is a beach town rich with shops, restaurants, and elegant coastal retreats, many of which have long attracted Los Angeles’ entertainment-industry heavyweights. Take a look at the top luxury hotels in Santa Monica, one of L.A.’s key beach destinations.
The palatial Casa del Mar is one of only two hotels with a coveted stretch of sandy Santa Monica real estate and unobstructed views of the Pacific Ocean (the other is its sister property, Shutters On The Beach, which shares this primate location). Leisure travelers who can afford the rates at this luxury historic property will find 129 opulent rooms with huge jetted tubs and upscale coffeemakers. A hopping Hollywood bar scene, a fine restaurant, and a pool with beach views are other highlights. Beautiful event facilities and meeting rooms cater to business travelers, too, though only limited basic Wi-Fi comes free.
The landmark Shutters on the Beach has direct beach access (a rarity in L.A.), beautiful rooms that belong in a billionaire's beach house, and A-list visitors (cars constantly zip in and out of the circular driveway at the entrance as high-powered people shuttle between business lunches and meet-and-greets), but it lacks the intimacy of some of its high-end neighbors, like Casa del Mar. Decorated by renowned designer Michael Smith, whose work includes the interiors of the Obama White House, the 198 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 (Juliets in the lowest-level standards). Over-the-top, in-room amenities and a generous size (400 square feet) make these some of Santa Monica's best hotel rooms. For even more space, standards at the intimate Oceana are a whopping 550 square feet, but you'll walk 15 minutes to the beach.
Aesthetically, Shore Hotel is quite at odds Casa del Mar and Shutters on the Beach. While those two properties are grand and traditional, Shore Hotel is starkly modern and sleek, expertly combining luxury and sustainability. The hotel finished construction in 2011, and by using recycled materials and energy-efficient technologies, successfully met the criteria for Gold LEED certification. The chic, 164-room hotel enjoys a prime location across from the Santa Monica Pier and a block away from shopping and entertainment on Third Street Promenade. The comfortable rooms feature private balconies, city or ocean views, and good tech like free Wi-Fi and self-adjusting thermostats. The lovely courtyard pool area and well-equipped fitness center are also pluses.
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 Casa del Mar and Shutters on the Beach.
Thanks to its secluded bungalows and head-high hedges that shield it from the street, Santa Monica's Fairmont Miramar has long been a coastal retreat for major Tinseltown players. Over the past century, the Miramar has hosted stars from Greta Garbo to members of Fleetwood Mac. What draws celebs as well as nonfamous guests are privacy, beauty, and a convenient location. The Fairmont Miramar may be the least conspicuous high-end hotel in town. Inside the gates, the lobby's polished marble floors and the manicured grounds evoke the 19-century mansion that once stood here (and was the hotel's original building). Despite the attention to privacy, the hotel doesn't feel as uptight or ostentatious as renowned A-list hot spot Shutters on the Beach. It's more weekend hideaway than Hollywood hangout, and the lobby, pool deck, and restaurant have a laid-back atmosphere. Although the Oceana is even more intimate and relaxing, it lacks the Fairmont Miramar's spa facilities and standout fitness center.
The 220-room Huntley Santa Monica Beach is a prettily wrapped package of a hotel (slightly too large to feel boutique) with a great location and an exceptional rooftop restaurant, but -- disappointingly -- no pool. Sitting statuesquely on a palm-tree-lined residential street, the 18-floor Huntley is steps from popular Third Street businesses and around the corner from Ocean Avenue and its unobstructed views of the Pacific. Renovated rooms and suites start at 400 square feet, and all feature sofa beds, 60-inch flat-screen HDTVs, and stone-walled showers. Entry-level King Rooms also feature separate soaking tubs; some higher-level rooms have full or partial ocean views, but no tub.
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 -- Shutters and Casa del Mar -- but it's certainly friendly and efficient. The rooms are clean, spacious, and high-tech, 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).
Towering 45-foot palm trees reach up toward the enormous glass skylight in the Loews Santa Monica's atrium lobby. Off to the side is the ocean-view hotel bar, the California-inspired Ocean and Vine restaurant, and an oceanfront lounge with fire pits and a stunning view of the ocean. Its family-friendly ocean-facing pool and excellent gym make the 347-room Loews in Santa Monica a reasonable option for business travelers and families. Just note that extra fees and overpriced food can add up, and that the hotel isn't right on the beach (it's across the street from it).
This upscale high-rise hotel is located just four blocks from Santa Monica beach, and some rooms feature balconies with ocean views. The 310 guest rooms and suites have eclectic and fashionable decor, plus amenities such as flat-screen TVs, in-room movies, and mini-fridges, but no coffee- and tea-making facilities. There's a fee for breakfast, and a daily resort fee is billed for the use of the heated outdoor pool and 24-hour fitness center. Other on-site features include a restaurant, a lobby bar, and a game room. Despite extra fees, rates here are cheaper than other local hotels.
Located just a few blocks from the ocean, this small upper-middle-range inn offers a refreshing alternative to generic chain hotels. This charming house was built in 1910 and has been lovingly restored and transformed into a bed-and-breakfast-style inn with rustic interiors. Its 15 guest rooms are equipped with flat-screen TVs, DVD players, and iPod docks, and some feature period fireplaces or private porches, a few with partial ocean views. Freebies include a home-cooked buffet breakfast, daily wine-tastings, on-site parking, and freshly baked cookies served with tea and coffee around the clock. Travelers looking for a more standard hotel experience may want to consider our higher picks, which have features like a pool, on-site restaurant, bar, and fitness center.