Review: Santa Monica Proper Hotel (Design Hotels Marriott Redemption)

My wife, daughter and I spent the night at the Santa Monica Proper hotel in late November. It was stylish, staff were friendly. The location was fantastic for our needs. This is the second segment of my Thanksgiving in Bora Bora trip report.

Choosing Santa Monica Proper

My family spent Thanksgiving in Bora Bora. Flights from the U.S. to Tahiti are only from Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Honolulu (Saturdays only). We Traveled with our one year old so we decided to break up the trip with a night in Los Angeles. Next up would be our business class award flight from Los Angeles to Papeete (the capital of French Polynesia, on Tahiti).

With about 24 hours in Los Angeles I didn’t want an airport hotel. I wanted something in a neighborhood that was walkable, where we could get out and about with our daughter. And I didn’t want to be too far into Los Angeles since we’d be heading back to the airport and traffic in LA is.. special.

I spent 50,000 points – plus a $34.26 resort fee, because Marriott – for the new Santa Monica Proper hotel which was running about $380++ for the night. That’s about an average use of Marriott points, but the hotel fit the bill and with the devaluations of Marriott I feel my seven figure Marriott balance is too robust so I was good with it.

Arrival and Check-in

We arrived in Los Angeles on Southwest Airlines. That terminal is right by the new ‘LAXit’ (LA-exit) lot for Uber and Lyft pickups. The lot is walkable. However with all of the drama with the first two weeks of offsite rideshare pickups from LAX, traveling with my wife, daughter, and checked baggage I decided to have a car service pick us up. I used a 20% off Groundlink code, chose their cheapest option, and spent about $60 for a 25 minute drive to the hotel. We had in-terminal pickup, therefore someone to help with our bags.

I was checking bags since we were traveling with my daughter for more than a week. My view on checking luggage as binary – it’s best when you don’t have to, but once you’re checking bags anyway more bags are ok. We bring our own travel crib (I don’t like the wooden cribs with slats, she gets her arms stuck inside), and I even checked a collapsible play pen.

It was nearly half an hour to the hotel, and the driver for some reason wasn’t using directions but didn’t quite know where he was going. I turned on my own navigation and told him where to turn, and where to stop. The hotel is part of a larger non-descript complex and the entrance is non-obvious.

santa monica proper hotel entrance

The lobby was small but stylish. There were a couple of people checking in ahead of me at the desk. Staff were friendly.

santa monica proper hotel lobby

proper hotel lobby

check-in desk

Design Hotels Elite Benefits

Santa Monica Proper is a Design Hotel. That’s a relationship Marriott inherited from Starwood. Elite benefits really don’t apply. Still I enjoyed my first Design Hotel stay in Chicago earlier in the year. And they ‘sort of’ acknowledged Marriott status – I asked for a 1:30 p.m. checkout and was told, “I see you’re a Marriott member, I can accommodate that.”

Santa Monica Proper Guest Room

Traveling with my family I have a strong preference for a suite – my daughter goes to sleep early, and she takes a nap during the day, it’s nice to be in a different room. However for a one night stay at a hotel where I lacked any juice a standard room was fine.

I asked if I could be swapped to the largest room possible. The hotel was sold out but the desk clerk moved me to a room they said had a larger footprint but a worse view. I took it, knowing we’d need to open up her crib and wanted room to walk around.

The room we had was small – I’d hate to have had a smaller one – but it was gorgeous.

guest room entry

guest room



Inside the room were a couple of Proper-branded waters. Those are free, and the hotel was happy to bring me as many as I wanted. I asked for another eight and they were delivered promptly.

Santa Monica Proper Bathroom

The room’s bathroom was just as good looking as the bedroom. Readers know I’m not a fan of wall mounted toiletries. The flip side is my absolute favorite in-room indulgence is full-sized bottles given fresh for each guest. This hotel offered full sized bottles meant to be left and used by the next guest. There was even a price list telling you not to take the bottles unless you wanted to pay.

On the other hand, the bath amenities were Aesop, that’s what I use at home ever since I discovered the brand at the Park Hyatt Tokyo.

santa monica proper bathroom


aesop amenities

aesop price list

Guestroom Balcony

The room had a small balcony with two chairs. I gave up the room I was told had a view of Santa Monica. This one did too, it just had a back alley and the rear of the YMCA directly below. I didn’t mind.

deck with chairs

santa monica

Hotel Grounds

Another way my hotel stays change when I’m traveling with my daughter is I don’t go off on my own tangents. I didn’t photograph amenities I don’t have a chance to use. There was a fitness center, and a rooftop pool, but I didn’t get pictures. I’d simply snap a courtyard photo here or there as I went by.

hotel courtyard

I imagine the pool because a scene as we were leaving early on Saturday afternoon. Everyone working at the hotel was super nice. My impression of the guests were that they were very L.A. rather than being largely tourists (or for that matter business travelers, since it was the weekend).

Santa Monica Neighborhood

Santa Monica is very walkable. That’s exactly what I had in mind for spending the day before embarking on an 8 hour flight with a 14 month old. We walked from the hotel down to the beach, which was about 10 minutes. We didn’t head all the way down to the Santa Monica Pier (but we could easily see it).

santa monica pier

We also walked to brunch, about 10 minutes in the other direction, stopping at Ingo’s Tasty Diner, an upscale diner in the area with good cocktails.

Ultimately Santa Monica Proper gave me a sense of place, which is what I was going for – not too far from LAX (10 miles from the airport), but still a world apart. And there was no denying I was in California, and no longer in Texas.

santa monica gas prices

Bora Bora Thanksgiving Trip Report Continues

Our progress so far and what’s to come:

  • Introduction to Thanksgiving in Bora Bora
  • Santa Monica Proper Hotel (this post)
  • LA International Lounge
  • Air Tahiti Nui Business Class, Los Angeles – Papeete
  • Intercontinental Tahiti
  • Air Tahiti, Papeete – Bora Bora
  • Conrad Bora Bora Nui
  • Returning to Tahiti
  • Air Tahiti Nui Business Class, Papeete – Los Angeles

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. From the pics, I can see no bathtub. Does your wife bath your daughter in the sink? I know many people who do that. Or did the hotel provide a baby bathtub? I’m just curious as many people will not stay in a room without a bathtub. Many I know will never even consider a room without a bathtub.

  2. Might be time to get out of the review business. Also might be time to get out of the Marriott point hoarding business if the most aspirational redemption you can find is sub 0.7 cents.

  3. @JohnB – the room didn’t have a bathtub. Some hotels (eg Park Hyatt in PAris) have provided a baby tub. My wife will bathe her in the shower.

  4. @ABC – I brought my own car seat, I was going LAX to hotel and back, PPT to hotel and back. I wanted to ensure a proper rear-facing car seat so I schlepped one with me to the middle of the Pacific ocean…

  5. You do know they were required to provide you a replacement amenity or partially refunded resort fee if the resort fee included internet access, right? I can’t believe you didn’t invoke this.

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