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California: two ways

29th May 2014

Adam from Travel Associates recently spent a few days exploring Santa Monica.  He discovered this vivacious West Coast destination is particularly unique as it is equally indulgent as it is health-conscious. Rather than surrender to one lifestyle over the other, Adam found the perfect holiday balance between luxury and liveliness. 

I have always wanted to visit Santa Monica, so I was very excited to finally be making the trip – and it didn’t disappoint. When I recall my time here, I think of its laidback nature, welcoming locals, clean streets, environmentally-conscious communities and modern, forward-thinking ideas. All this, can be easily experienced in one outing, by foot or bike.

Where to stay

There are several famous hotels in the area; each with their own charming history and claims to fame. I was fortunate enough to stay at the Viceroy Santa Monica and even as stacked up against other premium hotels from around the world, the Viceroy is quite possibly my favourite. A boutique hotel, it was designed by Kelly Wearstler whose style has been described as “Hollywood regency”, a classic feel with contemporary, quirky touches.

We had breakfast in their outdoor setting, in the ocean air surrounded by big white linen cabanas and comfortable, inviting seating. Their menu had healthy items like quinoa with roasted squash and fresh, cold-pressed juices made from kale and celery or coconut and almond milk. Latin influences shone through, for example in the: chilaquiles verdes, a breakfast dish of tortilla chips, fried eggs, salsa, chicken and red onion. I indulged in brioche French toast told myself it was a fair choice given by the delicious healthy juice I had started with.

Feel like a local

The manager of the Viceroy hotel says their goal is to make every guest feel like a local. You definitely get that sense as you wander along the beach and see people exercising: whether it be jogging, biking, tight-rope walking or swinging on gymnastic rings right. Don’t get too distracted, those roller-skaters are fast!

Make sure you visit Santa Monica Pier, a 100-year old landmark. Ride the famous Ferris wheel and enjoy a treat at Soda Jerks, an old-style soda shop with delicious milk shakes and ice creams.  On Wednesday and Sunday, enjoy the farmers markets with wide range of vendors. A favourite local activity, it’s a great place try some gourmet goodies and get a bite to eat.

I was surprised not to see one souvenir shop. That’s not to say there isn’t any shopping, you’ll find all you need at 3rd Street Promenade, the newly developed Santa Monica Place and popular Main Street with premium and more offerings.

Treat yourself – but find a balance

Most of Santa Monica is easily traversed by walking but the area is also perfect for bike riding, with easy to navigate streets and light amounts of traffic. I highly recommend the “Sweets” bike tour where you’re guided around Santa Monica and its surrounds, stopping regularly to eat delicious sweets. We ate Mexican wedding cookies with Mexican hot chocolate at a little old bakery, burnt butter ice cream at a local ice creamery, chocolate galore and finished at a local favourite known for their lemon bars. I was more than happy to ride back to the starting point after eating so much food!

Santa Monica also has a fantastic beach, popular with surfers. I had never surfed before so booked a lesson with a local instructor. It was great fun to get a taste for the California surf culture. With all that paddling and balancing, we soon worked up an appetite so we treated ourselves to a beach butler. We sat right by the ocean and walkie-talked our requests through. It was divine!