Photos and Review by Oyster.com Investigators.
Like staying at a beach cottage
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. This sense of stylish charm was only heightened after renovations to the lobby and restaurant were completed in 2013. Featuring a cool, organic color palate of cream, sky blue, and light wood, the spaces 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.
Extensive and highly personalized service; every staff member acts as a concierge.
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.
The Oceana sits on 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., but that doesn't mean it's on the beach.
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.
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.
Few child-specific features or services, but big rooms and an easygoing atmosphere make it a fine place to bring the kids
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.
Cozy and Clean
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.
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.