Southern California

6 Best Santa Monica Beach Hotels for an Oceanfront Escape

From chic properties facing the Pacific Ocean to eco-resorts steps from the sand and pier, these are the best Santa Monica beach hotels.

There’s still a little sand in my toes as I pad onto my room’s private balcony. I could change out of my beachwear and walk the short distance into Santa Monica’s lively downtown area, perhaps starting the evening with a happy hour cocktail before dining on freshly caught seafood.

I could also stay right here in my room at Loews Santa Monica and sink into one of the plush, cushioned chairs on the terrace. I could flick the switch to start my very own private fire pit (a fabulous feature of some of the hotel’s best rooms) and practice toasting marshmallows to a perfect, pale golden crisp. I could fail and eat the charred remnants anyway, squashed into s’mores, as the sky darkens to an inky, navy blue with fiery stripes of blood orange and pink.

Such tricky decisions are an inevitable feature of staying at one of Santa Monica’s beach hotels. There’s so much to explore here, from the broad sandy beach and riotously retro Santa Monica Pier to the boutiques and hip bars of downtown.

Yet this Los Angeles County city is home to some of California‘s finest oceanfront properties, and they make it tough to venture outside. Thankfully, the best of them are fully aware of their enviable location and make sure it is as visible and present as possible. They have beachside restaurants, pools whose edges seem to melt into the ocean, and rooms with windows and balconies that perfectly frame Pacific Ocean views.

So while you probably should spend some time getting to know this charming city, you can also soak it all in, guilt-free, from the comfort of your room. From properties that ooze coastal luxury to chic boutique hotels steps from the sand, these are the best Santa Monica beach hotels.

A Beachside Beauty with an Eco Ethos

It’s easy to explore Santa Monica on your own two (probably flip-flopped) feet, as the downtown and beach areas are relatively compact and pedestrian-friendly. Strolling through Palisades Park, which stretches along the beachfront, and stopping to watch weightlifters at open-air gym Muscle Beach are among the highlights of any stay here.

If you want to move a little faster, or explore further along the coast, it’s also perfect for exploring on two wheels. Guests at stylish Shore Hotel are encouraged to do just that with complimentary use of beach cruisers. Take one for a pedal along the Marvin Braude Bike Trail – known locally simply as ‘The Strand’. It stretches for 22 miles from Pacific Palisades, north of Santa Monica, down to Torrance.

Free bike rental is just one aspect of the eco-conscious ethos at Shore Hotel, where green details include a solar-heated pool and reusable water bottles, organic coffee and sustainable toiletries in the rooms. The resort performs a delicate balancing act, with just the right amount of sleek, tech-savvy modernity to satisfy business travelers while being luxurious enough for the most indulgent of vacations.

Shore Hotel

Top rated
Santa Monica
8.6 Excellent (3602 reviews)

A Coastal Classic with Impeccable Taste

It’s difficult to be subtle when you’re sprawled along one of California’s most famous beaches and are roughly the size of an entire city block. Yet Shutters on the Beach manages to blend in with its surroundings in the best possible way. The exterior, in elephant gray with bright white accents, shimmers by the sand and evokes the elegant coastal cottages of Cape Cod.

The colors become gradually bolder beyond the picket fences, from the glassy turquoise of the pool, surrounded by blue-and-white striped cabanas and sun beds, to rooms filled with potted plants, chintzy-cool patterns and rich textures.

It’s all quintessentially coastal – and very Santa Monica. This is especially true when your suite has direct access to the sand, as the best ones here do, so you can throw open the shutters each morning and start the day by gazing at the ocean and gulping in the softly salty air.

Shutters On the Beach

Top rated
Santa Monica
8.6 Excellent (753 reviews)

An Art Deco Beauty Perfect for Beach and Downtown

Santa Monica is that rare beast: a beach destination with a dynamic downtown that rivals far bigger cities. One without the other would be enough, but the combination is utterly irresistible.

The city is classic yet quirky, vintage yet modern, sleek yet wonderfully casual. The martini you sip at that elegant, mahogany-topped bar will be impeccable, yet no one expects you to dress in your fanciest gear – unless you feel like it, of course.

The Georgian Hotel perfectly reflects this particular brand of languid elegance. The lofty art deco building, dating from 1933, is a striking shade of turquoise, which deepens to a soft teal at dusk. The retro-cool vibes carry on throughout the hotel, particularly in the rooms – all polished dark wood, bold geometric prints and invitingly plush beds.

The Georgian Hotel

Santa Monica
8.3 Very good (2709 reviews)

Villa-Style Luxury Right by the Sand

Hotel Casa Del Mar would blend in beautifully in Tuscany, and no one would bat an eye if it gazed down on Lake Como or perched by the Amalfi coast. Yet, despite its Mediterranean charms and resemblance to an Italian villa, the beachfront hotel is undeniably Santa Monica.

The 1920s building, a fine example of Renaissance Revival–style architecture, is filled with coastal Californian accents, from the palm trees and paisley-patterned sofas dotted through the lounge to local art hanging in the rooms. Suites have huge arched windows to frame the ocean and beach, so close you can almost touch them.

Some of the area’s best nightlife is right here in the palm-dotted lounge, where mixologists shake and pour concoctions with local botanicals and musicians perform nightly.

Hotel Casa Del Mar

Top rated
Santa Monica
8.9 Excellent (1045 reviews)

A Perfectly Located Oceanfront Beauty

Sunsets in Santa Monica are a nightly show that no one wants to miss. It doesn’t really matter how many times you watch the sky change color, or whether you’re in a rooftop cocktail bar or sitting on a sandy towel. The broad beach, stretching between rows of skinny palm trees and the vibrant Santa Monica Pier, makes for a spectacular setting as shades of red, pink and apricot swirl above the ocean.

However, I’d argue that there are few better viewing spots than the private balcony attached to your room at Loews Santa Monica. The best ones have fire pits surrounded by cozy sofas and chairs, so you can stay outdoors until the sky turns into an inky, star-scattered blanket.

It’s hard to avoid the ocean when you’re staying at the Loews. It’s there, boldly blue, through the tall windows at the end of the lobby, and it’s just a few steps away when you’re hanging out by the pool. In fact, nothing is very far away when you’re staying here. You can be on the sand or walking down Third Street Promenade – the city’s pedestrianized shopping stretch – within a few minutes.

Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel

Santa Monica
8.1 Very good (2397 reviews)

Coastal Chic and Poolside Cabanas

Hollywood glamor and seaside kitsch sound like strange bedfellows, yet somehow they work wonderfully together. At least, that’s the case in Santa Monica, where you can feel like you’ve wandered onto a glitzy filmset while simultaneously entering a riotous world of retro rides and candy floss.

Viceroy Santa Monica pulls off this same blend of quirky-chic with aplomb. While the elegant bedrooms’ primary color palette mirrors the coastal setting, pops of bold print and color add flair. The two cabana-lined pools ooze opulence, while an eclectic array of retro furniture and striking wall art keeps the look fresh and modern.

Viceroy Santa Monica

Top rated
Santa Monica
8.5 Excellent (1937 reviews)