I’ve always loved Santa Monica. It’s kind of like Hollywood’s cool, beachy cousin and is the perfect chilled antidote to LA’s frenetic pace. After doing the 14-hour flight from Sydney with Max and all his three-year-old histrionics, I am seriously ready to chill.
Since I’m here to do an express beauty and health tour around the city, I book into The Casa Del Mar. This grand hotel occupies a stately position right on the beach, just strolling distance to the historic Santa Monica Pier and Third Street Promenade shopping district so is perfectly positioned for exploring.
The rooms are an ode to classic American beachside chic in muted seafoam and silver, decorated with giant coral and seashells. There’s a gorgeous carved four-poster bed and giant arched windows that frame views over the expansive Santa Monica shoreline. Max and I promptly hit the Italian linen and pass out for two hours, waking up to the sound of my phone alarm.
We jump in a complimentary shuttle that is run by Casa Del Mar’s sister hotel and next-door neighbour, Shutters. When you’re staying at either hotel, you can flag it down and grab a lift anywhere around Santa Monica. Out of all the cities around Los Angeles, Santa Monica is the one area you could get away with not having a car. Uber X is super cheap too and a great option if you’re heading out to dinner.
I'm in need of some greenery, so our first stop is to try vegan leaf-loving raw restaurant M.A.K.E at Santa Monica Place. It’s a pity that it’s in a big shopping centre, which makes it feel a bit food court-like, but the food is exquisite and SUPER healthy. We start with kimchi dumplings with ginger foam. They are so light and the wrapping, which is made out of coconut and kale that has been dehydrated, taste just like gow gee wrappers. The kelp Ramen noodles are amazing and so full of flavour. Max devours them with his fingers.
We wander up the shopping strip – Third Street Promenade - and check out Sephora – which is impressive in scale, but with our current exchange rate, the prices aren’t as tempting as usual. During a quick whip around Kitson I find some cute little novelties. Wine Wipes are great for getting rid of those manky red wine lips and are fragranced with orange blossom, and I love the look of a range called Kale Naturals (only in LA!)
As I have a few evening appointments and meetings to go to, I had the hotel organise a babysitter for the evening. Carol is amazing. She arrives with a Mary Poppins bag full of dinosaurs, colouring-in books, cars and trucks. Max practically pushes me out the door!
After a blissful treatment at Tikkun Holistic Spa (where Gwyneth famously steamed her uterus) I head to organic healthy hotspot True Food Kitchen to meet Mary Zavaglia, a beauty editor friend of mine who has relocated to LA. We dine on a massive bowl of veggie crudités with the most amazing kale and avocado dip followed by a Chicken Panang and ‘Sustainable Scallops’ served with brown rice. Back at the hotel I hit the cushiony bed like a ton of bricks and wake up, what feels like moments later, to shards of sun splicing through the blinds.
Keen to check out the beach I take Max down to Perry’s, the bike hire place, and hire a bike with a seat on the back. We ride up and down the beach checking out the volleyball players and the media frenzy down at the Spirit Awards, which by chance were happening that day. A friend, Bree, comes to meet me with her little girl, Mini, and we check out the Santa Monica Pier rides, jumping on the gorgeous old carousel with the kids, then head to Rawvolution for lunch for raw vegan nachos and salads. The kids aren’t wild about the food choice, but we leave feeling very chaste indeed.
A quick whip around Montana Avenue caps off my express tour. They have impressive Dermalogica and Kiehl’s stores alongside the innovative concept, Skin Laundry – which is a salon offering express 10 minute laser facials (the owner actually recently opened a similar concept spa in Sydney’s Mosman called Clean, Clear & Correct). You can also get a blowdry and makeup application at Benefit Cosmetics, a $35 mani/pedi at Tracy’s Nail Salon or a quick massage at Cha Spa. Santa Monica is the ideal destination for a complete health and beauty immersion, and it’s a great way to ease into your US trip and get over jet lag. I might have to make this a compulsory stop over from now on.
For more ideas on where to stay and what to do, head to SantaMonica.com.
Story by Sigourney.