I have travelled extensively to the Santa Monica area and my greatest joy was trying different hotels. I've experienced the best money can buy (Shutters on the Beach) and well, if not the worst, the not-so-good (Hotel California). But for the past two years I've consistently gone back to the CalMar Hotel & Suites as IMHO, it offers the best value for the money.
Notice I said "for the money." You can surely find much more luxurious accommodations in this part of town -- the aforementioned Shutters, Loews Beach Hotel, & Le Merigot are the ones that come to mind. But on a recent search for accommodations in late May, the Loews price was $500+/night vs about $200 at CalMar. If you're looking for a fun, quietly luxurious, bustling "right on the beach" hotel with a lovely pool area, then by all means go to one of those 3 (or many others) and you'll get what you pay for (that's a good thing). But if you prefer more laid back, not-quite-on-the-beach, somewhat outdated (noticeably NOT shabby/chic), not-a-lot-of-amenities but much more affordable option, then CH&S is for you.
It sounds like I'm slamming this hotel, but it's really the opposite. Each "room" is a studio or 1 bedroom apartment, with a full working kitchen, a living/dining room with a sleeper sofa, 1-2 TVs with DVD players and a separate bedroom (unless you opt for a studio). It's set up like a 1950's motel -- 2 stories with doors that open out to communal porches, built in a U shape around the pool. The furnishings haven't been updated in decades, but it's clean and homey. The bathroom reminds me of the house I grew up in in the 60's -- but again, clean and serviceable (if somewhat awkwardly laid out with the door hitting the toilet).
But when I stay here, it's like staying in my own vacation home (if I had one) -- I walk to the 3rd St Promenade for takeout from any number of restaurants there, or to Whole Foods, 2-3 blocks away, and heat-up, or prepare/cook my own meals and eat in my own dining room while I'm watching TV (or a DVD that I've brought with me). Or sitting outside my "apartment" overlooking the pool while reading a magazine. The pool is heated, so if I want to take a dip, I don't freeze my butt off (it's usually cooler in Santa Monica than more inland locales in LA). If I want to walk to the beach, it's only about a quarter mile away -- to the Pier if I want crowds (which I never do), or to the more residential quieter areas -- make a left for one, a right for the other. The "boardwalk" is conveniently marked for distance if you're running/walking/biking or whatever (plenty of bike rental places in the area).
I said this is a quieter option than a big business hotel. That is true only if there aren't a lot of kids or noisy adults in the pool area, since there's not getting away from this common area. Also, you may get street noise (cars and people going to/from 3rd St Promenade) if your bedroom faces that particular intersection, And because everything is open (especially windows, which I think is wonderful, esp in this part of the world with its modulating breezes), if you have a neighbor who smokes, you may end up breathing in his/her fumes. But there's no way to plan for it -- it is what it is when you get there.
If you're on business, this hotel may not be for you. You may not have the time/inclination to cook. You may need business services, or an on-site restaurant with room service. You may not want to pay for the Internet or parking. But if you can trade off any of these points (as I've chosen to do) then this hotel is a no-brainer.
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- Also Known As:
- Cal Mar Hotel Santa Monica
- Cal Mar Santa Monica