I'm just going to say it: Viceroy Santa Monica is inconspicuous from the outside.
It kind of looks like one of those places that time forgot - and not in a good way.
The drab exterior is vintage 1960s, yet freshly painted and clearly well-maintained; its 8-foot privacy hedges are both lush and neatly groomed.
Clearly, this is not a place that time (or the owners) entirely forgot.
The steady stream of luxury cars into and out of the inconspicuous driveway are a testament to the Viceroy Santa Monica rep - well-earned - as a discreetly sophisticated, contemporary beach hotel.
It's as popular for its ocean-view guestrooms and restaurant as it is for its plunge pools, cabana, and nightlife.
The hotel opened as the budget-hotel Pacific Shores Hotel in 1967. It was re-launched as the Viceroy in 2002 after a $20.3 million renovation of the guest rooms and common areas.
The overall layout and exterior appearance of the building was kept intact. (One can't help but wonder why, but - hiding in plain sight on the corner of a busy four-way intersection must help keep out the riffraff... or something like that.)
The 162-room boutique hotel (including 18 suites) is known today for its hip, local crowd, ocean views, and plunge pools with a sexy poolside scene.
It's also known for its funky decor. I'm talking yellow benches, kelly green armchairs, white porcelain dog lamps (yes, you read that right) in the guest rooms.
The English-with-an-edge style antique furniture, dramatic printed wallpaper, and ornate china plates seemingly randomly affixed to lobby and guest room walls is clearly not everyone's cup of tea.
Then again, I've always loved the seemingly discordant decor for its sophisticated, inviting vibe that makes for a lively setting for sunset cocktails.
Each of the Viceroy's 162 guest rooms are spacious and high-tech. All include elegant custom-designed bedding, with pillow-top mattress covers and 100 percent Egyptian cotton linens. You'll also find each room equipped with a sitting area and spacious writing desk.
The Viceroy's premier restaurant, Cast, serves up a globally-influenced menu sourced from local markets and farms.
It can be savored alfresco on the patio, or in the central dining room, which includes communal tables and booths.
Bite by bite and sip by sip, Cast Restaurant & Lounge at Viceroy set up an approachable scene for lively conversation over shareable plates of LA street food favorites pair with specialty cocktails and craft beers.
Cameo is a bar scene with legs - as in, it lasts as the place to see and be seen while other Santa Monica hotspots quickly fall out of favor.
It's the perfect hotspot for mingling with colleagues after work, gathering with friends to celebrate Friday's arrive, or simply savoring some of the city's tastiest foodie finds.
Blame it on the well-appointed cabanas; or Santa Monica's mostly marvelous weather.
Whatever the reason, the Viceroy poolside exudes a chic ambience that invites guests to cozy up in the cabanas or mingle seamlessly throughout the backyard.
From a Sunday poolside scene to an elegant cocktail party beneath the stars, the lush gardens and airy space provide the perfect be achy backdrop.
Drinks are a virtual institution here, and the Cameo Bar serves up some of the finest spirits around, which is one of the reasons it made our list of the Top 10 Santa Monica Happy Hours and has a place on the Santa Monica Night Clubs list.
You'll find it just off the lobby and extending poolside.
Location: 1819 Ocean Avenue. Nightly rates at Viceroy Santa Monica start at $360. For more information or reservations call 800-622-8711; or call the hotel directly at 310-260-7500. You can also visit the Viceroy's website here.
Get a list of the top Santa Monica Luxury Hotels here.