This hotel has undergone significant renovations since our visit.
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An urbane oasis on Santa Monica Bay, Casa del Mar boasts opulent rooms, a full-service spa, and perhaps it's greatest asset -- prime beach frontage.
At Casa de Mar, the beach is never far.
"If these rooms could talk!" the Casa del Mar website shouts, bragging about the hotel's origin as a flapper-era beach house. Careful what you ask for. Although it opened in 1926 as "the grandest beach club of them all," for three decades Casa del Mar was identified with the infamous drug rehab cult Synanon, which used the building as its headquarters and treatment center. During the 1980s it was home to diet guru Nathan Pritikin and his Pritikin Longevity Center. With a $50 million makeover in 1999, the former rehab center got its own rehab and reopened as a luxury hotel. Now it's as opulent as its first incarnation, if not more. Because the original interior had been gutted, the developers recreated the look and feel of the 1920s from scratch, mixing Mediterranean and California Mission details, making the place feel more like a posh club than a hotel.
Only one other Los Angeles area hotel has real estate right on the sand, and that's Casa's sister hotel Shutters next door. Casa exploits its prime beach views with 20-foot-high windows in the 2nd-floor lobby lounge bar -- a favorite spot for filmmakers, advertising execs, and other creative types who like to cut business deals here. The rooftop pool and Jacuzzi, which replaced the original indoor Olympic-size pool, also face the sea and the Santa Monica Pier. About half of the large, luxurious rooms also have water views. Simply put, Casa del Mar has the best hotel beachfront in Los Angeles. Shutters may also have lovely rooms, a spa, and doting service, but its stuffy ground-level lobby and lounge can't match the feel of being at Casa del Mar.
While it's hard to beat staying on the beach, guests will notice one downside. Santa Monica is a city, which means that in the summer the beaches are swarming with Angelinos escaping the stifling inland heat. The beaches closest to the pier -- and to the Casa del Mar-- tend to be the most popular. Plus, the Strand bike path and former muscle beach area in front of the hotel tend to attract the homeless and runaways who flock to Santa Monica and Venice during the winter. However, the hotel is designed to put some distance between guests and the beach. A grand beach-level entrance was replaced by a conference room, and the colonnade outside, which used to spill onto a sea-level esplanade, is now gated.
A full-service hotel, and a staff that does the job well
The staff is attentive, yet laid-back.
The Casa del Mar staff are keenly aware of privacy. When you need them they are there for you, and when you don't, they stay out of your way. The doorman, concierge, bellhop, front desk staff are all attentive, although in keeping with local custom, also a bit laid-back.
- Twice-daily housekeeping, with evening turndown
- 24-hour concierge
- 24-hour room service
- Some rooms have in-room fax and other business machines
- Free shoeshine
- Free limo service for transportation within the Santa Monica area
- Cottage gift shop in the lobby
So close to the beach that you can walk out the door without shoes
Casa del Mar and its neighbor Shutters, both owned by the same company, are the only hotels in the L.A. metropolitan area that are literally on the beach, with no boardwalk or roadway between guests and the sand.
- Bicycle nirvana! The Strand bike path runs 22 miles from Temescal Canyon to Redondo Beach.
- Santa Monica Pier, with its Ferris wheel, video game arcade, and carnival-style amusements is a 10- to 15-minute walk.
- Main Street stores and restaurants are just a few blocks away.
- Pedestrian-only Third Street Promenade, with shops and restaurants, is about a 20 minutes walk uphill; might want to drive.
- Venice Beach, with skateboarders, surfers, and hip restaurants, is a five- to 10-minute drive (or longer stroll down the beach).
- 25- to 30-minute drive to Rodeo Drive and Beverly Hills, with high-end shopping and swanky mansions
- 30- to 45-minute drive to Universal Studios Hollywood theme park
- 30- to 45-minute drive to Hollywood Boulevard, the Walk of Fame, and Grauman's Chinese Theatre
- 30- to 45-minute drive to Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)
Spacious rooms with well thought-out details, from the wind up toys to the books on the shelf
The Superior Room
In any other hotel in the area, including neighboring Loews and Le Merigot, Casa del Mar's standard room, called a Superior Room, would be high-end luxury digs. On average Superior Rooms are a whopping 420 square feet (most standard rooms on the beach are 250 to 300 square feet), enough space for an entire family on two double beds, plus a rollaway and a crib if needed. Sixty of the Casa's 129 rooms have full or partial beach views. Among the many nice touches are chenille throws on chairs and book shelves filled with real books, most with ocean themes.
- Extremely comfortable four-poster beds with plush down pillows and 300-thread-count cotton sheets
- Superior room has either two double beds or one king.
- Built-in dressers with plenty of drawers and lots of closet space in case of a long stay
- Free Wi-Fi in all rooms
- Top tech: LG 32-inch plasma TV with premium cable and pay-per-view movies; some channels are HD; iPod player
- White Italian Calacata marble walls and floors in the bathroom
- 10-inch flat-screen TV above the bathroom sink, facing the ultra hydrotherapy bath tub; separate room for toilet
- Bathrooms have a pantry Wellness Chest for guests who forgot to pack a pedometer, sunblock, eye mask, boxers, and "underthings" are all available for a charge.
- Penthouse Suites have a living room with fireplace, formal dining area, and either one or two bedrooms with separate sitting areas.
- The one Presidential Suite has three bedrooms, living and dining rooms, guest bath, bar, mini spa, sauna and separate steam shower.
The elevated pool has stunning views.
The Casa del Mar has more extras than most hotels in Santa Monica, but it's not a full-service leisure resort. Its proximity to L.A. means it caters to business travelers as much as tourists.
- The rooftop pool and Jacuzzi have views of the beach; average size for Santa Monica, but too small for laps.
- Poolside drink service available
- Sea Wellness Spa has four treatment rooms, one couples room, a private hypnotherapy room, a yoga studio, and a fitness room with cardio equipment, weights, and a Kinesis workout machine that looks like a torture rack and requires the help of a trainer.
- Fitness center is free for guests. Training sessions and classic massages available.
- Spa also offers healing sessions with doctors from the Moonview Sanctuary, an Eastern-religion-influenced crisis center headed up by former Time Warner CEO Gerald Levin.
- Business center on the 3rd floor is just two computers and a printer.
- The Colonnade Ball Room on the ground floor is used for weddings and business meetings as large as 300 people.
- The Board Room and Crimson Room on the 2nd floor are for meetings of up to 30 people each.
A city beach with life guards, lots of sand, and gentle surf
The wide stretch of sand on Santa Monica beach
Casa del Mar and its neighbor Shutters are the only Santa Monica hotels that are truly on the beach. Though it looks like open ocean, Santa Monica Bay is just that, a sheltered bay. The small waves are great for beginning surfers, and the water temperature is warmest in September and October. However, the water sometimes smells acrid as a result of L.A.'s enormous pollution. Plus, as a city beach, the area attracts its share of vagrants -- especially in the winter -- and an oddball mix of bodybuilders and rank musclemen who swing from a nearby jungle gym -- the last vestige of Santa Monica's once popular Muscle Beach.
- Beach access is through small side door rather than the original sea-level esplanade, which is gated for security reasons.
- Sister hotel Shutters supplies beach chairs, umbrellas, and boogie boards in the summer, and rents bicycles all year round.
- Sea Wellness spa offers yoga, fitness, and volleyball classes on the beach; leads scenic runs down the Strand, a paved 22-mile long path that covers the bayfront.
- Local surf shops conduct surf classes in the summer.
- Multiple shops near the bike path, independent of the hotel, rent beach gear.
- Beachside snack shops serve fast food.
- During rainy winter months, trash runoff from the streets and algal bloom force periodic beach closures.
- Summer crowds leave lots of trash.
- The city of L.A. provides lifeguards in the summer and early fall only.
- Surf cast fishing is popular, but eating fish from the area is not recommended.
- Santa Monica Pier a few steps away; great for pier fishing
Great place for a family trip; lots of sea and sun, with a few bonuses for the kids
The hotel's own Zoltar the Fortune Teller
- Lobby has an arcade photo booth and Zoltar the Fortune Teller.
- No kiddie pool, but kids are welcome at the regular pool and Jacuzzi, though both are too small for floats
- Lifeguards on the beach in the summer and early fall only
- Rooms feature classic kiddie wind-up toys and kaleidoscopes, which can be purchased; a teddy bear is left on the bed at turndown.
- Cribs are free, rollaways are charged per night, or free in a suite
- Kids menu through room service and from the lobby restaurant
- Beach activity services through Shutters, which provides boogie boards in the summer and bicycle rentals all year round
- Muscle Beach jungle gym and swing set on the beach in front of the hotel attracts a mixed crowd of families and boardwalk loonies
Pet are welcome, as long as they behave.
Unlike many hotels, Casa del Mar doesn't put weight restrictions on visiting dogs and cats. Nor does it charge any up-front fees and ask for a deposit to cover damage. But the animals must be housebroken, and guests must get permission from management in advance. Plus the hotel reserves the right to expel rowdy animals and charge for room damage after the fact.
Despite being on Santa Monica Bay, which often gets socked in with fog, there's not a trace of mold and no sand from the beach anywhere.
Guranteed dramatic views of the sea in all Casa restaurants, and plenty of seafood, naturally
The lobby lounge, a more casual fine restaurant
At Catch Restaurant and Sushi Bar just off the lobby, sushi masters work at a large mother-of-pearl inlaid sushi bar in the center of the room. The excellent restaurant is a favorite lunch site for film business types.
- Dinner at Catch can dent your wallet: A single roll is pricey, and two pieces of medium fatty tuna is much more expensive. The dinner menu features pasta, red meat, and fish, from an English pea ravioli starter to dry aged rib eye to orata. Five iPads loaded with the SmartCellar app are used as sommeliers at Catch. Guests can search over 200 bottles of wine by year, varietal, place of origin, dish that you’re pairing it with and personal taste.
- The Lobby Lounge serves cocktails, sushi, and small plates (it shares a kitchen with Catch), with views of the Pacific through large floor-to-ceiling windows.
- The Palm Terrace, a pool and garden deck for hotel guests only, serves a light menu and drinks.
- 24-hour room service menu with dishes from Catch and the Lobby Lounge.
A true jewel, this historic grand hotel is world-class yet refreshingly unpretentious (unless you count the Hollywood crowd at the popular lobby bar). But there is nothing modest about its spacious elegant rooms, rooftop pool, and commanding location right on the beach -- a rarity in L.A. It's one of the best luxury hotels in town.
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Things You Should Know About Hotel Casa Del Mar
- 1910 Ocean Way, Santa Monica, CA 90405
Hotel is Also (or Was Formerly) Known As
- Casa del Mar
- Casa Del Mar Hotel
- Casa Del Mar Santa Monica
- Deluxe Room
- Ocean View four Bedroom Suite
- Ocean View One Bedroom Suite
- Ocean View Room
- Ocean View Three Bedroom Suite
- Ocean View Two Bedroom Suite
- Palm Terrace Room
- Partial Ocean View One Bedroom Suite
- Partial Ocean View Room
- Partial Ocean View Two Bedroom
- Premier Ocean View Room
- Presidential Suite
- Santa Monica One Bedroom
- Superior Room