As a hotelier, I am frequently asked, "where should I stay while visiting Los Angeles?" A challenging inquiry that deserves a number of qualifying questions before it can be addressed with any hope of satisfaction. If there is one thing I have learned from the hotel business it is that each guest's idea of perfection is distinct from the next.
The good news is that the options of quality independent hotels in Los Angeles are plentiful, distinct, and impressive. A few of the branded hotels are not bad choices either, although my recommendations are typically boutiques. Other than New York and arguably Miami, there is not a more interesting boutique hotel market in the U.S. to choose from.
The first qualifier in Los Angeles is beach or city? The next is price.
Local intelligence to live by:
1. It's not always sunny in Santa Monica.
2. It is always sunny in Beverly Hills.
3. Hollywood, as a destination for hotels, is for kids. If you're over 30, there are better options.
A few favorites:
SUNSET STRIP - WEST HOLLYWOOD
You are either a Chateau Marmont person or you are not. Chateau is perhaps the most glamorous yet most misunderstood hotel in Los Angeles. The service is practically non-existent. The guest rooms are straight out of the 1940's. The food is good, not great. Beware. If you don't fit in, you'll know it. But to those guests who do and love it, there is no place more electric, no better place to hang your hat in LA. For a certain crowd, it's the only hotel.
Sunset Tower Hotel is all about refinement in the midst of a chaotic Sunset Strip. This handsome deco hotel is chic and particular like its owner. Ironically, it's the place to stay on the Sunset Strip for people who really do not care for the Sunset Strip. On any given night the Tower Bar (the hotel's restaurant) has the potential to be the most powerful A-list room in Hollywood with hands down the best Maître d. in town lording over the social opera.
The Standard. I still give it up for this hotel if you're young, on a budget, and want to be in the center of the Sunset Strip. Although The Standard in West Hollywood is yesterday's news, conceptually it was so ground breaking that it still deserves to be on the list. With more time, The Standard has the potential to become a low-budget icon.
Palihouse is a thinking man's hotel best suited for guests who already know the lay of the land in LA and require a stylish hotel experience without all the hubabaluu. Conceptually heady and impeccably designed, Palihouse is ahead of its time for an evolving Los Angeles.
BEVERLY HILLS & BEL AIR
The Peninsula Hotel in Beverly Hills is the antithesis of the Chateau. This hotel provides the most refined and attentive service in town and earns its five stars from a loyal following of globetrotters. A perfect fit for the demanding guest who demands true luxury and wants what they want when they want it. (And can afford to pay for it.)
The Bel Air Hotel and the Beverly Hills Hotel are both true icons. Both hotels are simply fabulous and represent the best that LA has to offer. Both hotels deliver the dream. Gun to my head: the Bel Air because of its more intimate scale and serenity. But a casual poolside lunch at the Beverly Hills Hotel can't be beat. Vintage LA.
SANTA MONICA - THE BEACH
For casual beachfront luxury, the most inspiring choice in Santa Monica is Shutters on the Beach. Designed by Michael Smith who recently completed the Obama White House, Shutters embodies the essence of So Cal luxury. Think blue and white stripes with distressed bleached wood and lots of friendly staff in polo shirts. The hotel's a little big and a little corporate but noteworthy nonetheless.
The bar for hip hotels at the beach is not very high. But if hip is what you are looking for, and you insist on Santa Monica, The Viceroy is the only game in town. Love or hate Kelly Wearstler's aesthetic choices, the hotel's design is exceptionally well executed. The Viceroy is a lively hotel with a great bar scene. This hotel is a great choice for the young and the restless in Santa Monica.
The Ambrose Hotel is the best kept secret that you should know about if you are a regular visitor to Santa Monica but do not want to pay ocean front prices or care for the pomp and circumstance of some of the larger hotels. No scene is the scene at this quiet, well-appointed, California craftsman hotel.