The Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel
I've stayed there three times, and I can't wait to go back. Now before you start calling me crazy and raving about the Dar Al Masyaf in Dubai, read on. These are my personal criteria for evaluating hotels I've visited, in order of importance...
**********Within Walking Distance to Great Shops and Restaurants
I do enough driving in my day to day life, so when I'm on vacation I don't want to drive. My ideal hotel is within safe (emphasis on safe) walking distance to World-class dining and shopping.
The Loews Santa Monica is just steps away from Third Street Promenade, where you can find any food your heart desires, pretty much any major retailer you can name, and plenty of free and exciting street performers to enjoy. There's also Santa Monica Place Mall, Main Street District, and the upscale Montana Avenue just a short ride away. And don't forget my inexplicable love of Cha Cha Chicken, just blocks away from the hotel.
I never tire of visiting the beach. Seriously, it never gets old. I rarely get in the water, I don't surf, and I'm not a sun bather. I just like the vibe of the beach, and the sight and sounds of the ocean waves.
The Santa Monica Loews is not technically ocean front - there is a very small street separating the beach from the hotel. And the Santa Monica beach doesn't boast the best sand or cleanest tide. Honestly, the beach itself is just OK. For me, though, the Santa Monica Pier more than makes up for it. I'm an absolute sucker for amusement parks, and an amusement park on the beach is about as good as it gets. The nighttime views of the World-famous Pier Ferris wheel from the Loews balcony are to die for.
My wife has to work out on vacation, which makes a good gym very important for me.
The Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel has as good a gym as any hotel I've stayed at anywhere in the World. Plus there's a Spa, saunas, locker rooms, Yoga classes, and lots of other fitness-related amenities.
Mariana likes to dress up and go out. And as I already mentioned, I'd prefer not to drive. Having local nightspots to hit is a must.
The Loews Santa Monica is surrounded by places to go at night. Skip the restaurants on the Promenade and just visit the neighboring hotels. That's right, go hotel-hopping. Start next door at Le Merigot, then hit Shutters on the Beach and catch the sunset at Casa Del Mar. Head back to the hotel and finish out the evening at the ultra-hip Viceroy. Counting the Loews, that's five hot spots within three city blocks.
Nearby Outdoor Activities
I'm hardly an adventurer, but I love to have outdoor things to do near or around the hotel.
The Loews Hotel Santa Monica has the aforementioned Pier and Third Street Promenade, along with Palisades Park and the Santa Monica Boardwalk. One of my joys in life is to rent a bike (right outside the hotel) and ride either North towards Malibu or South through Venice Beach. Whether on foot or on bike, the sights and sounds of the boardwalk are an experience not to be missed.
This one is hard to explain, but it's just a feeling that you get from staying at the hotel.
The Santa Monica Loews Hotel definitely exudes a hip vibe. For starters, there are likely to be celebrities, sports teams, or LA power moguls staying, visiting, or holding court in the lobby. You don't know who you might run into. And even if you're not into that, sitting out by the pool overlooking the Pacific Ocean definitely makes you feel like a star.
I don't need my eyelids covered in cucumbers as I sit in the sauna, I'm just looking for good, friendly service.
The Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel has upgraded my room at no charge every time I've stayed there. They call me by my name and get me anything I need. What more could I ask for?
I'm putting the room itself last on my list of criteria. Seriously, after 500 hotels, a room is pretty much a room. I want a comfortable bed, a good view, and clean amenities. That should be standard.
The Loews Santa Monica has passable rooms with comfortable beds and spectacular views - particularly of the Santa Monica Pier.
**********So those are my criteria. Noticeably missing from the list is Price. Sure, price is a factor. I'm not considering "any hotel in the World if it was free" - I'm only considering properties that I can reasonably afford right now. I have yet to stay at a Ritz-Carlton or Four Seasons. I'm also a little biased to mainland US destinations. I like to travel the World, but for lots of reasons it's just not as fun as it used to be.
Considering these criteria, my favorite places to visit are Santa Monica, Miami Beach, and Las Vegas. I'd like to hit the Loews Miami Beach and The Hotel at Mandalay Bay. I also wouldn't mind getting back to New York, London, Austin, Berlin, Monterrey, and Playa Del Carmen. I've even grown fond of our own Myrtle Beach.
Now based on these criteria, which hotel do you recommend I visit?