First things first: Don’t confuse this Shangri-La hotel with the large, Asia-based hotel chain, as I initially did. The Hotel Shangri-La in Santa Monica was the original hotel to bear this moniker; in fact, I was told that the chain licenses the name from them.
The Hotel Shangri-La was built in 1939 and is a historic landmark.
OK, now that’s out of the way. The Hotel Shangri-La in Santa Monica is a lovely boutique property, situated at the corner of Arizona and Ocean Avenue, right across from the beach and steps from the famed Santa Monica Pier. It’s around the corner from the Third Street Promenade, which, if you’ve never been, is lined with shops, restaurants and cafes. When it comes to location, location, location, the Hotel Shangri-La has got it!
My husband Johnny Jet and I were invited to experience the hotel’s Artful Lodger package. This package ($765 for two), includes: one-bedroom suite accommodation, a private Town car to the Getty Villa, entrance to the Getty Villa, a 20-minute foot massage for two, confectionery turndown amenity chocolates and complimentary valet parking.
About the Hotel Shangri-La
The Hotel Shangri-La was built in 1939 and is a historic landmark in Santa Monica, a remnant from the glamorous Art Deco period. As such, the owners of the hotel are not permitted to make any structural changes to the building, or in any other way compromise the integrity of historic elements or the original design. In 2008, the hotel reopened after an extensive, multi-million dollar renovation – the room interiors were modernized and updated with contemporary decor schemes but the exterior and structural elements remained intact.
To get to our fifth-floor room, my husband and I, along with our two small suitcases, squeezed into the hotel’s original elevator. You know, the kind where you have to close the door yourself? I loved the authenticity of this; these elevators are such a rare find these days. But I must admit, I felt claustrophobic and distrustful when I was locked inside and opted for the stairs for the duration of my stay.
Our one-bedroom suite was clean and comfortable. It was more like an apartment, with a fully functioning kitchen and detached living room. It was bright and spacious and the bed was really comfortable. The large bathroom was beautiful and had an extra large, extra deep soaking tub, which was the highlight for me. The marble floors in our bathroom were beautiful but marred by numerous dark brown water stains that really detracted from the overall beauty of the space. We didn’t get our confectionery turndown amenity chocolates, which were part of the Artful Lodger package; in fact, we didn’t get turndown service at all.
The Artful Lodger package includes two 20-minute foot massages at the Sybaris Spa, which is a pop-up spa near to the pool outside. In a cabana-type set up, it’s small and intimate with room for only about four treatments happening simultaneously. The owner and my therapist Maria, really made the experience memorable. She’s fantastic. The treatment, a foot scrub-slash-massage, was lovely but at 20 minutes, too short.
We dined in the hotel’s restaurant for breakfast and dinner and both meals were fantastic. With a real focus on serving local foods, most of the dishes on the menu are made from ingredients sourced from the weekly Santa Monica Farmers Market, which happens just up the street from the hotel. (Dessert was the real star of the show though. If, like us, you can’t choose between the warm chocolate brownie and the sticky toffee pudding … just get both.)
As I mentioned above, the hotel’s Artful Lodger package also includes transportation and admission to the Getty Villa (but according to the Getty Villa website, admission is free anyway … ) The Getty Villa in Malibu is a museum dedicated to the study of the arts and cultures of ancient Greece and Rome and features an extensive collection of old world antiquities. It’s definitely an unexpected and unusual thing to do in Malibu.
Overall, I loved Santa Monica and the Hotel Shangri-La is a great place to stay if you want to be in the heart of the action. The Third Street Promenade is a short five-minute walk away (stop at Trastevere for yummy, inexpensive Italian food for lunch!) Just steps from the Pacific Ocean, it’s so easy to just step outside of the hotel and walk down the oceanside boardwalk to the Santa Monica Pier where you’ll find the Ferris wheel and carousel that are so iconic to the area, as well as the end of the road for Route 66. Pull out your camera. This pier was made to be Instagrammed!