In a metropolis that thrives on spectacle, a fig tree stands among the most impressive. Eight stories tall with a 120-foot maze of branches, it arrived more than a century ago as a sapling, the only item of value possessed by a boozy Australian sailor who used it as barter to pay his tab. The bartender, in turn, passed it along to the wife of Senator John P. Jones, who founded Santa Monica in the late 1880s and built a beachfront mansion, dubbed Miramar (which means “facing the sea”) and replete with lush gardens. Today, that tree stands as an awe-inspiring landmark at the entrance to the Fairmont Miramar Hotel & Bungalows.
At once richly historic and impossibly hip, Santa Monica is just eight miles from LAX and a quick drive to anywhere in L.A.—depending on traffic. The city’s expansive beach, healthy vibe, easygoing attitude, abundant shopping and plethora of restaurants have long drawn celebrities and tourists, but an increasing number of businesses have seen the light and come to Santa Monica seeking a balanced, work-hard-play-hard lifestyle.
Eight districts compose the city: The iconic pier and Ocean Avenue; artsy Main Street; Mid-City, which buzzes with businesses and a new performing arts center; the friendly neighborhood of Ocean Park; Pico Boulevard, with its vintage record stores and bountiful Saturday farmers’ market; the municipal airport, perfect for private jets and site of the monthly Outdoor Antique & Collectible Market and yearly Barneys sale at Barker Hangar; quaint Montana Avenue (favored by shoppers and foodies); and downtown’s popular Third Street Promenade—a people-watching mecca with something for everyone.
Convenient for those visiting Santa Monica (for business or pleasure), a handful of sumptuous hotels offers a wide variety of experiences and amenities. For example, Casa del Mar, which was built in the ’20s, offers a distinctive brick façade and a bustling lobby, while Viceroy Santa Monica blends vintage and contemporary elements. All on this list sit within a few blocks of each other and are convenient to Santa Monica’s myriad attractions—none more inviting and impressive than its killer sunsets and the blue Pacific.