On the way to LA? Check out three by the sea

Published11/23/2007 2:50 PM

"Where should I stay?"

That's the most common question I am asked by business travelers planning a trip to Los Angeles. But, when I mention some great hotels located downtown or in Hollywood or even in Beverly Hills, many respond with a groan.


"But I want a view of the Pacific."

"I want to take walks on the sand."

"I want to feel the ocean breeze."

To pacify these particular sojourners on their way to the City of Angels, I offer the option of booking into a Santa Monica property to make all their wishes come true.

Situated on the west side of the enormous city, this oceanside enclave is a haven for the seaworthy and a must for the sun worshipper.

So, if you fit the bill, consider these three super hotels that sit just a sprint from the sea:

• Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel (www.loewshotels.com): Simply by sitting on the patio of the in-house restaurant, Ocean and Vine, you'll get a real feel for this Pacific-front property since there's only a big stretch of sand between you and the sea. It's also a great vantage point because the food's a winner too, conjured up by Gregg Wangard and called farm-to-table cuisine with lots of unique seafood creations and California wines on the carte.

Another great place to hang out and soak up the Santa Monica lifestyle at this full-service, 342-room hotel is the gigantic outdoor pool with its lanky palm trees, savory snacks and huge hot tub. So is the extensive spa and fitness center providing Pilates classes as well as myriad rejuvenating body treatments.

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The rest of Loews rewards with an ambitious staff, ocean-view rooms, a pet-friendly policy and an alluring lobby lounge with floor-to-ceiling windows for yet another unobstructed view of the Pacific.

• Oceana Santa Monica (www.hoteloceana.com): If you like a boutique hotel high on design and big on friendliness, try this 70-suite property across the street from the Pacific. Immediately upon entering you'll feel right at home. You'll also probably get to know at least one of the front desk staff by name as you sink into a soft seat to register and chat a bit about the day so far.

The cutting-edge property has recently been made fresh by a complete makeover that includes a new lounge/restaurant with pink walls, mid-century-modern furniture and high-style cuisine partially inspired by celebrated chef Sonia El-Newal's Latin heritage.

Rooms are updated too, and include some of the best electronic gadgets in the area (60-inch plasma TVs and bedside iPod docking stations). Should you be bored by your own work, you'll find fun frills such as board games in-suite. You'll also discover a fascinating selection of coffee-table books, some of which let you know exactly who and what are thriving in the Pacific Ocean only a Frisbee's throw away from this lovely little hotel by the sea.


• Viceroy Santa Monica (www.viceroysantamonica.com): For the definitive urban retreat across from the ocean, choose this innovative, 162-room manse. The property's reception area proves how grand the Viceroy comes off with its 18-foot check-in desk. So does the dramatic lobby, welcoming you to put your feet up in a row of white leather chaises all of which face each other for easy conversation. Another perk is the ground-floor library, the perfect place to screen a film and still be surrounded by great books.

Outside, two plunge pools mean twice the chance to catch some rays with a gaggle of cabanas on hand for those who want to steer clear of the sun while still enjoying it.

Other awesome in-house amenities at this unique hotel: luxurious in-room spa treatments (including a complete "Red Carpet" makeover); the coveted New American cuisine restaurant; Whist, under the toque of Warren Schwartz of Patina and Saddle Peak Lodge fame; and the Cameo Bar, for fun libations and the chance to be part of a scene made up of local partiers, visiting celebrities and regular hotel guests like yourself.

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