When many out-of-towners start California dreamin’, they’re likely imagining the sun, sand, and surf of Santa Monica. From the iconic Santa Monica Pier to the abundant shopping and dining options on the Third Street Promenade, this SoCal jewel has long attracted families, couples, and entertainment-industry heavyweights. The high-end hotels and elegant coastal retreats have also played a major role in luring travelers over the years. And while Santa Monica offers dozens of solid properties to pick from, here are nine that have particularly captured our attention.
1. Casa del Mar
Surprising as it may be, Casa del Mar is one of only two hotels in Santa Monica that are located directly on the beach. This rare, right-on-the-beach real estate is further enhanced by a pool with beach views, full-service spa, and opulent rooms with huge jetted tubs and tasteful decor. Another reason it one-ups other hotels in the area: In 2015, Obama White House designer Michael Smith gave the property a major makeover, resulting in a luxe atmosphere with loads of beachy details. But its story dates back much further than that. Originally built as a glamorous beach club in the 1900s, Casa del Mar has been a place where Hollywood A-listers and well-heeled locals have rubbed elbows for a long time (and now you can join the cool club, too).
2. Oceana Beach Club Hotel
If you’re searching for a Santa Monica hotel that’s a bit less of a high-powered hideaway for Hollywood hotshots, check into the relaxed and intimate Oceana Beach Club Hotel. A small number of rooms (70) means that staff has the time to offer personalized care for each guest. Expect a porter to take your bags upon arrival, a doorman to hold the door, and everyone to be trained to act as a concierge. Plus, rooms are airy and spacious, with homey touches like coffee-table books and potted plants. It’s this sort of welcoming atmosphere that compensates for the lack of on-site amenities (you won’t find a spa here, and expect to walk 10 to 15 minutes to the beach).
3. Hotel Shangri-La Santa Monica
Business travelers, families, and leisure vacationers looking to party and sunbathe will all find something to suit their travel needs at this 70-room property. Originally built in 1939, this historic spot is situated five minutes from the beach by foot and a 10-minute walk from the Santa Monica Pier. Those traveling with children might appreciate the spacious suites with kitchens, and partiers will value the popular rooftop bar featuring frequent DJ sets. The highlight, however, is the chic outdoor pool area, which features wooden decking, stylish black-and-white striped loungers, and classy cabanas.
4. Ocean View Hotel
The name of this property gives itself away a bit. Located across the street from the beach, and within easy walking distance of the Santa Monica Pier, the Third Street Promenade, and several restaurants along Ocean Avenue, it has the best of the destination at its doorstep. Rooms are stylish, and some have furnished balconies with water views. Other features you might not get from the title: Family-owned and eco-conscious, the boutique hotel, which was built in 1994 and renovated in 2014, exudes a calm, beachy vibe, with soothing blues, earthy browns, and futuristic-looking silvers.
5. Shutters on the Beach
The 198-room Shutters on the Beach is a lot of things, but intimate is not one of them. Celebrity sightings (previous guests have included Dave Chappelle, John Cusack, and Sarah Michelle Gellar), luxe amenities (a well-regarded spa, pool, and popular restaurants included), and beautiful rooms are all part of the package here. And as the name implies, it’s located directly on the beach (Casa del Mar is the only other Santa Monica hotel that can stake claim to this). Plus, the hotel’s stylish design can be attributed to Michael Smith, whose portfolio includes the Obama White House. All of this is a roundabout way of saying expect to pay top-dollar if you want to rest your head here for the night.
6. Channel Road Inn - A Four Sisters Inn
Some travelers come to Santa Monica to soak up the swanky celebrity culture, while others visit for a glimpse at the destination’s quieter, quainter side. If you fall in the latter camp, book a stay at Channel Road Inn – A Four Sisters Inn, a charming Colonial Revival property that dates back to 1910. Lovingly restored and transformed into a bed-and-breakfast, the property provides a homey atmosphere and period details, like an oak front door and a fireplace featuring vintage Batchelder tiles. The cozy country-house vibe also spills into the guest rooms, some of which house period fireplaces or private porches. To top it off, each stay includes a complimentary breakfast buffet, plus free wine, snacks, and freshly baked cookies in the afternoons, and free coffee, tea, and soda available 24 hours a day in the dining room.
7. Fairmont Miramar Hotel & Bungalows
Santa Monica’s Fairmont Miramar has been catering to Tinseltown bigwigs for years -- past guests, including Greta Garbo, Marilyn Monroe, and Fleetwood Mac, were likely all drawn to its privacy, beauty, and convenient location. But plenty of non-famous privacy-seekers find what they’re looking for here, too. The five-acre hotel lies a short walk from the Santa Monica Pier and Third Street Promenade, and secluded bungalows and head-high hedges shield it from the street. High-end and conspicuous doesn’t mean ostentatious or uptight, though -- the hotel’s lobby, pool deck, and restaurant all have a laid-back vibe and staff are warm and welcoming.
8. Wyndham Santa Monica At The Pier
Among the many things this hotel has going for it is its location, location, location. Guests can easily walk to the Santa Monica pier, the beach, and a number of shopping spots and eateries. The heated outdoor pool is another plus, as is the open-concept restaurant and bar. Rooms are modern and clean and the overall atmosphere is upbeat and easygoing -- both of which draw a mix of couples, families, and business travelers.
9. Shore Hotel
While some of Santa Monica’s properties are grand and traditional, others, like Shore Hotel, are modern and sleek, with an eco-friendly design. In addition to being ideally located near the Santa Monica Pier and Third Street Promenade, the hotel is LEED Gold-certified thanks to its use of recycled materials and energy-efficient technologies. The rooms, which feature private balconies, plus the courtyard pool don’t hurt either.
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