Why the Proper Is the Best Hotel in Santa Monica
Written by: Kelly Martin
Published on: January 12, 2023
All photos courtesy of The Ingalls
When the Santa Monica Proper opened in 2019, it managed to eclipse all our old standbys as the best hotel in town. The Kelly Wearstler–designed space knits together the things we like most about living here, like the casual orientation toward well-being and the way the city bumps up against the coast. We find ourselves looking for reasons to step through its doors (and hang out on its vast collection of gorgeous sofas): vacations, staycations, nights out—even, recently, a daylong beauty retreat we hosted for 90 guests.
Book a stay and you’ll find Parachute robes, travertine showers, space to spread out, and the kind of bed you could hang out in all day. But you don’t come here to sit in your room, however chicly appointed. From the Proper, you’re a walk from some local favorites: I love Esters for an eclectic mix of natural wines and inventive cocktails, Huckleberry for the highest expression of coffee and pastries, and Father’s Office for insanely good burgers and an extensive beer list. Or hit the beach; I prefer to keep my distance from the pier, climb down the paths set into the bluffs off of Arizona or Montana Avenue, and take a stroll north toward Will Rogers beach. (You’re also a quick rideshare away from Venice and Brentwood—field trip to the Country Mart, anybody?)
And then there are the many treasures inside the Proper: two spectacular restaurants, an oasis of a rooftop pool, weekend workouts, and a world-class Ayurvedic spa.
DINNER AND BREAKFAST AT PALMA
On a weekend evening, everyone at Palma, the restaurant just off the Proper’s lobby, is there for a good time. Here’s the move: Take a seat in an alcove carved into the wall and order plates of truffle-y arancini and cheesy bucatini, plus a few perfect picks from the sommelier. And spend your dinner watching the room. It’s lively, loungy, softly lit, and spacious—everything you’re looking for in a festive but not-too-wild night out.
In the morning, Palma takes on an entirely different vibe for breakfast: It’s mellow and perfect for working your way through a flight of Ayurvedic lattes and the most beautiful bagel this side of the 405.
CALABRA (AND THE POOL)
Proper’s rooftop is home to Calabra, its second restaurant, and one of the best patios on the Westside. If you’re here for dinner, the seafood and sushi are your first picks. Even if you’re just here for cocktails, don’t skip snacks: I had paprika-dusted hummus, which comes with a gorgeous pile of grilled spiced laffa for dipping.
If you’re planning on spending an afternoon of sun-soaking, ball out for one of the poolside alcoves, the Proper’s spin on cabanas. Some days feel languid and restful; others call for bottle service. Book a morning reservation for the former, afternoon for the latter.
PANCHAKARMA AT SURYA SPA
Downstairs, at Surya Spa, you can book a massage or a scrub, sure. But what people flock here for is Panchakarma, an intensive Ayurvedic detox that typically involves 3 to 28 days of treatment plus a prescriptive dietary protocol. Surya’s founder, Martha Soffer, is also the resident chef, herbalist, and master Panchakarma specialist.
Treatments typically start with abhyanga, in which two practitioners massage your body in long, light, sweeping strokes. Their movements are totally coordinated and symmetrical. It’s ethereal. From there, Soffer determines a second and third treatment based on how your pulse is responding. For example, to address cold, dry, airy energy, Soffer prescribed me nasya—a vigorous head-and-neck massage followed by an herbal sauna—and shirodhara, in which a practitioner pours herbal oil over your third eye.
Saturdays and Sundays, you can catch a morning workout on the garden terrace: vinyasa yoga, or HIIT if you’re feeling up for something more intense. That said, you’ll break a sweat in vinyasa—instructor Rebecca Buringrud sees where you have the strength or flexibility to take a position to the next level and guides you in how to get there.
SURYA TO GO
Don’t check out without picking up some goodies from Surya. There are teas to steep whenever, botanical bath soaks to tote to your tub upstairs (or re-create the spa experience at home), and skin care made with your elemental balance in mind. The collagen cream has earned cult status for its incredibly rich and nourishing texture, and it’s tridoshic—which means that from an Ayurvedic perspective, it’s a good fit for everybody. The face oil is light and smells really good. And the lip therapy balm is seriously silky. Oh, and you see that tool with the rounded ends? That’s a kansa wand—the same tool Soffer used to massage my face and neck during my nasya treatment at Surya. It’s magic for face massage and helps work creams and oils into your skin.
You can grab the whole set in the Surya Discovery Kit at the spa—or here on goop, if you want to get your hands on its goodness ASAP.