Shore Hotel, Santa Monica

“Location, location, location” is everything for a hotel in a city like Los Angeles. When we decided on a family trip out West for a short winter break, I spent countless hours researching hotels in Century City, Beverly Hills, and West Hollywood. But this was a family trip, not a romantic getaway, and I knew what the hotel was near was as important to our family fun as the amenities inside. I narrowed in on Santa Monica and its easy beach access and chose Shore Hotel.

For those into sustainable and green building, Shore Hotel is the only LEED Gold certified hotel in the Los Angeles area and opened in 2011. Using natural light wherever possible, the hotel’s generous use of glass showcases their stunning beach and sunset views seen on Ocean Pacific t-shirts from the 1980’s.  The lobby is a sleek statement of how chic salvaged materials can be. Children would take the lobby’s orange egg chairs for a spin one after the other. I don’t think I ever saw those egg chairs empty during our stay except the few seconds I took their picture.

Shore Hotel

Shore Hotel has a cool vibe with aqua and orange tones in the guestrooms, a refreshing twist from khakis and golds. Standard rooms run on the snug size, so families might want to consider a suite or connecting rooms. Worth mentioning, too, is the bathroom, which is separated from the sleeping area by a shower of clear glass walls, again to maximize sunlight from the balcony window. I fortunately found the optional privacy screen that can be lowered so that I wouldn’t have to watch Wild Kratz from the shower while my family watched me wash my hair. But mothers enjoy very little privacy, and my kids figured out how to pull away the screen, so two very mischievous smiles pressed against the shower glass. If the shower had been soundproofed, I could make millions selling it as a way for moms of young children to talk on the phone in peace.

Staying at the Shore was a lesson for my family in being more environmentally conscious. I made a point to my kids, who leave every light on at home, to note that the A/C in the room turns off if the balcony door is open, and lights turn off if sensors detect the room is vacant. Educational lessons aside, eco-friendliness does mean that the hotel has more of a minimalist feel. So parents might consider looking elsewhere for a hotel with spas amenities that are standard in luxury hotels, but do those hotels have a program to recycle barely used bath soaps and send them to communities in need? The Shore Hotel partners with Clean the World to reduce bath product waste by recycling soaps and creating hygiene kits.

Just because Shore Hotel does not market itself as a family hotel, this should not deter parents. We saw a number of babies, kids, and teenagers in the lobby. Sure, there is no kids’ club, and the staff will not have diapers on hand in an emergency (unfortunately I learned this the hard way), but the hotel does provide the two most important amenities that my kids needed…a Shore Hotel bucket and shovel and a year-round heated pool (by solar power, of course).

We headed to the pool where we found that a swarm of bees had chosen to set up camp. The hotel closed the pool until the bees were humanely smoked out and moved to safer grounds. This was another captivating story for my kids who were transfixed watching the process. Granted, bees do not often close down hotel pools, but my back-up plan turned out to be an even more memorable afternoon building sand castles on the beach. My kids threw themselves into the surf, and I was able to relax and soak in the views of the ocean and Santa Monica Mountains. Our after-dinner attempts to swim at the hotel were successful, and we enjoyed the pool’s display of blue lights above and below us. The day was simply wonderful.

Shore Hotel offers two unusual packages that would appeal to families like the Sandcastle package, which provides a prepared picnic and 3 hours with a professional sand artist on the beach. There is also the “Snap and Savor” package where guests partake in a scavenger hunt to snap photos of Santa Monica’s other “eco-friendly” attractions, ultimately ending up at Pier Burger for a complimentary lunch. And during the summer, the hotel offers ice cream in the lobby to cool down its guests.

Note that in-room dining at the hotel is limited to breakfast only with lunch and dinner orders served by local restaurants that deliver to rooms. Their restaurant, Pacific Sands, opens soon, and in-room dining will expand to offer lunch and dinner. Until then, the area boasts numerous restaurants. Capo is one of LA’s best restaurants but is not kid-appropriate. Luckily, you can visit its sister restaurant, Cora’s Coffee Shoppe, a locavore favorite for breakfast and lunch. In the Shore Hotel itself is Blue Plate Taco, which serves up excellent California-Mexican, and their sister restaurant a block away, Blue Plate Oysterette, is good for casual, New England-inspired seafood, with a particularly strong kids’ menu. Water Grill next to the hotel is another local favorite for seafood.

Santa Monica also boasts one of the biggest farmers’ markets in Los Angeles on Sundays. If you miss that your little ones will be quite happy at It’s Sugar that offers every imaginable type of new and old-school candy. My kids’ faces lit up at the sight of the candy bins. I made a mental note to encourage an extra-long tooth-brushing and rationalized to myself that this was permitted since we were on vacation.

Shore Hotel offers a prime location in one of LA’s most family and pedestrian friendly areas. With the Pacific Ocean and its incredible sand box across the street we loved what the Shore Hotel stood for as much as what it offered us for our family vacation.