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Beaches - Santa Monica and Venice, Los Angeles
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Oyster Hotel Review
Quiet, luxurious, and steeped in Hollywood history, this is one of Santa Monica's best hotels.
The hotel's entrance
Thanks to its secluded bungalows and head-high hedges that shield it from the street, Santa Monica's Fairmont Miramar has long been a coastal retreat for Los Angeles' entertainment-industry heavyweights. Over the past century, the Miramar has hosted stars from Greta Garbo to members of Fleetwood Mac. More recently, it has served as a location for TV shows like Numb3rs and Project Runway.
What draws Tinseltown players as well as nonfamous guests are privacy, beauty, and a convenient location. The Fairmont Miramar may be the least conspicuous high-end hotel in town. Inside the gates, the lobby's polished marble floors and the manicured grounds evoke the 19-century mansion that once stood here (and was the hotel's original building). Outside the gates, guests can jog along the bluffs at Palisades Park. The Santa Monica Pier is a 15-minute walk away. Shopping at the Third Street Promenade is even closer.
Despite the attention to privacy, the hotel doesn't feel as uptight or ostentatious as renowned A-list hot spot Shutters on the Beach. It's more weekend hideaway than Hollywood hangout, and the lobby, pool deck, and restaurant have a laid-back atmosphere. Guests -- whether families with young kids or couples sunning themselves by the pool -- really seem to relax. Although the Oceana is even more intimate and relaxing, it lacks the Fairmont Miramar's spa facilities and standout fitness center. The Fairmont's staff is friendly and attentive, but not overly formal: As many as five bellmen stand ready to help at the entrance, and the front-desk clerks remember your name. The traditionally decorated rooms, while not as large as some other luxury rooms in town, are opulent yet comfortable.
On the whole, the Fairmont a great place to stay, but a few hotels in the neighborhood have it beat in certain categories. Oceana's standard rooms are more than twice the size, and its service is more personalized. Shutters on the Beach and Casa Del Mar are directly on the beach -- the only Santa Monica hotels that can make that claim.
Doting and friendly, on par with other high-end Santa Monica hotels
The concierge desk is 24 hour.
The attentive staff add thoughtful touches to a broad array of courtesies. The execution is excellent, but doesn't stand out much from what you'll find at similarly priced nearby luxury hotels like Shutters or Casa Del Mar.
- 24 hour room service; a delivery charge and 21 percent gratuity added on
- Free car will take guests anywhere within a three mile radius; operates daily
- Concierge desk open throughout the day
- Twice-daily housekeeping service; turndown includes a bottled water but no other gifts
- Poolside food and beverage service
- Same-day laundry and dry cleaning
- Free fruit-infused water by the pool and in the fitness center
In health-conscious, tourist-friendly Santa Monica, but a 15- to 20-minute walk to the beach
The Fairmont Miramar is in Santa Monica, a beach town known for its carnival-like pier, extensive shopping on the Third Street Promenade, and wide stretch of sand. The hotel sits on the corner of Wilshire Boulevard and Ocean Avenue, but that doesn't mean it's on the beach -- the shore is a 15- to 20-minute walk away. For a luxury hotel right on the beach, check out Casa Del Mar and Shutters. Ocean Avenue runs along the top of the town's beachside bluffs. It's bordered on its west side by Palisades Park, a popular local spot to run, walk dogs, and do boot-camp exercises with personal trainers.
- Two short blocks from famous pedestrian-only Third Street Promenade, with shopping, movie theaters, and restaurants (mostly national chains, but also popular local spots like Geroge's Bistro and Sushi Roku)
- 15-minute walk to iconic Santa Monica Pier, with Ferris wheel, video game arcade, and assorted carnival-style amusements
- 15- to-20-minute walk to beach: down a bluff, across bridge over a highway, and through a parking lot
- Santa Monica is famous for its homeless population, which congregates toward the southern edge of Palisades Park, three or four blocks south of the hotel
- Five- to 10-minute drive to Venice Beach, with skateboarders, surfers, and hip restaurants and coffee shops; because Venice Beach has few nice hotels other than the Erwin, Santa Monica is a good base for exploring the popular town.
- 25- to 30-minute drive to Rodeo Drive/Beverly Hills, with high-end shopping and swanky mansions
- 30- to 45-minute drive to Universal Studios theme park
- 30- to 45-minute drive to Hollywood Boulevard and Grauman's Chinese Theatre
- 30- to 45-minute drive to Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)
Deluxe Ocean View Room
Three separate building types -- bungalows built in 1934, a six-story Palisades wing built in 1936, and a 10-story tower built 1959 -- house a variety of rooms, ranging from 250-square-foot standard rooms to two-story beach bungalows. All of the Fairmont's rooms are beautiful, but standard accommodations are small compared to entry-level rooms at other high-end Santa Monica resorts. Furnished with dark wood dressers, desks, and bed frames, and outfitted with 42-inch TVs, the comfortable accommodations evoke a feeling of traditional luxury. Still, the basic rooms start at only 250 square feet, while standard rooms at the nearby Oceana are more than twice that size.
- The Fairmont room (their standard room) has one king or two double beds -- Frette 100 percent Italian cotton linens (200 thread), feather pillows, and Sealy Posturepedic 700 plush mattress, very plush duvets. They range from 250 to 425 square feet and are located in both the Palisades Wing and Ocean Tower, but lacks ocean views.
- Deluxe rooms are located in the Ocean Tower and provide partial ocean views from their private balconies (meaning there will most likely be palm trees blocking your view). They are 250 square feet and come equipped with either one King or two double beds.
- Deluxe Ocean View rooms are exactly the same as their Deluxe counterparts except that they provide unobstructed views of the water.
- Palisades Suites are 445 to 550 square feet with large separate living area, wet bar, two TVs. They offer one King bed in the bedroom and a pull-out sofa bed in the living area.
- The Palisades Grand Suites are located in the Palisades wing of the hotel and feature "European ambience with dark woods and crown moldings". They range between 720 and 885 square feet, and have one separate bedroom with a King size bed and a pull-out sofa bed in the living area. The bathroom has a separate bath and vanity area, and the rooms come equipped with two flat panel televisions, two telephones, a desk area and wet bar.
- 24 suites in the Palisades Tower were designed by Lynda Murray. Ranging in size from 445 to 785 square feet, these suites have a classic contemporary design in keeping with the rest of the hotel. Relying largely on earth tones with splashes of color throughout, the suites are stylish and spacious.
- Their four Tower Suites are located on the top floor of the 10-story Ocean Tower building. At 485 square feet, they feature separate living areas, two TVs, wet bar, pullout couch, separate shower and bath, and views of the ocean.
- Signature Bungalows, from 305 to 430 square feet, offer either a King or two double beds and are located in the hotel's garden. They have hardwood floors, French windows, an entertainment system and a wet bar. Some Signature Bungalows come with patios, though this will cost you more and is based upon availability.
- Bi-level Bungalows have sofa beds, a sauna in one of two bathrooms, wet bars, in-room fax machines. They range in size between 800 and 850 square feet and feature a private patio on the lower level and a balcony on the upper level, each equipped with patio furniture.
- There is one Bungalow Suite available that, at 575 square feet, can accommodate up to 5 people. It includes one separate bedroom with an attached living room area.
- 42-inch LCD flatscreen TVs with pay-per-view movies, Nintendo games and express checkout
- In-room WiFi is charged per day, but it's fast and reliable.
- Bathrooms, typical size for a Santa Monica hotel room, have shower-tubs -- also typical for the area; ultra-luxe Miller Harris bath products; 100 percent cotton bathrobes and towels.
The Fairmont Miramar has the usual variety of features that you'd expect at a high-end resort -- and most are better than what other Santa Monica luxury hotels offer.
- At 40 by 50 feet, the pool is small, but that's common even at high-end L.A. hotels; quality extras like cushy lounge chairs, a poolside bar, drink service, free fruit-infused water.
- 24-hour fitness center on the 2nd floor isn't especially big, but a skylight and ample windows keep it bright and airy; high-end equipment.
- Exhale Spa, open daily, has the usual lineup -- changing rooms with steam, sauna, lockers, and showers, nail-care salon; standard array of spa treatments.
- The spa's exercise studio runs classes that fuse core conditioning, Pilates, Lotte Berk, and yoga; discounted rates for hotel guests; includes use of spa facilities (no spa day passes available otherwise).
- Small, 24-hour business center has four computers, three printers
; Internet and printing are free; free domestic faxing available at front desk
- 25,000 square feet of meeting space
The hotel is 15- to 20-minute walk away from a miles-long wide stretch of sand.
Santa Monica beach is nearby.
Towering bluffs and the Pacific Coast Highway sit between the Fairmont Miramar and the beach. Beachgoers have to take a path down the bluff, then cross a footbridge above the busy highway before they reach the sand. Although the water smells funky as a result of the enormous pollution Los Angeles generates (on bad days, few would want to swim in it), the waves at Santa Monica's beach are popular with surfers.
- Sand extends deep into the water -- good for bathing or boogie boarding most days
- Lifeguard stations at regular intervals along the beach
- A 22-mile bike path runs along the beach, drawing cyclists and rollerbladers
- Multiple shops, independent of the hotel, rent beach gear.
- Beachside snack shops serve fast food.
- Volleyball nets
- Crowds and litter can amass, particularly in summer.
Good for families, but this is mainly a hotel for grownups
The hotel's family-friendly features are a cut above those at most other Santa Monica hotels, but that's not saying much; most of the town's swank hotels cater to adults. For the best family-friendly hotel in Santa Monica, check out Loews, which will childproof a room in advance and has a good poolside kids' menu, and Casa Del Mar, which is right on the beach and has larger rooms. At the Fairmont:
- Cribs available in certain rooms at no extra charge
- Rollaways are charged per night, standard for Santa Monica.
- Babysitting service can be arranged through concierge.
- Kids' menu at FIG for breakfast and lunch
- Good pool for families with a chest full of floaties and water toys
The Fairmont Miramar extends open arms to any pet.
The hotel's "P.A.W." (Pets Always Welcome) program caters primarily to cats and dogs, but other species are welcome as long as the animals are kept in cages. The hotel doesn't charge any up-front fees or ask for a deposit, although noise complaints or damages will be added to the bill at the hotel's discretion.
- Room service: from Red Meat Small Bites to an eight-ounce filet of beef "cooked to your pet's liking"
- Dogs must be current on all vaccines; guests need to bring copies of vaccination records.
- Potty bags available at concierge
- At check-in, pet gets own bed, bowls, and free treats.
- 10 percent discount for purchases at pet care store Healthy Spot of Santa Monica
- Spa services available for pets
No complaints; very clean
The property is clean throughout; twice-daily housekeeping keeps the rooms spotless.
The food offerings at the Fairmont Miramar are typical for Santa Monica -- tasty but expensive. Fortunately, the Third Street Promenade two short blocks away has some less expensive chain and local restaurants.
- FIG Restaurant serves seasonal dishes that use local ingredients; open for breakfast and lunch every day, dinner Tuesday through Saturday; entrees range from spinach risotto to sonoma rack of lamb.
- Lobby lounge serves lunch, dinner and cocktails; open daily.
- 24 hour room service comes with a =delivery charge and automatic 21 percent gratuity added on.
Luxurious (though small) rooms, an excellent spa, and a devoted staff make this five-acre, 302-room property one of the best hotels in Santa Monica. The Fairmont is not as intimate as the Oceana, and it lacks the direct beachfront of Casa Del Mar. But with beautiful grounds and a laid-back, private vibe, it's an excellent choice nonetheless.
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Things You Should Know About Fairmont Miramar Hotel & Bungalows
- 101 Wilshire Boulevard, Santa Monica, CA 90401
- Bi-Level Bungalow
- Bungalow Suite
- Deluxe Ocean View Room
- Deluxe Room
- Fairmont Room
- Palisades Grand Suite
- Palisades Suite
- Signature Bungalow
- Tower Suite