California Hotels Are Opening Amid Unclear Rules

Even though the state and L.A. County are at odds about whether it’s safe and even permitted, hotels across California are reopening to leisure travelers.

California Hotels Are Opening Amid Unclear Rules

Hotel Figueroa is currently running a special promotion for California residents.

Courtesy of Hotel Figueroa

For the latest information on traveling during the coronavirus outbreak, visit the websites of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization.

California hotels are beginning to open for business amid the COVID-19 crisis—with some serious modifications to keep guests safe—but the rules around whether they’re actually allowed to welcome leisure travelers are unclear and vary across the state.

According to the state government’s Resilience Roadmap, California is currently in Stage 2 of recovery, meaning that retail, office workplaces, limited personal services, outdoor museums, child care, and essential businesses can open with modifications. Under this plan, hotels are not strictly scheduled to reopen to leisure travelers until Stage 4 of recovery and, right now, should only be operating for COVID-19 relief measures. These include accommodating essential workers or providing housing for the homeless, writes the California Department of Public Health.

On Friday, May 29, however, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health released its own Health Officer Order, which declared hotels, motels, shared rental units, and similar facilities as essential businesses, allowing them to reopen immediately provided they implement social-distancing protocols. And while San Francisco County is currently ordering residents to “shelter in place until further notice,” hotels there have also started to welcome back leisure travelers. Similarly, Orange County and San Luis Obispo County are following state orders, although some hotels in Laguna Beach and Paso Robles are open to anyone.

The varying rules—and the fact that hotels continue to reopen regardless—put the onus squarely on guests to determine what’s permitted when it comes to summer travel. We advise checking local government guidelines for your planned destination then making decisions based on your own comfort level. Maybe you feel safer renting a house or even taking a road trip in an RV, but if you’ll soon be ready to stay at a hotel, we’ve rounded up several California properties now open to guests, plus what they’re doing to help keep you healthy.

Some hotels are reopening after temporary closures

San Francisco Proper Hotel reopened on May 8 with strict new safety measures.

San Francisco Proper Hotel reopened on May 8 with strict new safety measures.

Photo by Lisa Corson, AFAR Media

On May 8, San Francisco Proper Hotel reopened with a special incentive. Until June 15, guests who book directly will receive 30 percent off their stay, with the ability to change or cancel their reservation for a full refund at any time. The hotel will also donate $5 from every night’s stay to the Proper Giving fund, which helps those in the local community who have been directly impacted by the COVID-19 crisis. The hotel restaurant and fitness center remain closed, but otherwise the Proper is fully operational, with extensive cleaning, social distancing, and no-touch payment measures in place. Keyless guest room entry is also an option for all guests.

Book Now, Travel Later: From $132 per night,

Hotel Joaquin’s open-air layout allows for plenty of fresh air for guests.

Hotel Joaquin’s open-air layout allows for plenty of fresh air for guests.

Courtesy of Hotel Joaquin

Hotel Joaquin in Laguna Beach was open for just 14 months before it was forced to temporarily close its doors due to coronavirus. As of May 15, however, the hotel is officially reopened, thanks in part to its open-air layout and “petite resort” (read: small capacity) concept. Still, Hotel Joaquin is limiting the amount of reservations per night by 50 percent to allow for extra cleaning time between stays and has moved its check-in area to the living room for more space. Chaise lounges and daybeds at the pool will be assigned to guests for the duration of their stay, and the hotel’s popular morning coffee delivery (which now includes freshly baked pastries) will be placed outside guests’ doors at a time specified the night before via text.

To ensure cleanliness, the hotel has partnered with sanitizing expert Ecolab on a five-step process using EPA-approved disinfectants and has removed all phones, ceiling fan remotes, and soft goods like throw pillows and blankets from guest rooms. Mini-bars have also been 86’d, though guests can order wine, beer, spirits, and snacks to be placed in their room prior to their arrival.

Book Now, Travel Later: From $269 per night,

Score some pool time at L’Auberge Del Mar.

Score some pool time at L’Auberge Del Mar.

Courtesy of L’Auberge Del Mar

Just in time for the Memorial Day long weekend, L’Auberge Del Mar outside of San Diego reopened on May 21. For increased safety, rooms will be kept empty for 72 hours between occupants, during which hotel staff will use “fogger-type” backpacks to sanitize all surfaces. There will be capacity limits in the pool and hot tub areas and tables at the open-air restaurant will be spaced 12 to 15 feet apart. Additionally, guests will have access to self-parking instead of just valet, as well as multiple hand-sanitizing stations throughout the property. While the concierge desk is suspended, resort team members will be on hand to help with planning.

Book Now, Travel Later: From $395 per night,

Archer Hotel Napa has been closed since March 20 but is taking new reservations starting July 1. In addition to following all CDC guidelines, the hotel will be conducting enhanced cleaning and sanitation throughout the day, with special attention to high-touch areas like door handles, light switches, and elevator buttons. Housekeeping will be available every fourth night and the fitness studio will be open by appointment.

Book Now, Travel Later: From $219 per night,

Other hotels never closed

Hotel Figueroa in Downtown Los Angeles remained open throughout the pandemic to accommodate essential travelers, health-care personnel, and stranded vacationers, but it is now focusing on welcoming back leisure travelers from L.A. County and California with its State Resident Offer. Upon proof of California residence, guests can take 26 percent off their stay, with free cancellation at any time. The hotel is promising rigorous cleaning with hospital-grade disinfectants of all guest rooms and public spaces (it’s currently in the process of getting certified as “clean and safe” by the California Hotel & Lodging Association), a 10-foot social-distancing protocol for all guests and staff, a two-person limit in elevators, and kiosks for contactless check-in. Pool chairs will be spaced at least six feet apart and fully sanitized between uses, and communication between guests and staff will take place primarily through text message. Guests are also required to wear face masks in indoor common spaces.

Book Now, Travel Later: From $179 per night,

As of June 1, you can rent remote office space at the London West Hollywood.

As of June 1, you can rent remote office space at the London West Hollywood.

Photo by Amanda Friedman, AFAR Media

The London West Hollywood is also working on bringing back guests, albeit in a different way than Hotel Figueroa. As of June 1, businesses planning to reopen but not fully prepared to accommodate social-distancing requirements in their existing workplaces can rent the London’s spacious guest rooms as remote offices. Rooms 725 square feet and larger will be converted to private offices by removing the beds and adding work desks, chairs, wall-mounted TVs, and other furniture. All utilities, high-speed internet access, and janitorial service are included, and a special “Commissary Menu” and on-premise valet parking will be available for an additional fee.

Elsewhere in the hotel, guests can stay purely for pleasure—with slightly reduced amenities. The bar and restaurant are open for take-out only, but the hotel is currently in talks with its on-site salon, Alex Roldan Studio, to offer beauty services with enhanced safety protocols. Other features like the pool, gym, and screening room remain closed and extras like turn-down and afternoon tea service have been discontinued.

To further protect guests, hotel staff members are wearing gloves and masks at all times and getting daily temperature checks, and plexiglass shields have been installed in high-contact areas. An antimicrobial fogging system is being used to clean guest rooms and common areas, and UV light technology has been employed to sanitize room keys and credit cards. Additionally, guest rooms will remain vacant for 48 hours between visitors, with nonessential items like pillows, magazines, and pens removed and individual packets of sanitizing wipes provided for each new stay.

Book Now, Travel Later: From $349 per night,

There are even new hotels opening right now

While it had planned to debut right when the coronavirus pandemic hit, the Stables Inn in Paso Robles will now open on June 5 at 50 percent capacity. From the owners of nearby Hotel Cheval, the budget-friendly, 18-room property occupies a former roadside motel and maintains a drive-up model—a fact that ensures minimal contact between staff and travelers. Guests here can also feel comforted by the fact that, come opening, Stables Inn will be certified “safe and clean” by the American Hotel & Lodging Association, with brand-new, renovated rooms, plus miles of surrounding hiking trails for socially distanced enjoyment.

Book Now, Travel Later: From $155 per night,

Hotel June boasts a beachy design from Venice-based Studio Collective.

Hotel June boasts a beachy design from Venice-based Studio Collective.

Photo by the Ingalls

Hotel June in L.A.’s Westside also had to push back its opening date due to coronavirus, but is now accepting stays starting June 22. Located in the former Custom Hotel near Los Angeles International Airport, the property is a more affordable option from Proper Hotels, with a beachy, California-inspired design by Studio Collective. While rooms will be priced lower than at other Proper hotels, there are still signature elements like custom-made furniture, Fili D’Oro linens, and bathrooms with hand-glazed tiles and full-size Aesop products. Also planned is a restaurant and bar from the teams behind popular L.A. spots Scopa Italian Roots and Black Market Liquor Bar, plus a pool deck with private cabanas, fire pits, and lush greenery. In addition to programming like live music and surf lessons at a nearby beach, guests can expect comprehensive safety measures to keep everyone healthy.

Book Now, Travel Later: From $132 per night,

This article originally appeared online in May 2020; it was updated on June 4, 2020, to include current information.

Products we write about are independently vetted and recommended by our editors. AFAR may earn a commission if you buy through our links, which helps support our independent publication.

>>Next: How to Make Flexible Travel Bookings in Uncertain Times

Natalie is a a New York-based writer and editor focused on travel, food, and drink. Her work has appeared in AFAR, TimeOut, Fodor’s Travel, Edible Brooklyn, Serious Eats, and Vox Creative, among others.
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