Hotel Erwin Rating: 3.0 Pearls
Beaches - Santa Monica and Venice, Los Angeles, California

Oyster Review Summary

Photos and Review by Oyster.com Investigators

Pros

Cons

  • No pool or spa
  • Breakfast and dinner only at on-site restaurant
  • Room service available only when restaurant is open
  • Long lines at check-in and checkout
  • Pricey valet parking

Bottom Line

An eccentric 119-room hotel for budget-conscious travelers that's an easy walk to Venice Beach and plays off the area's hippie-centric history. It doesn't quite live up to the laid-back image it projects -- the lobby is a zoo -- but it does have unexpectedly large rooms and remarkably comfortable beds (evidence of a multimillion-dollar renovation in 2009) in a neighborhood with very few hotels.

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 Scene

Popular with Europeans, underground bands, and beach-goers who don't require fancy frills

The lobby
The lobby

Built in 1975, the Erwin (which was named after its first owner) is now a member of Joie de Vivre, a 35-hotel chain that operates hotels up and down the California coast and completed a six-month, $3.1 million refurbishment of this property's guest rooms, penthouse suite, business and fitness centers, rooftop lounge, and lobby) in July 2009. Rooms are pleasantly large and generally comfortable (though bathrooms don't look rehabbed); staff members are courteous, but don't seem highly trained. And the Erwin lacks key amenities (pool, spa, restaurant that serves lunch, 24-hour room service). Plus, it's short on small-property coziness, and can attract shady-looking characters. The hotel installed new carpets and updated some of the common spaces again in 2012.

Entering the Erwin, you're likely to bump up against as many tattoos, piercings, skateboards, surfboards, and electric guitars as you are guests. L.A. tattoo artist Norm created the new mural in the refurbished semicircular driveway, and framed photos of '60s and '70s folk, rock, and R&B legends (Joni Mitchell, Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Wonder) line the hallways.

The Erwin doesn't have an astounding amount to offer (audible street sounds, no pool, no spa, tiny fitness center). Those looking to spend their time catching waves may not mind everything that's lacking, especially given the reasonable room rates; those who prefer a quieter scene and more amenities -- and are willing to pay about $100 a night extra for them -- should consider driving five miles north to the Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel or Le Merigot, both of which have a pool, spa, 24-hour room service, and are situated more directly on the beach.

 Service

Somewhat limited services at this unpretentious, beachy hotel

Hotel maintenance staff
Hotel maintenance staff

Affable parking valets do triple duty as doormen and porters; waitstaff is cheery; and front desk clerks are patient but overwhelmed. The tone is Californian casual: Swamped staffers wear nametags handwritten in bright markers, and there's a bowl of lollipops at the front desk. Just don't expect much in the way of personal attention.

  • Room service, but only during breakfast and dinner hours
  • Cocktails and snacks at High rooftop lounge with waitress service
  • Hotel can arrange in-room massages, facials, manicures, and pedicures through Spa Connections.
  • Laundry and dry cleaning services available
  • Valet parking is pricey

 Location

The Erwin is a five-minute walk to famed Venice Beach, but directly on a well-traveled four-lane thoroughfare.

The Erwin sits on Pacific Avenue, the main north-south drag in Venice, about two blocks inland from the well-known beach itself (surfer-dude central); a wide boardwalk chock-full of street performers and snack shops; and a path for bicyclists and rollerbladers.

  • Slightly more than two blocks from the beach
  • Less than a 15-minute walk to hip Abbot Kinney shops, restaurants, galleries, and cafes
  • 25-minute drive to Rodeo Drive/Beverly Hills in traffic
  • 30-minute drive to Hollywood Boulevard/Grauman's Chinese Theatre in traffic
  • 90-minute drive to Universal Studios in traffic
  • 20-minute drive to Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)
  • Minor to moderate street noise
  • Safety can be a concern along Pacific Avenue at night, especially for women walking alone.

 Rooms

Big rooms with surprisingly comfortable beds, but no major luxuries

The Deluxe Partial Ocean View Room
The Deluxe Partial Ocean View Room

A thorough renovation in July 2009 has left the large (400- to 425-square-foot) and airy standard rooms (some with ocean views) well-appointed with comfortable mattresses and bedding, flat-panel TVs, and a lot of fun details, including a curved, stainless steel shower rod, a black, tiered table lamp with "The Erwin Est. 1975" printed on it, and lightweight, green, leopard-print robes from Boca Terry. That said, some will be put off by the self-consciously unusual decor, which can combine swirly-print bedspreads with large polka-dot-print sheer curtains and a closet door mural of two naked Asian girls waist-deep in water surrounded by flowers, courtesy of Blik, a local graphics company. In 2012, the hotel replaced carpets in all rooms and added a new suite -- the Red Bull Dogtown Suite -- catering especially to surfers and skateboarders with deep pockets. The design is quirky and the space is expansive, but not many can afford the very un-Dogtownish rates.

 Features

On-site extras are few and far between.

The gym
The gym

Venice Beach, slightly more than two blocks away, is the Erwin's best bonus, but the hotel doesn't rent beach paraphernalia.

  • Countertop business center in dingy corridor off lobby with two Mac desktops, two stools, and a printer; charged per 20 minutes, but front desk will often give guests first 20 minutes free.
  • Very small, gloomy fitness center next to computers
  • Laundry and dry cleaning services
  • No pets allowed

 Beach

The Erwin sits a little more than two blocks away from a stretch of sand more than 100 yards wide.

Although the sea sometimes smells acrid as a result of the enormous pollution Los Angeles generates, the rolling waves at Venice Beach are a magnet for surfers.

  • Sand extends gradually into the water -- ideal for swimming or boogie-boarding (though runoff can be a concern).
  • Lifeguard stations at regular intervals along the beach during summer and early fall
  • Venice bike path runs along the beach, drawing cyclists and rollerbladers.
  • Street performers including mimes, jugglers, musicians, fortune-tellers, and a man who walks on glass entertain tourists in sideshow fashion along Oceanfront Walk.
  • Multiple vendors along Oceanfront Walk rent beach gear. (Hotel Erwin doesn't.)
  • Beachside snack shops serve fast food.
  • Public-use volleyball nets and showers
  • Crowds and litter can amass, particularly in summer.

 Family

Venice Beach is nearby, but no pool or family-centric vibe here

Restaurant's menu includes kid-friendly options
Restaurant's menu includes kid-friendly options

The Erwin isn't particularly family oriented, but hang-ten teenagers and sand-castle-building youngsters may like staying steps from Venice Beach. But the absence of a pool and presence of skaters, surfers, and indie musicians -- in short, a pretty hard-partying clientele -- plus a bar named High might turn parents off.

  • No pool
  • 10 adjoining rooms
  • Restaurant and room service have kid-friendly options including PB&J, chicken strips, mac and cheese, plain pasta, and s'mores.
  • Free cribs and space to use them, even in rooms with two queen beds
  • Hotel periodically offers Family Suite Adventure package where kids stay free and get a custom keycard, special amenity, and milk-and-cookie turndown

 Cleanliness

Though renovated in 2009 and looking fairly new, the Erwin already shows minor scuffs and signs of wear and tear.

The Erwin basically feels fresh, but the lobby sofa has visible stains. In the Partial Ocean View Queen Room, the new sink cupboard sparkles, while the tub/shower/toilet area is clean, but doesn't look newly updated. Several hallways feel like sterile college dorms; and the indoor section of Hash restaurant had a fly infestation during breakfast.

In 2012, the hotel completed minor renovations, installing new carpet and waterproofing windows.

 Food

Informal restaurant with surprisingly high prices, especially for a menu this limited and mediocre

Hash restaurant
Hash restaurant

Barlo, the Erwin's one option, isn't open for lunch. Across Pacific Avenue, Seed macrobiotic restaurant cooks up tasty, moderately priced sandwiches and salads during the day. For more dining choices, cruise Ocean Front Walk for boardwalk fare or head over to Abbot Kinney for healthier alternatives.

  • Lobby-level Barlo Kitchen + Cocktails restaurant serves cooked-to-order breakfasts (Eggs Norwegian, Country Benedict, and Irish Oatmeal Brule) and dinners (Barlo burgers, pork belly buns, market-price striped fish) -- but not lunch -- in a small indoor-outdoor seating area.
  • On the 7th floor, High outdoor rooftop lounge serves drinks and appetizers nightly and offers cushioned banquettes, heat lamps, and blankets.

 Bottom Line

An eccentric 119-room hotel for budget-conscious travelers that's an easy walk to Venice Beach and plays off the area's hippie-centric history. It doesn't quite live up to the laid-back image it projects -- the lobby is a zoo -- but it does have unexpectedly large rooms and remarkably comfortable beds (evidence of a multimillion-dollar renovation in 2009) in a neighborhood with very few hotels.

Things You Should Know About Hotel Erwin

Address

  • 1697 Pacific Avenue, Venice Beach, CA, 90291, US

Hotel Is Also Known As...

  • Best Western Los Angeles
  • Erwin Hotel Los Angeles
  • Los Angeles Best Western

Room Types

  • Deluxe Partial Ocean View Room
  • Deluxe Room
  • Deluxe Two Room Suite
  • Dogtown Sweet
  • Full Ocean View Two-Room King Suite
  • Partial Ocean View Two Room Suite
  • Premier Ocean View King Room

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Hotel Features

Number of Rooms: 119
Internet: Yes
Cribs: Yes
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Hotel Information

Location: Beaches - Santa Monica and Venice, Los Angeles
Address: 1697 Pacific Avenue, Venice Beach, CA, 90291, US
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