Photos and Review by Oyster.com Investigators
You learn a lot about the Viceroy before you even get there. Whenever mentioned to locals, they inevitably say something to the effect of, "Oh, I've had cocktails at the bar there," or "Be sure to check out the pool -- I've heard movie stars hang out there." The hotel is indeed best known for its see-and-be-seen lounge and pool scenes -- but some former guests have gone further, accusing the Viceroy of eschewing substance in favor of style.
We would disagree. There's no denying the Viceroy succeeds, at the least, with the basics. The service isn't quite up there with its luxury (but pricier) rivals down the street, but it's certainly friendly and efficient. The rooms are clean, spacious, and high-tech (iPod docks, flat-screens), and many boast views of the ocean. Speaking of the Pacific, it's a few hundred steps away, which, for many visitors, will be reason enough to stay here (though it's worth noting that most of the hotels in Santa Monica are within a block of the beach). The city's famous pier is also nearby, about half a mile down the beach, as is Third Street Promenade and its parade of shops, restaurants, and street performers.
The Viceroy is run by the Viceroy Hotel Group, which operates four other hotels in the area, including the Chamberlain West Hollywood and Maison 140 in Beverly Hills, along with half a dozen other properties in style-conscious locations (the Tides in South Beach is also on the group's roster). Familiarity with any of those names also tells you something about the Viceroy. As usual, renowned interior designer (and former Playboy Playmate) Kelly Wearstler handled the decor; she incorporated several of her favorite motifs, notably animals: note the horse busts in front of the cabanas by the pool. Greyhounds greet you at the elevators; once in your room, it's a Pekingese. The overall theme is Colonial Britain, which manifests itself most conspicuously in the china hanging from walls throughout the hotel. The restaurant, Whist, is named after the British card game.
The Viceroy's greatest drawback, if you can call it that, isn't anything about the hotel itself but rather the stiff competition nearby, some of it just down the street. Four other impressive properties (all either 4 or 4.5 pearls) are literally within blocks, including the kid-friendly Loews and the famous beachside twins, Shutters and Casa del Mar. You'll find better service and more luxury at those two; Loews is better for families, and Le Merigot has a spa. The Viceroy is a solid pick, especially if you can nab a room for under $300, but you might consider staying elsewhere and experiencing the Viceroy by simply grabbing a happy-hour drink in the lounge or out by the pool.
Very good, if not quite up there with the best
The Viceroy's service doesn't match up with its luxury competitors in the neighborhood -- at Shutters, for instance, the doormen wait by the entrance with towels and water bottles for guests returning from jogs on the beach; at Casa del Mar, you get free shoeshines and local limo transportation. But then, the Viceroy is usually cheaper. And what you do get is solid, friendly service with a few small but noteworthy extra touches. The day before check out, for example, the woman at the front desk calls to ask if you need anything for the following morning (wake-up call, taxi arrangements, etc.); and, in keeping with the newest rage in hotel check-ins, guests check in and out seated face-to-face with front desk staffers.
In tourist-friendly Santa Monica, one block from the beach
The Viceroy sits on a busy four-lane road in Santa Monica, a beach town -- a beach city, really -- filled with shops, restaurants, and the eponymous pier, which is home to games, rides, and an iconic Ferris wheel. There are a few attractions within walking distance (namely the beach, which is a block away), but you'll probably want a car to get around town, and you'll definitely need one to explore the rest of L.A.
Sleek, stylish, and spacious, and some boast views of the ocean
The Viceroy's rooms are excellent. Even if the decor is not to your taste -- the yellow benches, synthetic green armchairs, or porcelain-dog lamps (yes, you read that right) won't appeal to everyone -- the rooms excel in almost every other way. They're spacious (320 square feet for Viceroy Rooms, 470 for Grandes) and high-tech (iPod docks, Wi-Fi, big flat-screen TVs), and the beds are super comfy. The bathrooms are small but spacious enough, and mine was immaculate. My favorite touch? The oversize Neil George soap and moisturizer dispensers, which reduces wastefulness. ("OUR GUESTS CARE ABOUT THE ENVIRONMENT," it says on a placard. "WE DO TOO.")
The Viceroy boasts the standard big-city collection of amenities -- fitness center, meeting room, business center -- but the highlight, to be sure, is the pair of plunge pools in the hotel's backyard. It was cold the week I was there, so the pool area was empty during my stay (one of the pools had even been converted into a dance floor for office parties), but reliable word has it that it's a pretty sweet place to kick it when the sun is out. Drinks, bikinis, celebrity wannabes, celebrity-oglers, and (purportedly) actual celebrities ... you know, the usual SoCal concoction.
Not particularly kid-friendly, but not a bad choice either
Children aren't the target audience here -- the design is SoCal sexy-chic, the bar is one of the Viceroy's biggest draws, and at the pool you'll find more aspiring models sipping cocktails than tykes doing cannonballs. But there's no particular reason not to take the little ones. At the least, the hotel's location across the street from the beach and a few blocks from the Santa Monica Pier makes it a convenient base for family-friendly activities.
Not a problem
The Viceroy hasn't been fully renovated since it opened in 2002, and there are currently no plans in the works. But that could be because the hotel's still in excellent shape. With the exception of some minor wear and tear (chipped paint on the window sills) and a few blemishes (luggage-wheel stains on the walls, dirty windows) in the room, everything was perfectly clean.
A high-end restaurant on-site and plenty of other solid options nearby
The Viceroy's restaurant, Cast, serves locally sourced international fare for all three meals. On a nice night, Cast's alfresco seating near the pool makes it a great place to take have a romantic date.
Cameo, a destination lounge
The Viceroy's bar, Cameo, is one of Santa Monica's preeminent hot spots. Besides guests, you'll find plenty of wannabe actors and aspiring models, and even, more than occasionally, those who have made it (Owen and Luke Wilson are supposedly regulars). On nice nights, service -- along with the scene -- extends all the way to the pool.
It's best known for its sexy bar and pool scenes, but the Viceroy boasts substance as well: friendly service, an environmental conscience, and clean, comfortable rooms, many with ocean views. There's even a library. The competition is stiff in Santa Monica, however, so be sure to check out rates at the many alternatives before booking here.