In the classic 1937 motion picture Lost Horizon, a plane crashes in the Himalayas and its passengers are rescued and taken to the secluded, mystical valley of Shangri-la. Protected by mountains from the outside world, Shangri-la offers a seductive escape where residents are kind to one another and do not age.
The Hotel Shangri-la at The Ocean in Santa Monica is a timeless destination with a modern twist that celebrated its 75th diamond jubilee anniversary last year.
In the 1940s, it lured actors such as Mae West and Jane Wyman, the future wife of President Ronald Reagan, to its beauty and solititude. It was also where a close confident of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s helped conceive the idea of today’s modern Navy Seal program just prior to U.S. involvement in World War II. During the war, the Hotel Shangri-la also provided battle-weary U.S. combat veterans a safehaven where they could rest and relax for 15-day periods before entering civilian life.
These and other stories about the great political figures, artists and luminaries who have used this property to ruminate, create and make history are in the pages of a limited-edition Hotel Shangri-la diamond anniversary book authored by the hotel’s owner, Tamie Adaya. The book allows readers to relive the romance, beauty, luxury and secret moments in the hotel’s history, which even included entertaining VIP guests from John F. Kennedy Jr. to the Dalai Lama.
Today, Hotel Shangri-la is ‘anything but ordinary’ and continues its celebrity appeal with A-listers such as Madonna, Tom Cruise, and Diane Keaton frequenting luxurious suites that overlook the Pacific and the Santa Monica pier.
For anyone who has visited Ocean Avenue in Santa Monica, the architecture of the urbane Hotel Shangri-la stands out. Overlooking the Pacific, the building is an authentic Streamline Moderne design from the latter part of the Art Deco period, and one of a few rare examples of this style in California.
Hotel Shangri-la’s dazzling renovation, completed in 2008, was the vision of art patron and hotelier Tamie Adaya, whose late father purchased the hotel in the early 1980s after becoming enthralled with the stunning property. Continuing her father’s efforts, Adaya envisioned the Art Deco hotel providing all the modern amenities of today while maintaining its 1930s Hollywood appeal and glamour. Her passion for style and detail ensured that the intricate and magnificent period architecture and furnishings complimented the contemporary art and design.
This exquisite 70-room luxury hotel, of which 35 of the accommodations are suites, attracts global guests who wish to relax and vacation in Southern California style. Located a few blocks from Santa Monica’s famed pier and just steps to the shores of the Pacific, the property is perfectly situated on the 20-mile-long stretch fronting Santa Monica Bay.
Each guest room is equipped with high speed wireless Internet, premium sound systems and HD flat screen televisions and has custom-designed furnishings, fabrics and accent pieces in warm gray, black and white tones with red as a compliment in keeping with the original architectural style. The modern marble bathrooms are also a standout feature. Nearly every room and suite has oversized soaking tubs, some with jets, and many with ocean views. Another guest favorite is the European-style shower that accents the completely remodeled bathrooms.
For casual or fine dining, The Dining Room offers inside ocean views, indoor and outdoor patio seating, and poolside service. The ensemble cast of classically trained yet creative chefs under the leadership of Chef Kareem Shaw meticulously prepare delicious special dishes that utilize local market fresh ingredients. The culinary team starts with classic American dishes and then finds international comfort foods to compliment and achieve a delicious midpoint catering to international palates. The Dining Room’s quiet ambiance and tasty menu selections definitely tempted my palate and satisfied my cravings.
The popular Penthouse Suite 700 is not to be missed for happy hour and expansive views. As Santa Monica’s only open-air indoor and outdoor rooftop bar and lounge, it is frequented by locals and international travellers alike. Featuring 180 degree views from city to ocean, Suite 700 feels like an intimate and exclusive private lounge where I sipped a delicious cocktail and savored a selection of small plates - including fresh oysters and filet mignon tacos - as the sun gracefully set over the Pacific.
With its exquisite location, the hotel is an in demand venue for meetings and special events, including the rooftop Penthouse and expansive lush Garden Courtyard. Both are among the most beautiful settings in Santa Monica and play host to mixers, wrap parties, weddings and receptions, corporate meetings and intimate get-togethers.
Poolside, guests can take in the ocean breezes and relax in the lush Garden Courtyard while being pampered in one of the fully-outfitted private cabanas. Steps away is the Sybaris Rejuvenation Lounge where guests can enjoy holistic treatments from the ancient Tibetan Ku Nye Body Treatment to Reflexology, Reiki and a variety of luxury massages and body rejuvenation sessions. For fitness enthusiasts, the hotel’s 24-hour indoor workout room awaits.
Frequented by celebrities and international travellers, Hotel Shangri-la is a member of Small Luxury Hotels of the World and continues to deliver five-star guest experiences. After finding my own personal Shangrila, it was nearly impossible to leave. But one thing is certain, I will be returning again and again to Hotel Shangri-la, a truly unique cultural and architectural masterpiece.
For reservations please call (800) 345-STAY (7829) or for more information, please visit www.Shangrila-Hotel.com.