Photos and Review by Oyster.com Investigators
A palatial pink hideaway for the rich and famous
"Don't look now," whisperd a guest at the poolside Cabana Club Café, "but wasn't that guy behind me on Celebrity Rehab last year? I think he's Rod Stewart's son." Across the pool deck, a mature woman removed her oversized sunglasses to reveal a taut, puffy face suggestive of recent plastic surgery, while the lady at the table next to her explained in a haughty tone that she'd been "coming here for years."
Welcome to the Beverly Hills Hotel, or the "pink palace" as the 12-acre, Mission-revival property is known. First built in 1912, the iconic hotel is as old as Beverly Hills itself. Actually, it's older. The area didn't become a full-fledged city with celebrity residents like Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton until a few years later. Over the years, the hotel has housed numerous celebrities from John Lennon and Yoko Ono to Elizabeth Taylor and six of her eight husbands. From 1992 to 1995, the hotel closed for extensive renovations that cost the Sultan of Brunei, the hotel's current owner and one of the world's richest men, more than $100 million. The resulting hotel isn't a bright, modern one, like the Beverly Hilton, but rather a place that feels perfectly preserved and restored to its original elegance, from the signature banana leaf wallpaper that lines the halls to the stunning pool area. Not just pink, but also green, dominates the hotel. At turndown (guests get to specify the time -- a nice service touch), housekeeping leaves an order form on the bed should guests wish to purchase a surfboard or tricycle with the hotel's insignia or signature color scheme. It's a bit of an odd, overly commerical touch at such a classy place.
The hotel marked its 100 year anniversary in 2012 with light upgrades to room amenities, carpeting in the ballroom and lobby. But that's just the beginning of its refurbishment. The hotel re-launched its famous Polo Lounge in 2013 after a two month refurbishment by acclaimed designer Adam Tihany, who kept the hotel's iconic color scheme but updated the furniture and decor. By 2014, the hotel plans to have completed refreshing all guest rooms, the pool, and cabanas as well. Much as the 1992 renovations were more about preserving than changing, so too will this set of work aim to maintain the traditional design of the hotel -- with some shiny new amenities, of course. These include B&O TVs with integrated technology in all rooms, illuminated mirrors with built-in TVs, updated fixtures in the bathrooms, rich linens and upholstery in the rooms. The style is antique luxury but the amenities are all about modernity, as the hotel works to keep its history alive but still please today's travelers.
For the most part, the Beverly Hills Hotel is discreet, complete with heavy security. It's more of place for the well-known not to be seen than a celebrity hot spot like the Hollywood Roosevelt or Chateau Marmont. At the Polo Lounge, you might see Hollywood execs closing big deals, or see Paris Hilton -- but she'll likely be grabbing lunch, not stumbling out of the bar late at night. The hotel is dignified at times to the point of stuffiness; service is nothing if not formal. It's for those who want a serene scene in a classic icon. If you're looking for more relaxed service, you'd probably do better at the equally accommodating, livelier Four Seaons Beverly Wilshire.
Service is serious business at the Beverly Hills Hotel. Guests are asked at check-in what time they prefer turndown, as well as their newspaper preference. Housekeepers wear French maid uniforms and all concierge are members of Les Clefs d'Or, the prestigious international concierge organization.
Still, it's not without the occasional snag. Lunchtime crowds at the Polo Lounge can make for slow service as well as a short wait at the parking valet as attendants deal with a backlog of Bentleys. And, service can be a bit formal and lacking in warmth. While at the Four Seasons Beverly Wilshire every guest is made to feel like royalty, there's a feeling here that royalty is treated like royalty and average guests are treated like average guests.
In a secluded portion of Beverly Hills
The hotel is situated in Beverly Hills, an enclave of wealthy living and luxury shopping in the middle of L.A.'s westside. While it has a Sunset Boulevard address, its portion of Sunset feels a long way from the notorious "Sunset Strip" -- the mile-and-a-half stretch of Sunset Boulevard known for its cutting-edge rock clubs and night spots and its collection of premier boutiques and restaurants. This portion of Sunset is quieter, more scenic and residential, and the hotel is actually tucked back from the street giving it a secluded, mini resort feel. It's a far different feel from staying at the Four Seasons Beverly Wilshire, which sits in the middle of the Beverly Hills' shopping and dining district, a little over a mile away.
Large and luxurious
With walk-in closets, huge bathrooms with gold-plated brass fixtures, Frette sheets, and personal fax machines, the large guest rooms are luxurious. The standard rooms, called Superior Rooms, are a spacious 425 square feet, bigger than rooms at the Four Seasons Beverly Wilshire (385 square feet), but significantly smaller than the rooms at the Raffles L'Ermitage Beverly Hills (650 square feet). Decor is classically elegant and continues the hotel's pink and green theme with green-striped wallpaper in the main room and pink marble in bathrooms. Guests can also opt to stay in one of the hotel's bungalows, that have their own seperate entrances, full kitchens and dining areas, fireplaces, and up to four bedrooms. Some even have grand pianos, private plunge pools, and private gardens, as well. In 2011, the hotel opened two new presidential bungalows, for guests seeking the ultimate luxury and private vacation. Prices come to match the experience, of course.
In 2012, the hotel celebrated its 100th birthday with an announcement that all guestrooms, the lobby, Polo Lounge, and pool and cabanas would be refurbished. By 2014, the hotel plans to have completed refreshing all guest rooms. This set of work aims to maintain the traditional design of the hotel -- with some shiny new amenities, of course. These include B&O TVs with integrated technology in all rooms, illuminated mirrors with built-in TVs, updated fixtures in the bathrooms, rich linens and upholstery in the rooms. The style is antique luxury but the amenities are all about modernity, as the hotel works to keep its history alive but still please today's travelers.
The hotel's features deliver most, but not all, of what you'd expect from a large, luxury hotel. The huge, beautifully landscaped, full-service pool (which will be refurbished as part of the hotel 100th anniversary celebration; plans for completion by 2014) is one of Beverly Hills' best, as is the spa, but the tiny fitness center disappoints.
Dogs (under 35 pounds) are treated like royalty.
The hotel allows small dogs under 35 pounds, but they can stay only in bungalows, not regular guest rooms. There's a nonrefundable cleaning fee required, but dogs get special treatment.
Kids, like their parents, are spoiled.
With a beautiful pool and lush grounds, an old-fashioned soda fountain, and large standard rooms, this is a top luxury pick for families. During the spring and summer, hotel management says the place is filled with the "cutest little designer kids you've ever seen," and when I visited in September there were still a few lingering around the pool. With twelve acres of grounds, the hotel has a mini-resort feeling, ideal for families looking for a calm oasis; it's a different feeling than the similarly luxurious and family-friendly, but more urban, Four Seasons Beverly Wilshire, which is located in the middle of the Beverly Hills shopping and dining district.
Three charming restaurants and a lovely bar
With three unique restaurants, the hotel has great on-site dining options, but there's little within easy walking distance of the hotel, unlike the Four Seasons Beverly Wilshire, which is located in a more commercial, less residential, portion of Beverly Hills. Still, that commercial area is just a five-minute drive away, and nearly everywhere in Beverly Hills has valet parking.
THE BEVERLY HILLS HOTEL HAS RENOVATED ITS LOBBY SINCE OUR VISIT, AND WILL BE UNDERGOING ROOM RENOVATIONS THROUGHOUT 2014. WE WILL REVISIT THE PROPERTY ONCE RENOVATIONS ARE COMPLETE. 12-acres of lush grounds, this historic hotel is a serene, luxurious escape five minutes from Rodeo Drive. Its formal service and aura lend it a stuffier feel than the Four Seasons Beverly Wilshire, but it also has anachronistic charms, like an old-fashioned soda fountain, plus a great pool and restaurants.