The Venice V Hotel (brought back to life over four years by the Proper hotel group), has had more brushes with history than Forrest Gump. During Venice Beach’s Golden Era, it hosted Charlie Chaplin and Clara Bow, in the Sixties it became a hangout for the Doors, and in the Seventies it was home to skaters of the legendary Z-Boy crew. It’s seen seismic cultural shifts and the neighbourhood’s highs and lows, but this is surely its most elevated form. Rooms are by turns bohemian, board-obsessed and sparkle like an old-school starlet; staff offer highly personalised service; and the curious buzz of the boardwalk is just outside – plus all rooms have an ocean view. It’s ridden the many waves of Cali’s counterculture and while we can’t promise a significant shift during your stay, this may well be the place where you catch the next one.
12 noon, but flexible, subject to availability. Earliest check-in, 3pm.
Double rooms from £201.45 ($280), including tax at 14.195 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional service charge of 3.3075% per room per night on check-out and an additional resort fee of $28.55 per room per night on check-out.
Rates don’t include breakfast and there’s no restaurant onsite. A daily $25 amenity charge will be added to your bill, which includes WiFi, Boxed Water, and use of beach towels and your room’s Nespresso machine.
The lobby’s V-shaped chandelier and foxed mirrors nod back to the era when Charlie Chaplin and Clara Bow would hold court in their penthouse residences; however, we were taken with the huge portrait of Abbot Kinney hanging behind the front desk made from 4,300 skateboard wheels. It’s impressive, but so too are the boards that hang on the walls of the Dogtown-inspired rooms; they’re from East LA’s Garage Lounge and Skate Shop, who run educational programmes for at-risk kids and food banks for the local community. And, take note of the displays of dried flowers – crafted by the Unlikely Florist, they’re replaced every two weeks and guests can watch them being arranged.
At the hotel
Public beach, rooftop lounge, WiFi throughout. In rooms: TV, Marshall Bluetooth speaker, wet bar, WiFi, mini fridge with soft drinks, bathrobes, Aesop bath products, retro phone, fabric steamer (on request). Some rooms have Nespresso coffee machines too.
Our favourite rooms
If you’re concerned that you’ll book into a beachside hotel only to gaze on a sad carpark from your window, fear not – every room at the hotel has at least a partial view of the ocean. Clearly the penthouse suites have the edge – from the top floor they have a clear view of sun, sea, swaying palm trees and whatever curious incidents are taking place on the boardwalk. Rooms have three styles that reference the surroundings’ stand-out eras: sultry ‘artist’ rooms evoke old-school Hollywood glam, bohemian rooms nod back to halcyon hippie days with a light palette and intricately carved headboards, and Dogtown rooms have skateboards on the walls, photo prints of vintage skaters and – in one Oceanfront One-Bedroom Suite – a graffiti mural spreads over one wall.
There’s no pool onsite, but you’re a short dive away from the Pacific Ocean.
Whether you’ve conquered some dizzying verts or you can barely roll down the road without falling over, you’ll want to engage with the area’s skate culture, so bring knee-pads, a pair of Etnies and your finest set of wheels. And, if you like to settle into your stay with an apéritif, bring a bottle of what takes your fancy – the hotel’s currently bar-free.
There are two adapted rooms (an Ocean View and Ocean View Double) with roll-in showers and grab bars; one has a strobe fire alarm too. And there’s the oldest operating elevator west of the Mississippi (we think that’s a good thing).
All ages are welcome here, but teens will especially enjoy the nod to skate culture, graffiti art and the kitschy cool of Venice Beach. The Oceanfront Two-Bedroom Studio and Oceanfront One-Bedroom Suite can both comfortably sleep four.
The hotel duly recycles and does all laundry onsite; housekeeping is on request only and in your room you’ll find recyclable Boxed Water.
If you're in a penthouse suite, make the most of your inspirational ocean view while sat at a table by the window. Otherwise, secure a seat at the small rooftop lounge.
Time to shine, skater boys (and girls).
There’s no restaurant onsite (yet), but you won’t go hungry. The hotel has partnered with top local eatery Great White, so you can have their extensive menu delivered to your door (weekdays only). Start your day with a breakfast sandwich that heaves with cheesy hash browns, smashed avo, Peads & Barnetts bacon and sweet chilli, or a hemp- and algae-infused breakfast bowl, lunch on market salads and fish tacos, then finish your day with a wagyu steak or penne with a mezcal and tomato sauce.
There’s no bar at the hotel and minibars only have soft drinks, but Venice Beach has plenty of places where you can get sauced, whether it’s at one of the trendy establishments along Abbot Kinney or cocktail-hopping along West Washington Boulevard. And, if the party’s back at yours, then hit up the Great White app to have fruity cocktails (we like the Paloma with grapefruit, yuzu and mezcal, or the pineapple-mint spritz) or an intriguing wine (say, a Czech white, Moroccan red, Californian orange or pet nat) ferried over.
Great White snaps to it from 8am to 8pm Monday to Friday.
Just look for the card in your room with Great White restaurant’s Jaws-style logo. Scan the QR code on the back, place your order, and your food will be with you shortly.
Venice V Hotel is right by Venice Beach boardwalk, just opposite the skatepark’s bowls and ramps and a graffitied sprawl of art walls. The hotel itself has a large ‘V’ sprayed on the side, so you can’t miss it.
LAX is the closest airport to the hotel, just a 15-minute drive away; flights arrive direct here from all over the States and many destinations further afield. There are car-hire booths at the airport (you’ll need one for covering LA’s urban sprawl), or the hotel can help to arrange transfers via ridesharing app Alto. They can provide rides for up to five guests and (unlike Uber) they’ll pick you up at the terminal, but you can only book from 6am onwards.
If you’re riding the rails across California, you’re most likely to pull into Union station, which most Amtrak itineraries cross. The historic hub is a 30-minute drive from the hotel and before you leave you can admire its beautiful art deco interiors and see what pop-up events are taking place.
The land of knotty freeways and satellite neighbourhoods, LA was definitely not made for walking. If your plan is simply to skate, surf and sunbathe you may be able to get by on two legs, but further exploration will require a full tank of gas. Valet parking onsite is free for Smith members.
Worth getting out of bed for
From its early-20th-century days as a carnival-esque pleasure centre frequented by silent-film A-listers, to its time as a countercultural crucible through the 1960s and 1970s, when the Doors and Dennis Hopper moved in and Dogtown’s Z-Boys skated into the history books, Venice Beach has always embraced the freakier side of life. And just a stroll along the boardwalk (officially called Ocean Front Walk) that runs in front of the hotel, past fortune tellers, musicians and artists of varying lucidity, tumblers, fire-breathers and the odd skateboarding dog, and you’ll see that it’s still delightfully eccentric. But, that’s not the only notable street here; Abbot Kinney Boulevard has earnt the title of America’s coolest street for its 1.6 kilometres of vintage and niche-label boutiques, cult beauty (and even a handful of optometrists for all your hipster-glasses needs) and in-your-face street art, with pit stops for gourmet doughnuts, cold-pressed refreshments and plant-based eats along the way. Pick up Seventies-style puffas and rainbow surfboards at Aviator Nation, rummage around for Old Venice treasures in Bazar (1108C Abbot Kinney), invest in super-soft tees at Junk Food Clothing, then stop for a scoop at cult creamery Salt & Straw and a serious brew at Intelligentsia. After, pay tribute to the tobacco mogul and entrepreneur the street’s named after with a trip to what’s left of his vision of the Venice of America. Once there were piers with elegant cafes and auditoriums, colonnaded promenades and even gondolas, but all that remains is the canals, which are perfect for peaceful strolls away from the seafront’s madness. Or borrow a beach-cruiser bike free from the hotel to tackle 22 miles of coastal paths. Volleyball matches, yoga sessions and running clubs take place on the sand, or you can get seriously physical at Muscle Beach, an open-air workout space where no less than governator Arnold Schwarzennegger’s guns got pumped. And, you can’t really come to Dogtown without catching some air – the Skatepark’s rails, boxes, ramps, bowls and verts will get your heart pumping too, albeit in far more rad fashion. Tackle them in style with a wooden board from Arbor Skate.
Along Abbot Kinney healthy eating is remarkably haute, with offerings such as Matthew Kenney’s Plant Food + Wine, where you sit in a verdant garden to dine on kimchi dumplings, blistered shishito with aioli and berries with olive-oil ice-cream. And the Butcher’s Daughter, where you’ll find not one lonely chop, but instead plant-based and vegetarian delicacies: kale Caesar salad, pad Thai, mushroom calamari and eggplant steak. Breakfast and brunch is especially good, swapping in impossible meats for a heartier start to your day. For the more carnivorous there’s the Tasting Kitchen, where you can get a hefty NY strip steak or ‘nduja-slathered pork chops, plus a Eurocentric cheeseboard with some leftfield picks. And Gjelina offers a flavourful thwack in the form of tasty Mediterranean fare, say saffron spaghetti with bottarga and Calabrian chilli, Japanese sweet potato with jalapeño yoghurt and scallions.
Along Rose Avenue, Café Gratitude asks you to search your feelings first before ordering – their menu is more a list of affirmations. So, if you’re feeling ‘exquisite’ that’ll be the coconut calamari with cocktail sauce, if you’re ‘blessed’ it’s butternut-squash bolognese, and if you’re ‘empowered’ it’s an adaptogenic raw-cacao protein shake (sure, why not?).
We love the laidback retro feel of the Waterfront: warm woods, wicker seating and south-of-the-border woven pieces make it feel like someone’s stylish throwback home, and the terrace is set for brilliant people-watching, as this is probably the best of the boardwalk’s bars. And, the team behind it have relaunched Winston House, a hush-hush music venue whose Thursday night concerts have hosted the likes of Billie Eilish and Janelle Monáe. While perhaps not entirely kosher skate culture, having a flight of beers wheeled in on a skateboard definitely appeals to us, so we’re fans of Venice Ale House. With 25 beers on tap and more bottled craft brews, you’ll need to roll out a few. And, bohemian types will be drawn to the Brig on Abbot Kinney and former Jim Morrison haunt Hinano Café, both a little bit dive-y, but a lot of fun, with live music, games of pool and jukeboxes, plus, at the former, a dangerously lengthy weekend happy hour.
Every hotel featured is visited personally by members of our team, given the Smith seal of approval, and then anonymously reviewed. As soon as our reviewers have returned from this high-rolling hotel close to Abbot Kinney Boulevard, shown off their Muscle Beach gains and their gnarly ollies, a full account of their kitschy cool break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside Venice V Hotel on the Cali coast…
Of all LA hideaways, Venice V Hotel can truly claim to have ‘seen some shiz’ – and that’s above and beyond its front-row seat to the boardwalk locals have affectionately dubbed a ‘freakshow’. Y’see, since it was built as the Waldorf Hotel in 1915, it’s lived through Venice Beach’s most notable eras – both golden and tarnished – while offering shelter to A-listers, fried musicians, and down-on-their-luck skaters alike. It’s fortunes are wholly tied up in this quirky Cali neighbourhood and its oscillating luck, so their origin stories are practically the same.
Over 100 years ago, insomniac property developer and tobacco mogul Abbot Kinney moved to the marshlands of Santa Monica to find some peace by the sea. Here he envisioned the Coney Island of the Pacific with a European flavour, which became the Venice of America, a complex of ride-topped piers, colonnades and canals and even gondolas flown in from Italy. What emerged was a kitschier vision than Kinney’s, but it gave the area star-pulling power. And, in the Waldorf, the likes of Charlie Chaplin and Clara Bow held court at glamorous parties in both the chandelier-lit ballroom and their penthouse bungalows (after all, it was the only hotel with gas lighting and a central telephone system at the time).
Gradually after pier fires, amusements falling into disrepair, political impasses and annexation into LA, the area lost its dazzle and fell into ruin – but out of the ashes and into the cheap accommodation came the beat generation, who brought much needed cultural cachet and a bohemian edge. And – who’s that in the background of this colourful scene? The Waldorf, now a sometime home to the Doors, once again cementing its place in history. And, as the Sixties slumped into the Seventies and Venice’s popularity took another hit, surfers looking for a challenge rode their boards around the jagged flotsam of the former Pacific Ocean Pier and skateboarded through dilapidated parts of what was dubbed Dogtown. These were the figureheads of a countercultural LA crew dubbed the Z-Boys and set in motion a new chapter in the area’s long-lasting love affair with board culture that permeates Venice Beach today. And, where did these pioneers pitch up? Yep, the Waldorf plays its bit part in the past once again. In its new form, Relativity Architects have paid homage to its many lives through the decor, artwork (and boards) hanging on the walls, and the room names. Who’s to say what cultural shift it’ll stumble into next, but it makes moving in, even for a short stay, all the more exciting.