Travel & Hotels

Fairmont Miramar Hotel and Bungalows

When you want to get away for a weekend, you need to find an area that is close enough to avoid flying, yet feel far enough away from your house to still get a break from reality. We took the challenge to find a spot here in the greater Los Angeles area to deliver an ideal “staycation.” A regular hotel wouldn’t do it for us — we were grabbing for words like, “enclave,” “departure,” and “oasis.” (Tall order for L.A!) After researching options, we decided on the Fairmont Miramar Hotel and Bungalows. Santa Monica is a beautiful city, but was this going to be a true retreat?

Turning up the hotel’s winding drive towards the towering 120-year old fig tree we were immediately embraced by a wonderfully private walled compound. It was unbelievable that a property sitting on the corner of Ocean and Wilshire could feel so separate from its immediate surroundings. Guests are just across the street from the beach and a block from Third Street Promenade and the new Santa Monica Place…but enter that driveway and the world is left behind.

Members of Hollywood royalty have been enjoying the property since its opening back in the 1920s — think Greta Garbo and Clark Gable. We were fortunate to be booked into one of the private twostory bungalows. The first floor ornate hardwood floor hallway leads to a master bedroom and an en suite bathroom with a huge two-person tub. Up the curved staircase is a large sitting room, another bathroom (including dry sauna), a smaller sun deck with a couple of chaise lounges and, the piece-de-resistance, a private ocean-view terrace with chairs, day bed and an eight-person dining table. Since it also has outdoor heaters, you are ready for al fresco dining anytime. Accommodations like this mean you are on vacation the second you cross the threshold.

Cool beach temperatures greet you in the morning. From your terrace the ocean spreads across the horizon fronted by the morning running elite along the Palisades trail. Your day starts off with caffeine provided by your complementary in-room Nespresso espresso machine and sustenance from the fresh (still hot!) muffins and seasonal berries that room service delivers at the pre-arranged time. (To read more about our dinner at the Miramar’s featured Fig Restaurant, see its review elsewhere in this issue.) The Fairmont will provide you with workout clothes (a freshly laundered set provided by housekeeping daily) and Reebok athletic trainers for your feet — just let them know your sizes upon making your reservation. These people seriously want you to feel at home!

In some ways, the hotel feels almost like three properties in one: a modern tower facing the ocean, a 1930s brick façade Pacific Palisades building, and thirty-two individual signature bungalows. The bungalows are screened off from the world by rows of plants and ring the gardens and pool area. The majority of the bungalows are single-story studios and they feel like they should have come with a manual typewriter to work on a script as if you were right out of the golden days of Hollywood. The historical Pacific Palisades building encompasses wonderful period details, such as crown molding, dark wood trim and original light fixtures in the hallways. The room to request is one of the individually designed and recently updated “specialty suites” featuring a separate living room and bar coupled with a bedroom. Each of these suites provides unique theming (one is styled like old Hollywood, with a standing spotlight lamp, distressed leather sofa and fully stocked “old school” bar) and generally feature six large windows with ocean views over the property, that fill the room with tons of natural light.

The Ocean Tower accommodations feel more like traditional hotel rooms, but with great views of Santa Monica beach and the Pacific Ocean. From the higher floors you feel like you can touch the horizon from your bed. Each comes with a nice balcony to better enjoy the view.

The property’s gardens and pool help set the stage for escapism, but nothing drives that home better than the on-site Exhale Spa. Being L.A. there are a ton of fitness classes in the plié bar lined room (I have the flexibility of a Boris Karloff character, but I was assured that the core-based programs were perfect for beginners and experts alike — despite wearing my nice Fairmont-provided shoes, I diverted instead to the treatment area). The spa’s signature “flow massage” is designed to give the benefits of a deep tissue treatment without the accompanying discomfort. One of the best massages I have ever experienced — a combination of relaxation and actually feeling like the tension was removed from the muscles. The spa has a full offering of treatments ranging from pedicures (my travel companion swears by their treatment chairs) to consultations with the staff nutritionist. You could easily turn your entire weekend into a diverse spa-based itinerary. Even if you only have time for one treatment, do yourself a favor and book one!

There is so much just outside the door from the property and the concierge staff are more than happy to set up special experiences: from using the hotel’s private beach club (open during the summer), driving directions to Malibu, a personal shopper at Santa Monica Place, special tickets for the amusement rides on the pier to a trail map for you to enjoy the hotel’s complimentary BMW bicycles.

So, were we able to have a satisfying “staycation” in only a weekend? Undeniably yes! A two-night stay at the Fairmont Miramar, in the heart of Santa Monica, marries an exciting and bustling L.A. location, with a perfect secluded and relaxing vibe. We can’t wait to check-in again, as thanks to the Fairmont Miramar, we found a whole new way to love L.A.

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