If you want to stay in Santa Monica this summer or autumn for a beach vacation, expect to pony up nearly $400 per night for beachfront hotels like Shutters on the Beach and Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel. But a little bit of flexibility -- namely looking one town south, to Venice Beach -- can yield huge savings. Hotel Erwin, a funky boutique hotel just a half-block from the Venice Beach Boardwalk, perfectly embodies the beach town’s eclectic energy. (After all, this is where The Doors got together in 1965, and even today you can’t walk a block without seeing a street performer or musician.) Here's our full report:What’s Hot: Again, this hotel is notable for allowing travelers to stay in comfort within the thick of Venice Beach’s hip action. It's the area's only boutique, and you can't miss the vibrant bright orange trim and a circular drive in the exterior. Inside, the local beach scene spills over into the lobby, where surfboards double as art.
Best Feature: Our favorite part of the hotel has to be the High Lounge on the top floor. For the price of a cocktail ($15), beer ($8 or $9) or glass of wine ($10-$17), you’ll step into an amazing, unobstructed view of the beach and boardwalk, as well as nearby Muscle Beach. Plenty of sectional seating makes this a comfy spot to unwind -- or to pump up the energy on DJ nights. Ordering tip: Looking for a local drink? Try the two Southern California brews of Venice Duck Dogtown IPA and Stone Levitation Amber Ale.
The Rooms: Some of the hotel’s 119 rooms and suites boast balconies and ocean views, perfect for taking in the sunset. While the nine different categories that are all differently decorated, you can expect soothing lemon and aqua hues that get you into the seaside spirit. Amenities in each room include an iPod docking station and 32”-42” HDTV, and all guests enjoy complimentary WiFi, valet parking, and free passes to nearby Gold’s Gym.
The Food: Barlo Kitchen & Cocktails, on the ground floor, is open for breakfast and dinner daily. On the dinner menu is quirky fare like a foie gras burger, sous-vide mahi mahi, roasted squab in cherry jus, and venison cooked in raspberry Mountain Dew. Breakfast skews toward comfort foods like chocolate orange waffles, breakfast tacos, and strawberry buttermilk pancakes. But don't forget the aforementioned High Lounge, which is Venice Beach’s only rooftop lounge. The food menu is divided into North of the Border (think: crab salad sliders) and South of the Border (featuring the likes of grilled mahi mahi tacos).
Who Will Love It: The hotel will delight fans of mid-century modern and retro design; beach lovers who trust the hotel staff to curate fun local recommendations; and travelers who enjoy ditching the car -- Venice Beach is very pedestrian-friendly.
Who Will Not: Venice Beach boasts a grittier type of cool, meaning it's not necessarily a family vacation spot.
Rates, Deals, and Special Offers: Rates fluctuate significantly here depending on travel dates. Best rates for summer are weeknights in mid-July, when rooms run $309 per night. Come September, prices drop to $269 on weeknights and $278 for weekends. Check the website, too, for a variety of fun promotions. A quirky one is the Ink & Stay package, which throws in a $100 voucher from The Black Rose Tattoo in Venice Beach, plus an icepack for recovery and a bottle of tequila.
Nearby: The boardwalk teems with vintage clothing shops, not to mention a great indie bookstore, Small World Books, that we love perusing. On Abbot Kinney Boulevard, find the TOMS flagship store and its brand-new coffee shop, among other clothing shops tucked into small homes. (We recommend Buck Mason and Robert Graham for men and The Piece Collective for artsy home goods.) Go just one block for one of L.A.'s best sushi spots, Hama Sushi, and the canals -- yep, just like in the other Venice -- are a 10-minute walk.