Destination: California: Los Angeles
Casa del Mar
Shutters on the Beach and Casa del Mar, managed by the same family, are located side by side along a choice stretch of Santa Monica State Beach. The historic Santa Monica Pier, with an arcade and a 1916 carousel by master amusement-ride builder Charles I.D. Looff, is a wonderful stop for children and only a short walk away. Guests have signing privileges at both hotels and can use both pools. But Shutters and Casa del Mar look and feel vastly different.
The more opulent, Renaissance Revival–style Casa del Mar was built in 1926 as a grand beach club and hotel but was converted into a military hotel during World War II, then put to various uses until it reopened as a hotel, in 1999. The 129 rooms, on eight floors, will be freshened up starting in July. The large lobby maintains its ’20s look, featuring leather club chairs and an inviting bar, and the small pool on the fifth-floor terrace offers a panoramic ocean view. Catch, a seafood restaurant and sushi bar, opened this spring. The small, attractive spa, with sea-grass walls and chintz-covered chairs, offers treatments that use products by Dr. Howard Murad, who runs the Murad Medical Spa, in nearby El Segundo. Rooms from $485.
While Shutters on the Beach is our favorite hotel in Santa Monica, there is now a less expensive—albeit less refined option—that also celebrates Southern California beach living. The Fairmont Miramar recently underwent a major renovation and now offers a more casual version of beachside hotel living in Los Angeles. The location is not quite as appealing as Shutters; it is not right on the beach but across Ocean Avenue. And the lobby, which does have a corporate Fairmont feeling, can be thronged with cruise groups (the hotel is popular with cruise departure groups), but the service is fine, rooms are comfortable and there’s a deservedly popular restaurant, Fig, on premises that draws a happening crowd nightly. Most of the guestrooms are in the main high-rise building but the best ones are in the bungalows that surround the pool. In fact, the duplex bungalows with Pacific Ocean views and a Malibu beach house décor almost feel like private cottages.
Bottom line: For those who want a Santa Monica base at a lower price than Shutters on the Beach this would be our top choice.
Best rooms: Behind the main building are bungalows surrounding the pool area. The two-story ones have upstairs living rooms with views of the beach. They feel like private beach bungalows and have been decked out with all of the elements to invoke coastal calm such.
Malibu Beach Inn
If you want to spend time on the beach in a really relaxed beach community, consider the Malibu Beach Inn.
Shutters on the Beach
Shutters on the Beach and Casa del Mar, managed by the same family, are located side by side along a choice stretch of Santa Monica State Beach. The historic Santa Monica Pier, with an arcade and a 1916 carousel by master amusement-ride builder Charles I. D. Looff, is a wonderful stop for children and only a short walk away. Guests have signing privileges at both hotels and can use both pools. But Shutters and Casa del Mar look and feel vastly different.
For my money, it’s no contest. Fourteen-year-old Shutters has an easy, Vineyard-Nantucket style. The wonderful lobby lounge—with overstuffed couches, leather armchairs, blue-and-white porcelain, two fireplaces and phenomenal beach-themed paintings and photographs by such artists as Robert Motherwell and John Diebenkorn—is the kind of place where you can have a tête-à-tête or, with sand still in your flip-flops, relax with potato chips and a glass of Champagne after a stroll on the Venice boardwalk. In 2004, star interior designer Michael S. Smith went to town on the 198 guest rooms and suites: they all now have hardwood floors, Oriental rugs and four-poster beds. Bathrooms offer pedestal sinks, whirlpool tubs and marble showers. Each room has either a small balcony or a terrace, but the best, of course, front the ocean. Suites come with Bang & Olufsen stereos and personal laptops. The Smith-designed spa is beach-chic, with seashell-embedded walls and wooden furniture. Ole Henriksen, who tends Hollywood stars at his West Hollywood salon, designed the treatments. There’s a pool on the third-floor terrace and a fitness center that is being renovated. Two attractive but not stellar restaurants are on the property, and several others can be found in the neighborhood. Rooms from $505.
Best rooms: The oceanfront suites such as 203, which can be connected with the room next door for a two bedroom corner suite with a living room in the middle. Set just back from the beach, they feel like beach houses with all of the back-up of a five-star hotel.
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