CALIFORNIA DREAMING

Santa Monica Tourism Touts So Cal Lifestyle and New Hotels

L to R: Nancy Miklian, Direct Travel; Ozzie Otero, Santa Monica Travel and Tourism; Joanne Thachuk, Direct Travel.
A beach that goes on just shy of forever. A strong arts and culture scene with an iconic Canadian angle coming soon. And some of the west coast’s best hotels for multi-generational and luxury travel lovers.

Top representatives of Santa Monica Travel and Tourism came to Toronto on 06JUN to tout the California city’s attractiveness for Canadian travel advisors.

Speaking with Open Jaw at the cool, rooftop bar at the Ace Hotel in downtown T.O., Santa Monica public relations manager Emily Ohara said the beachfront city will play host to Cirque du Soleil’s “Kooza” production starting in October, with a special tent set to be erected alongside the famous Santa Monica Pier. The famous Canadian entertainment group’s first U.S. show was in Santa Monica 40 years ago.

As well, she noted Santa Monica Place, a high-end downtown shopping area, will soon be the first U.S. flagship location for Arte Museum, a 48,000 square-foot immersive art destination.

L to R: Sana Keller, Pulse Travel Marketing; Andrea Arkell, Air Canada; Viktor Spysak, Air Canada; Rebecca Seeds, Pulse Travel Marketing; Annika Klint, Pulse Travel Marketing.

Ohara said Santa Monica is home to four farmers markets, including well-known downtown markets on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

“We love our Canadians,” said Ozzie Otero, the enthusiastic Director of Sales for Santa Monica Travel and Tourism “Canada is always an important market for us.”

Otero said his city, sometimes known as “L.A.’s beach city,” is an iconic destination that’s a great base for visiting top Southern California locations such as Malibu, Venice Beach and Beverly Hills. It’s also close to SoFi Stadium, which will host the Super Bowl in 2027.

“We’re only 25 minutes from LAX without traffic,” he said. “And you Toronto people know about traffic.”

“Santa Monica is the essence of L.A.,” Otero told a room full of advisors, suppliers and travel industry media. “It’s sustainable and walkable, and you don’t need  a car, as we have free electric shuttles downtown from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.”

In addition to Santa Monica Place, the city is known for its great shopping scene on the 3rd Street promenade, which features top-name stores, pretty fountains and fun restaurants. Not far away, Montana Avenue is home to posh boutiques and independent shops, as well as a fabulous coffee shop called La La Land and one of California’s top places for gourmet burgers, Father’s Office.
A sunset in Santa Monica, California. Jim Byers Photo
“In terms of food, we’ve got everything from the original hot dog-on-a-stick to restaurants with 18-course tasting menus,” Otero said. “You can eat Indian, Asian, Italian, Mediterranean and more.”
Your Open Jaw correspondent is a frequent visitor to Santa Monica and can testify to the quality of places such as the Michelin-starred Citrin, Socalo, for great Mexican cuisine, and Wally’s, for great food and a sensational wine list.
Andrea Arkell, manager of Regional Sales for Air Canada, said her airline is the best way for Canadians to get to Santa Monica. In winter, the airline has four flights a day to LAX from both YYZ and YVR, plus a daily flight from YUL. In summer, there are five flights a day from YYZ and YVR and three from YUL.
Otero said the city is also home to 40 hotels, with everything from budget chains to top names such as Fairmont, Proper, Marriott, and a new Regent coming soon.
Hotels can arrange everything from curated picnics to beach yoga, cabana and beach chair rentals and both regular and e-bike rentals (a total blast along the wide bike trails that go from Santa Monica to Venice).
Hotels also can arrange wine tours in Malibu or visits to the sumptuous Getty Villa.
The city’s farmers’ markets are where top L.A. chefs find some of their best produce.
“They slip the farmers $20 and get all the best stuff,” he said with a smile.
Representatives from five hotels visited with advisors during SMTT’s Canadian tour. Here’s a brief look at the five properties, all of them either on the sand or a short walk away from Santa Monica Beach.
The swimming pool at the new Sandbourne Santa Monica hotel in California. Sandbourne Santa Monica Photo.
Hotel Casa del Mar and Shutters on the Beach: These are sister properties that back onto Santa Monica Beach, just south of the pier. Casa Del Mar opened as a playground for the rich and famous in 1926, and feels like the home of Spanish royalty. The Pacific View suite is 1,800 square feet and has two bedrooms, with a full view of the ocean, the pier, and the Pacific coast leading to Malibu.  The hotel can arrange beach workouts or even surf lessons. Shutters on the Beach feels more like a beach house, with lots of pretty blues and soft whites. The Beach House suites have waterfront views, hardwood floors, two balconies, two fireplaces and a king-sized bed in the bedroom. There’s also a two-bedroom version.
Fairmont Miramar Hotel and Bungalows: This is an iconic, five-acre property that’s a former family estate. One of its most famous denizens is a 10-storey Moreton Bay fig tree. Almost all the food at FIG restaurant is from local farms and producers. There’s also an omikase Japanese restaurant on site. It’s a celebrated hotel for honeymoons, families and anniversaries and features both hotel rooms and 31 bungalows. They also have a market on Thursday night, afternoon tea, and poolside movies.
Sandbourne Santa Monica: This is another beachfront property and opened just last week as part of the Marriott Autograph Collection. There’s a new pool, a new spa, new cabanas, and a pool bar. They even offer pottery classes by the pool.
Regent Santa Monica Beach: When it opens this fall, this hotel will mark the return of the Regent brand (part of IHG) to North America. Formerly a Loews hotel, the property has been given a $150 million makeover, and has seen its rooms decrease from 350 to 167. The smallest room is more than 700 square feet. The hotel is partnering with chef Michael Mina for a new restaurant. The hotel also will have a Guerlain spa and a boutique called Sweet July from Toronto’s Ayesha Curry, wife of Golden State Warriors/NBA star Steph Curry. All the products at Sweet July will come from black and women-owned brands.

Other Hotel Options

They didn’t make it to the Santa Monica trade event, but I recommend The Huntley Hotel, which has lovely rooms and an excellent rooftop restaurant. The Shore Hotel is a bright, stylish spot on Ocean Avenue.

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