Part resort, part boutique hotel, the 160-room Bel Air property makes up for its out-of-the-way location with free business and fitness centers, a spa, a tennis court, and huge rooms.
The tasteful and slightly staid lobby
Marry a boutique hotel with a resort, and you get the Luxe Sunset Boulevard in Bel Air. On an out-of-the-way stretch of Sunset Boulevard off Highway 405, this luxury boutique has just 160 rooms, but they're spread over a seven-acre, two-building property with a tennis court, a pool, and a spa. A white van shuttles guests between the main building (which houses the lobby, the restaurant, and some rooms) to the uphill building (more rooms, plus the pool, fitness center, and spa). Travelers who’ve visited the sister property in Beverly Hills, the Luxe Rodeo Drive, may recognize the tastefully comfortable but slightly staid lobby décor -- all muted, warm shades of chocolate brown, beige, and cream, with bookshelves stocked with books curiously wrapped in white paper (so you can’t tell them apart from one another). The big difference between this hotel and the Beverly Hills location is the amount of space: The standard-size room here, at 522 square feet, is over twice as large.
With its expansive, landscaped outdoor patio area, as well as three conference rooms and a 4,500-square-foot ballroom, the Luxe is a popular spot for weddings and conferences. Wedding parties and business travelers take over the hotel almost every weekend, along with college parents in town to visit their kids at nearby UCLA. For vacationers planning to explore the city, the Luxe Sunset’s location in the tony but very residential Bel Air neighborhood renders it a less appealing choice than hotels in livelier areas such as Santa Monica, downtown, or West Hollywood. Hotels in Westwood (the Hotel Palomar, the W) face the same problem, but they have the advantage of being within walking distance of UCLA and Westwood Village.
Travelers who do book here will find they get more than their money’s worth, from the huge rooms with free Wi-Fi and 32-inch flat-screen TVs to the heated outdoor pool and free business center, fitness center, and tennis court. Upon check-in, guests are greeted with a voucher for a free wine or cappuccino. There's nightly turndown service and a free shuttle from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. that drops guests anywhere within a three-mile radius of the hotel (mostly used for visits to Westwood Village and UCLA or the J. Paul Getty Museum).
Seasonal poolside service, but everything else you'd expect from a luxury hotel
Limited poolside service -- one of the few drawbacks
A few of the services are similar to what you'd find at a five-star Beverly Hills hotel -- the nightly turndown service, for example, and the van that drives guests anywhere within a three-mile radius of the hotel. There is food and drink service at the pool — room service orders are delivered there, there is no restaurant — but only in the summer months.
Overnight valet parking
Upon check-in, guests receive a voucher for a free glass of wine or cappuccino at the bar or restaurant.
The Luxe Sunset’s out-of-the-way location off a residential stretch of Sunset Boulevard, in the tony neighborhood of Bel Air, means visitors don't have easy access to the city's dining, nightlife, and shopping hubs -- especially as compared to hotels in downtown L.A., Santa Monica, and West Hollywood. Other than proximity to UCLA and a handful of cultural institutions like the J. Paul Getty Museum, there are not many attractions here -- but the relative calm does provide a nice sense of escape.
The Getty Museum, L.A.'s free, gigantic art museum with a large pre-20th century European collection and impressive photography exhibits, is a 5- to 10-minute drive.
UCLA and the surrounding Westwood Village, a college-focused hub of shops, restaurants, and movie theaters (including the Geffen Playhouse), are also a 5- to 10-minute drive.
The luxury designer boutiques of Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills are a 15-minute drive.
Depending on traffic, it's a 20- to 40-minute drive to Los Angeles International Airport (LAX).
Universal Studios Hollywood is a 15- to 30-minute drive.
Hollywood Boulevard, the Walk of Fame, and the celebrity footprints at Grauman's Chinese Theatre are about a 30-minute drive.
Santa Monica (and its beaches) is a 15- to 30-minute drive.
The rooms are huge -- the smallest are 552 square feet.
The Luxe Sunset Boulevard offers larger rooms than either the W or the Hotel Palomar in Westwood. The restrained interior design, with framed illustrations of seashells and furniture in muted shades of beige and chocolate brown, lends the rooms a more relaxing and sophisticated feel than the brassier, more colorful furnishings at the other two hotels. Disappointments included a paltry 24 cable-TV channels and basic, no-name toiletries.
The 32-inch Digicube flat-screen TVs come with free HBO but a relatively small number of channels overall (24, not counting audio stations). There's also Lodgenet pay-per-view service, with movies, recent TV episodes, and Nintendo 64 games.
Like a mini-resort, the Luxe Sunset Boulevard has space enough over its seven acres for a pool, spa, fitness center, sauna, and tennis court. The similarly priced W and Hotel Palomar, in nearby Westwood, don't have the space to offer as many features -- although the W does have the better spa, Bliss.
Small full-service spa in the uphill building offers massages, body treatments, waxing, manicures, and spa parties, at reasonable rates.
24-hour free business center offers two computers (a Mac and a PC) and a laser printer.
Reservations must be made to use the free tennis court (a hard court with a couple cracks but in decent condition overall). Tennis balls and new Prince racquets are lent out to guests for free. Private hourly lessons with a pro are availabler; or hour-long group clinics.
The free, small fitness center stays fairly dark, except for a little bit of light that comes through glass doors in the back that look out onto a small fenced-in yard with a small sauna.
The fitness center includes a Hoist multipurpose strength-training machine, a Pacific Fitness chest press, a Cybex treadmill, a Life Fitness elliptical, two Startrac exercise bikes, and one StairMaster. The free weights looked chipped and a little worn, but the rest of the equipment was like new.
Just beside the uphill building, the small heated outdoor pool is large enough -- and at the end of the day, empty enough -- for swimming laps. There are four cabanas for rent, plus free fruit-infused water and free use of lounge chairs and towels. There is only seasonal poolside food or drink service, provided from room service which will deliver orders to the pool area. There is no restaurant poolside.
Only pets under 50 pounds
Luxe's pet policy (only pets under 50 pounds, and fee per stay) can't beat that of the no-fee Hotel Palomar. A dog bed and bowl are included, though -- and there are a variety of pet packages available, including special spa services like owner-and-pet massages.
Huge rooms can accomodate up to six guests with rollaways.
While it lies farther away from family attractions such as Universal Studios or the La Brea Tar Pits, the Luxe Sunset Boulevard's spaciousness makes it inherently more family-friendly than many nearby hotels. Its large standard rooms have more than enough space for rollaway beds or cribs, and the forested seven-acre property, including a free pool and tennis court, offers plenty of room for kids to explore.
The 522-square-foot standard Superior Room, with the option of two full-size beds, sleeps up to six people with rollaways. Note: Rooms in the uphill building tend to be quieter.
No separate kids' menu
Rollaway beds for a fee per day; cribs are free. No rooms have sofa beds.
Lunch at Luxe's On Sunset restaurant is a good deal made even better if you dine on the sunny, canopied patio. Entree lunch prices run notably lower than at most Beverly Hills and Westwood hotels. Breakfast and dinner prices are more in line with other hotels. The restaurant calls its cuisine "seasonal California fresh fare with a splash of French."
The breakfast menu includes a goat cheese omelet, smoked salmon hash, and Belgian waffles; lunch entrees include a lobster club, marinated flank steak, and seared king salmon with risotto; and dinner entrees include a braised short-rib risotto, roasted rack of lamb, or lobster ravioli.
Luxe Lounge, the lobby bar, offers a late-night snack menu of charcuterie, truffle fries, hummus platters, sliders, and desserts.
The weekly Sunday jazz brunch features a Viennese pastry display, crepe and omelet stations, and buffet tables of king crab legs and fresh-smoked gravlax. It costs about the same as the less-impressive Champagne Brunch at Hotel Palomar, in nearby Westwood.