Open Letter to Hotel GMs: Mistakes your employees make that will cost you money

The travel industry suffered its own setbacks over the past few years, but thankfully, it’s rebounding and more U.S. travelers are finally packing their bags and heading out of town for a much-needed vacation. They’ve saved their money, planned carefully and are ready for a few days of rest and relaxation in their destination of choice. They’ve chosen your hotel as a place to call home for the duration of their vacation – don’t you want to make a good impression?

Over the past six months I’ve reviewed dozens of hotels and witnessed endless customer service strategies – both bad and good. Recently, however, I’ve witnessed some strange behavior from hotel employees that have lead me to question the employee competency of some otherwise wonderful hotels. Sure, I understand there is a learning curve, but at the end of the day it’s essential that hotel employees are educated to answer even the most common questions. So, I think it’s time for a quick review (from one hotel aficionado to another).

I’ve worked for years in and out of hotels on reviews and inspections, and with every hotel I’ve walked into one thing remains constant: first impressions are key to a successful stay. The following five points are common sense, but they can make the difference between a happy guest and a loss in revenue.

  1. Security is sacred: We’re taught at an early age to protect our investments. In the hotel industry, your guests are your investments and it’s your responsibility to protect them. During a recent hotel stay in Santa Monica, a friend came to visit me at the hotel where I was staying for one night. She went the front desk and asked the associate to ring my room. Instead, the front desk associate gave her my room number and sent her up the elevator – no call, no questions. Security fail! After the incidents surrounding the Erin Andrews stalking case, hotels should be even more protective of their guests and employees. Unfortunately, this hotel didn’t see the problem (even after I pointed it out) but the problem is now the hotel’s: they just lost two very valuable would-be clients.
  2. Obey the rules: Just as hotel guests are expected to obey rules, hotels are expected to enforce the rules. Guests pay for more than a place to sleep – they pay for comfort, amenities and ambiance. So, when a hotel allows the rules to be broken, everyone loses. Case in point: At a recent hotel in the Bahamas the hotel posted various signs telling guests it’s required to cover up when entering the lobby from the pool/beach area, and children under the age of 16 are not allowed in the spa area. Unfortunately, guests have a habit of making themselves at home when they check into hotels, but it’s the hotel’s responsibility to enforce the house rules. This means telling guests who are standing in their thong bikinis in the lobby to cover up, and reminding guests who make spa appointments that children are not allowed. While I can appreciate a buff man in a swimsuit, I also appreciate the atmosphere of a beautiful hotel lobby, and I certainly don’t want a teenager texting on her cell phone (complete with built-in camera) in the spa dressing room.
  3. Keep it clean: There’s nothing worse than finding a used bar of soap in the shower or a half-eaten tray of food in the room when your guest first arrives. Hotels: do your part to ensure the rooms are clean before giving out a key. While a guest might be annoyed that their room isn’t ready upon arrival, they’ll be more annoyed that their room isn’t clean when they walk in. The same theory holds true for hotel restaurants and bar areas. I recently stayed at an all-inclusive resort in the Caribbean, which means all meals were part of the price. The breakfasts and lunches were buffet style, which would have been fine if the restaurant staff had kept an eye on the food and try tables. Unfortunately, cheese was congealing in front of me and empty trays of grease were left to harden on the buffet. Food should be presentable and appealing – this isn’t camp, this is a vacation, and your guests deserve more than leftovers and scraps at the table.
  4. A little help goes a long way. It’s unrealistic to assume one person at the hotel can solve all problems, but a simple acknowledgment of the problem and a call to the right person will keep your customers at peace until the issue is being resolved. I was sadly without hot water during a recent hotel stay. I called down to the front desk to ask for someone to look into the problem, and was told I had to call another extension. I called that other extension and no one answered. When I called the front desk back, I was told to call back later because maybe ‘he’s out running errands.’ A simple “We’ll put a call into maintenance for you” would have sufficed. Remind your employees of the typical customer service responses which, while standard and won’t produce an immediate fix, will at least provide your guest with some assurance that the problem will be taken care of in an appropriate amount of time.
  5. Honesty really is the best policy. Things can go wrong. It happens. No one is perfect, not even a 5-star resort, but when things do go wrong there’s only one way to immediately remedy the problem: honesty. From something as simple as a room not being ready on time to solving problems on a larger scale, when employees lie in an effort to appease a guest, it simply makes matters worse. Give guests the benefit of the doubt — when you’re honest with them, it’s likely they’ll be more accepting of the change, however big or small.

Let’s state the obvious: some people will never be satisfied, and it’s likely you’ve had a few of those people waltz through your hotel over time. I’m sure your employees did everything they could do to please those demanding guests, and on behalf of the less-demanding crowd, we thank you (and we know it’s not easy). Just remember: while mistakes will happen, there are ways to fix the problem without losing a loyal customer.

20 great bike rides

For many travelers, the default mode of transport is a plane or a car, but they’re certainly not the only options. Have you ever considered adding a bicycle ride to your next trip? Riding a bike has a number of advantages over other forms of transportation. You’ll move slower, no doubt, but with that slowness comes an increased awareness of your surroundings, a chance to get some fresh air and exercise and the sense of accomplishment that comes with a great ride. Whether you’re looking to ride across the USA or simply take a leisurely pedal around a nearby town, Gadling has compiled the following list of 20 great bike rides. Take a look below!

Mackinac Island, Michigan
Straddling the divide between Lake Huron and Michigan, Mackinac Island transports bikers to the simpler days where horse drawn carriages and bicycles were the main modes of transportation. Not having to worry about sharing the road with motorized vehicles, with the exception of emergency and service vehicles, this island is a cyclist’s haven. With 3 bike rental outfits to choose from, anyone can enjoy this National Historic Landmark filled with Victorian charm on 2 wheels and after a visit here, you will not want to return to the hustle and bustle of the 21st Century.

Newport, Rhode Island
It is understandable that images of the renowned Newport Mansions are the first to come to mind when you hear “Newport, Rhode Island.” Admittedly grand on the inside, riding by these mansions from the outside and through the surrounding parts of town are just as breathtaking. Take the path passing by the Newport Harbor, Brenton Cove, Ocean Ave, and of course Bellevue Ave where you get a feast for the eyes with the famed Marble House, The Elms, and Chateau sur Mer, among other grand homes and before long, you can understand why the rich chose this location as their summer playground.

Monterey Bay, California
California’s Monterey Bay is filled with many options for a scenic bike ride. The famous 17 mile drive meanders through Pebble Beach but those who prefer skipping the entrance fee can be rewarded with an equally scenic ride on what some dubbed the “Poor Man’s 17 Mile Drive”. Drive down to the Asilomar State Beach where parking can usually be found and ride along the coastline through the town of Pacific Groves where in the spring you may come upon the harbor seal pups lounging on the sand and frolicking in the ocean. Do not forget to bring binoculars for those otter sightings as you bike through Monterey and Cannery Row.

Haleakala, Maui, Hawaii
When one thinks of Maui, biking is probably not on the top of the list. However, they would be missing one of the best bird’s eye view experience. Although Haleakala National Park eliminated commercial downhill bike tour operations a few years back, bikes are still allowed. Those wishing to bike downhill from the summit can rent bikes from Haleakala Bike and experience unparalleled views of the island itself as they bike down. Two tips for riders: Have someone drop you off at the summit so you will not have to ride back up to pickup your car and wear layers that you can peel off as you descend from 40 degree temps at the top to 80s at the bottom.

Napa Valley Silverado Trail, California

Although not along a coast or body of water, the Napa Valley Wine Country is a beautiful place for a scenic bike ride. Start in picturesque Yountville and take the less crowded Silverado Trail that parallels CSR 29. You will find yourself surrounded by the yellow mustard fields in the spring and vineyards that stretch for miles that for a moment, you might think you were in Tuscany. You can not go wrong with a bike ride here any time of year. After an invigorating ride, you can enjoy a leisurely picnic and a wine tasting or two at a choice of wineries, including Duckhorn and Rutherford Hill.

Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

South of the famous Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming’s other gem, Grand Teton NP offers hundreds of miles of hiking trails but biking paths are harder to find. Since accessibility is limited in areas, joining their “Scenic Guided Bike Ride” would be the best and safest option. The bike tour will have you riding through open prairies, under the peaks of the Teton Mountain Range, and through sagebrush flats where you may spot where the buffalos roam.

Sausalito/San Francisco, California
Marin County’s Sausalito is reminiscent of a coastal Mediterranean town with its colorful houses clinging to the hillsides and houseboats along the north end of town. Riding through downtown will offer you views of the SF skyline and the bridge in the distance and those who are on a mission to chase that mirage can ride across the Golden Gate Bridge and back or through San Francisco and return by ferry.

Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts
New England’s Martha’s Vineyard south of Cape Cod is a popular spot for celebrities but knows how to retain its low key atmosphere. With over 44 miles of bike trails and roads available, there are options for beginners and advanced riders alike. The “down-Island” route is mainly flat, great for beginners and families while the “up-Island” route is for more experienced riders. Either way, you will get to experience the versatility of this place with its changing landscapes from the gorgeous waters and beaches to the meadows to the red Aquinnah Cliffs. Before long it will seem like everything is a vista point.

Lake Tahoe, California
Tahoe, known for its ski slopes and casinos may find that it may still be a hidden gem for mountain biking. Northstar Ski Resort opens up its lift access for downhill mountain biking adventures in the summer. Just purchase a lift pass and you can take the lift up and bike down. For those less adventurous, get a “pedaling only pass” to access the park and cross country ride for free from a choice of beginner to advance trails all with beautiful views of the surrounding mountains and trees.

Coronado, California
San Diego County’s picturesque coastal community offers a village atmosphere with a downtown filled with shops, restaurant, and theaters. With many bike friendly areas to choose from, you are treated to ocean views, architecture, and history including the home of Wizard of Oz author L. Frank Baum. He was so in love with Coronado, many erroneously thought his vision for the Emerald City must have stemmed from the Hotel del Coronado. Erroneous or not, anyone can see how a place like Coronado can be so inspirational.

— The above was written by Joyce Zee, Seed contributor.



Rock Creek Park Trails, Washington DC (5-50 miles)
Suggested starts: N. Pitt St and Second St. in Alexandria or Dupont Circle in DC

There are so many great bike paths in the DC area, but this is one of my favorite rides, from Alexandria’s Old Town with its many federalist buildings, along the Potomac River, past Reagan National Airport and Arlington Cemetery, across the river at Memorial Bridge to the Lincoln Memorial, and then into Rock Creek Park. There are a few tricky transitions, particularly around the Lincoln Memorial, and the path is very popular on weekends. Parts of the Rock Creek Park roads are bikes-only on weekends. You can take your bike on Metro for the return trip too.

Mississippi River trail to Chain of Rocks Bridge, St. Louis Missouri (20 miles)
Suggested start: Commercial St. and Carr St., downtown St. Louis

St. Louis is my hometown now and this is a frequent route because it is relatively flat and has some great views both of the River and the industrial side of the city. You can see the Arch at many points along the river, as well as pass multiple levees and locks. It ends at a bridge that is closed to car traffic and figured prominently in the movie “Escape from New York”. There are links to other trails that cross the river and you can return on the Illinois side, for some variety. Few services along the way, bring lots of water.

Brooklyn Bridge, New York City (5 miles)
Suggested start: Park Row and Centre Streets, New York City, across from City Hall

This is the one iconic ride in Manhattan that anyone can do, and while packed on the weekends (and you share the path with pedestrians), during the week it can be very enjoyable. It is a bit of a climb too. Finding the path on the Brooklyn side can be a challenge, and if you want more than the bridge ride you can travel across Chambers Street in Manhattan and connect with the path along the Hudson River along the West Side Highway.

Crater Lake Rim Road, Oregon (33 miles)
Suggested start: Rim Village parking lot

This road circles Crater Lake, a volcanic caldera that contains almost pure water of the most amazing color blue. The road is only open during July and August since at more than 7,000 feet it is snowed in the rest of the time. There is light auto traffic but the views are unparalleled of the lake and the surrounding mountains. If the 33-mile ride isn’t sufficient, you can hike down to the lake in one spot too. Only attempt this if you are in excellent shape and have ridden at altitude before.

St. Michaels to Easton, Maryland (36 miles)
Suggested Start: Courthouse on Washington St. in St. Michaels

This part of Maryland is completely flat and very picturesque. You will be near water and boats and biking on very rural (meaning little traffic but plenty of ruts) roads. There is even a short ferry to take across the Tred Avon River that runs frequently. There are numerous historic buildings that date from colonial times and dozens of B&Bs and restaurants to take advantage of when you are done biking. Some of the roads are in poor condition so better to use a heavier mountain or hybrid bike for this trip.

Shelter Island, New York (10-50 miles)
Suggested start: Greenport, NY ferry terminal/Long Island Railroad train station

Shelter Island is a small island that is nestled between the two forks of Long Island, and is a biking paradise. The roads are well maintained, there is hardly any traffic, and while it has hills, you are never far from water and great views of the Peconic Bay . You can do many trips in the area, including a circle one that takes in both ferries, but starting in Greenport is best for the variety of services, restaurants, and places to stay nearby. Plus, you can take your bike on the Long Island Rail Road to there too.

Saltspring Island, British Columbia, Canada (~30 miles)
Suggested start: Sydney, BC ferry terminal

This trip will take some planning but is worth it because you have virtually no traffic once the cars leave the ferry, have lots of interesting places to visit, and you’ll be biking through some of the most spectacular scenery in North America. There are dozens of small islands that are perfect for biking and BC Ferries and the ferry from Sydney is a good place to start. Saltspring Island is one of the bigger islands in between Vancouver Island and the mainland, and you can take other ferries to other islands as well as Vancouver Island to continue your exploration.

Santa Monica to Manhattan Beach, California (10-40 miles)

Suggested start: Dockweiler Beach State Park

The best beach bike path is very crowded in summer, but great the rest of the year. You visit the Venice Boardwalk, go around the Marina Del Rey’s many boat docks, underneath the flight path of LAX airport, and past many surfers to end up in trendy Manhattan Beach. Parking is difficult, and finding your way around the Marina can be a challenge.

Death Valley, California (10-100 miles)
Suggested start: Furnace Creek Visitor Center

There are no water views on this ride but you are traveling between two lovely mountain ranges with hardly any traffic. Skip the summer months, but this ride is great the rest of the year when temperatures are more moderate. You can go up to a century to Jubilee Pass (1300 foot) or more moderate distances. The road is a bit rough in spots and no shoulders.

Paradise, Mt. Rainer, Washington (40 miles)
Suggested Start: Nisqually Entrance of the park

This is another trip for very experienced cyclists. You are riding on narrow mountain roads with no shoulders and at altitude, and this route will rise more than 3,000 feet in the 20 miles it takes you to get to Paradise. The good news is that the return trip will take no time at all and it is a breeze. The best time to do this ride is in late August or September. Weekends can be crowded with cars. The views of the mountains are unparalleled.

— The above was written by David Strom, Seed contributor.

Need more inspiration to get outside? Keep reading!

16 great farmers’ markets

Farmers’ markets are not only a great way to sample a community’s natural bounty, they’re also a unique setting to experience its culture. While each farmers’ market is different, a really good farmers’ market brings a sense of community to the cities and municipalities where they operate. Wondering where you can experience some of the freshest produce, tastiest snacks and friendliest people across the country? Check out our picks for 16 of our favorites below.

Saint Louis – Soulard Farmer’s Market

The Soulard Farmers Market began in St. Louis in 1779, making it the oldest continuously operating farmers market west of the Mississippi. In addition to the fresh fruit, produce, baked goods and flowers, the market includes a craft and flea market in the two wings of an old train terminal. A bit “Old World” in atmosphere, shoppers can buy live chickens, barter with vendors and enjoy a festive, energetic atmosphere all year round.

Indianapolis – Indianapolis City Market
The Indianapolis City Market was built in 1886 and today includes an arts market on Saturday, a farmers’ market on Wednesdays, cooking classes and ethnic theme events that may focus on the foods of Asia one week or the spices of the Middle East the next. The common thread through it all is that homegrown goodness of corn, tomatoes and other produce from the soil of Indiana.

Madison, Wisconsin
The Madison Wisconsin Farmers Market fills the grounds of the state capitol building and draws a huge crowd to the pedestrian-only mall and shops nearby. Fresh produce is only part of the fun. One Saturday, Wisconsin’s famous dairy cows may be on display; at other times there might be an iron man competition underway. Since it’s the state capitol, don’t be surprised if you’re asked to sign a petition or happen to see an up-and-coming politician working the crowd.

Kansas City – City Market
Kansas City’s City Market
overflows with activity weekend mornings all year when as many as 10,000 people have been known to shop for produce and bedding plants one more, artwork on another and bargains from the community garage sale another weekend morning. Valet service is available for big purchases. Some of the city’s most prosperous farm-to-table restaurants have found a naturally successful home here.

Des Moines, Iowa
All products sold at the Des Moines Farmers Market must be grown within the state of Iowa and that means 160 or more booths carrying the freshest produce grown in some of the world’s best farmland. There are also hand-made items, such as dried flower arrangements, seed murals and wheat weaving. A miniature train for children is a standard fixture and most Saturday mornings, you’ll find musicians, clowns or dance troupes performing.

Woodstock, Illinois

Voted the best farmers market in the state of Illinois in 2008, the Woodstock Farmers Market could easily be called a “producers market” because everything must be grown, raised or made by the seller. Located on the town square of this historic community, shoppers are accompanied by folk music performed live from a nearby gazebo on Tuesday and Saturday mornings.

Holland, Michigan

The Holland Michigan Farmers Market literally overflows with blueberries, cherries, strawberries and other fresh fruit from the fields of western Michigan. The market also carries farm fresh cheese, eggs, herbs and spices. In the craft area, handmade furniture is an unexpected treat. But just wandering the aisles, munching on freshly baked Danish and feeling the breeze from Lake Michigan is a treat in itself.

Columbus, Ohio – North Market
Columbus Ohio’s North Market comes with its own kitchen and James Beard-award winning chef to prepare meals right on the spot from items bought at the market. In addition to fresh dairy products, including ice cream, and prepared foods from international vendors, the North Market sells just the right utensils and cookware to bring any meal together.

Lincoln, Nebraska – Historic Haymarket
The Historic Haymarket in Lincoln, Nebraska was originally a place where livestock and produce were sold in the state capitol, but now it is the site of the trendiest restaurants and retail outlets in the city. Every Saturday morning from May to October, the activity jumps another notch when more than 200 of the Midwest’s best farmers bring their produce. It’s also the best place in the city for Kolaches and coffee.

Little Rock, Arkansas – River Market

As polished as any supermarket, the Little Rock Arkansas River Market, located in the historic Quapaw Quarter, is a year-round destination for ethnic cuisine, entertainment and in the summer months, some of Arkansas’ famous tomatoes and watermelons. Something is always happening at the adjacent park overlooking the Arkansas River, and just a few blocks from the William Jefferson Clinton Presidential Library.

— The above was written by Diana Lambdin Meyer, Seed contributor



Washington D.C. – Eastern Market

Casualty of a fire that ripped through the stalls in April of 2007, the historical Eastern Market has made a comeback and continues to serve meats, poultry, breads and gourmet goodies throughout the week in the South Hall, where many employees of nearby Capitol Hill migrate for lunch. On the weekends, stalls extend to the surrounding outdoor areas and offer antiques, crafts, photography, handmade jewelry and other collectibles. On our last visit, we purchased some vintage fruit labels and stocked up on distinctive greeting cards for less than a dollar apiece.

Santa Monica, California – Virginia Avenue Park
There are several markets that sprout up over the course of the week in this beach city. The best is the Saturday one in Virginia Avenue Park where weekly appearances are made by local restaurateurs featuring the best of their menus.

New York, NY – Union Square Greenmarket
One of the best markets in New York City is the Union Square Farmer’s Market, which extends the length of the west side of the square. Stalls are filled with local fruits, vegetables, dairy, meats, poultry, fish, spices… just about anything you can imagine. At the tail end, you’ll find tables with artists selling their wares. We picked up some local goat cheese and wine, plus a hilarious comic-book version of the Grimm brother tales, handed to us directly by the author.

Chicago, IL – French Market
Inspired by European markets, the French Market was recently developed as an effort to promote community in the city. It’s located adjacent to the Ogilvie Transportation Center. The vendors sell delicious pastries and prepared foods as well as produce, meats, cheese and seafood. Grab some mussels and delicious Sicilian sandwiches before hopping on a train to the Chicago suburbs. Make sure to stop by Chicago’s world-renowned Green City Market while you’re in town.

— The above was written by M. Fuchsloch, Seed contributor

Portland, OR – Portland State University
Portland has long relished in its status as one of the country’s most eco-conscious, sophisticated food cities, and the town’s wealth of farmer’s markets certainly doesn’t disappoint. Each Saturday the shoppers of Portland flock to the grounds of Portland State University, home to Portland’s biggest and most famous of the city’s six recognized downtown markets.

San Francisco, CA – Ferry Building and Plaza
No list of farmers markets could be complete without mentioning this titan of the food world. Ground zero for the birth of slow food and much of the current revolution in local, organic eating sweeping the nation, San Francisco and the Bay Area is king and its historic Ferry Building and nearby Plaza Farmer’s Market is the capital building. Stop by for delicious favorites like locally produced cheeses, more mushrooms than you’ve ever seen and some tasty gelato.

Undiscovered New York: Top 5 Beaches

The USA has some fantastic urban beaches. In the Summer, Chicagoans are spoiled by happening North Avenue Beach on Lake Michigan. Miami has South Beach, littered with plenty of palm trees, fake tans and toned bodies. In L.A. there’s Santa Monica and Malibu. But what about New York City? For a metropolis surrounded on all sides by water, you’d think there would be some more obvious beach options, right? The truth is New York does have surprisingly decent sun, sand and surf – you just need to know where to look.

Believe it or not, New York has enough sandy, swimmable beach options to make your head spin. From happening urban beach parties and hidden unspoiled sands within the limits of the Five Boroughs, to some truly great wild beaches within an easy day trip of Manhattan, there’s enough oceanfront out there to please even some of the most die-hard of beach-lovers.

With Summer weather in full swing, there’s no better time for Undiscovered New York to count down the city’s top 5 best beaches, all either within city limits or close enough for a day trip. Think you’re a New York beach veteran? We bet there’s at least one great waterfront on this list you’ve never visited. Click below for our picks!
Beach #5 – Water Taxi Beach(es)

A trip to the New York City beach might seem like it involves trains or boats, but did you know there are beaches you can get to with no more than a taxi ride? We’re talking about New York’s three Water Taxi Beaches, which feature over 1,000 tons of sand, food, frequent live music and some killer views of New York City (see left).

Want to check it out? Just hop in a taxi, get on the subway or grab a water taxi and head one of their three locations at Long Island City, South Street Seaport or Governor’s Island.

Beach #4 – Long Beach
Just an hour from New York on the Long Island Railroad is Long Beach, a surprisingly happening Summer beach town and favorite beach day trip for claustrophobic New Yorkers looking to beat the heat. Grab one of the daily express trains from Manhattan’s Penn Station and you’ll be laying on a towel near the ocean in no time. Play some frisbee or volleyball, have a swim and then be back in the city in time for happy hour cocktails.

Beach #3 – Sandy Hook
We first mentioned Sandy Hook during our exploration of New Jersey back in April, and in terms of New York area beaches, it’s one of the best. Just a 30 minute ferry ride from Manhattan’s South Street Seaport is one of the more unspoiled stretches of sand in the Tri-State Region boasting wild beach grasses and some interesting history to boot. When you arrive at the Sandy Hook landing, be sure to check out historic Fort Hancock, which at one time played an important role in the defense of New York Harbor.

Beach #2 – Robert Moses State Park
Finding the best spots in New York sometimes takes effort, and the beaches at Robert Moses State Park are no exception. Although this pristine sandy stretch along New York’s Fire Island is not really accessible by public transportation, it’s worth the car trip to get here. And because Robert Moses is located on a barrier island well off Long Island proper, it’s home to some coastline that could hold its own with some of the best beaches anywhere in the U.S. All within about an hour’s drive of New York.

Beach #1 – Fort Tilden
As far as “undiscovered” New York City finds, Fort Tilden’s unspoiled beach has to be one of the best. This little-known beach, located near the site of an abandoned military installation in the Rockaway Peninsula in Queens, is one of the more remote and serene stretches of sand you’ll find anywhere in the city limits.

Forget Coney Island – on Fort Tilden’s beach you’ll have plenty of sand all to yourself. The hard part is getting there – you’ll either need to take a car or 12 mile bike ride from Manhattan. Check out this piece for advice. Good luck!

Los Angeles luxury at Santa Monica’s Oceana Hotel

If you’re going to take the time to visit a great beach destination, it’s the always a good idea to stay in a boutique hotel. While it’s true that they may be a bit more expensive than a legacy hotel chain, boutique hotels often absorb the culture and gravity of their surroundings, providing a unique experience that envelops the guest in the environment.

Thus, you may not want to stay in a boutique hotel in Chechnya, but in a hot destination like Santa Monica, California, it should be a high priority.

Hotel Oceania on the northwest side of Santa Monica is a beautiful example. Recently renovated in 2007 with a new room designs and a fantastic courtyard with a swimming pool, the property boasts 70 rooms with 58 suites, 21 of which have an ocean view. Each room is appointed fantastically, with plush, high thread count sheets, Kiehls bath amenities and enough room to throw a Frisbee. That’s no small feat in the crowded quarters of this Los Angeles.

One of the best parts about the Oceana is also the location. The hardest thing about finding a good hotel in Los Angeles is picking where to stay — the city is a sprawling mess, stretching from the posh waterfront through the dry city center, deep into the rolling foothills. It’s hard to find a hotel in a good location, and once you do, it’s nearly impossible to find one with activities within walking distance.

And this is where Oceana has the advantage. With Palisades Park right outside of your doorstep and the Pacific Ocean a hop, skip and a jump past that, beach volleyball, surfing and sunbathing are and your disposal. Just to the south? Santa Monica’s legendary Third Street Promenade and more food, drinks and shopping than you can shake a stick at.

Rooms range from $395 – $1000 per night at the Santa Monica Oceana — but take it from this blogger, check in early, enjoy the room and stay late and your visit will be well worth it.