Few beaches in the world are more iconic than those of Southern California. This stretch of coast has been celebrated for decades in music and film. Tanned youth keep the local beach culture alive, but for those of us who no longer quite count as youth, the coast of Southern California has other draws.
In many places, dramatic bluffs or towering sea cliffs back the soft, golden sand. If you time your visit well, you can see wildlife in rocky tide pools, or massive marine mammals on whale-watching cruises. Parks reaching from the coast inland to mountain foothills offer superlative hiking. Restaurants serve impeccably fresh seafood, and hotels can arrange umbrella-shaded beach picnics. In short, the coast of Southern California is an ideal place to relax, an activity that’s increasingly absent from ever-more-purposeful American vacations nowadays.
After assessing several small hotels in the congested heart of Los Angeles, a little time along the coast seemed like just the thing. We put our convertible’s top down, turned the radio up and headed west. Malibu entered the luxury hotel spotlight in 2017 with the opening of the 16-room Nobu Ryokan, a hotel about which I couldn’t muster any enthusiasm. Rooms start at about $2,000 a night with a minimum two-night stay, and that price doesn’t even purchase a sea view. I have trouble believing that a “Garden” room could possibly justify such an expenditure, however attentive the hotel’s service might be. Staying at the Nobu Ryokan makes sense only for privacy-hungry celebrities, or those who want to see them.