The Ultimate LA Travel Guide – Jetset’s Best Guide to Los Angeles, Malibu, Santa Monica, and More
Traveling to LA soon and wondering where to go for the ultimate Los Angeles vacay? We’ve got you covered. I love La La Land – aside from it being the perfect destination year-round, Los Angeles is well suited for every type of trip. Whether you’re feeling an adventurous weekend in LA, a girl’s getaway, a leisurely vacation, a romantic jaunt, or a wild weekend with friends, you can easily find your dream trip in LA. From the mountains to the beach, to the trendy cafes and instagram-worthy views, to the bustling sidewalks and palm-lined streets, the City of Angels has it all!
Special thanks to my resident LA expert Elizabeth Grady (@Elizabeth_Grady) for helping fill out these EXPERT Jetsetter recommendations. Although I lived in LA a few years ago for a summer, I’ve only been recently as a tourist and I wanted to make sure you guys had all the best current local recs, as well!!!
First thing’s first, there are a LOT of different areas of LA – So where do the Jetsetters stay?
Here are the Jetset-approved best luxury hotels in LA to base for your weekend in La La Land
With its stylish guest rooms, iconic poolside cabanas, and ideal Sunset Boulevard location, the Beverly Hills Hotel is the place to see and be seen in Los Angeles. The hotel exudes vintage glamour and nods to the hotel’s colorful history with celebs and Hollywood. If only these walls could talk! Make sure to dine at the Polo Lounge and order the famous McCarthy salad. Also, if you’re familiar with the Eagles’ Hotel California album, you might recognize this icon from afar. It’s one of the most luxurious hotels in the USA, and a must to put on your USA bucket list.
Photo by Gray Malin
SM Proper might be new to the scene, but they changed the game on the Westside. Complete with a rooftop pool and restaurants by some of LA’s most notable chefs, this Mediterranean hotspot is a dream.
I love the location and vibe of the Fairmont Santa Monica. If you’re going with friends, it’s also very convenient it’s connected to Santa Monica’s hottest bar – Bungalow. Also the food at this resort is SO good. Still dreaming about their restaurant.
A luxury hideaway located right off the Pacific Coast Highway. Directly across from legendary Surfrider Beach, there’s nothing better than watching the sunrise with coffee (or soaking in the sunset with a cocktail) on the rooftop deck. *Small boutique hotel, limited to 20 rooms; rooftop access is for guests only
Founded for professional women travelers nearly 100 years ago, this hotel is not only rooted in history, but proud of it’s heritage! They renovated nearly two years ago, but preserved the original Spanish character beautifully. A gem in the middle of DTLA.
The different neighborhoods in LA – Where Should You Go on Your First Trip to LA (or your fifth)?
I’m sure you’ve heard the rumors, there is a traffic situation in LA. Don’t let this stop you, however, as it’s nothing that can’t be solved with a little neighborhood rundown and expert planning. Starting west on the beach and moving inland there’s Malibu, Santa Monica, Venice Beach, West LA, Beverly Hills, West Hollywood, Hollywood Hills, Downtown LA (DTLA) and the up-and-coming Silverlake. My recommendation is to pick 1-2 neighboring areas (per day) and seize the day/weekend! With that being said, let’s dive in to the differences between LA’s many neighborhoods.
Beautiful, but can be touristy in some areas (third street promenade). However, certain spots can’t be missed in this buzzy beach town.
Where to Eat in Santa Monica:
Bluey’s Kitchen– A tucked away, bright Australian cafe that can’t be missed! The bowl, avocado toast with halloumi, and breakfast burrito are three of my favorites, but you truly can’t go wrong!
Tar & Roses – Comfort food that is sure to impress. The oxtail dumplings will change your life.
Little Ruby – An australian cafe right off Ocean Ave. Perfect for brunch, but don’t be fooled… there’s nothing that one of their burgers can’t fix.
Rustic Canyon – Farm to table in America’s healthiest state, complete with a great wine list. The menu changes daily, but it’s consistently excellent. (Aside from having a Michelin Star, they’ve been named to Wine Enthusiast’s “100 best wine restaurants” quite a few times.)
Huckleberry – Casual spot for all day fare. I love their breakfast burritos and their salad trio.
Father’s Office – Forewarning… there are no substitutions, but this is one of the best burgers you’ll ever eat.
Where to drink & go out in Santa Monica
Ester’s Wine Shop & Bar – great outdoor patio for a glass or three
Wally’s Wine Bar – wine, cheese, cute charcuterie, what more do you need?
FIG – chic cocktails at the Fairmont Miramar.
Elephante – buzzy oceanfront rooftop restaurant with great cocktails.
Bungalow – Most popular bar in SM. Go for the day party scene, but a great spot to stop by at night too.
Big Dean’s – Casual, beachy post-surf beer vibes.
The Victorian – great spot to go out with friends
Where to get dessert in Santa Monica:
A flower child, surfer, or beach bum’s paradise. Also a dude’s dream.
Where to Eat in Venice Beach:
Felix – LA has some of the best italian fare in America, but when it comes to pasta, I think Felix tops the list. They make their pasta in a room that’s in the middle of the restaurant.
Gjelina – You can do no wrong when it comes to the menu, unless you don’t order the mushroom toast. It sounds weird, but trust me. You won’t regret it.
Gjusta – A bakery/ deli with quite possibly, my favorite sandwiches in LA. The sister restaurant of Gjelina; everything here is good. You’ll also see their bread on the starter menu of a variety of restaurants across town.
American Beauty // The Win – Dow – Fantastic steakhouse(!!!) with a separate takeaway window for great burgers.
Plant Food & Wine – Vegetarian fare with a fantastic wine list. If you’re a meat eater, however, don’t rule this one out! Pro tip: sit outdoors.
Great White – An Australian cafe right near the boardwalk. There’s nothing better than a casual morning breakfast or coffee on your way to hit the waves.
Where to go out in Venice Beach:
Where to get dessert in Venice Beach:
Luxury beach town. What else do you need?
The best restaurants in Malibu:
Malibu Farm – No trip to Malibu is complete without stopping at Malibu Farm. They’ve expanded over the years, but their original location cannot be beat. Casual fare, great drinks and some of the best views in all of Malibu!
Nobu – Come for the food, stay for the absolutely epic views. There’s nothing better than a sunset cocktail on the patio. Literally nothing.
Lily’s – IYKYK. The best most mind-blowing post- surf burritos you’ll find anywhere.
Sun Life Organics – My favorite acai bowls in all of LA county, but don’t sleep on their smoothies or matcha! Grab anything and head to the beach.
The best wine bars in Malibu:
The best places for dessert in Malibu:
BRENTWOOD / WEST LA
A haven for young professionals and families alike. Great location and some timeless staples.
The best restaurants in West LA:
Farmshop– Located in the middle of the Brentwood Country Mart, Farmshop’s breakfast and brunch cannot be missed. If you’re there for lunch, get the poached chicken salad!
The best cocktail bars and wine bars in west LA:
Sorry not sorry
Where to get dessert in West LA:
The Bigg Chill (their cookie dough topping is to die for)
Sweet (get the bread pudding!!)
That’s where I want to be… but no, seriously. Beautiful streets, luxury shopping, and exceptional dining.
Where to eat in Beverly Hills
Maude – Maude bases their rotating menus on wine regions around the world. In order to create the most authentic pairings, their team travels to each place for cultural immersion. Upon return, they develop some of the most exceptional dishes you’ll ever eat. Expensive, but worth every penny.
The Fountain Coffee Room – Located inside the Beverly Hills Hotel, the fountain room is my favorite breakfast in LA. (The chocolate chip pancakes cannot be missed!!!) If only these walls could talk…
Nate ‘n Al Delicatessen – A Beverly Hills landmark that’s perfect for a hungover breakfast. The scene is truly iconic.
La Scala – Home to one of LA’s most famous dishes, Leon’s Chopped Salad, the fare is classic Italian.
Sugarfish – An LA classic for reasonably priced, great quality sushi. Three tips- 1. Get the “Trust Me.” 2. Don’t ask for extra rice. 3. The salmon sushi is melt-in-your-mouth good. Plus, they have the best takeout packaging you’ve ever seen.
Nozawa Bar – Located in the back of Sugarfish Beverly Hills, the Nozawa bar comes with a hefty price tag, but will get you ~20 courses of incredible sushi. Reservations are a must, very limited capacity.
Avra – A Greek restaurant complete with a beautiful terrace, great wines, and fresh seafood.
The Best Cocktail Bars and Wine Bars in Beverly Hills:
Polo Lounge or the Cabana Cafe
One of the prettiest lunch settings imaginable, and a celeb hot spot inside the Beverly Hills Hotel.
Where to get dessert in Beverly Hills:
WEST HOLLYWOOD (WEHO)
Home to many creative agencies, bars and celebrity hotspots, West Hollywood is the scene to see and be seen.
Where to eat in West Hollywood:
Issima – a super chic patio and bar with SUCH good food. Get the sourdough and the brazino.
Night & Market – At this LA institution, the more, the merrier. Thai drinking food in a party atmosphere. The food can’t be beat.
Rosaline – Peruvian food at its finest! I love Rosaline for their ceviche menu, beautiful greenhouse and incredible cocktails.
Dan Tana’s – Simply iconic. Classic Italian. Oh, and you’ll probably be seated right next to a celebrity.
Sushi Park – Don’t let the outside fool you- this is the best sushi you will find outside of Japan. (FYI- Omakase is ~$200, but they do offer cheaper options with table service.)
Croft Alley – A hidden gem in an alley off of Melrose! Where comfort food meets superfood; great for a casual lunch.
Joan’s on Third – A community- like setting that’s simply divine any time of day. Their weekend brunch and weekday lunches can’t be missed. Famous for their chinese chicken salad.
Where to drink in West Hollywood:
Employees Only is a fancy cocktail bar/restaurant that comes to LA from NYC. The dimly-lit space feels like a luxury airport lounge from the 1970s, and is a celeb hot spot.
One of LA’s best rooftops, a gorgeous place to grab a drink in WEHO.
EP & LP
Where to get dessert in Weho:
Tourist HQ, but has a few shining stars.
Where to eat in Hollywood:
Petit Trois – You’ll probably have to wait, but it’s well worth it. Quite possibly the best French food I’ve had outside of France. Counter service only; located in a strip mall (but don’t let this fool you). The omelette and steak tartare are to die for.
Where to drink in Hollywood:
Mama Shelter – great cocktails, games, and rooftop views.
The Spare Room
Good Times at Davey Wayne’s
Tramp Stamp Granny’s
Tropicana at the Roosevelt
The Know Where Bar
Where to grab dessert in Hollywood:
DTLA – DOWNTOWN LA
LA’s official headquarters for concerts, sports, and the arts. From Dodger Stadium to the Broad Museum, there’s something here for everyone.
Where to eat in downtown LA:
Cento Pasta Bar – Not much to say here, as the food speaks for itself. Order the “best baguette you’ve ever had in your life” and ANY of the pasta dishes. Located inside Mignon Wine Bar, this is a lunch only spot. It’s a tougher area, but if you’re comfortable with it, it’s a local favorite.
Bestia – No trip to LA is complete without dining at Bestia. Partially credited for developing DTLA’s food scene, Bestia has some of the best (no pun intended) charcuterie, pizza and pasta you’ll ever eat!
Grand Central Market – Want to sample a bit of everything LA has to offer, but short on time? No problem. GCM is home to some of LA’s most famous outposts, all under one roof. My best advice is to come hungry.
Broken Spanish – Take Spanish classics, elevate them with some of the finest delicacies, pair them with spectacular wines, and you have Broken Spanish.
The best cocktail bars in Downtown LA
Broken Shaker at Freehand Los Angeles
Angel City Brewery
Upstairs (Ace Hotel)
Nomad Rooftop Bar
The best places to grab dessert in Downtown LA:
A hipster mecca. Plenty of vintage finds, good eats, and even better coffee.
Where to eat in Silverlake
Mh Zh – Menus are written daily on brown paper bags, so you never know what to expect, other than the fact that no matter what you order, the food will be EXCELLENT. Authentic Israeli/ Mediterranean food and one of my favorite spots in LA. Tip: order the entire menu (it’s ~$100).
Botanica– If Anthropologie had a restaurant, this would be it! Complete with light pink walls, a beautiful outdoor patio and mini market, Botanica’s got it all. (Including some great cocktails).
same same – What used to be a thai restaurant somehow merged(?) with a wine bar. Now, the two are together in one space– the partnership we didn’t know we needed.
We just covered a ton of information, but if I had to plan a long weekend in LA, my perfect four day itinerary in LA would look somewhat like this:
Day 1: (Malibu)
Grab Alfred at Palisades Village and head for an early hike in the Santa Monica Mountains. Post hike, grab Broad Street Oyster Co. and head straight onto the beach for a couple of hours! After a while in the sun, shower, change, and hit up Malibu Farm for a sunset cocktail and dinner.
Day 2: (Venice, Santa Monica)
Head to Venice for an early morning beach walk; finish it up with coffee and brunch at Great White. Spend the day on Abbot Kinney and wind up at Hotel Erwin, the Waterfront, or the Bungalow for afternoon drinks. From there, grab a sunset cocktail at Hotel Shangri-La and follow it up with dinner in Santa Monica.
Day 3: (Bev Hills, WEHO, Hollywood)
Start off the day at Melrose Trading Post (Sunday only), a local farmer’s market, or a walk around Rodeo. From there, head to the Beverly Hills Hotel or Joan’s for brunch. Spend the day wandering around Melrose, looking at the street art and shops or Miracle Mile, checking out LACMA. End the night with Dinner in WEHO and rooftop drinks at Mama Shelter.
Day 4: (Hollywood, DTLA, Silverlake)
Start the day off with a hike at Griffith Observatory or Runyon Canyon and follow it up with brunch in DTLA or Silverlake. From there, check out the Broad (or another museum), followed by dinner in DTLA and some rooftop bar hopping.
Now that your trip is planned, let the packing begin! First and foremost, don’t come without a jacket/pants, as it gets chilly here at night. Other than that, you’ll be fine in whatever styles you choose; low humidity and high 60s/mid 70s (depending on the time of year, with a few 80+ days in the summer) are typical, year-round!
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