By Lena Katz
When choosing a place to hang my travelerâ€™s hat for the night, Iâ€™ve always been a fan of the boutique and the unique. Which is yet another reason I love California: So many California hotels are designed to bring a sense of place: the sunny-chic Los Angeles hotels on the beach, the cool blue Tahoe mountain resort, the little city-slicker hideaway in the heart of San Francisco. Encouragingly, California continues to see its independent hotels and small hotel chains expand, with many new openings and revamps to announce this summer.
Joie de Vivre Hotels has always been a favorite in its home city of San Francisco. But recently, the medium-sized chain known for mid-priced boutique hotels has gone luxe and moved into So Cal in a major way. The Hotel Erwin raises the bar for Venice lodgings, but with a wink to Muscle Beachâ€™s tattooed-and-funky urban edge. The guest rooms feature pop-art furniture and rock star photos.
Breezy-sophisticated Shorebreak Hotel in Huntington Beach is one of the only hotels JDVâ€™s built from the ground up, and is easily the most exciting thing to hit Huntingtonâ€™s hotel scene in years. JDV also just completed multi-million dollar renovations to Dream Inn in Santa Cruz, and is soft-launching the revamped Hotel Maya in Long Beach after a $20 million renovation.
While Personality Hotels is still sticking within San Francisco borders for now, itâ€™s made a lot of enhancements and expansions to its portfolio. Congrats to this Union Square-centric hotel group for spending $10 million to make Hotel Frank resemble a 1950s Miami Beach shag pad. In a good way, of course. Houndstooth flooring, bubble lampsâ€¦Iâ€™m groovinâ€™ on it.
Also on the revamped Hotel Vertigo, which goes right to the Alfred Hitchcock-inspired lengths youâ€™d want, but doesnâ€™t overdo to the point of creepiness. Yes, the movie plays 24 hours on a flat screen in the foyer. However, in the rooms, Vertigo is represented by a subtle swirl within the orange vinyl, purple and white lacquered dĂ©cor.
Destination Resorts has always been great at delivering â€śWOWâ€ť factor, but this luxury lodging group has outdone itself in 2009 with the brand-new Los Angeles hotel Terranea, situated on the picturesque and less-traveled cliffs of Palos Verdes.Â Not to say that Terraneaâ€™s better than the beachy-beautiful re-envisioned Lâ€™Auberge del Mar in San Diego, or Tahoeâ€™s legendary Resort at Squaw Creek (frequented mainly by Hollywood power players and Olympians). Thatâ€™s a matter of taste. Itâ€™s just a pleasant surprise to see such a high-end property open NOW, in a place that needed it so badly (there are only about three high-end hotels in all of LAâ€™s South Bay, and none of them are beach resorts). Right in front of your eyes, 102 acres of proof that a California vacation is still solid gold.
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Lena Katz lives on the Left Coast and writes about tropical islands, beach clubs and food, but her heart belongs to NYC.