An art deco icon, built in 1939 for the silver screen stars of Hollywood’s Golden Age, the Hotel Shangri-La is a beachfront beauty made for decadence. As the original Shangri-La—the big chain is just leasing the name—the boutique hotel has long been a hideaway for celebrities, a home-away-from-home for design-conscious international elite, and a host of some of Los Angeles’ most elegant soirées.
But the art-filled hotel offers more than its good looks. Renovated from top to bottom in 2008, the Shangri-La is now home to one of Santa Monica’s most indulgent spas, the kind of rooftop bar a femme fatale would have haunted in a film noir (and the only one in town with ocean views), and a stylized, vintage pool courtyard where broad-brimmed hats and Jackie O sunglasses wouldn’t seem out of place. The famously warm and welcoming service ensures that every whim can be met, and every guest feels not only like a VIP, but also right at home. Having the beach right across the street is just icing on the glamorous cake.
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These days, it’d be impossible to build a hotel where the Shangri-La is located—so it’s a good thing the hotel got there first. Facing the beach, across Ocean Avenue, a couple of blocks from both the Santa Monica Pier and the bustling Third Street Promenade, the Shangri-La sits in the heart of the action in Santa Monica. The lively beach town’s myriad restaurants, boutiques, bars, sights, and activities are all just out the front door, from the Santa Monica Farmers' Market to morning yoga on the beach. Rent bikes to cycle up and down the beach; Venice, with its quirky scene and trendy restaurants, is a short, pleasant ride, about three miles to the south.
Need to Know
Rooms: 70 rooms, 35 suites. From $350. Check-in: 3 p.m.; check-out: noon. Dining options: Fresh, farm-to-table cuisine, with ingredients sourced from the Santa Monica Farmers' Market and other local producers, is served in the Dining Room, an airy, art deco space open for three meals daily; the long wooden bar serves top-notch wines, beers, and cocktails. A pared-down menu of lighter bites, as well as drinks, can be ordered poolside, too. Up on the roof, the indoor-outdoor Suite 700 bar boasts panoramic ocean views, breezy art deco style, signature cocktails, and regular DJs, making it one of Santa Monica’s trendiest scenes. Spa and gym details: In addition to the courtyard pool and a modern, 24-hour fitness center, the Shangri-La is home to Sybaris Rejuvenation Lounge, a spa experience inspired by James Hilton’s 1933 novel Lost Horizon, which depicted Shangri-La as a land of eternal youth. Sybaris offers a full range of pampering and holistic treatments, as well as yoga and meditation classes, and Reiki and reflexology.
Who's it best for: Girlfriends on holiday, spa devotees, and beach bums with a love of luxury. Our favorite rooms: With their herringbone wood floors, elegant art deco style, and oversized soaking tubs, the rooms at the Shangri-La would be hard to improve, but those with unobstructed ocean views have the trump card. Some of the suites also have full kitchens, ideal for longer stays, and some of the Terrace Suites even have private, ocean-view balconies. Spa special: From 4 to 7 p.m. on weekdays, the spa offers a happy hour of 20-minute mini-massages and free wine or tea.