With a sea breeze ruffling my hair, and 15 more degrees than I am accustomed to in January, our trip to the Oceana Beach Club Hotel is off to an auspicious start. Cruising down the highway towards this Los Angeles boutique hotel, I watch as my hand surfs the wind outside our red convertible. I realise suddenly that I can’t remember the last time I’ve seen my fingers ungloved. I’ve been in New York too long.
That’s why we’re headed to the Oceana, positioned on the palm tree-lined cliffs of Santa Monica, California. Before the engine has a chance to come to a stop, a pair of strapping boys in khakis and polo shirts open the doors and welcome us to the hotel. ‘We’ll take care of the car from here,’ they say in unison. ‘May we take your luggage?’ ‘No, that won’t be necessary,’ I say. They seem surprised, but my week’s luggage consists of a nothing more than a small duffel bag. We are at the beach, after all.
We enter a lift with red-velvet walls, an opal-and-turquoise inlaid stone floor and lighting reminiscent of a recent trip to Amsterdam. It opens on the third floor to reveal a terrace overlooking Oceana’s courtyard, replete with swimming pool, cream-coloured beach chairs and outdoor dining areas. The thought crosses my mind to dive-bomb the heart-shaped pool. Instead, we open a wood-slatted door and splash into our room.
Our spacious Ocean View Suite has sunny yellow walls, lime-green furnishings and a flowery sofa that evokes 1950s beach-party movies – but in a Designers Guild, rather than kitsch, way. A games table with chess, chequers and backgammon is set up for rainy days or early nights. Floor-to-ceiling sliding glass doors in the bedroom and living room lead onto a balcony with sea views.
Looking out at the Pacific Ocean, Mr Smith and I decide on a sunset run to the Santa Monica pier – the rolling waves seem to be beckoning us, after all. The wide path winds through dunes, past a Ferris wheel and ice-cream shops before turning back to the hotel.
Back at the hotel, we decide to take a dip. It’s 15 degrees outside, so we are the only two in the courtyard’s heated pool. No self-respecting Angeleno would be caught having a swim when the temperature is less than 30. Afterwards, we dry ourselves by the outdoor fireplace, just steps from the pool.
Next, we’re off to Bay Cities Italian Deli & Bakery, home of LA’s most delicious meatball subs and within walking distance of the hotel. We quickly fill our trays with subs, pasta salads, chips, root beer and red-velvet cupcakes, then adjourn to the alfresco tables to feast. When we can eat no more, Mr Smith and I take a moonlit stroll back to the hotel and climb into the plush bed for an early night.
The upside of east-to-west jetlag hits the next morning. Because of his confused internal clock, Mr Smith wakes at dawn in time for a sunrise run along the shore, passing funky beach houses with multi-coloured outdoor spiral staircases and stopping to marvel at the swells of the waves, wishing he had a surfboard.
Upon his return, we head down to Oceana’s restaurant, where we have our pick of assorted breakfast delicacies: a bountiful cold buffet of fresh fruit, granola, hand-squeezed juices, salmon and potatoes, as well as hot platters of fresh pancakes, banana-walnut French toast, eggs and bacon.
After breakfast, we pay a visit to Westwood, home of my alma matter, University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), where I regale Mr Smith with tales of college debauchery. Later that evening, we head over to Hamburger Mary’s, a fun retro diner in the heart of West Hollywood, for my university flatmate’s birthday celebrations, followed by country-and-western dancing in the Valley.
Mr Smith had heard stories of my boot-stomping, bandana-wearing days, but he had yet to see it for himself. I warned him that once I got my dancing shoes on, he would have a hard time getting me off the dancefloor. Sure enough, I’m soon promenading with a man in a 10-gallon hat. Out of the corner of my eye, I see Mr Smith trying to learn the two-step with my friend from uni. After a few attempts, I ditch Marlboro man and let Mr Smith twirl me around the room. He does a fair job, and we line-dance the night away.
Exhausted, we finally head home. Outside, it still feels warm to us, but the locals are wrapped up in jumpers and gloves. No wonder the valet-parking boys were confused by my small bag.
Instead of going straight to bed, we luxuriate in the refreshing sea breeze by the pool. With not a sound coming from the other guest rooms, there’s only one thing left to do. I quickly strip off, take a running start and whoosh… Mr Smith gets soaked by my dive-bomb. Thank goodness for that poolside fire.
Anonymously reviewed by Bryce Longton (Wanderlustful writer)
Reviews of Oceana Beach Club Hotel from Smith members
Whenever you book a stay through us, we’ll invite you to comment when you get back. Read the Guestbook entries below to see what real-life Mr & Mrs Smiths have said about this hotel…
The service was outstanding. From the valet and bell staff, to check-in/concierge and the restaurant team, the service was just impeccable: friendly, familiar, professional and genuine. We were upgraded to a one-bed suite, which was lovely, and the free bikes they have to use were a perfect way to cycle up and down between Santa Monica, Venice and Manhattan Beach.
Some of the furnishings within the rooms were slightly dated, but overall I loved this hotel and will be back as soon as possible.
Daniel, SilverSmith stayed on 7 Nov 2013
The Oceana's staff were brilliant, even in the face of some quite nasty guest behaviour! Their smiles never wavered and they did not lose their cool. The best thing about the hotel was the lush and well-tended gardens and real plants indoors. It was a delight to have so much greenery around. Lastly, the food was delicious and creatively presented. Overall, a thoroughly enjoyable stay!
Tea-making facilities in the room as well as the coffee maker would be great; making tea through a coffee pot is not quite the same tastewise!
Fiona, SilverSmith stayed on 23 Jul 2013
The spacious Lanai Suite, with bright and modern interior. The very friendly and helpful staff and the good restaurant for both breakfast and dinner. The quiet neighborhood that was still within walking distance of Santa Monica.
Patrick, SilverSmith stayed on 12 Sep 2012
The beach house feel.
Room service menu. The room above us was annoyingly noisy. When booking, it would have been nice to have had the choice of an ocean view.
Deborah, SilverSmith stayed on 5 Jul 2012 three children aged 3 years, 8 years and 9 years
Santa Monica is the place to be in LA and this hotel is just a wonderful little gem. Really enjoyed my stay and will definitely be coming back. Staff were so incredibly friendly, they made my stay even more enjoyable. Rooms have lovely airy decor and the location is amazing. Can't wait to come back.
Masha, GoldSmith stayed on 3 Mar 2012
This is such a beautifully quirky hotel and location is amazing. The hotel is probably number one in Santa Monica and Santa Monica is the number one part of LA. (Well, in my opinion anyway.) Definitely recommend staying here near the beach and the great shops and restaurants, away from ugly Downtown and the touristy bits of Hollywood.
Masha, GoldSmith stayed on 19 Dec 2011