Hey all! I’m back with another mini travel guide! (You can catch my most recent one here.) The destination this time? Santa Monica! If you’ve been following along over on Instagram, you know that Rob and I recently celebrated our 4th wedding anniversary. We made it special by taking a 3-day weekend to relax in beautiful Santa Monica, California! Even though we used it as an opportunity to relax and recharge, it was an incredible trip worth documenting. I’m sharing all the details with you here, so keep reading to find out how we spent 72 hours in Santa Monica!
Before I jump into the good stuff, I want to share a bit about how we travel. In short- Rob is VERY into travel hacking. You know, credit card points, hotel loyalty programs, etc. I am not an expert on this, but I am asking him to put together a little guide for beginners for me to share! I do know that it’s not easy, and he puts a LOT of time and effort into booking flights and hotels that are unique, special, and usually out of the price range we’d be willing to spend if we were paying cash. I’m talking spreadsheets, hours reading travel blogs and Reddit threads, and setting goals for our spending.
I was skeptical of the process at first, but we have reaped the benefits time and time again! The dollars we spend day to day truly go the extra mile. They have taken us to Europe as well as all over the continental U.S.! It allows us to use points for travel and lodging so we can use our hard-earned cash on food and experiences once we arrive at our destination. This was definitely the case for our stay in Santa Monica.
Where We Stayed
Our hotel experience in Santa Monica was one of my favorites we’ve had so far. After landing at LAX and a quick, 15-minute car ride, we checked in to The Oceana Santa Monica. It’s right across Ocean Avenue from the beach, and is within walking distance to the Santa Monica Pier, local restaurants, and lots of shopping.
The exterior of the building is covered in greenery from top to bottom with the exception of the sign. Had Rob not seen photos of the hotel prior to our arrival, we would’ve missed it! The unassuming exterior gives way to a breathtaking interior. The lobby features a dual-sided fire place and a light installation worthy of an art museum.
All of the rooms open up to the “outside”, but it’s still within the building. There are 3 floors of rooms, all centered around the gorgeous freeform pool in the middle of the hotel. There is also a restaurant/bar on the ground floor that serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Although the service was typically pretty slow, the staff was very friendly and accommodating, and the food was delicious.
Tucked behind the pool on the ground floor was the most aesthetically pleasing gym we have ever had the pleasure of using. It featured free weights and machines, as well as a Peloton Bike+ and 2 Peloton Treads. There were still some COVID-19 restrictions during our stay, but we were able to reserve 1-hour time slots at the gym each morning. It was nice to be able to get in some cardio without a mask on as well as have free-range of the gym. We also spent a lot of time on the 3rd floor sunset terrace, as it had the best views of the ocean.
We were lucky enough to get upgraded to a stunning king-size suite that featured a private patio, a peek at the ocean, and all the amenities we could ever need. The bed was insanely comfortable, and the sheets were so good I had to untuck them peep the brand on the tag. We also each got a white terrycloth robe to lounge around in while getting ready for dinner (same brand as the sheets), and there were slippers available upon request.
Overall, our experience was great. We booked a luxury hotel because we knew it’d be a chill getaway where we’d be spending more time at the hotel than if we were on more of an adventurous vacation. If you ever get the chance to stay at the Oceana Santa Monica, I’d encourage you to do it. It was fabulous, and we’d love to go back someday.
What We Did
As I mentioned above, this was intended to be a relaxing getaway for us to slow down and reconnect, so we didn’t do a ton of scheduled activities. There were several fun things to see in the area, however, so here’s what we ventured out for.
Morning Bike Ride
We were able to take some colorful beach cruisers, courtesy of the Oceana Santa Monica, across the street and down to the beach. There was a paved walkway with marked lanes for walkers/runners as well as people on wheels including bikes, rollerblades, and even one lady we saw on a unicycle (I love California lol). Since we were coming from Central Standard Time, we were waking up early on our own and opted for an early morning ride before the beach got too busy. We did not regret it! It was a gorgeous, cloudy, and quiet morning. I LOVED smelling and hearing the ocean as we leisurely cruised up the coast for a few miles. It was the perfect way to start our day and soak up some beach time without getting sand all over us or dealing with crowds.
Santa Monica Pier
One evening before dinner, we caught the sunset at the end of the Santa Monica Pier. We didn’t stop on our way out to the end, but there were some kitschy restaurants and a small amusement park along the way. Not exactly our thing, but definitely fun to see at least once and do some people watching! The end of the pier has great views of the ocean, the beach, and the sunset.
3rd Street Promenade
The 3rd street promenade is a unique outdoor shopping/dining area. We loved it particularly because of the live music that seemed to be around every corner. We ended up having dinner at a restaurant in the area our first night, and we loved it so much that we came to explore the rest of the promenade first-thing the next morning.
Where We Ate
We may not have done much other than walk around and shop, but we definitely got our fill of great food! Keep reading to see where we ate and what we ordered!
Sandpiper Dining Room
The Sandpiper is the main restaurant inside the Oceana Santa Monica, and we ate breakfast there every morning. They do, however, offer lunch and dinner menus as well. As I mentioned above, the service was not very timely, but the staff was always apologetic and accommodating. Every meal we had was great. Rob stuck to the Farm Fresh Eggs every morning, and I had it once as well! It was a classic, well-rounded breakfast with eggs, toast, bacon or sausage, and a nice little arugula salad on the side. The other two mornings I mixed it up with the Irish Oatmeal (it was a HUGE portion, but so tasty) and the Avocado Toast (filling, and beautifully presented). We also eyed the Hometown Hero burrito, but never got around to trying it.
The Sandpiper also features a full bar and a fun cocktail list, so we couldn’t resist trying a few. Our two favorites were the Bold Fashion and the La Playa Margarita. It was fun to sip them by the pool or watching the sunset from the terrace on the top floor. Even if you’re not a guest, it’s still worth a visit!
1212 Santa Monica
We dined at 1212 Santa Monica for dinner our first night. It was the perfect casual spot to relax after a travel day, and it was within walking distance to our hotel. It’s located in the middle of the 3rd Street Promenade, and they had live jazz music when we arrive that eventually switched over to a cover band. We loved the vibe, the service, and the food.
We each started with a refreshing Paloma while we looked over the menu. After making our decisions, we realized we were both ordering the exact same thing for dinner: Chicken Alla Milanese. It was served with mashed potatoes and we were able to pick a side so I went with steamed broccoli. We both cleaned our plates, partially because we were starving after a full day of traveling, but also because the food was great!. On a normal day we most likely could have split it along with a salad. We also shared a bottle of local red wine to celebrate our first night in paradise!
Blue Plate Taco
We stopped at Blue Plate Taco on a whim one afternoon to cool off with a margarita, and boy am I glad we did. First, we started with chips and queso to munch on while we sipped on their classic margs, but then we ordered a plate of chicken tacos to share. They were so delicious that we regretted sharing! It’s a laid back, fairly inexpensive stop near the pier, so check it out if you end up nearby!
Ivy at the Shore
Another stop near the pier, Ivy at the Shore is worth grabbing dinner at! Be sure to make a reservation, and treat yourself to one of the incredible cocktails on the menu. I had the most impressive mojito, and Rob loved their classic margarita. The food was also fantastic. I had the spinach ravioli with butter and sage, and Rob went with their fried chicken! The service was wonderful, and it’s somewhere I want to visit again because I had a hard time deciding on what to pick from their menu.
Meat on Ocean
Meat on Ocean specializes in two things- steak and charcuterie. Neither of which my husband can resist. It was highly recommended by an employee at our hotel, so we booked a reservation for our last night in Santa Monica. It did not disappoint. Coming from Oklahoma, we don’t get too excited about finding a great steak since those aren’t too hard to come by at home. However, we were thoroughly impressed!
We started by selecting a wine from the wine gallery near the lobby as well as a charcuterie board with 5 selections from their meat and cheese menu. We were able to enlist the help of our server who helped us fill the gaps. For dinner, Rob went big and tried their Japanese WAGYU which he loved. I decided to branch out and try one of their specials, the Three Way, featuring 3 small filet medallions each served with a different house-made sauce. It was such a treat, and we really enjoyed the food and the experience.
If you’ve read this far, thank you! That pretty much sums up our 72 hour stay in Santa Monica! It was a lot of eating, but it was also a lot of walking along the ocean, sightseeing, shopping, and unwinding. We look forward to visiting Santa Monica again soon! Have you ever visited? Do you have a favorite thing to do or eat or see? I’d love to know in the comments below! As always, thanks for being here and supporting this little corner of the internet of mine.