It was hard to leave the Beverly Hills Hotel, especially as the girls were starting to run the place like Eloise at the Plaza. But we were also looking forward to a change of scenery and the beachfront town of Santa Monica, especially as the sun was finally coming out after three consecutive cloudy days. Shutters on the Beach was the obvious choice. While there are newer and hipper (The Viceroy), more historical (Casa Del Mar), or laid-back (Oceana) hotels to stay at in this vibrant beach community, Shutters is certainly the most well known. Whether its for lunch, cocktails or a weekend jaunt, it is – even after 15 years since the hotels’ opening – still the place to go in Santa Monica.
Shutters on the Beach is also, I might add, a mainstay for celebrities. A manager who gave me a tour of the hotel (himself a former movie producer) proudly pointed out that Shutters gets more celebrities than the Beverly Hills Hotel. Judging from the action in the lobby and the Ferraris in the driveway, he may be right. The lobby, designed like an oversize living room with multiple areas to congregate, was always bustling during our stay with people reviewing scripts, discussing some scene, or mingling with cocktails or coffee. Everyone seemed like they were in the movie business. Even our babysitter, formerly a nursery school teacher from New York City, was a struggling actress.
Owned by the Slatkin family, (who ironically owned the Beverly Hills Hotel for 30 years), Shutters is a 198-room hotel that is split in two sections: the more coveted 3-story Beach House directly on the beach and the 7-story Ocean House set back from the ocean. Much of the hotel underwent a “refreshing” (aka mini-renovation) three years ago by interior designer, Michael Smith (also known now as the White House decorator for the Obamas). All the rooms have a casual “New England beach meets California” aesthetic. Appropriate to its name, shutters are virtually everywhere, inside and out.
Surprisingly, there are only 11 suites in the hotel of which only four of them are ocean-view – making them the most coveted and hard to book rooms. The most spacious rooms are the three Presidential suites that go from $4-6k a night. Our 1-bedroom suite, #345, was considered non-ocean facing but did indeed have a view of the beach and Santa Monica Pier as it was located at the front end of the hotel. The downside of this is that is next to the parking lot and loading dock which was noisy in the early mornings. You are also next to the pool and deck located in the center of the 3rd floor which can be a blessing or a curse.
For families, the standard suites are a bit cramped. The closet and bathroom space is fine if you are flying solo or duo but insufficient if not. I would recommend a suite connecting to a another suite or standard room if you are more than two.
A word about the service: In comparison to the Beverly Hills Hotel and Del Coronado (our last stop and to be reviewed in the next post), Shutters was the least impressive. While there was nothing particular to pin-point that was wrong, it was nowhere near the attentiveness we received at either of the hotels. Fine but not remarkable in any way.
The vibe: Epitome of laid-back luxury.
What we loved: The location of the hotel – on the beach, near wonderful shops and restaurants.
The lobby reminded me of a oversize living room with several areas of over-stuffed couches with fireplaces and tables enticing guests to linger. The decor was inviting and warm with glass french doors facing the ocean, bringing the outside indoors. Nice.
For the kids, it was room service (no big surprise there) and the home-made cookies and milk provided with turn-down service every night.
What we didn’t love: Bathrooms and closets felt cramped for a family of four in the suites.
Don’t Miss: Coast, one of the on-site restaurants, for breakfast – its a bit pricey but the food is fresh and delicious (try the famous Lemon Ricotta pancakes!). For an equally terrific but much less expensive breakfast option nearby, hit the M Street Kitchen & Bakery
- one block away from the hotel on Main Street. Stop by just for the freshly-baked cookies (the chocolate chip cookies with flour de del are to die for!) or homemade english muffins.
For a casual lunch, try Il Fornaio (next to the more formal Ivy at the Beach restaurant) on Main Street in front of the entrance to the Santa Monica Pier. The pizzas from the wood-burning oven hit the spot for all of us.
Saving the best for last – Capo restaurant is a must. Get a babysitter and head for a romantic dinner to this cozy trattoria, one block from the hotel on Ocean Avenue. It was packed at 10 pm mid-week which is saying something for L.A. Almost everything we had was memorable (especially the sweet corn ravioli, fresh burata and BBQ calamari cooked in the wood-burning oven) and it was our best meal by far during our trip. Desserts must be ordered in advance but are worth it (Spinning classes are nearby at Revolution Fitness to burn it off the next morning). All this comes at a price though – Capo is considered one of the priciest restaurants in town.
Worth a peek: Stop by Shutter’s less well-known sister next door, Casa Del Mar, which has been enjoying a renaissance with the New Hollywood set since its multi-million renovation in 2008 . The two hotels couldn’t be more different (Casa being more formal with a dark-paneled lobby reeking of history). Casa Del Mar has had many incarnations since its opening as a beach club in 1926, including once being a Pritiken clinic for weight loss.
Tips: There is plenty to do in Santa Monica with the kids. We were there for a limited time and so were unable to experience everything Santa Monica had to offer. Some options:
- The Pier – With rides and games and restaurants, its a great way to spend an hour. The roller coaster is fine for 6-year olds and up. The wooden carousel at the entrance to the pier was closed when we went – it is open only certain days a week so check ahead before going.
- 3rd Street promenade – A pedestrian area with all the stores and restaurants you would find in a mall in the suburbs but fun to walk with street entertainers. Johnny Rockets, where the employees often break out in song and dance, was fun for the kids.
- Venice Beach – aside from the smell of illegal substances in the air and some sketchy people, the kids were fascinated by the skate boarders and activity around them.
- The beach - Obvious, I know but it was too chilly when we were there to really hang there. Weather-dependent.
Hotel photos courtesy of Shutters on the Beach