Situated just steps from the famous Boardwalk, The Rose Hotel is a low-key surfers’ lodge with artistic flair: designed with creatives in mind, it’s an ideal antidote to LA glossiness. Stay in understated, Shaker-style rooms (kitted-out with striped rugs, polished wood floors and enormous, shuttered windows); make friends with the beach-mad staff over a cup of steaming Stumptown coffee; grab a board from reception and get your daily dose of vitamin sea.
11am. Earliest check-in, 3pm. Both are flexible, subject to availability. If you arrive before 3pm, you’ll be given coffee and croissants and have free use of the showers and luggage-storage facilities.
Double rooms from $204.98, excluding tax at 14 per cent.
Rates include free WiFi and a Continental breakfast of Sugarbloom Bakery croissants and Stumptown coffee.
Property developer (and Venice Beach’s famous founder) Abbot Kinney allegedly built the Rose as his personal brothel nearly a century ago; today, the hotel nods to its hedonistic past with cheeky nude photographs adorning the walls – keep your eyes front if you’re prone to blushes.
At the hotel
Breakfast room, communal lobby, outdoor courtyard. In rooms: air-conditioning, iPod dock and Aesop bath products. Some rooms have a TV, a terrace or tea- and coffee-making kit.
Our favourite rooms
All Rose’s rooms are decorated in understated Americana style with a dose of mid-century modernism: whitewashed walls show off simply-framed modern art; polished wooden floors are scattered with hand-woven rugs; squashy armchairs are tucked into corners… High-rollers should opt for the Pacific Penthouse, which – true to its name – has Instagram-perfect views of the ocean from its plantation-shuttered windows. Those on a budget should book into one of the cheaper rooms (be warned: you’ll need to share the bathroom with other rooms across the hall), while families will appreciate the extra space and kitchenette of the Abbot Kinney Suite. Some rooms have fully-furnished balconies perfect for ocean view-gazing and people-watching; ask the Smith24 team when booking.
There’s no dedicated spa, but resident masseuses Kaoru and Evangeline are a dab hand at kneading out knots after a day’s surfing.
A pair of sturdy jeans for skateboarding, cycling and Boardwalk-strolling (if you’re DIY-friendly, give them a dip in the ocean for an authentic salt-bleaching).
As most of the rooms are upstairs and there’s no lift, the hotel isn’t well-suited to guests with mobility issues.
All ages are welcome; let the hotel know how many little Smiths you're bringing. Baby cots (free) can be added to all rooms except the Queen Shared Bath. There’s no babysitting or kids club, but children over six can try surfing lessons.
The Rose uses ecologically-sound cleaning kit and lightbulbs, and environmentally friendly Aesop bath products. Where possible, all food is locally sourced, organic and fair trade.
Sit beside the enormous windows for the best view of Venice’s bustling Boardwalk and the golden sands beyond.
Anything goes – you may want to have your wetsuit ready under your togs, so you can head straight to the beach.
The Rose does a daily breakfast to set you up for a day’s beach exploration. Grab a seat at the long, communal table in the lobby and sample fresh croissants from the local Sugarbloom Bakery, washed down with top-notch Stumptown coffee; if you’re feeling virtuous (or guilty after one too many Boardwalk donuts), ask for a veggie-filled ‘Moon Juice’ to be delivered from the health bar down the road.
There’s no bar at the Rose, so you’ll have to head to one of the many local joints for a tipple when the sun goes down.
Named after its location on Rose Avenue, the hotel is a block away from Venice Beach’s famous Boardwalk and the shops, bars and restaurants on busy Abbot Kinney Boulevard.
Most international and local airlines (including British Airways; www.britishairways.com) operate direct flights to LAX, a 25-minute drive from the hotel. The hotel can arrange one-way transfers can be organised for around $35.
Downtown Santa Monica light-rail station on Colorado Avenue is 10 minutes’ drive from the Rose. Expo Line trams arrive here frequently from LA, Long Beach and Pasadena.
You won’t need a car if you’re exploring within a few blocks, but you might feel left out – everyone drives in LA, even if it’s just to the nearest coffee shop. Hire a vintage Mustang (or something more quotidian) from a booth at the airport and follow Lincoln Boulevard north to the hotel. There’s a car park one minute’s walk away, which costs US$30 a night – but the hotel can’t reserve spaces.
Worth getting out of bed for
You’ll find no gondolas, canals or Renaissance art in this version of Venice – here, it’s all about surfboards, golden sands and punk-revival shops. The area is known for its somewhat (ahem) ‘colourful’ locals; given the hotel’s location right in the centre, you’re likely to come across a mix of people. Don’t be deterred: as long as you stick to the populated streets, it’s perfectly safe. The Boardwalk is home to numerous shops that run the gamut from independent fashion boutiques to medical-marijuana outlets; be sure to stop off at the legendary Muscle Beach and the mini-donut stands you’ll find every few feet. The hotel has bikes and surfboards for hire, so you can easily explore land and sea. If you’re planning a morning catching waves, check the blackboard behind reception, where the hotel chalks up daily surf information and sunset times. If you’re not too confident in a wetsuit, join in with front office manager Eric’s surfing lessons, though no one will judge you if you’d rather just stretch out on the sands with a cocktail. On cloudier days, take a trip to the LACMA, the Getty or the Frank Gehry-designed Binoculars Building; alternatively, book in for a bus tour of the stars’ houses in Beverly Hills (cheesy, but it’s a must-do).
Gjelina on Abbot Kinney Boulevard serves up breakfast, brunch, lunch and supper from 8am until midnight; perch on bar stools at the wood-and-steel tables and order perfectly fluffy pancakes and crispy, stonebaked pizzas. For the best steaks and burgers around (plus panoramic views from the rooftop bar), head to Hotel Erwin on Pacific Avenue, perched above the Boardwalk. Health nuts, no need to recoil at all this talk of pizzas and burgers: nip down to Café Gratitude on Rose Avenue, where the all-natural, plant-based menu includes tahini-laced salad bowls, grilled polenta and mushroom ragu.
The lofty, bloom-painted Rose Café on Rose Avenue is an interior designer’s dream: trailing vines twist around mismatched pendant lamps, blue-painted girders support a beamed ceiling and modern bar stools sit higgledy-piggledy alongside scrubbed wooden tables. The menu is just as well-designed, featuring reimagined classics such as pumpkin pancakes with bacon crumble and charred avocado toast with a dollop of jalapeño marmalade.
The reassuringly chic Venice Beach Wines serves – well, you’ve probably guessed it – a wine list so long it’ll make your head spin (and that’s before you’ve even had a sip). Sit outside on the sun-bleached patio with a glass in hand and a plate of fresh charcuterie, bacon-wrapped dates and roasted sardines to share.
‘We never set out to create the perfect hotel; our walls are thin, and the building is wonky... But it’s not like any other hotel. And we like it just like it is.’
Its owners have a refreshing candour as to what the Rose Hotel is, and what it definitively isn’t.
With our offices on the Westside of Los Angeles – but five blocks from the Rose – I’d heard a great deal about their unapologetic approach to hospitality, but never actually experienced the spartan Cali-chic personally.
I was predisposed to like it, though. Working in publishing and photography, the owner of the Rose, legendary photographer Glen Luchford, is something of a personal hero, having shot some of the most iconic fashion images of the last 30 years. Like many English transplants to LA, Luchford picked the once famously counter-cultural Venice beach because it’s as aesthetically seductive as the city gets.
Nowadays, you’ll hear locals rail extensively about its unstoppable colonisation by tech firms migrating south from Palo Alto (Snapchat, Google, Apple etc) and it’s true, today’s Venice is a changed place. However, if you’re going to move 6,000 miles away from our grey, sceptered isle, it’s understandable why Luchford picked the neighbourhood that looks, feels, and acts as different from London as you can possibly get.
That, and the fact that there are NO good hotels in Venice beach. Not one. None. I’ve never figured out why exactly. So, aesthetics and lifestyle: yes – but probably a healthy dose of gap-in-the-market business savvy thrown in along the way.
I’d walked past it dozens of times – always a vision of discrete, Californian chic; an elegant but liberal serif-y logo, surfboards propped up probably not for show, and a languid air of informality and welcome spilling out onto Rose Avenue. Venice is often described as one of the only ‘walkable’ neighborhoods in LA and, in that respect, the Rose is inarguably a bulls-eye for those looking to swerve the mandatory drives required in say, Beverly Hills, or the desirable eastside triangle of Los Feliz, Echo Park and Silverlake.
Before even experiencing the rooms themselves, location sells the Rose: one block from the beach; the same street as the excellent Rose Café (highly recommended for breakfast, lunch or dinner); walking distance from the famous (well, infamous) Abbot Kinney… It may just be the one hotel in Los Angeles where you could actually get by without a car. Ish.
Arriving late at night after an almost comically hellish airport experience, with no Mrs Smith in tow, I was a picture of British fluster and irritability for check-in. Genially and calmly, in a way only true Californians can radiate, I was eased into the Rose Hotel and my bedroom on the first floor, five steps from the lobby with breezy small-talk and genuine warmth.
The Rose Hotel, like Los Angeles – and America in general – does ‘High / Low’ with unflinching honesty. For my first two nights, I was to be in a one-bedroom on the first floor offering shared bathrooms and a certain esprit de corps. For my last two nights, I was graduating upstairs to privacy, space (and en-suite bathrooms) in the Abbot Kinney Suite.
At this stage, it’s worth noting – much like the owners do upfront – that the bedrooms offering shared bathrooms are clean, cosy, well-appointed and generally very hospitable. In the interest of full transparency, however, a slightly fussier class of traveller (not me, of course…) would deem the ground-floor rooms to be very modest in size and – accepting all the best will to avoid modern technological trimmings and embrace the ever so slightly worn charm – one might feel it slightly inescapable that the size twinned with the approach to decoration came quite close to something representing questionable value. You are, of course, slightly missing the point if you get hung up on the size of the room. Right?
Waking up to delicious, freshly brewed coffee, just-baked croissants and The New York Times in the communal breakfast/lobby area was a real treat and any mumblings about room size soon fell away with the sea-breeze.
The following day, my bags were packed up and whisked upstairs to the immaculately appointed Abbot Kinney Suite. The polar opposite to the Rose’s entry level rooms, the Abbot Kinney was flooded with light, beautifully appointed and immensely comfortable. Peppered with Mr Luchford’s beautiful pictures on whitewashed walls, carefully chosen throws and wide-open working spaces, the suite opens up onto a lovely spacious balcony to watch the world go by.
There’s an inescapable feeling that the informality of the property bleeds into an atmosphere so laid back and relaxed that all guests feel a ‘part of something’. What that something is exactly is difficult to put one’s finger on, but at the risk of having drunk the Californian Kool-Aid, it’s potentially something that resembles a communal, community feel; a sense that if you were to revisit the hotel, the lovely staff might just remember your name and the small-talk you made at check-in.
In a city striving for genuine connection and hospitality with a level of sincerity, the Rose feels like the antidote. The suites really do feel like a tonic, and the light, decoration, views – even the smell – are a little bit special. I’ll be going back to LA before long, and I think the Rose Hotel might just end up becoming that place that feels like home.
Whenever you book a stay at a Smith hotel or villa, we’ll invite you to review it when you get back. Read what other Smith members had to say in The Rose Hotel ’s Guestbook below.
The location of the hotel was brilliant, next door to Venice boardwalk and the beach. The staff were incredibly helpful, everything we asked for they sorted immediately and even emailed us when my daughters left an item behind after checkout and offered to post it to us. The room was clean and the beds comfortable. The breakfast croissants are delicious!
Total peace and quiet – the plumbing in the hotel was very noisy in our room, so if someone had a shower we were woken up. This is mentioned on the hotel's website so didn't come as a surprise to us. We were not disturbed by noise from the street.
Stayed on 24 Aug 2019
That we had an unexpected late check in and that was managed easily. Everything we needed after a long flight and immigration queue at LAX. Friendly staff, loved the Aesop products. Sunny breakfast area.