‘My Favourite Hotel’ review – Sea Blue Hotel (previously ‘Hotel California’), Santa Monica

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Today, our ‘My Favourite Hotel’ review is from Santa Monica in California.

We are currently running this reader-written feature to provide some positivity and inspiration to Head for PointsYou can find all of the ‘My Favourite Hotel’ reviews so far by clicking here.  This was scheduled to be a series of about 25 hotels, but a good response from readers means that we have commissioned another batch and are continuing the series.

Today’s hotel is the Sea Blue Hotel, a budget hotel just one block from Santa Monica Pier.  It is reader Clare’s favourite hotel and here is her review:

Overview

If you thought Santa Monica was ridiculously expensive, think again.  This review of the Sea Blue Hotel should prove that it doesn’t have to be the case.

This budget hotel / motel (2 or 3 star depending on where you look) has historically only been about £120 a night, and the same price runs for most of this Summer. This is cheap as chips for Santa Monica.

review sea blue hotel santa monica

Next door is the 4* Loews Hotel (where we have also stayed many happy times) which typically costs 3x as much per night, or even more depending on the room type.  OK, so the Sea Blue doesn’t have a pool (or any facilities at all really) but if like us you are there for the beach, jogging or cycling along the famous Santa Monica Boulevard, strolling up to Venice Beach, the local bars, restaurants and Santa Monica Pier locale, then I say give this quirky gem a go! Its certainly a tonic if you are fed up with the corporate hotel scene.

NB: I noticed that from mid-August this year through May next year, prices jump to £348 per night.  This might be a coronavirus blip.  It has never historically been anywhere near this high and I would expect it to revert back to its norms.

Where is Sea Blue Hotel located?

Sea Blue Hotel is a two storey traditional wood build (and not the most attractive to look at). The hotel literally backs onto the beach road in Santa Monica, right next to the famous Santa Monica Pier.

review sea blue hotel santa monica

Venice beach is about a 30 minutes stroll along the boulevard and makes for a fascinating people watching daytime experience.

Santa Monica city centre is only about a 20 minutes walk or short bus, cab or Uber ride away.

Getting there (taxi, Uber or rental car)

If you are going through Los Angeles on business or for a holiday, I highly recommend adding on a couple of nights in Santa Monica.  You can get over the jet lag or get some beach time before or after getting on / off a transatlantic flight.

The best option for getting to the hotel in my view is an Uber from Los Angeles airport, which costs around $25, but of course depends on time of day and Uber demand. A regular airport taxi will cost you roughly double, maybe more if the driver decides to go the long way!

You might also find it convenient to know that there is an Avis car rental pick-up and drop-off point about 50 yards from the hotel, inside the Loews Hotel reception. A few times we have landed in Los Angeles, got an Uber to Santa Monica and then after a few days on the beach driven over to Las Vegas or into the mountains.  We have also done the reverse, driving from Las Vegas or the fairly local National Parks for a beach relax, before getting an Uber back to Los Angeles for the return flight.

Reception and check-in

The reception was basic, but the staff were excellent with a quick and easy check-in. There was a small coffee station where guests could get complimentary coffee and fruits (bananas) every morning.

There was some on-site parking out the front of the hotel for a daily charge of $33 per vehicle, on a first come first serve basis.

review sea blue hotel santa monica

Rooms and facilities

I would say the rooms were basic, chalet, ‘surfer chic’ style. The bed was very comfortable and there was a small fridge in our room.

review sea blue hotel santa monica

Generally there was very little in the way of facilities. The hotel had no pool, but hey, the beach was right there! There were also a few areas with sun chairs and beach umbrellas to relax on.

review sea blue hotel santa monica

We were on the ground floor in the middle of the property, which was lovely as we had a general access patio area to enjoy right outside our room for our morning coffee and to take in the late afternoon sun.

The free wifi works well and the room ceiling fan good and necessary in the summer.

The Sea Blue Hotel doesn’t have a gym, but you can rent bikes (or skates if you are brave and skilled enough) from a selection of vendors in the area and cover a lot of ground along the beach front using the safe and easy boulevard paths. It’s also an awesome spot for any runner / jogger and you can even try the classic beach gym equipment.

Eating, drinking, getting around and nightlife

Whilst there is no bar or restaurant at all at the hotel, the hotel is in an excellent location. It’s only a short stroll away from the world-famous Santa Monica pier with many bars and casual restaurants/eateries. Local bar ‘Big Deans – Ocean Front Cafe’ by the pier is a personal favourite – a drinkers’ bar with extensive lagers, that also serves good wings, nachos, and a fab chilli bowl. It has a lovely sun patio right on the Santa Monica Boulevard – great for people watching.

Loews hotel bar next door is great for a pricier cocktail experience, and I can also recommend their formal restaurant. Venice beach along the boulevard is good for a casual breakfast / brunch café.  It’s only about a 15/20 minute walk to the plentiful top brand shopping and higher class bars and steak or sushi restaurants of Santa Monica city centre.

review sea blue hotel santa monica

We have also used Uber to get over to the famous Rainbow Bar and Grill, and the ‘Whiskey-a-Go-Go’ (for rock fans) which only cost about $20 each way. It’s worth checking who is playing at the Whiskey during your stay, as it’s a great grass roots experience at a cheap ticket price.

An Uber ride into central LA is worth the trip for a stroll round the Golden Triangle in Beverly Hills, or for a visit to the high class bar & steak restaurant (reservations required) in the Beverly Wilshire.

Conclusion

The Sea Blue Hotel is my favourite spot in Santa Monica.  The location can’t be faulted, and the hotel delivers everything it promises and more via their great customer service and attitude. We’ll be back!

It is bookable on Hotels.com – see here – with free cancellation, and you can use your Hotels.com Rewards free nights!

If you want to find out more, the hotel’s website is here.

(Want to earn more hotel points?  Click here to see our complete list of promotions from the major hotel chains or use the ‘Hotel Promos’ link in the menu bar at the top of the page.)

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Comments

  1. Paul Higham says:

    Santa Monica is an excellent location to start or end a trip to California. Over the years we’ve done road trips north and south, and out to Las Vegas, Palm Springs and the Joshua Tree desert. As you say it’s also got its own attractions, including summer concerts on the pier. Aside from agreeing that you don’t need much in the way of dining facilities in a hotel there as there’s so much in a walking or Ubder distance, I can’t comment on hotels in the area as we have always stayed with friends who live close to the beach.

  2. Excellent review – this is exactly the sort of hidden gem report that really adds a lot of value. Plenty of coverage of the £500+ a night rooms, but little like this. Thank you.

    • Matt_Vauxhall says:

      Totally agree – it is good to have some budget and mid-price hotels in the reviews too.

  3. Paul74 says:

    Thanks Clare, I agree with what you’ve said about Santa Monica as a place to stop off for a few days.
    I’d just add that I’ve found the Expo Line, which runs between the centre of Santa Monica and Downtown LA, to be worth taking. Always felt safe (albeit that I’ve never been on it later than c2200) and at $1.75 per single journey (inc onward connection) the price is reasonable. All I’d qualify that with is that it’s not the quickest, so bring a good book or whatever.
    The hotel sounds like excellent value for Santa Monica!

    • Scott says:

      Used the line a few times, but it does take about an hour to get to the Civic Centre, stopping everywhere, and then you need to change to get to anywhere else (still not as long as getting to Long Beach – that took forever on the Metro!)
      The Metro stops at the University / Natural History Museum / Colosseum / Space Museum, so you can get off there and have a look around (seems to be free to see the Space museum, but chargeable for the NH museum)
      If you’re on the Expo Metro line after 10pm, there are quite a few homeless people sleeping on it. The cops sometimes clear them out, but not always. Just be careful where you’re sitting as all seats aren’t dry, if you know what I mean.

      I caught a bus last time I was in Santa Monica. Can’t remember the number, but there’s one that goes from a little bit up the road from the Metro stop and it heads to Union Station along Wilshire. Stops at Wilshire / Rodeo, so you can get off there and visit Rodeo Drive across the street. Catch it again and get off at the modern art museum / La Brea Tar Pits etc. There’s a reasonable, but pricey (probably normal Cali prices) farmer’s market just round the corner from the museum (few minute walk) and a Whole Foods etc. there if you want lunch. There’s a new Metro station across from the museum as well (was being built back in Dec, so don’t know it’s present progress).

      • Paul74 says:

        Agreed re buses, a good service by US standards.
        The Tar Pits as a destination, yes, second that!

  4. Peter K says:

    We really loved a little eatery called Cha-Cha-Chicken just off the beach at Santa Monica, maybe 10mins walk from the pier (turn right off the pier). Really delicious Caribbean style food and did gluten free on request.

    The Pier was okay, but people watching was the most fun. How they were showing off on the gym equipment, having photo shoots on the beach etc was fascinating to watch!

  5. aDifferentSimon says:

    Just watch out for escooters!

    • Along the beaches in LA and Rio those eScooters are fantastic. Dedicated, separate paths along the promenade and a very easy and fun way to get from A to B. I used them almost every day in Rio!

      Completely useless, of course, once there are no dedicated paths, which there aren’t beyond the beachfront.

      • Scott says:

        Sure the Lyft / Uber etc. e-scooters (around $10/hr) have now been banned from the beach paths. Fine on the normal streets, but bikes, pedestrians and runners only near the sand now.
        I assume someone got run over or too close for comfort?
        Was going to rent one last time I was there and head up to MdR, but walked instead, and treated myself to a triple Ben & Jerry’s cone on the return that was as sickly as hell 😉

        I always go there when in LA. Nice run of around 3.8 miles from Santa Monica Pier to Venice Pier (where the end of the film “Falling Down” was filmed I think).
        Bit further around the back of the houses once the beach path ends if you want to see the yachts at Marina Del Rey (or walk over the sand but that’s hard going)

        Quieter in the winter months, so less people using the climbing frames, rings etc. to show how athletic they are compared to you 😉

        Do like sitting on the end of the pier, especially early morning, or in the evening, looking at the ocean and watching the seal(s) and planes taking off from LAX in the distance.

        A lot of homeless people there. A lot of tents etc. in the Venice area for example.
        Some of them make things out of old cans, paint pictures etc., so some interesting flea market type nick knacks if you’re into that sort of thing.

  6. Lady London says:

    I’d be interested in any other relatively modest niche favourites in the LAX area as I may have to be there 2 or 3 nights later this year…if UK citizens allowed in!

  7. AndyGWP says:

    Thanks – I’m not a big fan of LA. Too much hustle and bustle – especially driving – however this review made me realise it wasn’t as bad as I remembered, and how much I’d happily be there now (well, not right now) 🙂

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