America’s second biggest city can be unforgiving to tourists. The lack of public transport and a global fixation with the Hollywood strip define the city for many, meaning a multitude of gems stay undiscovered to visitors.
Yet for those in the know, this urban sprawl reveals itself to be much more than just a movie set. With miles of beaches, a quirky arts scene and an obsession with wellbeing quite like no other, Los Angeles is a city with plenty to explore.
A car is essential to navigate the 80 districts and neighbourhoods which generally follow a grid pattern. Avoid Hertz: while they may come out cheapest on paper, we had unauthorised charges added to one of our bookings and were mis-sold insurance we didn’t need on another. Try Enterprise, Sixt or Avis instead.
Read on for our guide to the hottest, healthiest places to discover in the City of Angels:
Shutters On The Beach, Santa Monica
If waking up with a jaw-dropping ocean view, and nothing but white sand and the sound of the crashing waves as your alarm, is your idea of heaven, then Shutters On The Beach is the place for you. Each of their rooms is designed with you in mind… beautiful, peaceful and they create the perfect environment for you to relax in. With three different restaurants, Shutters On the Beach, caters to all your wishes, from your perfect brunch to bespoke cocktails for Happy Hour. This beachy hotel is also renowned for it’s sublime Spa and Fitness Centre, it’s luxury feel will ensure you won’t want to miss a workout, even on your holiday!
Beverly Hills Hotel, Beverly Hills
The all-time classic Beverly Hills Hotel, an oasis of luxury, is located on Sunset Boulevard. Surrounded by breath-taking gardens and flowers, The Beverly Hills Hotel will offer you a slice of heaven, with flawless service, endless luxury and a whole lot of glamour. With a huge array of deluxe rooms and sensational suites, each room is carefully designed to encapsulate both beauty and comfort, featuring full marble bathrooms, luxurious, bespoke bed linen, and a range of complimentary extras.
After a restful night’s sleep, you can relax by the palm-tree lined pool, complete with luxury private cabanas. You can also wine and dine in style at the acclaimed Cabana Café and experience the best in al-fresco eating experiences from their signature menu. If that’s not enough to tempt your luxury taste buds, they also, have a top of the line Fitness Centre, with yoga classes, state of the art equipment and personal trainers on hand, ready to help sculpt and tone your bodies!
The Viceroy, Santa Monica
This beach retreat boutique hotel sits in tranquil grounds that belies its convenient location just minutes from the chi chi shops and restaurants of Santa Monica’s boutique strip. For those who need to unwind, the hotel’s two swimming pools offer poolside cabanas for a little extra privacy while the in-room and poolside spa service with 100% natural ingredients will leave you feeling blissed out. If you prefer to sweat it out, the 24-hour gym offers personal trainer appointments while free yoga and beach boot-camp sessions are offered seasonally. The hotel can recommend good running and cycling routes while guided running sessions are available at $125 for 60 minutes.
Hire a bike at Marina del Rey
The seaside community of Marina del Rey is home to the world’s largest man-made small craft harbour with 19 marinas housing up to 5,300 boats. Situated close to Venice Beach, you can charter yachts and enjoy watersports including paddle boarding here. The budget friendly option? Hire a bike from Daniel’s Bicycle Rentals at the colourful Fisherman’s Village ($24 a day) and pedal down to the beach. From here, cycle along the seafront for 45 minutes until you reach Manhattan Beach, which has a good choice of bars, shops and restaurants.
Run along Venice Boardwalk
Venice Beach is a chaotic experience that you simply can’t miss. Go for a jog along its epicentre, the Venice Boardwalk, to get a feeling for the anarchic spirit of the place. You’ll encounter a cacophony of people: skateboarders pulling ollies at the skatepark, joggers and punk rockers who have seen better days. If you have time, run up to the Venice Canal Historic District for an altogether quieter experience.
Indulge in a visit to ONE Spa at Shutters, Santa Monica
This breezy beach retreat offers a top notch spa just steps from the sands of Santa Monica. The white and slate grey shingled building has a fitness room, pool, beach activities centre and private yoga classes held on the beach. The spa features six multi-purpose treatment rooms with a nautical influence. Relax with organic body treatments by red flower and facials by Omorovicza, enjoy a tropical rain shower or a mani/pedi all while listening to the waves of the Pacific outside your door. Take a wander down to the historic Santa Monica pier afterwards and take in sights of Muscle Beach – a well-known outdoor gym – along the way.
The Butcher’s Daughter, Abbot Kinney
Set in a street so hip it hurts (full of artisan coffee shops, yoga moms and concept stores) the Butcher’s Daughter has a casual, airy feel thanks to the baskets of plants hanging from its ceiling. This self-described juice bar, cafe and ‘vegetable slaughter-house’ offers vegetarian food with vegan options to please even the heartiest meat-eater. Try the Spicy Kale Caesar which comes with avocado, crispy shallots, almond parmesan, sourdough croutons and harissa caesar dressing. The stone-baked pizzas with vegan mozzarella are perfect hangover fodder, as are the raw smoothies.
Cafe Gratitude, Venice
This small chain of restaurants has five sites across LA, serving up 100% organic, sustainably sourced, plant-based cuisine that is both tasty and nourishing. Try the Bonita, a breakfast taco plate with sprouted probiotic brown rice or quinoa, black beans, pico de gallo, avocado cashew nacho cheese, spicy pepitas and corn tortillas. Wash it down with a juice. Our favourite was the Cheerful: peach, strawberry, chia seeds and basil.
The Springs, Arts District of Downtown
After a mooch around the stylishly dishevelled streets of the Arts District (LA’s answer to Shoreditch), make your next stop the Springs. Billed as a wellness centre, this 13,000 square foot complex features a juice bar, yoga studio, holistic healing centre and a raw vegan restaurant and wine bar. The restaurant, which reopened in June 2016, has an industrial feel with high ceilings and raw materials. Led by Executive Chef Jasmine Shimoda, who has worked under a handful of NYC’s top Michelin-starred chefs, the Springs features an entirely organic vegan menu – with no food being heated over 118 degrees. Try the blue potato pie: whipped sweet potato, blueberries, cocoa nibs and coconut. Sample some organic, biodynamic wine and beer from the wine bar and sit back and people watch: this place is made for it.
GRAB A COCKTAIL
At the top of an unassuming building in Downtown LA you’ll find Perch, a 16th floor rooftop bar with unrivalled views of the LA skyline and a relaxed, unpretentious crowd. There are firepits and heaters to keep warm while you enjoy the 360’ view as well as live music on certain nights. The cocktail list has a French influence, mirroring the French bistro one floor below. Try the Spicy Concombre, a fresh and fiery mix of Greenalls gin, St Germain, lime juice, cucumber and jalapenos. Definitely a fun way to get your five a day.