Hotel Review: The Pierside is the perfect base for Santa Monica

While a spate of skyscraping new-builds has given Downtown L.A. a much-needed kick into modernity, Santa Monica hasn’t added much to its hotel count over the last few years.

The city of Santa Monica has around 40 hotels, including a few eye-popping grand dames like The Georgian Hotel (with its unforgettable candy blue exterior), the Huntley and the acclaimed Shutters on the Beach. This part of L.A. is like a romantic time capsule, renowned for its incredibly active pier and infectiously relaxed lifestyle. Especially when compared to the buzzy bohemian enclave of Venice Beach and the celeb-spotting glitz of West Hollywood.

The Pierside is the first hotel on Santa Monica’s iconic Ocean Avenue to open in over a decade, having debuted in March 2023. But it’s a reflag, rather than a new build.

This building, perfectly located just metres from Santa Monica Pier, was formerly a Wyndham. And while that chained brand is typically mid-range, a swift multi-dollar refurbishment has (successfully) turned this 132-room into a premium offering on par with some of the better hotels I’ve spent time in across Los Angeles.

I recently spent two nights at this Energy Star-certified hotel – my first stop after a long flight from Sydney to L.A. via Fiji – and while I didn’t have many expectations (given it was an ex-Wyndham), I was pleasantly surprised when I set foot in my generously sized Pierside King Room.


(Credit: Santa Monica Travel & Tourism)

This is now the closest property to Santa Monica Pier. The hotel seems mighty proud of that fact, although Santa Monica’s walkability means you’re never really too far from the city’s major tourist attraction anyway. Regardless, it’s a swift tick in favour of choosing this as your base.

The hotel is located on a corner, almost directly opposite a McDonald’s and opening up to Ocean Avenue’s long shot of restaurants and bars. The best of Santa Monica is easily accessible any time of day, although the hotel’s restaurant and bar is good enough that business travellers wouldn’t be disappointed if they had to hole up here for a few nights without time to explore.

But exploring is essential in Santa Monica. This city’s gems are harder to find than in other L.A. pockets. Exceptional places like Esters Wine Shop & Kitchen and nightlife favourites like Harvelle’s jazz bar are obscure but not very far from the hotel. Plus, Santa Monica is a bit of a gateway to nearby Malibu, so you also have easy access to highlights from that hilly haven of wealth, like the transportive Getty Villa Museum and, what is now my top restaurant in L.A., celeb-favourite Italian eatery Giorgio Baldi.

Then you’ve got the Santa Monica Pier. Touristy as it may be, there’s something timeless about walking its length, past the amusement rides and street performers and down to incredible views of the Pacific Ocean. The pier is populated by shops, bars, restaurants, and even an aquarium. And while you’ll be met with the usual tourist beats, at least you’re framed by a setting that evokes the charm of Santa Monica through the ages. The Santa Monica Pier dates back to 1909 and truly feels like one of the most well-preserved parts of L.A. Then, of course, you’ve got the beach itself – a reliable surfing spot where you’ll almost always find a break to conquer. The coo of waves breaking on the sand adds greatly to the ambience.

Style & Character

(Credit: The Pierside Hotel)

The Pierside is surf-themed but nothing feels garish or overdone. There’s a gear shop – The Board Shop – for travelling surfers who can’t wait to tackle what’s out there. The pool is much more my speed, however, and while it’s quite small, the privacy is well-maintained despite being just one wall away from Santa Monica’s busiest beats.

While I didn’t see any fur on my visit, the hotel is also dog-friendly which should make it a popular staycation for locals. It seems just about everyone in Santa Monica has a dog, which only adds to the city’s charm.

Other than some well-located pieces of art, and a vibrant mural looking over the pool, there’s not much to this hotel by way of design. The minimalism works well, favouring calm, neutral tones over anything overstimulating and almost always finding a way to reference the Pacific Ocean, grounding guests with a sense of place.


One of the best feelings while on the road is stepping off a flight, having to contend with the nightmare fuel of LAX, and walking straight into a large room. Especially when you expected it to be tiny. Relief. Excitement. Your room sets your mood for the first day of your trip, so consider The Pierside a warm hug after a grueling journey.

My Pierside King is around 32.5 square metres with a supremely comfortable oversized bed and a big lounge area by the window. I have a street view, but from what I can see online most would either face the ocean or the nearby park to pull some liveliness into the room.

Bathrooms are medium-sized and much more modern than many other more expensive US hotels I’ve stayed at over the years.

Food & Drink

The Surfing Fox is The Pierside’s only F&B outlet but it’s more than enough. Sitting right next to the lobby, the space is trendy and designed as an indoor-outdoor space to take advantage of the hotel’s proximity to the pier. Try snag a table outside with a seat facing the pier and order up a nice, crunchy Maine lobster roll. The juicy bits of fresh lobster would give more expensive versions a run for their money and the crisps on side are perfectly satisfying.

I didn’t try any of the cocktails but wine favours California (as it should) and there are a few imports to keep things interesting.

A well-located hotel could easily treat its restaurant like a bit of an afterthought and still get away with, but The Surfing Fox is somewhere I’d even recommend to locals. The kitchen also handles room service in case you don’t want to venture downstairs, but the space is so relaxing that I doubt many people dial in the convenience.


Not to come across as unfriendly, but almost everyone coming from LAX has a certain degree of life-hate that can really only be squeezed out by a good sleep. I was suffering from such an affliction when I arrived at Santa Monica, and having to contend with stuffy by-the-book service (too common in the USA) would have been the death of me.

Fortunately, The Pierside’s staff are as young and chirpy as the brand itself. Nice conversations that just flow are easier when you’re being treated like a guest rather than a number. That’s always my yardstick for great service and The Pierside is definitely somewhere where I genuinely felt like an old friend just popping by for a few days. The staff also seem to recommend places based on what they (locals) like to do, rather than what they think would appeal to tourists. It makes a difference.

An easy check-in alleviated some of my post-LAX pain, with the front desk very efficient at handling multiple people at once. It’s an art, I guess. And despite the very young age of the staff, they seemed to be on the ball much more firmly than when I think about the glazed service I’ve received at some other Stateside hotels.

Verdict & Value

At time of publishing, rooms at The Pierside Santa Monica start from US$260. With the exchange rate for Australian travellers, that’s around AU$405. And yeah, that’s a lot. A few years ago, I would have expected a price like that from a five-star, but in this current climate, $405 a night is actually quite reasonable.

You’re getting a prime location in one of L.A.’s best neighbourhoods, massive, comfortable rooms, and the kind of service that puts you in a good mood every day. That’s not easy to come across in any major US city.


Address: 120 Colorado Ave, Santa Monica, CA 90401
Contact: +1 (310) 451-0676

For more on what to do around Santa Monica head to the city’s official website.

Rooms at The Pierside Santa Monica start from US$260 per night.

Chris Singh stayed as a guest of The Pierside Santa Monica and Santa Monica Travel & Tourism.

Chris Singh

Chris Singh is an Editor-At-Large at the AU review, loves writing about travel and hospitality, and is partial to a perfectly textured octopus. You can reach him on Instagram: @chrisdsingh.