Fourteen years after co-founding the Californian city of Santa Monica in 1875, US Senator John Percival Jones built himself a Victorian-style mansion, Miramar (Spanish for ‘seaview’), as his family residence.
In 1921, the building became the Miramar Hotel, beloved by some of Hollywood’s biggest stars, including Greta Garbo (she liked it so much she moved in for four years), Jean Harlow and Betty Grable (who used to perform in the lounge), and later by presidents John F Kennedy and Bill Clinton.
Although the original wing of the hotel was demolished in 1939, the real joy is that the historic bungalows remain, scattered throughout the bougainvillea-scented gardens. Despite having been renovated many times over the years, the bungalows’ original design perseveres, as does a 1920s feel.
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Today, after driving through the iron gates and up the sweeping driveway, guests are met by the gleaming Ocean Tower, standing 10 floors tall; an army of staff, and a vast fig tree. This 24m Moreton Bay Fig tree, planted in the 1880s, is a Santa Monica landmark, being the second largest of its kind in California and possibly the US.
It has a nice story, too: it’s said that an Aussie sailor didn’t have enough money to pay his tab in a nearby bar, so he settled it with a fig sapling, which the bartender then gave to the wife of Senator Jones.
The hotel’s fabulous bistro is named after the tree. Here, you’ll find a strong emphasis on sustainability and local ingredients, with an ever-changing seasonal menu, impressive wine list and the best American breakfasts.
There’s also an outdoor heated pool surrounded by palms, tropical flowers and ponds; a decadent spa, and a blow- dry bar.
And don’t miss The Bungalow, a sprawling, retro-style, surf-themed bar set in the grounds. A night here feels like a house party – if your house serves potent mezcal concoctions and has an outdoor bar and fire pit. One reason the Miramar has always been special is because of its location: one of California’s best beaches is only a pedestrian crossing away.
Since the hotel has bikes for guests, one of the best trips is to cycle down the boardwalk, taking in Santa Monica Pier, Muscle Beach and Venice Skatepark. With its high-end, slightly-retro resort vibe, you could almost be in a David Hockney pool painting. This hotel is just what a stay in LA should be: an endless summer where the Old-Fashioneds are always flowing and the ocean is steps away.
A Palisades King room starts from $540 per night. British Airways Holidays offers a seven-day fly-drive to Los Angeles,from £399 per person including return flights from Heathrow and car hire with Avis. Visit ba.com/avis*
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