Along with Malibu and Venice, Santa Monica is one of Los Angeles’ key beach destinations. The area has dozens of hotel properties, but only a handful have the honor of offering truly quick access to the sand.
Originally built as a fancy beach club in 1907, Casa Del Mar is a historic landmark. It opened its doors as a luxury hotel in the late '90s and received a major makeover -- conceived by Obama White House designer, Michael Smith -- in 2015. The result is a luxurious atmosphere with loads of beach-y details. Casa Del Mar's most remarkable feature, however, may be its coveted stretch of sandy Santa Monica real estate and unobstructed views of the Pacific Ocean. Casa del Mar and its neighbor Shutters, both owned by the same company, are the only hotels in the L.A. metropolitan area that are literally on the beach, with no boardwalk or roadway between guests and the sand. (It's worth comparing rates between the two similar hotels.)
One of this landmark Santa Monica hotel's 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. 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 Oceana or even the next-door, 128-room Casa Del Mar.
The 66-room Ocean View Hotel is a boutique property with modern beach style and interesting details. Stylish rooms have pillow-top mattresses and allergenic bedding, minibars, Keurig coffeemakers, and rainfall showerheads. Some rooms feature furnished balconies and sweeping ocean views. There is no fitness center or pool, but guests can use a nearby gym at a discount. The hotel is across from the beach, with Santa Monica Pier, Third Street Promenade, and Palisades Park all within easy walking distance.
Though it is located on Ocean Avenue like many other beachfront hotels (like Casa Del Mar), Loews is not actually on the beach. Instead, you need to exit the back door of the hotel, cross the street, walk past the lovely garden (a sort of ready-made wedding location), and then you get spit out right at a wide expanse of beach. The path to the beach isn't the most attractive, but the journey isn't too big a hassle. Inside, the 347-room hotel feels like a stunning office building, perhaps because it caters more to its business clientele than families and leisure travelers. The hotel boasts 20,000 feet of space for events and conventions, as well as several large ballrooms.