March 2, 2014
If you’ve read our beginner’s guide to Santa Monica, then you’ll already know this oceanside community is our favourite place to stay in L.A, whatever the occasion. But for hedonistic honeymooners in search of the good life, the potent blend of all-out glamour and California vibes is particularly hard to beat – and nowhere does it quite as impeccably as Ocean Avenue’s Viceroy Santa Monica.
Strictly speaking, Santa Monica is a city in its own right, bordered on three sides by the city of Los Angeles and by the Pacifc Ocean to the west. Its incredible climate has long since made it a magnet for sunseekers of all stripes, from within California, the wider USA and the world.
The beaches (and the famous pier) are the big draw here, and they are wide, golden and dotted with pastel-coloured lifeguard huts, beautifully silhouetted against nightly Technicolor sunsets. But there’s a lot more to Santa Monica than the ocean, lovely though it is. Browsing the boutique-lined streets, dining al fresco or weaving your way through the power walkers in Palisades Park are equally enjoyable pursuits, and there’s probably a better chance of star-spotting here than anywhere else on earth. And, at only one block from the ocean and mere minutes from the pedestrian hub of Third Street Promenade, Viceroy Santa Monica is perfectly placed to make sense of it all.
Pulling up outside the hotel in a tiny-by-US-standards rental car, we’re temporarily blindsided by the row of gleaming sports cars and SUVs lined up under the canopy before us. On one side, a precisely clipped hedge shelters us from the road; on the other an entire wall of patterned glass screens the interior from view. And then there’s the kryptonite-green mood lighting shooting up out of the ground, bathing the entire lower floor of the boxy building in an otherworldly, Oz-like glow. We oooh and aaah. Clearly, we’ve arrived somewhere extremely exclusive, but before there’s time to fret about whether our post-flight crumpled look is an appropriate one, we’re ushered through the front doors by a couple of Hollywood-level attractive doormen, while our lowly Chevy is whisked away by the valet.
Into the lobby, and it’s immediately clear we’re standing in Santa Monica’s hottest hangout. As the singular vision of renowned west coast designer Kelly Wearstler, the space is a monochrome masterclass in Maximalist chic. Creamy chaises and suitably-aged Chesterfields sit between lead grey columns and huge fretwork room dividers, which offer a glimpse into the adjoining restaurant and bar. To the left, a wall of artfully arranged mirrors hangs behind the glossy check in desk. And let’s not forget that delicious mantis green, which lends a jungly tropicality to the otherwise classic scheme, aided by several gigantic Parlour palms.
Yet despite all this, the first thing that hits me is not the out-and-out drama of this space, but the smell. I’m immediately enveloped in a soft, misty, rainforest-like scent with apple-ish undertones and strong, salty hints of the ocean. It is heavenly. But we cannot sleep in the lobby, so to our room we go.
Upstairs, the geometrically-wallpapered rooms feel breezy, with a subtle sea-striped carpet drawing the eye towards the full length window and Pacific ocean beyond. Design-wise, wall-hung crockery, smoke-glass mirrored panels and a frou frou spaniel lamp continues the structured whimsy, nicely offsetting the classic Hollywood Regency-style symmetry. The vibe is pure old-school glamour, with shiny lacquered surfaces, thick drapes, plump pillows and lots of crisp white linen, not to mention the top-to-toe white marble bathroom.
The link between indoors and out is beautifully blurred, especially on a warm sunny day (which, let’s face it, is almost every day here). Twin swimming pools lie just beyond the lobby, surrounded by private black-trimmed cabanas – perfect for honeymooners – which seem to hark back to a bygone age. Stick around for a while, and you may find yourself lying on a day bed next to mimosa-sipping starlets in enormous sunglasses, checking Twitter and Instagramming their thighs. This is real deal L.A, right here.
As ever though, it’s the service that makes or breaks. In a hotel like this it can so easily spill over into the too-cool-for-school category, ruining your day in a heartbeat. Not so here. Despite our fears of being sent to the hippest and highest of hip high-end restaurants, our requests for suggestions of local dive bars and down-to-earth Mexican joints were met with a mix of enthusiasm and heated debate between staff. In fact, they really went out of their way to find out exactly what we were looking for, and their eventual recommendation led us to one of the best meals of our trip.
This is Los Angeles, so you are utterly spoilt for choice, whether you decide to stay in the local area or explore further afield. If you’re looking for a place to celebrate your nuptials in style, you can’t go far wrong with the hotel’s own Cameo bar and highly regarded Cast restaurant – considered one of the best hotel restaurants in Los Angeles. But for something further afield check out our Barfly’s Guide to L.A, written by our resident onboard mixologist, or take a trip to one of the local breweries and vineyards. Or if you’re seeking some alone time in a romantic setting, have a look at our feature on L.A’s hidden gardens.
If you’ve got access to a car and have time for the odd excursion or two, then we strongly recommend the beautiful drive up to Santa Barbara, or even combining your visit to Santa Monica with a trip to Palm Springs.
If you’re driving from LAX, Santa Monica is about twenty minutes (8 miles) north along Highway 1. A taxi is about $35, or you can take the Big Blue Bus or a regular shuttle van for around $15 one-way from the airport’s lower level.
Santa Monica is unlike almost every other city in L.A county, in that its downtown core is completely walkable, though many people choose to rent a bicycle to see as much as possible. There are well-marked lanes and bike paths, including right on the beach, and it’s a fabulous way to explore!
Rooms at the Viceroy Santa Monica start at US$348 (£207) for a double “˜Viceroy’ room with a pool or city view. If the view is important to you, it’s worth paying extra for the more expensive sea-facing rooms at the front of the building as the “˜city view’ rooms do partly overlook the car park, though bear in mind that even at the front there is still a road between the hotel and the beach.
All photos © Viceroy Hotel Group
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