It’s Friday afternoon, weekend in sight, working my way up the Pacific Coast Highway, northbound to Santa Monica.  

Curvy Art Deco in Santa Monica.

Off to the left I see the Big Blue and over to the right I see the airy and squat Santa Monica Art Deco iconic buildings lining Ocean Avenue.  Ahh, to breathe in the warm and fresh salty air, my mind wanders to a former time in Los Angeles, when starlets smoked long cigarettes and had wavy hair.

Passing Colorado Avenue I see on the right the historic white fixture, Hotel Shangri-la.  Pulling up to the valet I thought I was in my 1962 Thunderbird for a moment, but was then quickly reminded that my modern SUV is really what brought me here.  The weekend fun has officially begun.  It is my time to pretend that I have just left the Academy Awards for an exclusive Hollywood getaway after a very, very busy awards season.

Roof top view of Santa Monica Beach.

When I first heard the name Shangri-la I questioned whether this beach hotel had anything to do with the Shangri-la resorts that I had seen while traveling in the South Pacific.  Setting the record straight, it is important to know that this is an independently owned and operated resort and not affiliated with the Shangri-la hotel chain.  To my point, it is so independent that I was fortunate enough to spend time sipping a chilled glass of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc while watching the sunset in the very exclusive Suite 700 with the Hotel Shangri-la’s owner Tehmina (Tamie) Adaya. 

Avant-garde pool entrance.

Suite 700 rests on the top level of the hotel.  Tamie is hip, chic, and vibrant.   Her outgoing personality is evident throughout the property.  Whether it is the clientele interacting with the friendly staff or enjoying the details of the décor, her personality resonates.   It is apparent that Tamie treats the Hotel Shangri-la as an extension of her own home; how could it not?  Her father purchased the property in the early 1980s and she grew up here.   Tamie explained the fascinating history of her family’s legacy in Santa Monica and in the Los Angeles area.  In fact, the mural that is on the ceiling of the bar in the main dining area depicts her and her family.  Tamie loves art and creativity whether the medium is music or a paint brush.  It is refreshing to see someone successful yet with a down-to-earth love for artistic expression in a classic and timeless way.

Chic and hip suites overllook Big Blue.

Recently renovated rooms.

Hotel Shangri-la was built in the 1930s and it would be hard pressed to tell from a photo whether you were in Santa Monica or Miami — the Art Deco style spanned both coasts.  Hotel Shangri-la was built in 1939 upon a bluff overlooking historic Santa Monica Beach.  Tamie took over the property in 2004 and implemented a $30 million dollar investment and renovation, and after bringing the Hotel Shangri-la to its present modernity reopened in early 2009. Today, the posh, modern, and classic beach-side denizen is once again the hangout for Hollywood’s current starlets and gents wishing to get away and play in privacy and seclusion.  Rumor has it that guests ranging from Madonna to Bill Clinton to Robert Downey Jr. have all stayed at the Shangri-la.  If only to be a fly on the wall. . .

If you choose to stay at the Hotel Shangri-la during your Los Angeles adventure you will  understand why this resort is often used for editorial and video shoots, as well as other film and production work.  A fun little piece of Hollywood nostalgia is that Randy Newman’s “I love LA!” music video was shot at the Hotel Shangri-la back in 1984.

Modernized bath amenities.

The clean lines of the hotel begin on the outside façade, run through the marquee and gracefully continue their streamlined path into each of the guest rooms.   White and bright, the rooms have both a minimalist and luxurious feel to them.  The view of the gallant Pacific Ocean from all of the West-facing guest rooms can’t be beat.  I think the property may have won an award for the “Sexiest Room in Los Angeles!”  The plush bedding, fluffy pillows, and gigantic bathtubs are all components to that vaunted accolade.

Signature fixtures add style.

Shiny chrome hardware elegantly lines each bathroom.   The lighting sconces on the bathroom vanity donning the Shangri-la name became my favorite object of the room décor.  They complete ly embodied the Streamline Modern design of this masterpiece.  The property fits the proximity of the ocean.  The bull nosed edges of the building are nautical-like.  The pool should not and would not be missed by anyone - it is right in the middle of the property.  

Spend your day relaxing in one of the splendid cabanas.

Receive pool service in your private cabana.

After a glorious afternoon of strolling the streets of Santa Monica I venture down to the bar of “The Dining Room” where I meet a really lovely bartender.  She was brand new on the job.  She seemed to be so happy working at the Hotel Shangri-la.   The bar was well stocked with all the classics:  bold bourbons, noble vintages, grand tequilas, and an impressive Scotch collection.  Our effusive bartender was more than happy to suggest some drink options from the signature drink menu.  The pearl of the oyster was the aptly named, “The Santa Fe, NM”.  The mouth watering ingredients included El Tesoro Reposado Tequila, muddled jalapeno, cucumber, and apricot juice.  Not for the faint of heart!  It was a marvelous dichotomy of Southern California and of Spicy Southwestern Santa Fe. It made it that much sweeter.

While she whipped up my cocktail, the ocean air breezed through the open windows of the dining room.  I thought to myself, what a great place to wine, dine, and watch the sun melt into the sea.  After quaffing a few libations, the standout sandwiches on the menu looked better and better.  The Cubano has braised pork, ham, Swiss cheese, and avocado and looked nearly as amazing as the kitschy Shangri-la Sloppy which has a pile of chipotle BBQ and slaw stuffed onto a brioche bun. Yum!

The Hotel Shangri-la's dining room.

Suite 700 again.  I couldn’t keep myself away from this rooftop bar of the Hotel Shangri-la, which I believe is the only rooftop bar in Santa Monica.  With the sun set, the moonlight glaring over the blackened ocean and the lights dimmed, the swank and sin of Los Angeles was beginning to slink its way into existence.   Suite 700 is a great place to see and be seen.  

1301 Ocean Avenue
Santa Monica, CA 90401
(310) 394-2791

On Sundays they host “Speakeasy Sundays” which are inspired by the time of the real Prohibition Speakeasy.  Dress up in your Great Gatsby garb and see what kind of surprises might be in store for you.

After a night of well deserved debauchery and before heading home, some good morning grub might just be what the hangover doctor ordered.  On Saturday and Sundays, “The Dining Room” offers a killer brunch.  You can keep your party going by partaking in the proffered bottomless mimosas.  Some of the tantalizing breakfast items that are on the regular breakfast menu include Lemon Silver Dollar pancakes served with berries and syrup.  Another indulgent, but satisfying option is the French toast with orange crème fraiche served with berries and maple syrup.  Later you can run off the calories on the beach!

— Feature by Michelle Schoser, Jetsetters Magazine San Diego Correspondent; photos courtesy of Hotel Shangri-la.