1515 Ocean Ave., Santa Monica, Calif., 164 rooms from $265 (U.S.) a night. 310-458-1515, shorehotel.com
For many years, Santa Monica, happy beach town of 90,000 souls, surrounded on three sides by sprawling Los Angeles, languished without a new beachfront hotel. While gorgeous Ocean Avenue art deco gems such as the Shangri-La and the Georgian still stand the test of time, Shore Hotel is the city's first new hotel in two decades.
The city's only LEED gold accommodation features solar panels, recycled building materials and energy-efficient water and lighting systems. Sandstone walls and native vegetation extend the overall indoor/outdoor aesthetic, as does the open-air, U-shaped design of the building, centred around an outdoor pool and patio. A dramatic steel-trussed roof offers modernist flair and a three-tier sky bridge connects the main building to a second collection of rooms. In a friendly new-urbanist gesture, the hotel blurs public and private space with a pedestrian-welcoming entrance that includes park benches.
Shore Hotel's 164 turquoise-and-orange themed rooms feature custom-made teak wood furniture. Each room angles toward the ocean for a non-obstructed view of the water and each boasts a private balcony. While the hotel's website promises eco-friendly luxury, the rooms have a more utilitarian feel. But then again, perhaps it was wise not to try to upstage the Pacific Ocean.
WHOM YOU'LL MEET
Late-night swims in the pool offer an opportunity to meet couples on romantic getaways. Afternoons are the domain of families with kids, while early morning swims offer blissful solitude. Santa Monica itself offers an inclusive combination of stars, surfers and skaters, homeless and overeducated flâneurs – your basic bobo (or bourgeois bohemian) beach scene.
LOCATION LOCATION LOCATION
A few minutes walk from the hotel is the famous Santa Monica pier. Its burlesque carnival vibe (I swear a buxom belly dancer put a curse on me when I declined to stuff her jangling money belt) is at odds with the retro glam of the nearby art deco hotels (do have a drink on the Shangri-La's elegant rooftop deck) and the upscale shopping at Third Street Promenade – but that feeling is all part of the city's eclectic charms.
The Shore now offers locally farmed, organic cuisine inspired by the seaside towns of Mexico at its newly minted Blue Plate Taco. Go if only for the restaurant's great ocean views. But Santa Monica is a foodie's paradise, with a biweekly farmer's market and dozens of excellent restaurants, so do go for a meal at nearby Lacondo del Lago on Arizona Avenue. Chef Roberto Maggioni celebrates the cuisine of Northern Italy's Lake District with great gusto.
The tiny oasis-like pool is, by far, the best place to hang. Offering views of Ocean Avenue and its parade of people, this is the place to contemplate the sound of the pounding surf, and memories of last night's dinner. It's a delicious beach-town escape.