SANTA MONICA – After spending a week in San Francisco and five days in Beverly Hills, we decided to conclude our family trip with a relaxing five day stay in Santa Monica (www.santamonica.com),  a mere eight non-freeway miles from Los Angeles International Airport.

Santa Monica

The Doubletree by Hilton pool.

Just a short walk from the pier you will find the DoubleTree Suites by Hilton Hotel Santa Monica (www.SantaMonicaSuites.DoubleTree.com). When you check into this all-suite hotel, a warm DoubleTree chocolate chip cookie awaits you. You are only three blocks away from the beach. The two-room suites include a private bedroom and separate seating area with a sofa bed; meaning that everyone can have their own space. We especially appreciated their outdoor pool and the amazing breakfast at the Fourth Street Grille. I was impressed with the unique free shuttle service to points of interest in Santa Monica provided by Santa Monica Free Ride. The hotel is about to undergo a significant renovation job and by next year they will become a full-scale Hilton property.

Meanwhile, after experiencing a Loews resort in St. Petersburg, Florida last winter, we were excited to check out the Loews Santa Monica (www.loewshotels.com/santa-monica). This hotel has 347 luxurious guestrooms, including 21 suites (all including white noise machines). There is 17,000 square feet of indoor function space, with ocean views, an Eco-friendly full-service spa offering organic treatments and the Ocean & Vine restaurant, which serves locally-caught seafood and fresh farmers’ market produce. There is also the Bar Belle Lounge, a tribute to Santa Monica’s famed “Muscle Beach” female body builder Abbye Stockton. There is Wi-Fi in all guestrooms and public spaces.

Located at 1700 Ocean Avenue, we spent the day at the two-tier pool deck overlooking the sea, the perfect place to soak up the sun as you recline on a comfortable chaise. While you unwind, enjoy extras such as Evian Mist, chilled fruit and tropical smoothies thanks to some signature poolside pampering. In the summer, the attentive poolside concierge delivers all that and more. A soak in the Jacuzzi represented a nice treat. The pool itself is so well heated that I just did not want to get out. We enjoyed a delicious lunch poolside via the Blue Streak Restaurant, where you can enjoy sandwiches and snacks served with a side of stunning Pacific views every day from 11 am to 10 pm.

The Water Grill is Tops for Dining

Santa Monica

A great view of the ocean at the Water Grill.

For an upscale, but not stuffy dinner with the ocean just outside, The Water Grill (www.watergrill.com) Santa Monica location at1401 Ocean Avenue offers a seafood dining experience for the adventurous at heart. The menu has an entire page just for the raw bar, featuring oysters from all up and down the east and west coast. For the seafood lover, there are a number of different whole fish entrees, such as European sea bass or New Zealand pink bream.

On the night we visited, the place was packed with people happily waiting for a table. Everyone I asked told me that this is the best dining establishment in all of Santa Monica. I could tell this place was going to be good as early as the bread plate arriving at the table. Yes, the bread was that impressive.

We started off with a drink, the appropriately named Ocean Avenue, containing vodka, fresh strawberry and lemon juice, with tarragon essence and served over ice. Our charming server Alicia then provided some background on the menu. We shared an order of Baja Stone Crab to start and I had my personal favorite, a bowl of New England clam chowder. For the main course the Wild Black Cod Miso (sablefish), served seared with eggplant, blistered shishito pepper and red miso sauce, called out to two members of our party. This is a favorite fish of family members and not something you see on many menus. I had my eye on the Wild New Zealand Sword Fish, with marinated zucchini and caper brown butter. In addition, I ordered some Yukon gold mashed potatoes on the side. I wish I could make them as good as this.

Mike Cohen’s email address is info@mikecohen.ca. Follow his travels at www.sandboxworld.com/travel and on Instagram @mikecohencsl.