By David A. Keeps
August 05, 2015
Christian Horan

The Concept

Hollywood glamour meets beach house chic in 32 poolside bungalows, circa 1938, reconceived for 2015 by celebrated Los Angeles interior designer Michael Berman.

The Location

Perched on the bluff directly across from the California Incline (currently under renovation), which leads to the shore, the property—once a hideaway for Greta Garbo and Marilyn Monroe—is set on five acres of lush landscaping. (In a drought-friendly upgrade, they recently installed water-wise artificial turf.) It’s steps from the 3rd Street Promenade, and an easy, breezy walk to classic ocean view restaurants, the Santa Monica Pier and beach, and upscale Montana Avenue.

The Room

Bungalow 6, where we stayed with our two mutts, Darla and Boing, measures 350 square feet. The largest, Bungalows 24 and 25, are 2,500 square foot bi-levels with ocean views. Every detail is attended to, including an illuminated closet stocked with a battery-operated lantern. We loved Berman’s quietly luxurious design touches: faux bois tile floors and custom rugs, cerused oak and unique vintage furniture, marble tiled wet rooms with soaking tubs, velvet drapes, and a white plaster light fixture in the shape of a seagull.

The Scene

Laid-back glamour and family-friendly fun. In the lobby and by the pool, where music included ’70s soul and ’80s Britpop, guests could be heard speaking in Nordic and Latin accents. The hotel is also a magnet for locals who flock to the outdoor lounge (complete with a waterfall), the acclaimed restaurant Fig, and the Baja-cool ocean view Bungalow, a massively popular day-and-night club from impresario Brent Bolthouse.

The Service

Doting. When we checked in a bit late, the desk clerk pushed a massage appointment at Exhale, and when Darla and Boing found their way out of the bungalow’s private patio, they were quickly returned to the room. On a Tuesday morning, breakfast delivery took just 20 minutes—the eggs and bacon piping hot and the gluten-free toast still warm. After accidentally leaving our cellphone charger behind, we called and it was waiting for us with a parking valet by the time we returned just 10 minutes later.

The Perks

Yousef Ghalaini, the new chef at Fig, has upgraded the already excellent seafood and Mexican menu with Mediterranean dishes like a vegetarian Moroccan curry and a chicken shawarma rice bowl. The on-site gym has an outdoor kickboxing bag to burn off the calories—and prep you for browsing the fine French swimwear at the lobby’s Vilebrequin shop.

What We Loved

The dogs’ beds were personalized with their names and the bungalows (starting at $900) include a dedicated concierge, free parking, breakfast, and a $200 mini bar credit.

What We Wish Had Been Better

The rooms do have a desk, but you have to reach underneath it to plug in your laptop. But chances are you’re here for R and R.

David A. Keeps is on the Los Angeles beat for Travel + Leisure. The host of Ovation TV's "Art and The City," he writes regularly about travel and design. Follow him on Twitter at @davidkeeps and Instagram at @davidkeepsinsta.

More good reads from T+L:
World’s Top 50 Hotels
Best Secret Beaches on Earth
Best Places to Travel in 2015