Turndown service; free check-in and check-out treats
Free beach cruisers for guest use
Free Wi-Fi throughout
Doesn't offer direct beach access
No real spa or business center
High-priced breakfast buffet
Only valet parking
Limited amenities -- no shuttle or 24-hour room service
Small, intimate, and beautiful, this Santa Monica boutique hotel more than compensates for its lack of on-site features -- no spa, a long walk to the beach -- with a welcoming atmosphere cultivated by personal service and elegant design and ample amenities (50-inch flat-screen TVs, coffeemakers, Frette sheets) in its 70 rooms, which, starting at 450 square feet, are some of the biggest in the area. Plus, Oceana Beach Club has a relaxed, low-key vibe unmatched by its luxury rivals Fairmont Miramar, Shutters on the Beach, and Hotel Casa Del Mar.
Many high-end hotels in the Los Angeles beach town of Santa Monica try to recreate the experience of staying at a quiet, elegant beach house. Shutters on the Beach, Casa Del Mar, and 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, retro bed-and-breakfast than a high-powered hideaway for Hollywood's elite. Featuring a cool, organic color palette of cream, sky blue, and light wood, the hotel's public spaces (all of which were redesigned in 2013 by New York interior designer Anthony Baratta) are quietly stunning, inviting guests to relax in a chic, midcentury-influenced setting. The hotel is scheduled to undergo a full renovation in late 2016.
With only 70 rooms, the Oceana is the smallest luxury hotel in Santa Monica. The next largest, Casa Del Mar, is 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 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, room service isn't available 24 hours, and the breakfast buffet is pretty pricey. Also, while Shutters and Casa Del Mar offer immediate access to Santa Monica State Beach, getting there from the Oceana requires walking across a street, down a bluff, and across a pedestrian bridge over a highway.
Tantalizingly close to the beach, in health-conscious, artsy Santa Monica
The Oceana sits on Ocean Avenue, but that doesn't mean it's on the beach. Santa Monica Beach is actually a 10- to 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.
10- to 15-minute walk to Santa Monica Beach
15-minute walk to Third Street Promenade, a famous pedestrian-only outdoor shopping mall
21-minute walk to Santa Monica Place Mall
24-minute walk to the iconic Santa Monica Pier, with its ferris wheel, video game arcade, and assorted carnival-style amusements
15-minute drive to popular Venice Beach
30-minute drive to Rodeo Drive/Beverly Hills
40-minute drive to Los Angeles International Airport
As comfortable as the rooms at any luxury hotel in Santa Monica -- but homier and larger
Hotel Oceana's building was constructed in the 1950s as a residential property, so the rooms are far larger than the ones at other Santa Monica hotels, or at most hotels, for that matter. They range from 450-500 square feet, while Suites from 700-850 square feet. All are bright and cheery, with a thoughtful design that suggests a luxurious beach cottage. About a third of the rooms have ocean views.
Thoughtful design touches are everywhere. There are the obligatory beach-house nods (white wood-slatted doors, wicker end tables, porthole mirrors), but also special decorative details like alpaca throws, coffee table books, potted plants, and nesting tables. The beachy decor is anchored by a few strategic pieces of midcentury-modern furniture (including game tables with chess, checkers, and backgammon), which keep the overall effect from coming across as twee. Rooms also have 50-inch flat-screen plasma TVs with HBO and on-demand movies, Cuisinart coffeemakers, minibars with local and non-GMO products, air-conditioning, and ceiling fans.
Standard rooms have one California king bed or two full-size beds. All beds have super-comfortable Sealy Posturepedic mattresses, Frette sheets, and five pillows. Large bathrooms have walk-in showers (some have shower-tub combos), magnifying mirrors, 100 percent Turkish cotton bathrobes and towels by Frette, and natural C.O. Bigelow bath products. Free The Honest Company products are provided for children.
One-Bedroom Suites come with living room areas with additional flat-screen TVs; some have queen-size sofa beds, balconies, and kitchenettes. The 850-square-foot Signature Ocean View Suites have their namesake sea vistas, as well as balconies, courtyard-facing patios, and separate rainfall showers and soaking tubs in the bathrooms.
Chocolate-covered almonds or Champagne flutes are provided upon check-in; at check-out, guests receive cookies from Farm Shop, an artisanal bakery with locations in Santa Monica and Marin. Cribs are free, and rollaways are available for an extra nightly fee.
Fun off-site extras, like free yoga, hiking, and surfing
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 (though the hotel will arranges in-room spa and salon services -- facials, massages, mani-pedis -- through outside companies). The pool is big enough for short laps. It's rarely crowded during the day, with plenty of padded lounge chairs and towels and attentive poolside food and drink service (a pool attendant provides free treats in the summertime). The pool deck features a small high-top seating area and a mosaic fireplace with comfy love seats and a coffee table in front.
Oceana offers free group yoga classes in Palisades Park (private lessons can be arranged) and free guided hikes in Temescal Canyon, plus free hour-long surfing lessons at Santa Monica or Venice Beach on Saturdays in the summer (advance notification required; includes free transportation). Beach cruisers are free to borrow.
Tower 8, the casual on-site restaurant, has a personable staff, large windows with views of the ocean, and farm-to-table SoCal cuisine. Ingredients come from local artisans and are routinely purchased at the Santa Monica Farmers Market. Guests partaking in (i.e. paying for) the Chef's Breakfast Buffet can eat in the dining room or by the pool. Breakfast includes organic coffee, locally made breads and pastries, homemade granola, Greek yogurt, and made-to-order eggs, pancakes, and waffles.
The fitness center is small and a little below ground level, but glass sliding doors leading to the pool area and carpet floor tiles in white and blue tones make it cheery. The gym has modern equipment and free weights by Woodway and Hoist, and lemon-infused water. A computer in the lobby (free to use) is the extent of Oceana's business center. A boardroom that seats up to 60 people has ocean views and a 50-inch flat-screen TV for presentations. The room is available by reservation for a steep daily fee, plus any catering expenses. Wi-Fi is free throughout the hotel.
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 24-hour front desk staff is trained to act as full concierges. Room service is available daily, though it seems to be the one area of service in which the hotel struggles -- guests have reported things like long wait times, cold deliveries, and mixed-up orders.
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