Hotels Worth Booking: Santa Monica Proper

This new L.A. hotel stands out with its food, design, and rooftop views.

Hotels Worth Booking: Santa Monica Proper

Work and relax at Santa Monica Proper.

Courtesy of Proper Hotels

I love L.A. Obsessively. I love the hazy light as the sun sets on palm trees and in the canyons, the abundant farmers’ markets, the chopped salads on every menu, the restaurants, and that it’s where two of my brothers live. (And don’t talk to me about traffic. Traffic is terrible everywhere.) The distinctive neighborhoods give the sprawling city its soul. A recent stay at the new Santa Monica Proper reminded me why Santa Monica has a separate identity from L.A.

Santa Monica Proper has hotel-world cred thanks to its founding trio who originally founded Viceroy Hotels, and to designer Kelly Wearstler (known for her work with Four Seasons Anguilla, among many other hotels, and married to one of the brand’s co-founders), but it also feels like a pioneering new brand of California cool. It is splashy and comfortable; beachy and urban. The Proper hotel group is on a roll, having opened in San Francisco, Santa Monica, and Austin in the past year, and a Downtown L.A. hotel opening soon.

It was SmartFlyer’s CEO, Michael Holtz, who turned me on to the hotel. “It’s a chic option in the heart of Santa Monica, an area of L.A. that is in high demand by our clients,” he says. “The rooftop restaurant is a must-visit, along with the gym that is decked out in the most current equipment.”

DETAILS THAT MATTER: What you need to know about Proper Santa Monica

  • At check-in, the clerk will write your room number on the key holder with a gold paint pen. Such a lovely small upgrade from having it scribbled with a black pen.
  • The hotel is housed in two separate spaces: a fully restored 1920s historic building and a new structure with soaring ceilings and huge windows, connected via an elevated walkway. Towering green potted plants and palm trees contrast with the neutral palette and leather sofas and wood flooring.
Soaring ceilings frame the lobby and check-in desk.

Soaring ceilings frame the lobby and check-in desk.

Courtesy of Proper Hotels

  • Guests and locals flock to Onda in the historic building, the restaurant collaboration between Gabriela Cámara of Contramar, which offers some of the best food and people-watching in Mexico City, and Jessica Koslow of L.A.’s Sqirl. Hallmarks of Latin flavor—like hot sauce and salsa—spice up the seafood and vegetable-driven dishes.
  • You could spend all day at Palma, the lobby restaurant and bar (the library is a nice place to catch up on emails), but at the very least, enjoy breakfast there once. Smoothies are full meals, and the Mediterranean breakfast of hummus, labneh, feta, eggs, and grilled bread is a fresh option.
  • A friend of mine who lives nearby told me that she and her husband had visited the rooftop bar, Calabra, three times in the last month. For guests, having instant access is a definite perk. Don’t miss watching the flight path at LAX in the distance, with planes landing two-by-two in a constant stream, a reminder of how global and vast L.A. is.
  • In the guest rooms, I loved that my TV was mounted on an oversize art easel, the bathroom was stocked with full-size Aesop products and light and crisp Parachute waffle robes, and the headboard framed the bed like a beige rainbow. For any fellow Peloton bike fanatics, the expansive gym has four of them.
  • Coming soon: the 3,000-square-foot Proper x Surya Spa, which will focus on Ayurvedic treatments and offer cooking and yoga classes. This will cement the hotel as a real L.A. wellness destination as well as a culinary and design hot spot.

Who it’s for: At one point, I joked that I felt like a troll because everyone else in the hotel was so beautiful. But I think that L.A. makes everybody more beautiful because of the sunshine and dedication to wellness. There were many couples with one child (like us) and we felt completely comfortable. It’s also for paramours—all the best to the couple making out by the rooftop pool while we walked our toddler around the perimeter. So—it’s for tired parents with any-age kids, but also for anyone wanting a new, sexy, design-forward experience. When you stay here, you feel like the best version of yourself.

Close to the hotel:

Bay Cities Italian Deli: This famous Italian deli has served up monstrous sandwiches (like the famous Godmother, with salami, mortadella, capicola, ham, prosciutto, and provolone) since 1925, and its aisles are packed with Italian products. Think of it as the original Eataly.

Uovo: They fly in handmade pasta from Bologna daily, so it’s not the most sustainable way of eating pasta. But whether there actually is magic in Italian dough or it just feels like it, the pastas and vegetable side dishes are addicting. If you’re sick of salads, this is a great place to carb load.

Huckleberry Café: A forever L.A. favorite. Even if it’s packed, the tables turn quickly, and the high-quality ingredients will spoil you (that’s why you’re paying $10 for a tomato). The salted caramel cookie is popular for a reason, and the vegan organic quinoa bowl is L.A. food at its finest.

Tocaya Organica: For organic, fast-casual Mexican a five-minute walk from the hotel. Choose your own protein for bowls, burritos, and tacos.

Two Great Walks:

  • Built in 2013, Tongva Park—designed by the team behind NYC’s High Line—still feels like a new addition to the city. It’s a 15-minute walk from the hotel, and has observation decks to gaze at the Pacific Ocean. From here, you can walk down adjacent Main Street for one of the best stretches of local shopping. Among the highlights: an Urth Caffé outpost, Alchemie Spa for organic treatments, and Stella Barra Pizzeria.
  • Walk 20 minutes in the other direction of the hotel toward Malibu for Montana Avenue, another great shopping and restaurant stretch.
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