Hotel Oceana Santa Monica Rating: 4.0 Pearls
Beaches - Santa Monica and Venice, Los Angeles, California

Oyster Review Summary

Photos and Review by Oyster.com Investigators

Pros

Cons

  • 15-minute walk to the beach
  • No spa; small fitness center below ground
  • No business center
  • Pricey per day parking
  • Daily fee for Internet and local calls
  • Limited amenities -- no shuttle service, no 24-hour room service

Bottom Line

Small, intimate, and beautiful, this Santa Monica hotel more than compensates for its lack of on-site features -- no spa, a long walk to the beach -- with great design in its large rooms, a welcoming atmosphere cultivated by personal service, and a relaxed, low-key vibe unmatched by its luxury rivals Fairmont Miramar, Shutters on the Beach, and Casa Del Mar.

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Oyster Hotel Review

 Scene

Like staying at a beach cottage

Small and friendly, on Ocean Avenue
Small and friendly, on Ocean Avenue

Many high-end hotels in the Los Angeles beach town of Santa Monica try to recreate the experience of staying at a quiet, personalized beach house. Shutters on the Beach, Casa Del Mar, and the Fairmont Miramar all outfit their rooms as though they were seaside cottages and work to create the relaxed atmosphere of a coastal escape. All three come close, but none get it as right as the Oceana does. Except for the occasional private evening celebration, the small, private hotel feels more like a homey bed-and-breakfast than a high-powered hideaway for Hollywood's elite. Featuring a cool, organic color palette of cream, sky blue, and light wood, the lobby and the restaurant are quietly stunning, inviting guests to relax in a setting that is at once comfortable and effortlessly chic.

With only 63 rooms, the Oceana is the smallest luxury hotel in Santa Monica. The next largest, Casa Del Mar, is almost twice the size. Bustle and bureaucracy are at an absolute minimum here. Although the pool is only slightly smaller than at other hotels, it's tough to find a moment during the day when there are more than 10 people using it. Sure, private parties some evenings can bring in large crowds (singer Gwen Stefani attended one during Oyster's stay), but they're generally calmer affairs than the swanky Miami Beach-style gatherings at the Shangri La or the Huntley. Generally, the pool and the adjacent lounge cater to families and couples who chat idly in the sun.

With fewer guests to please, the staff has time to make each individual feel personally cared for. When you arrive at the Oceana, a porter takes your bags, a doorman holds the door, and both introduce themselves as though welcoming you to a dinner party. Everyone at the Oceana wants you to use their first names, and everyone is trained to act as a concierge -- which means any staffer should be able to help you with just about any issue. The welcoming atmosphere shows most during breakfast at the poolside lounge. Guests walk right in, say hi to the two servers (no hostess stand, no waiting), and grab a seat -- and service begins immediately. The process is effortless.

The Oceana stands apart for more than its friendly atmosphere. The rooms are airy and spacious, with homey touches like coffee table books and potted plants. The three-story building encircles the outdoor pool, and each room has large windows that look out onto the pool deck below.

For all that intimacy and ease, though, there are a few drawbacks. There's no on-site spa (unlike at the Fairmont Miramar, Casa Del Mar, or Shutters), and the small, below-ground fitness center is just adequate. Also, while Shutters and Casa Del Mar offer immediate access to Santa Monica State Beach, getting there from the Oceana requires a 15-minute walk across a street, down a bluff, and across a pedestrian bridge over a highway.

 Service

Extensive and highly personalized service; every staff member acts as a concierge.

The lobby feels more like a living room.
The lobby feels more like a living room.

The array of conveniences here isn't as great as at comparable hotels nearby; the Fairmont Miramar has free shuttle service, for example, and the Oceana doesn't. But at the Oceana, anyone you meet -- from the porter to the doorman to the front desk clerk -- can offer directions, tips, and a friendly smile. Everyone gives their name and remembers guests' names.

  • Food and drink service by the pool
  • 24-hour front desk staff trained to act as full concierges
  • Room service available daily, delivery charge applies
  • Two hotel bikes for guests to borrow; the beach cruisers are free for the first two hours, charged thereafter
  • DVD players aren't standard in their rooms, but the hotel will provide one for free if you ask.
  • Same-day dry cleaning service
  • Daily housekeeping; they change sheets every three days and at checkout (to save water, the hotel says), but guests can ask for more frequent service
  • Free newspapers in the lounge, free delivery on request
  • The hotel arranges basic spa services -- facials, massages, mani-pedis -- through outside companies Spa Connections or Yada Yada Yoga

 Location

In health-conscious, artsy Santa Monica, a 15-minute walk from the beach

The Oceana sits on Ocean Avenue, but that doesn't mean it's on the beach. Santa Monica Beach is actually a 15-minute walk from the hotel -- across the street, down a bluff, across a pedestrian bridge over a highway, and through a parking lot. Ocean Avenue is one of the main drags in Santa Monica; it runs along the shore, atop the beachside bluffs. In Palisades Park, along the west side of the street, locals run, walk their dogs, and do boot-camp exercises with personal trainers. For hotels that are actually on the beach, check out Casa Del Mar and Shutters.

  • 15-minute walk from the Third Street Promenade, a famous pedestrian-only outdoor shopping mall
  • The iconic Santa Monica Pier, with its ferris wheel, video game arcade, and assorted carnival-style amusements, is about a 25-minute walk.
  • 15-minute walk to Santa Monica Beach
  • 10-minute drive to popular Venice Beach
  • Rodeo Drive/Beverly Hills is about 30 minutes by car.
  • Universal Studios, Hollywood Boulevard, and LAX airport are all 30 to 45 minutes by car, depending on traffic.

 Rooms

As comfortable as the rooms at any luxury hotel in Santa Monica -- but homier and larger

Bright and cheery, with thoughtful design touches
Bright and cheery, with thoughtful design touches

The rooms at the Oceana are an enormous 550 square feet, larger than at other Santa Monica hotels. Up-to-date electronics and thoughtful design touches -- coffee table books and potted plants -- hit just the right luxury beach-cottage vibe.

  • Standard rooms have one California king bed or two full-size beds, with 100 percent Egyptian cotton sheets by Chaz Stevens. All beds have super-comfortable Sealy Posturepedic mattresses, plus five pillows.
  • 42-inch plasma HDTVs with the regular assortment of cable channels, plus HBO and on-demand movies
  • iPod docking stations
  • In-room wired and wireless Internet (for a fee); wireless by the pool
  • Large bathrooms with cute decorative touches (mine had red wood trimming around the sink), shower-tub combos, 100 percent Turkish cotton bathrobes and towels by Frette, and Aveda bath products
  • All rooms overlook the pool and hotel grounds; some have ocean views.
  • Suites are 850 square feet; separate living areas have 42-inch Plasma HDTVs; bathrooms have 32-inch HD LCD TVs.
  • Signature suites have balconies with views of the ocean as well as separate tubs and showers.

 Features

Fewer amenities than at other Santa Monica luxury hotels

The pool is rarely crowded.
The pool is rarely crowded.

The Oceana doesn't quite stack up against its luxury neighbors when it comes to on-site amenities. Its fitness center is small, there's really no business center, and there's no on-site spa. For more extensive facilities, check out Casa Del Mar, Shutters, and the Fairmont Miramar.

  • Pool slightly smaller than most Santa Monica hotels but big enough for short laps; rarely crowded during the day, with plenty of padded lounge chairs and umbrellas.
  • Fireplace and waterfall on the pool deck
  • Attentive poolside food and drink service
  • No on-site spa, but hotel arranges in-room treatments from local professionals from Yada Yada Yoga or Spa Connections
  • Small below-ground fitness center has modern equipment by Cybex and Hoist, free weights, and fruit-infused water
  • No real business center; just a free computer in the lobby
  • "Boardroom" is available by reservation for a steep daily fee, plus any catering expenses: Room has Internet access, ocean views, and a 50-inch flat-screen TV for presentations; seats up to 20.
  • Hotel bikes for guests to borrow; free for the first two hours, charged thereafter

 Family

Few child-specific features or services, but big rooms and an easygoing atmosphere make it a fine place to bring the kids

Beach access is a 15-minute walk from the hotel.
Beach access is a 15-minute walk from the hotel.

Although the hotel doesn't do a great deal to cater directly to families, the large rooms and easygoing but highly attentive service make the Oceana a decent place for youngsters. For nearby hotels with more kid-friendly amenities, check out Loews or Casa Del Mar.

  • Not on the beach; the 15 to 20 minute walk can be inconvenient with kids
  • In-room game tables with chess, checkers, backgammon; additional board games available in the lobby
  • Babysitting arrangements through concierge
  • Cribs are free
  • Pullout sofas in some suites
  • Rollaways available for an extra nightly fee

 Cleanliness

Cozy and Clean

The lobby, pool, restaurant, and rooms are all in excellent shape. Housekeeping only changes the sheets every three days, but they'll accommodate requests for additional cleaning.

 Food

Delicious meals are served at Tower 8

Tower 8, the casual on-site restaurant, has a personable staff and large windows with views of the ocean, making it an excellent place to dine. The menu, from local chef and surfer Josiah Citrin, focuses on SoCal cuisine. Ingredients come from local artisans and are routinely purchased at the Santa Monica Farmers Market. For the quality of food, the prices are actually very reasonable.

Room service is available daily; delivery charge applies

 Bottom Line

Small, intimate, and beautiful, this Santa Monica hotel more than compensates for its lack of on-site features -- no spa, a long walk to the beach -- with great design in its large rooms, a welcoming atmosphere cultivated by personal service, and a relaxed, low-key vibe unmatched by its luxury rivals Fairmont Miramar, Shutters on the Beach, and Casa Del Mar.

Things You Should Know About Hotel Oceana Santa Monica

Address

  • 849 Ocean Avenue, Santa Monica, CA 90403

Room Types

  • Deluxe Ocean View Room
  • Deluxe Room
  • Lanai Kitchen Suite
  • Lanai Suite
  • Ocean View Suite
  • One Bedroom Suite
  • Signature Ocean View Suite

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Hotel Features

Number of Rooms: 63
Pool: Yes
Fitness Center: Yes
Internet Access: Yes
Cribs: Yes
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Hotel Information

Location: Beaches - Santa Monica and Venice, Los Angeles
Address: 849 Ocean Avenue, Santa Monica, CA 90403
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