It wasn’t my first trip during covid-19, but visiting the Viceroy Santa Monica in Los Angeles was the one that gave me the greatest pause. Not because of anything about the hotel in particular at all, but because it was a hotel at all.

With an Airbnb, I could guarantee I wouldn’t come into contact with anyone – but a hotel?! My head was spinning with what “ifs”. Fortunately, the Viceroy Santa Monica is as worthwhile as ever, and the property made the stay feel as safe as a private residence, with a location few private residences can match.

Location

The Viceroy Santa Monica can be an extremely clever play in Santa Monica, based on what I’d consider as a former resident to be one the best locations. No, it’s not on the beach, get that out of your head, but it’s basically a block and a half from the beach, with views of the beach.

I say it’s one of the better locations because it’s closer to the best shopping, food and culture found in Ocean Park, and further afield in Venice than most hotels in the Santa Monica Downtown area.

In normal times, the Viceroy Santa Monica about a 20-30 minute ride from LAX, which can be a lot more convenient than hotels up in Hollywood.

With prices as low as $275 a night during a promo, it can also be half the price of the hotels a block and a half away, which don’t really offer all that much more. I’ll save $200 plus a night to walk a block and a half any day, but that’s up to you.

The Hotel

The Viceroy Santa Monica has 170 rooms spread across 8 floors, but to the best of my understanding they were making a conscious effort to keep overall guests numbers below a certain threshold for safety reasons. Plus, given the current times, there just aren’t as many guests as there usually would be.

While the building was a self confessed “eye sore” on the neighborhood before, an amazing new art collaboration has adorned the outer walls, with stunning graffiti. It looks fun from the outside, and the playful luxury experience continues inside.

The lobby is one of my favorites I’ve ever walked through, and yes, I’ve walked through some badass lobbies in my decades of traveling the world. It’s modern, vibrant luxury.

But we’re talking covid-19 times, and that stuff hands the mic over to covid-19 safety protocols, which were outstanding from start to finish. Before entering the building, clear signage is on display that you must wear a mask at all times in the lobby, and social distancing must be maintained.

The hotel went further, adding sanitizing stations in multiple locations, and putting artistic foot prints on the floor as visual reminders of the distancing protocols. Screens are also in place between guests and the front desk, and it was still plenty easy to both hear and communicate.

My favorite feature though, was found just outside the two elevators, where a virtually unmissable sign asks all guests to wait for the next elevator if someone is already in it. During a 7 night stay we didn’t ride once with a stranger in an enclosed space, which was essential for peace of mind.

After a plane ride, you just don’t want or need any more close contact, even with everyone wearing masks. Right?

The Pool Is Everything

As part of the recent social space refurb, the pool and bar area received a remarkable makeover, which makes socially distanced outdoor hangs a dream. Two pools, lots of open air cabanas with flat screens and table service and plenty of first come first serve chairs too. There’s even a fire pit type thing.

In fact, with offices closed, you could see a few LA power meetings taking place, including a rather famous former NY sports star. Comfy furniture outside by a pool, with palm trees overhanging is a lot better than an air conditioned office right now.

And yes, the pools are open! Traveling with an infant, we loved having a shallow pool to play around in, and all the fresh towels on hand made it easy to dry up quickly and get a tired baby back up to the room.

Fair warning though, tanning hours can be a bit limited, but then again you’re like 1.5 blocks from a beach, so there’s that.

On weeknights where food wasn’t available from the hotel, guests were encouraged to bring their own from outside – hello Jon & Vinny’s DoorDash delivery – and enjoy it in comfort.

The Rooms

The Rooms at the Viceroy are of a lovely high standard. Say… 4.25 stars. Better than many four stars, not quite as eye popping as some better five star options. They’re not ultra modern, not ultra classic either, but California clean and cheerful, yes.

This is perhaps the only area of the hotel, albeit an important one, where I’d love to see a few things updated. Like, Netflix on the televisions, or perhaps a rethinking of the no headboard on the beds. These are small things, sure, but local news isn’t quite as binge worthy as The Crown Season III.

Most importantly in these times, the rooms were spotlessly clean, even to a point where you could really see the deep clean of the rugs where they leave that freshly steamed look. It gave me great confidence to see those little things, as odd as that may sound.

The hotel also introduced a series of protocols to make it easier for guests to fully understand how they’ll interact with cleaning staff and deal with other things, as limits to contact remain important. I found it all really digestible and easy, and it just made the experience much easier.

Was Viceroy Santa Monica Worth The Stay?

Yes.

There ya’ go.

Sorted.

The front door staff couldn’t have been friendlier, and were regularly doing rounds by the pool to ensure we had complimentary water and catered to our every need, even when the coffee bar was closed. Mask compliance was 100%, which is vitally important right now.

The hotel was a breath of actual fresh air, with a breezy lobby, spacious pool and social area, clean rooms and an attention to detail which really helped to alleviate many of my covid-19 related hotel woes. We all have them, this place deals with them.

I love Santa Monica, but particularly the Ocean Park area, and bits of Abbot Kinney as well. Being on the edge of the city made it a lot easier to walk to these areas, while also being just 1.5 blocks away from a great vantage point of the beach, and close to offices downtown, if needed.

If you’re looking toward the beach and the ocean, I prefer the left side of Santa Monica over the right. It’s personal preference, but there’s just more small businesses and funky things to see, eat and enjoy around there. Viceroy Santa Monica really couldn’t be better located to cater to both.

I haven’t found a way to justify staying somewhere else in Santa Monica, so I’ll be back. This is a great hotel which is taking covid-19 seriously, while still making travel worth it, with the fantastic pool facilities and access to all things Los Angeles. While you’re here, read up on the overall experience of vacationing in LA right now.

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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