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Greg Aragon: Santa Monica 2
Fall Fun, Luxury and Delicacy In Santa Monica
Story and photographs by Greg Aragon

f I had to create a list of my top 10 favorite Southern California beach cities Santa Monica would definitely be on it. This eclectic gem is hard to overrate. With incredible restaurants and spas, wonderful hotels, an historic pier and lots of white sand, it is no wonder the city is famous around the globe.

Another reason I like it is because I can drive there in about an hour from my house and feel like I’m in a far away paradise.

A friend and I began a recent weekend getaway to the city at the luxurious Shore Hotel, a modern boutique hideaway, located across the street from the ocean. Boasting great amenities and a perfect location, the property sits on one of the hippest streets in Los Angeles and is walking distance to everything a visitor could want.

the Shore Hotel, Santa Monica, at night
The Shore Hotel is a modern boutique hideaway,
located across the street from the ocean

After checking into the 164-room hotel, we made our way to a chic, 2nd floor suite, which was highlighted by a balcony overlooking the resort pool, the ocean and Santa Monica Pier. The room also boasted a large flat screen TV, wireless Internet, big king bed, with 100% pure Egyptian cotton sheets, and a very unique glass enclosed shower that allows bathers to watch TV or look outside while getting clean.

one of the rooms at the Shore Hotel, Santa Monica
Rooms at Shore are chic, sustainable and unique

Like all Shore rooms, ours featured lighting, temperature and other controls that are automatically adjusted as visitors leave and enter the room, using the room key, which doubles as a personally programmed RFID (radio frequency identification).

Beyond the rooms, the hotel boasts a heated pool and Jacuzzi in a beautiful open air atrium, with plants, trees, fire and water features – all of which face the pier and busy Ocean Blvd. Next to this Zen Garden is the hotel’s signature restaurant Blue Plate Taco, where we enjoyed a tasty outdoor dining experience.

Offering still more ocean views, Blue Plate Taco is a healthy, authentic update to the classic taco stand and gets its inspiration from the fresh, coastal cuisine found in seaside towns throughout Mexico. The food is created in a large open kitchen and is highlighted by an exciting variety of tacos, ceviches, grilled seafood and meats, salads, soups and inventive salsas.

the writer enjoying a lobster dinner at the Blue Plate Taco restaurant, the Shore Hotel
The Lobster dinner at Blue Plate Taco is mucho tender and delicious

Our meal began on the patio, with Mexican beers, fresh guacamole and chips. We then shared a tasty beet salad, while watching the giant, lighted Ferris wheel at the Santa Monica Pier spin in the night. For the main course we devoured Blue Plate’s special lobster dinner.

Beautifully presented on a large, colorful plate, the lobster arrived in a shell, with corn salsa, creamy garlic sauce and homemade flour tortillas. The lobster meat was abundant, “mucho” tender and cooked perfectly. After the shellfish, we toasted dinner with a couple shots of premium tequila from the restaurant’s bar.

The next morning I joined a friend for breakfast at The Ivy. Located steps from Shore Hotel, The Ivy serves up classic American, Italian and regional dishes in a romantic atmosphere, with patio and terrace dining. For breakfast I had coffee and a delicious plate of Juevos Rancheros, with eggs, corn tortillas, black beans and salsa.

a plate of Juevos Rancheros, with eggs, corn tortillas, black beans and salsa, at The Ivy
Located steps from Shore Hotel, The Ivy serves up classic dishes,
such as Juevos Rancheros

After breakfast I discovered Tikkun Holistic Spa. Located a few blocks from the hotel, Tikkun Spa is a wellness sanctuary designed to heal and rejuvenate the mind and body. It boasts 6,500 sq-ft of health-enhancing of co-ed far-infrared heat therapy rooms, each lined with different minerals with health giving properties.

My visit began with a memorable Tikkun Signature Full Body Treatment. Unlike any spa treatment I’ve had, this exotic journey started in a private room, with a relaxing soak in a stone tub. This was followed by a unique Korean Body Scrub. Performed by a skilled masseuse with a pair of traditional Korean scrubbing mitts, this procedure invigorated and exfoliated my body from head to toe. During the scrub, I felt like a sports car getting a fine detailing.

the writer at the Tikkun Holistic Spa, a few blocks from the Shore Hotel
The Signature Full Body Treatment at Tikkun Spa is a memorable, exotic journey

The treatment ended with an awesome, 15-minute hot oil rub and a soothing warm milk rinse that turned my body a silky-smooth, moisturized temple.

After the Korean Body Scrub, I tried a series of soothing rooms, including the far-infrared heated jade room, a clay room, a Himalayan salt cave, a green tea Jacuzzi, a eucalyptus steam room, and an ice room. Other treatments include therapeutic massage, body wraps, acupuncture, skin-care services such as hydrafacials with diamond microdermabrasion, and waxing.

From Tikkun, I met a friend for dinner at Sushi Roku on Ocean Blvd. Using fresh fish from around the globe, Sushi Roku is a pioneer of contemporary sushi and a “must-dine” restaurant in Santa Monica.

Our meal began with a tasty seaweed salad with cucumber sunomono, along with a bowl of miso soup. Next we tried a delicious tuna flight, with three styles of Nigiri sushi, served with fresh wasabi root and homemade soy sauce. We then sample seared albacore sashimi with crispy onions and garlic ponzu, followed by one of my new favorites: Toro sashimi, which is tuna belly. We then devoured a Katana Roll, with spicy tuna, shrimp tempura and yellowtail tuna.

chef showing off his dish at the Sushi Roku on Ocean Blvd.
Sushi Roku is a pioneer of contemporary sushi and a “must-dine” restaurant
in Santa Monica

We concluded dinner with mackerel sashimi and the Roku Signature Style Sushi in which the master sushi chef created for us on the spot a scrumptious 8-piece fish sample plate.

Santa Monica is an eclectic gem of a beach city

Tikkun Spa is located at 1460 4th Street, Santa Monica, 90401. For more information, call (310) 319-1111 or visit Sushi Roku is located at 1401 Ocean Ave., Santa Monica, 90401. For more information call (310) 458-4771 or visit:

The Shore Hotel is located at 1515 Ocean Avenue, Santa Monica, 90401. For more information, visit: or call 310.458.1515. For more information on Blue Plate Taco, call 310.458.2985 or visit the hotel website.

Related Articles:
Fairmont Miramar Hotel, Santa Monica; 4 Seasons Hotel, Westlake Village; Laguna Beach; The Grand del Mar; Ojai, California; Orange County Oceanfront, San Luis Obispo, Hotel del Coronado

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Let Greg know what you think about his traveling adventure.

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Feedback for Harry Potter at Universal Studios

Going to Universal Studios Hollywood to see the Harry Potter "land" is on my bucket list!!

-- Nancy, Hawaii

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Feedback for A Spring Escape to Maui And Hotel Wailea

I leave here April 21 for Maui and can hardly wait. It'll be my 15th trip, more or less and I love it, and your pictures.

-- Ellie – Port Ludlow, WA

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Hi Greg,

It's not a forest of banyan trees in Lahaina by the harbor. It's one huge tree, about 140 years old. It's an important landmark of Lahaina, and one of our favorite views.We always stay at the Pioneer Inn, overlooking the harbor and the banyan tree. Every evening thousands of mynah birds fly into the tree, chattering and fluttering until they settle down for the night. Otherwise, great article.

-- Virginia – Northridge, CA

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Feedback for Hilton San Diego Resort & Spa

Very nice story, Greg.

-- Maris Somerville – Los Angeles, CA

Ed Boitano's travel blog/review
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Troldhaugen Villa in Bergen, Norway
Johann Chrysostom Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756 - 1791) could read and compose music, plus play the violin and piano, when he was five years old. Born into a musical family in Salzburg, Austria (then the Holy Roman Empire), he had a unique ability for imitating music, which first became evident when he recited a musical piece by simply observing his father conducting a lesson to his older sister. This led to a childhood on the road, where the young prodigy performed before many of the royal courts of Europe.

Go There

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Irish sunset

The Palladian Traveler brings to a close his 20-part series on the Emerald Isle from an upscale restaurant in downtown Dublin where he files his final dispatch and then quietly slips away.

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aurora borealis lights up the night sky near Fairbanks
In the 1840s, the population of California was only 14,000, but by 1850 more than 100,000 settlers and adventurers had arrived from all over the world – and they came for one reason: gold. James Marshall had discovered the first gold nugget at Sutter’s Mill in El Dorado County, creating the largest gold rush in history.

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Eric Anderson's travel blog/review
Lake Charles’ Family-Size Low-Key Mardi Gras

dressed-up for the Mardi Gras
The Southwest Louisiana Mardi Gras in Lake Charles, the second largest in Louisiana, does not need parents there to avert their children’s eyes. This is family entertainment and children are very much part of it. The main office of the Lake Charles CVB has costumes from last year’s Mardi Gras but it also has figures to fascinate little ones from country boys fishing for their dinner to alligators who have already fed and are rubbing their stomachs.

go there

Fyllis Hockman's travel blog/review
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Cedar Hill, Washington DC
So I heard that you could spend from dawn to dusk on the Malecon in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico and never get bored and I thought, "Okay, I'm up for that challenge." Well, maybe not the dawn part – I'm not a morning person – so I had no problem leaving those early hours to the joggers and those seeking an early start to catch their red snapper for dinner.

Go There

John Blanchette's travel blog/review
Rolling Through the Outback on the Indian Pacific's Christmas Train

Santa with native Australian on an Indian Pacific Christmas train stop
It was mid December and a heat wave had embraced the country. Record setting temperatures were searing the land from high 90s in Sydney and Adelaide to blast furnace heat in the great Outback. Fires were raging throughout the country. But we were cool, riding the air-conditioned Indian Pacific railway across the southern expanse of Australia to the west coast city of Perth, a four-day transcontinental tour...

Traveling Guest

Gary Singh's travel blog/review
Monte Verità: In the Footsteps of Anarchy

Chiara's Rainbow, Monte Verita, Switzerland
Just as I reach the end of a squiggling, multicolored path, an acorn plummets from an oak tree above me. It lands at my feet, just as the path culminates at a mandala of Venetian glass, eight feet in diameter. On the worn-out front lawn of Monte Verità, the Mountain of Truth, this path, Chiara's Rainbow, evolves through the colors of the spectrum – red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and finally violet – before arriving at the mosaic mandala where psychic energies supposedly prevail. The falling acorn brings me to the present moment.

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