Up on the Roof
Bolivian feather masks adorn the lounge at Petit Ermitage, but these are not the only disguises available to the West Hollywood hotel’s guests. The 80 suites warmed by fireplaces, cloaked in earthy tapestries, and decorated with antique curios set the stage for romantic adventures native to Morocco or Venice, Italy. The deluxe master’s quarters on the top floor come with a personal butler, aka the “Liaison to Happiness,” who fulfills whims as if you were the Grand Duke of Luxembourg. Among the hotel’s special vacation packages are “The Writer,” which includes a bottle of absinthe, a journal, a box of No. 2 pencils, and a pack of cigarettes. That so many of these conceits work is a reflection of the Ermitage’s charm—and the sincerity of its desire to whisk guests away from the preening and decadence of the Sunset Strip, though if you want to check that out, it’s close by. On the rooftop deck, guests snack on strawberry arugula salad and octopus tagine, loll around the saltwater pool, perch by the fireplace, or take in a view of the Hollywood Hills. Parisian bistro-style chairs dot the gardens, which teem with butterflies and hummingbirds. If you’re a local and feel you could get accustomed to this sort of respite, the Ermitage also maintains the members-only Rooftop Club, where you’re granted access daily or whenever you get the notion. 8822 Cynthia St., West Hollywood, 310-854-1114; $250-$450.
Where Surf Meets Sand
Considering that it’s located where Wilshire hits the ocean and is fronted by a 100-year-old Moreton Bay fig tree that measures 80 feet high and 150 feet across, the historic Fairmont Miramar Hotel & Bungalows is a quiet neighbor in Santa Monica. Luxury here is breezy, unpretentious, and casually elegant, with cozy furnishings and a natural palette that conjure (no stretch here) sand and surf. Three hundred guest rooms and suites—many with balcony views of the ocean—attract honeymooners, beach-loving VIPs, and yes, the occasional well-to-do surfer. The deluxe rooms feature a more laid-back design; celebrities take refuge in the secluded bilevel garden bungalows. There’s also the excellent restaurant Fig, where chef Ray Garcia finds seasonal inspiration for many dishes using ingredients from the Santa Monica Farmers Market. When the beach is socked in, a visit to the Exhale Mind/Body Spa easily staves off the chill. We’d be happy camping out at the Fairmont indefinitely, but a special anniversary or birthday weekend may have to do. 101 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica, 310-576-7777; $309-$1,929.
The Artist’s Lair
There are hotels you check into to disappear (see next item), and there are hotels you enter to be part of something larger than yourself. Philippe Starck’s opulent Alice-in-Wonderland-esque design at the SLS Hotel at Beverly Hills is as much art installation as it is getaway. Just south of the Beverly Center, the SLS is renowned for its imaginative interiors. Furnishings include an oversize chair shaped like shiny red lips, gold-gun table lamps (not the most romantic image), and Plexiglas deer heads. Despite its girth—297 rooms—the SLS maintains a boutique-hotel ambience. It’s hard to believe that Cedars-Sinai and Jerry’s Famous Deli are steps away as you stretch out on a chaise in the pool, hide out in a cabana with a mojito, or stand next to an eight-foot urn planted with a citrus tree. Don’t be put off by the swarm of scenesters—this place is welcoming. The best discoveries are in the hotel restaurant, the Bazaar by José Andrés, where the James Beard Award-winning chef offers a whimsical take on Spanish tapas. The Bazaar’s interior, also designed by Starck, plays with light and dark for a supersleek and surreal dining experience. 465 S. La Cienega Blvd., L.A., 310-247-0400; $400-$7,000.
A Relative Disappearing Act
Some clans have the infinite patience and the surplus living space to accommodate out-of-town in-laws; some family members know better and book a room to make for a more harmonious experience. For these wise souls there’s the Magic Castle Hotel. Located one block from the hustle of Hollywood Boulevard and its attractions, it’s a short walk to the Red Line station that leads north to Universal City and south to downtown. The apartment-style suites have full kitchens and good-size living areas with plenty of room for a family to spread out. The rates include in-room DVDs and Popsicles by the pool. Aside from the convenience and low prices, a strong argument for staying here is the access it grants guests to the Magic Castle next door. Otherwise open only to professional illusionists and their friends, the Victorian mansion nightly showcases the finest magic talent on any continent. You must be 21 or older to visit the castle, except on weekends, when children are welcome at brunch. That’s reason enough to book a reservation here. 7025 Franklin Ave., Hollywood, 323-851-0800; $174-$339.
PLUS: Ask The Pros
TV Host, Bizarre Foods
Four Seasons Beverly Wilshire
“I stay in the old tower and spend my mornings people watching in the hotel restaurant over the best breakfast in town.”
Shade Hotel, Manhattan Beach
“When I stayed for the first time, I bought four pillows to take home. And there’s a spa tub in your room.”
TV Host, Man v. Food
Montage Beverly Hills
“It has many nooks and crannies—studies, bars, restaurants in unlikely places—that create a sense of discovery. And they have delicious 24-hour room service that pays homage to Latin and Asian influences.”
Photographs courtesy (in order): Rouse Media, Travel Channel, Steve Johnson/ESPN, Travel Channel: James Merrell/Image Mechanics