuals;
- thick pillow-top for enhanced cradling and pressure relief;
- strong perimeter support to offer more sleeping space.
The Winkbeds deserves its place on this list of the best California King beds due to its versatility. There’s an option to suit almost anyone’s needs, so just knowing yours is enough—they've got the rest covered.
The coil system, which serves as the base of the mattress, is divided into several zones. The number of zones varies depending on the model, but here’s the idea:
No matter what position you sleep in, your body weight is evenly distributed throughout the mattress, helping your spine to maintain a correct and relaxed position.
The mattress comes in four firmness options: Soft, Luxury Firm, Firm, and Plus. The latter is designed especially for people weighing 300 pounds and above. This means it can withstand larger loads for a long time without sagging. Plus, it is quite firm, but heavier sleepers will feel it as a comfortable level of 6–7 out of 10.
Thus, the Winkbeds is a great Cal King mattress for heavyy couples, as well as for most sleepers out there, due to the range of options and an overall balanced feel.
Read our full Winkbeds mattress review for more information.
Best for Stomach Sleepers — Zoma
- ventilated cover for improved breathability during sleep;
- Triangulex gel foam to create a cooler sleeping environment;
- zoned comfort layer for adaptive, pinpoint pressure release.
For users who love to sleep on their stomach, this California king mattress by Zoma might just be the right fit. With targeted tension alleviation through a zoned comfort layer, high levels of relaxation and proper spinal alignment is attained. The Zoma comes with a zoned comfort layer, which results in high comfort levels and proper spinal alignment. And that, in its turn, leads to tension-free rest. And here’s the coolest part - because the top layer is so adaptive, it works equally well in different scenarios. For example, my wife and I have different sleeping styles, but we both felt proper weight distribution when testing the Zoma mattress.
Now, you might also appreciate the fact that this mattress is very reasonably priced. Therefore, even if you opt for a larger Cal King, you won’t have to strain your budget. Having said that, I would also like to mention that the Zoma’s price tag does not affect its quality. This mattress feels rather robust and should last you for a long time.
Read our full Zoma mattress review for more information.
Our Methodology - Why I Picked These Mattresses
These mattresses, like the Puffy, have been chosen based on several factors I consider to be crucial for a mattress to perform well in the long run, especially for Cal King mattresses. In my methodology, I look at the feel and overall quality and contents of the mattress, its sinkage, and how well it isolates motion. The feel and firmness of a mattress are super important, especially for larger Cal King sizes, as a mattress with a high-density core will last longer. I examine each layer, test its firmness, and lie in different positions to see how well I’m supported.
Sinkage is also important too, as this plays a role in how comfortable a mattress is, and how much relief it can provide to pressure points. I test sinkage with two different weight categories to get a better idea of how the mattress will feel for light-weight sleepers and average-weight sleepers. Sinkage also ties in with motion isolate, which I test using a glass of water, and movement on the mattress.
How Did California King Beds Appear?
The California King is the only location-driven bed name in America so far..
But there are no kings in California, right?
Let’s find out.
Historically, before World War II, most beds in America were either Twin or Full. Larger beds known as King and Queen were introduced to the public by two major furniture producers — Sealy and Simmons — in the 1960s. Simmons, at the same time, was making a separate kind of beds for celebrity mansions of the West Coast, labeling them as Western King. These beds were 72” x 84”, while the regular (Eastern) King beds measured 76” x 80”.
Western King mattresses became so popular on the West Coast that they remained as the standard bed size up until the 1980s.
When other retailers began to offer 72” x 84” mattresses all over America, they had to name them California King in order to avoid confusion with regular King beds (1).
What Are the Main Differences Between King and California King Mattresses?
That was a little bit of history, but now let’s get back to modern times now.
Today, California King mattress dimensions are 72” x 84”, which makes this size the longest available on the market to date. At the same time, the regular King measures 76” x 80” and is currently the widest mattress available (2).
If you have a King bed, there’s an easy way to imagine the approximate size of a Cal King one. Just take 4 inches off your King’s width and add it to the length instead.
Of course, the difference in dimensions has both advantages and drawbacks. Let me explain them below.
Pros and Cons of California King Mattresses Explained
Both King and California King are excellent choices for couples. But the latter has one significant advantage: it is suited for people whose height is more than 6 feet. So, if you or your partner are considerably tall or you like to stretch out in your bed, the extra 4 inches of the mattress length may just be exactly what you need for a relaxing sleep.
Now, there’s a common misconception about the California King mattresses:
Some believe that since they are “irregular” in length, choosing bed sheets might become a serious problem.
This might have been an issue. Decades ago.
But today, manufacturers offer different types of sheets and other bedding items in various sizes, including the popular Cal King size.
To me, the only significant drawback of California King mattresses is that they have a less width for one person — 36’’ compared to 38’’ in the regular King bed — and surface area overall.
Here, let me do the math for you here:
For King, 76 x 80 equals 6,080 square inches of total area. And for Cal King, 72 x 84 equals 6,048 square inches of total area.
The gap might not seem so drastic, but in some cases, it can make a significant difference.
Now, regarding the price range, both King and California King are the most expensive options on the mattress market. Yet, I have found that most manufacturers have the same price for both of these sizes. Overall, for low-cost models, you’re looking at around $400, with prices reaching as high as $4,000 for top-rated options.
Who Is Cal King Most Suitable For?
Now, if you’re having trouble choosing between the King vs California King mattress, you’ll be in the favor of the latter if:
- you or your partner are more than 6 feet tall;
- your pets sleep with you, on or in your bed;
- your bedroom’s dimensions require a mattress that is narrower than a regular King.
And that’s not all:
For couples who have different preferences concerning their perfect sleeping surface, some manufacturers even offer split King and Cal King sizes in the same mattress.
“Split” means your mattress comes in two different twin-sized pieces. Thus, you can pick the firmness and the materials suitable exactly for you. And your partner can do the same.
Another benefit of getting a split Cal King mattress is the excellent motion isolation during sleep. When sharing a bed with your partner, you surely want to feel as little of their movement as possible to sleep well throughout the night. And split options allow for exactly that.
Plus, they are easier to move around, which is a great bonus when it comes to moving to another house.
Types of Available Mattress Materials You Can Choose From
Today’s market has a huge variety of mattress models for every taste. When it comes to a suitable range of materials, you will most likely be choosing from the options listed below.
One of the most affordable choices, it features a block of coils inside and mostly just one thin comfort layer on top. The number and flexibility of coils determine how well the mattress will help you maintain the correct spinal position during sleep.
For fans of a firmer and bouncier feel, this could be the perfect option. It is worth noting that along with that comes poor motion isolation, and, for heavier users, a tendency for the springs to rust and start making squeaky sounds over time. Not ideal in a shared apartment, or unit block where you share a wall.
It’s also worth mentioning that spring mattresses usually have sturdy, reliable edges. This can give you even more sleeping space (in case you want to use 100% of your Cal King mattress’s surface).
The construction of this kind of mattress may include several layers of foam of different density, which balance each other out, creating a comfortable and supportive overall feel.
If you like sinking into your bed a little, this is the material for you. Something to be aware of when choosing foam beds is that they are often made from petroleum and have a closed-cell structure. This can eventually lead to excessive moisture and mold.
Polyfoam is a bit more responsive than memory foam, so such mattresses will be less likely to make you feel stuck. However, keep in mind that foam models can lead to heat retention and thus, often make users sleep hot.
Memory foam is a type of foam that is less resilient and more elastic than other types of foam. It’s an excellent choice for side sleepers, as the mattress can gently hug your body and cradle your shoulders, hips, and other pressure points. However, if you choose a firmer model, it would work great for sleeping on the back or stomach. Memory foam effectively adapts to the body curves and aids proper weight distribution regardless of your sleeping style.
At the same time, this material is known for its ability to trap body heat. Some manufacturers manage to prevent this issue by infusing the foam with cooling gel particles. There is also open-cell foam available, which is more breathable than regular foam and thus, sleeps cooler in most cases.
Latex mattresses are a more eco-friendly and natural alternative. They are known to maintain better air circulation inside the layers and effectively withdraw body heat, preventing you from sleeping hot. Plus, latex is bouncy and more resilient. It’s hard to find any significant drawback about it except for the higher price and that its bouncier feel simply might not appeal to you.
That being said, the higher price point can be somewhat justified by the increased lifespan latex mattresses typically offer.
A hybrid mattress combines two or more of the aforementioned materials (usually, pocketed coils for the support base and either foam or latex for comfort layers). This allows it to eliminate the drawbacks and reinforce the benefits of each material. It’s an excellent option for someone who is looking for a more balanced feel. Note that hybrids are usually more expensive than other types.
These mattresses have an extra layer on top, which is sewn onto the mattress. It is often made of microfiber or soft foam fillers, as well as wool, and sometimes even feathers. This is used to provide a more luxurious look and feel. A pillowtop can also enhance the overall comfort of your bed.
How Much Would a California King Mattress Cost?
On average, California King mattress prices range from around $900 to $3,000.
However, the final price would depend on many different factors. They include the mattress type, the included warranty, whether users shop online or in stores, brand’s reputation, any extras (such as cooling components), and more.
Shopping at a Store vs Shopping Online
For some people, shopping is a way to have a social time with family and friends, while others panic as soon as they hear the word.
Since a mattress is quite a significant investment that involves spending not only your hard-earned money but also your time, I decided to clarify the pros and cons of online and offline shopping to help you choose how best to make that investment.
So, with online shopping, you can:
- shop sitting in your pajamas from the privacy of your own home;
- read reviews and research available options to make an informed decision;
- “visit” a large number of stores within a short amount of time;
- do this at any time, even late at night, as online stores are never closed.
As a bonus, online shopping gives you access to a large number of promotions and discounts, especially if this is your first order.
- you can’t test or feel the item you’re going to buy.
- if you want to buy pillows, blankets, toppers, and other bedding items along with the mattress, implying they all come from different online stores, you might end up spending some serious money on delivery;
- it’s harder to make sure that you’re buying an original product.
Do not forget that shops receive your email after you make an order, so don’t be surprised to get spammy emails flooding into your inbox.
Now, when buying a mattress offline or physically in stores, you can:
- talk with a consultant about the model you are interested in;
- test the product yourself without relying on random or even fake reviews;
- have an easy return process, as you will know exactly where to go for help.
- it’s time and energy-consuming;
- the prices in retail stores are usually much higher;
- not all stores have a great range of items to choose from.
In general, the choice of the appropriate type of shopping depends on you and your personal preferences. For example, if you are already familiar with the manufacturer and only want to replace your mattress with a newer model, then making an online purchase can be an ideal option.
And if you are ready to spend time thoroughly testing the models presented at the stores, then offline/in-store shopping is what you need.
What to Consider When Shopping for a Cal King Mattress?
Now, before making your purchase, please consider the tips I have gathered for you below.
- Room measurements and bed frame size.
This is a useful step whatever the size of your mattress. But as Cal king is the largest one and will take up quite a lot of space, I suggest that you measure twice.
The ideal room size would be 10 x 12 feet.
Shopping itself is quite a stressful thing, and the availability of discounts and hot deals might often make you feel the urgency to click the “Order” button right away. But that’s just a marketing move. So, calm down and take time to make sure your desired bed will fit into your bedroom.
- Space around the bed.
Just making measurements is, in fact, only half of the process. It is also important to analyze how much space will be left around the bed and make sure that the bed itself does not engulf the entire room. Leaving 25–30 inches of space on each side is considered optimal.
Now, don’t forget about the nightstands. Their size impacts the amount of space around the bed too. Note that you should also have a gap of at least 2 inches between the bed and the nightstand to separate the furnishing.
Now, if you get a one-piece California King bed, you should also consider how you will bring it into the room. Mattresses of such width cannot always fit through narrow staircases. Plus, they are usually rather heavy, so you might want to use the help of friends, relatives, or removalists. If it’s not possible, then consider buying a split California King mattress instead.
- Terms of the trial period and the return policy.
Sometimes you buy a mattress, sleep on it for a few weeks, only to realize that it isn’t exactly what you wanted.
That’s where a sleep trial comes in.
Today, most online mattress companies offer a trial period during which you can return your new mattress and get a full refund if you’re not completely satisfied.
Each mattress company provides slightly different conditions (3), which is why it’s important to get familiar with the terms offered by the particular company you are considering.
Note that after the trial period is over, you can return a mattress or get it replaced only if it happens to be defective. This is called a warranty. Similar to trials and returns, a warranty also comes with particular rules and limitations, so it’s worth reading and understanding how it works.
- Motion transfer (for partnered sleep).
Since California King is slightly narrower than standard King, this mattress size would offer less sleeping space for partnered sleepers. And when two users sleep closer to each other, they are more likely to feel each other’s movements. That’s why it might be a good idea to check out California King mattresses that do not transfer shock from motion that much.
Memory foam models are the best in terms of motion isolation, which is why they are favored by couples. Polyfoam might also do the trick, even though it’s a bit more resilient. Users may also want to consider hybrid mattresses, but only the models that come with extra-thick comfort layers (foam, preferably).
- Bedding accessories.
Shoppers need to keep in mind that a California King mattress would require special bedsheets and other accessories. This might mean extra expenses, especially for those users who are upgrading from a Queen or a King to California King. Therefore, when planning their shopping budget, users need to account for the accessories as well.
- Firmness level.
This aspect is extremely important, as the firmness of the mattress can affect two things: comfort and back health. A good mattress has to allow for just enough sinkage for the protruding body parts while keeping the spine neutral and properly aligned. That’s why shoppers should pick the mattress firmness in accordance with their sleeping style and body weight.
For average side sleepers, softer mattresses are a better choice. Back sleepers are recommended to give their preference to medium models. And stomach sleepers usually feel the best sleeping on firm mattresses. For petite individuals (less than 130 pounds), it may be a good idea to go one step softer for each sleep position to prevent painful pressure points. And for heavier users (more than 230 pounds), it’s better to pick slightly firmer mattresses for each sleeping style to get adequate support.
A neutral sleep environment is one of those factors that can contribute greatly to one’s sleep quality. And it’s especially important for partnered sleepers sharing a California King mattress. This size is narrower than King, which means partners are going to sleep closer to each other. Naturally, they will be likely to feel warmer because of that.
To achieve cooling during the night, shoppers may want to consider breathable mattresses such as innerspring or hybrid models. Latex can also work for hot sleepers. This material does not envelop the body that much and thus, does not trap heat.
As for memory foam fans, they need to be careful. It might be a good idea to choose gel-infused or open-cell foam. The former can draw the excess heat away and lock it inside the gel particles. As for open-cell foam, it has small air channels and allows for improved air circulation during the night. As a result, this foam type is more breathable and sleeps cooler.
California King is one of the largest standard sizes available. Naturally, mattresses in this size cost more. To protect such an investment, shoppers are advised to pick models that use quality materials.
If it’s foam, it has to be dense. Low-density models tend to start sagging much sooner.
For hybrid mattresses, it’s crucial to pay attention to the coil gauge. A lower gauge number would mean thicker coils that will be likelier to last longer.
Latex mattresses are usually the most durable ones. This is why they can be very expensive.
As for innerspring mattresses, they usually have the shortest lifespan compared to other types.
- Edge support.
Because California King is narrower than regular King, it offers a bit less sleeping space.
This can sometimes be an issue for couples who require more space between them (for instance, those who enjoy sleeping like starfish). Limited space width-wise can also be problematic for larger partnered sleepers who occupy more of the sleeping surface.
Whatever the case is, a California King mattress that has strong edges can offer more space.
Now, innerspring models are famous for their reliable edge support. Hybrid mattresses also perform very well in this scenario.
As for foam and latex mattresses, they usually have weak edges, which means they offer even less sleeping space. Firmer models may deliver slightly stronger edge support, but firm mattresses don’t work for all sleepers.
What is the difference between a King and a California King mattress?
The Standard King mattress is 76” x 80”, and the California King mattress is 4 inches narrower and 4 inches longer, thus measuring 72” x 84”.
California King sized mattresses have quite a few features that should certainly be considered before you make a purchase. But my key piece of advice is this: Choose products from well-known brands that provide a trial period, allowing you to check whether the mattress is right for you.
Above, I have collected the best models available in today’s market. And I’m sure at least one of them has appealed to you. As for me, I would choose the Puffy mattress without doubting for a moment. This quality-made California King mattress relieves pressure fast and alleviates tendon instantly. It also has firm core support for better weight distribution.
What about you? Which criteria are the most important for you when it comes to choosing a new mattress? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below!
- Mary Ann Hogan (1994, March 26). California King’s Reign Stops at the State Line. Retrieved from https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-1994-03-26-hm-38579-story.html
- Melanie Shebel (2020, February 21). The Difference Between California King and King Sized Mattresses. Retrieved from https://dengarden.com/interior-design/Difference-Between-King-and-California-King
- Ron Lieber (2016, September 16). Buying a Mattress Online Was Easy. Now, About the Return. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/17/your-money/buying-a-mattress-online-was-easy-now-about-the-return.html
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