A known celebrity hangout, Shutters on the Beach has an atmosphere of formal opulence, with expensive artwork in its lobby and restaurants, luxe features, and rooms that belong in a billionaire's beach house. Its oceanfront location and excellent facilities are hard to beat, but Casa Del Mar rivals it with a more intimate feel and better amenities.
This landmark Santa Monica hotel has direct beach access, beautiful rooms, and celebrity visitors, but it lacks the intimacy of some of its high-end neighbors.
Along with its competitors, Shutters faces the straightforward task of providing all the top-notch service, design, and amenities suitable to high-powered Angelenos, while at the same time creating a calm, relaxed beachside getaway from the pressures and pace of Hollywood. For the most part, it succeeds, meeting most expectations for a luxury lodging.
One of Shutters' greatest advantages is its stellar beachfront location. Only two of Santa Monica's hotels are right on the beach -- this one, and its stiffest competition, next-door sister property, Casa Del Mar. While many nearby hotels have beautiful rooms and high-design lobbies, Shutters one-ups them with design by Michael Smith, whose portfolio includes the Obama White House. White-wood trimmings and gray shingles make the whole place look like a giant East Coast summer home, and all of its luxury components -- a well-regarded spa, a pool, and three popular restaurants -- put it near the top of the town's high-end hotel heap. Celebrities regularly head here -- comedian Dave Chappelle was there during Oyster's visit and HBO's Entourage filmed a scene at Coast, the on-site restaurant.
Still, you'll pay top-dollar to stay at Shutters, and it's missing one key ingredient of a true getaway: an intimate setting. With 198 rooms and a buzzing atmosphere, it can't replicate the laid-back coziness one finds at smaller spots like the charming, off-beach 63-room Oceana or even the next-door, 128-room Casa Del Mar. With three buildings, its guests often have to walk outdoors between two elevators to get to their rooms. And while the public spaces have sumptuous seating, beautiful fireplaces, and artwork by David Hockney and Roy Lichtenstein, they can get busy and feel cramped. Frequent private events and densely arranged lounge chairs bring crowds to what ought to be a serene pool area. Cars zip in and out of the circular driveway at the entrance as people shuttle between power lunches and meet-and-greets. And while it's hard to beat staying so close to the sand, in the summer the beach swarms with Angelinos escaping the stifling inland heat, and the Strand bike path and former muscle beach area in front of the hotel tend to attract homeless and runaways.
For those who find entertainment business bustle alluring, Shutters is a great choice. But a more intimate beachfront hideaway experience with similar amenities exists at Casa del Mar for less, while the high-end boutique Oceana, though off the beach, is an even cozier respite.
As its name suggests, Shutters sits on the beach, toward Santa Monica's southern border. Farther north on Ocean Avenue, the nearest main road, locals run, walk their dogs, and do boot-camp exercises with personal trainers along the seaside cliffs in Palisades Park. Only one other Santa Monica hotel, Casa Del Mar, is actually on the beach, and most others are about 15 to 20 minutes away from the sand.
Directly on the beach -- walk out the door, cross the bike path, and you're on the sand
Bicycle nirvana! The Strand bike path runs 22 miles from Temescal Canyon to Redondo Beach
20-minute walk from famous Third Street Promenade, a pedestrian-only outdoor mall with shopping, a movie theater, and national chain restaurants
10- to15-minute walk from iconic Santa Monica Pier, with Ferris wheel, video game arcade, and assorted carnival-style amusements
Five- to 10-minute drive to popular Venice Beach, with skateboarders, surfers, and hip restaurants
25- to 30-minute drive to Rodeo Drive/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
Decorated by renowned designer Michael Smith, whose work includes the interiors of the Obama White House, the rooms at Shutters feel like the digs at a swank cottage in the Hamptons -- airy, with lots of blues and whites. Sliding doors with white wooden shutters (the hotel's namesakes) open up to balconies (these are Juliet balconies in the lowest-level standards). Over-the-top, in-room amenities (TVs in the bathroom, every guest gets a copy of a Hemingway novel) and a generous size (400 square feet) make these some of Santa Monica's best hotel rooms, though the slightly larger rooms at Casa del Mar next door are just as well designed, and less expensive. For even more space, standards at the intimate Oceana are a whopping 550 square feet, but you'll walk 15 minutes to the beach.
Standard rooms have four-poster beds (one king or two doubles) with John Robshaw comforters and plush Sealy pillow-top mattresses; all rooms have balconies but lowest-level rooms have no views.
You'll have to fork over extra above the standard rate to get a partial ocean view, which isn't breathtaking enough to justify the price.
Great furnishings and accents -- walnut desks and night stands, coffee table books, porcelain bowls
42-inch flat-screen TV in the bedroom with cable, in-room movies, and on-demand video games; smaller flat-screen in the bathroom; DVD player but no DVD library
iPod docking stations; iPods available on request
Large bathrooms with three-nozzle showers and separate bathtubs, stocked medicine cabinet (guests pay as they would for minibar items; pretty unique for L.A., but sister property Casa del Mar has this as well), ample toiletries
Suites are 800 square feet, a bit smaller than the 850-square-foot suites at Oceana
Guests staying in suites and oceanfront rooms get access to free hotel car.
All the features expected, but most are outdone by area competitors
Guests here can find the same assortment of facilities at other Santa Monica hotels, but others do individual ones better. Shangri-La's pool, for instance, has a better party scene, and Fairmont Miramar's is more relaxing. The spa, business center, and fitness center at the Fairmont Miramar are likewise better than those at Shutters. Still, what you get here overall is still quite good.
Pool is average size for Santa Monica (short laps possible); poolside drink service available; deck area regularly hosts weddings and other celebrations, which can disrupt relaxation.
ONE the spa was decorated by Obama White House designer Michael Smith; personal trainer available
Fitness center has full array of TechnoGym machines and weights, but is small, dimly lit, and below ground.
Small, fairly standard 24-hour business center with free
Internet and printing
Bike rentals available through concierge; Oceana goes one better, offering the first two hours free
Lots of artwork throughout, by artists such as David Hockney, Roy Lichtenstein, Robert Motherwell, William Wegman, Richard Diebenkorn, and Claes Oldenburg
Shutters draws its share of celebrities, particularly for lunchtime negotiations at Coast restaurant.
Celebrity sightings are common at Shutters, particularly because its dining venues are power-meeting spots. Dave Chappelle was there during Oyster's stay. High Fidelity and Must Love Dogs star John Cusack and Buffy the Vampire Slayer star Sarah Michelle Gellar have also turned up at the hotel. The HBO series Entourage filmed a scene at on-site restaurant Coast with guest star Dave Schwimmer.
Good for families, but there are better options in the area
Families will do fine at Shutters, thanks to large rooms with fun touches like bath toys and on-demand video games, plus a beachfront location that's convenient when you have tots. But travelers will find all of these things at nearby Casa del Mar -- plus they'll get arcade amusements in the lobby and wind-up toys and kaleidoscopes in the rooms, which are slightly larger than Shutters' at 420 square feet.
Directly on the beach, but L.A. provides lifeguards only in summer and early fall
Beach toys -- shovel and pail -- available on request
Bicycle rentals available through concierge (Oceana goes one better, offering the first two hours free)
Free cribs and rollaways
Babysitting services from We Sit Better arranged through concierge with six hours' notice; hourly fee for one child (four-hour minimum), plus travel fee
Outdoor pool doesn't stand out from others in the area; it's mainly a spot for adults to sunbathe.
24-hour room service offers kids' menu; on-site restaurants have kid-friendly options.
Muscle Beach jungle gym and swing set on the beach in front of the hotel attracts a mixed crowd of families and boardwalk loonies
Two well-regarded, expensive oceanfront restaurants and a casual eatery
The hotel hosts two highly regarded oceanfront restaurants that attract power lunchers: One Pico, designed by decorator Michael Smith, and the less formal Coast, the setting for a lunch-meeting scene in HBO's Entourage, in which Friends star David Schwimmer made a cameo. The Living Room, another oceanfront dinery, offers light meals and beverages throughout the day. Guests may come and go as they please, whether to mingle over cocktails or drink morning coffee and read a newspaper.