Find a Place to Stay in Santa Monica, California

What the Booking Sites Won't Tell You About Santa Monica

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Instead of creating yet another long list of hotels in Santa Monica that's more or less just like all the others, I'm going to give you the information that those other folks don't: How to keep from getting fooled about your hotel's location, how to get the best prices using some tactics you may not have thought of.

You should know that many Santa Monica hotels charge for parking and rates at some of them can cost as much as a dinner in a nice restaurant. If you'd rather spend your money on something other than a place to stash your auto, try ParkMe to find a lower-cost parking spot - often within a block or less of your hotel.

Some hotels also charge a resort fee. Santa Monica hotel tax is 14%.

A Bit About Santa Monica

Downtown Santa Monica
Downtown Santa Monica. Getty Images and Hisham Ibrahim

The city of Santa Monica is situated beside the Pacific Ocean on the west side of the LA metro area. Most of the hotels are in the downtown area, near Santa Monica Beach and the pier.

Hotels along Ocean Avenue and northwest of the pier may use words like “by the sea” and “oceanfront” in their descriptions, but don’t be fooled.

The thing they may not tell you - and you may not figure out from looking at a map is that they're not really what I would call beach hotels. I figure a beach hotel is right on the beach, not just with a glimpse of the sand if you lean out the window and squint.

Here's what you need to know: Downtown Santa Monica is on a bluff above the ocean and across a busy highway from the beach. It's close to the ocean as the bird flies, but unless you also have wings, you can only get down to the beach in a couple of places and you have to get off the bluff and cross the road to do that.
If you want something that's really on the beach, look southeast of the pier. You’ll find several hotels on Appian Way that are next to the beach, or just across a not-too-busy street from it.

You'll need more than just a place to sleep while you're in Santa Monica. Take a look at things to do in Santa Monica for a weekend getaway.


Finding a Hotel in Santa Monica

Once you've picked a few good candidates for your trip, don't stop there.

For less than $150 a night, your Santa Monica hotel options are limited to a few places whose online reviews are so bad that they could become the plot for a new horror movie.

You may also be able to get something less expensive by choosing a vacation rental. See the section below about how to do that.

If you can wait until the last minute without chewing your fingernails to the quick, you can also try to get same-day reservations using the Hotel Tonight app.

My Favorite Santa Monica Hotel

View from the Fairmont Miramar
View from the Fairmont Miramar. Coutesy of the Fairmont Miramar

With a whole state to cover, we can't stay in every hotel - and just taking a quick tour tells you little about what the place is really like when you're sleeping there. I can tell you about one hotel in Santa Monica that I have stayed at and really like:

Fairmont Miramar

I heard about this place for years before I finally managed to stay there and it stands up to its reputation. Their location is convenient, at the edge of downtown just across from Palisades Park and the hotel is nice in a classic kind of way. Our room on the 10th floor had a gorgeous view of the Santa Monica Bay. It was clean and comfortable and quite. Everything we look for in a place to stay.

Like lots of other urban hotels these days, the Miramar has a lively bar scene. Unlike other urban hotel bars, The Bungalow at the Miramar is in a separate building so it doesn't disrupt guests. And the bungalow-style atmosphere is especially appealing and comfortable.

Since the arrival of chef Yousef Ghalaini, their restaurant Fig has been serving up some really tasty meals. Our dinner was excellent and the breakfast chilaquiles were the best I've had outside of Mexico.

To provide some balance to my exuberance, online reviewers seem to have mixed feelings about the hotel. While my room was clean, modern and well-appointed, others complain that it needs renovation. 

Note that their rooms have only full-size and king beds, no queens or twins.

As is common in the travel industry, I received a complimentary stay at the Mirarmar While it has not influenced this review, believes in full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest.

Finding a B&B in Santa Monica

You'll find a few bed and breakfasts in Santa Monica, those properties that lie between a hotel and a vacation rental. I'd define them as places that have more than 2 guest rooms and provide a prepared breakfast every morning.

My searches have only turned up two in Santa Monica:

Santa Monica Vacation Rentals

I love to rent a big house and invite a bunch of friends to join us (or rent a small one to have all to ourselves). In the past couple of years, I've also started using vacation rentals to save money and be more comfortable during my travels.

You can also find some vacation rental listings by clicking the Vacation rentals link at Tripadvisor.

And don't forget to try Airbnb.

Just like the hotels in Santa Monica, few vacation rentals are right on the beach. The easy way to tell is look at the map - if it's south of the pier and looks like it's on the beach on the map, it might be.

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