Despite living in San Francisco for nearly a decade between us, we had never really spent any significant time in Los Angeles until recently. On our last visit we spent over a week living in LA and exploring the city’s many distinct neighborhoods. The sprawling city – which is truly GIGANTIC – has so much to offer, and there’s a nearly unlimited number of areas to consider staying.
Picking where you stay will almost certainly play a huge role in shaping your LA experience – are you spending time doing, seeing, and eating, or are you spending time in the car full of road rage at LA’s crazy drivers? We put together this guide to help you decide where to stay in Los Angeles by narrowing down the options and giving you our take on what each area below has to offer.
Our best advice? Figure out what you want to do while you are staying in LA, and then pick a location near the majority of those attractions. This will save you hours of wasted time stuck in traffic.
Disclaimer: Some of the links in this post, like hotel links, are affiliate links, meaning at no additional cost to you, we make a little bit of money if you click through and book. That being said, we would never recommend something to you that we don’t stand behind 100%.
Where to Stay in Los Angeles: The 4 Best Places to Stay
If you are staying in LA for more than three or four days, our advice would be to stay in two or three different areas. You could spend a few days by the beach relaxing, a few days getting your adrenaline rush at the theme parks, and the rest of the time in Downtown LA or West Hollywood so you can explore the city.
In this guide to the best places to stay in Los Angeles – based on our time exploring the sprawling California metropolis – you’ll get the information you need to choose a place to stay in LA and find a perfect home base for your visit.
Here are the four neighborhoods we think you should focus on in your search. Each has distinct pros and cons, which we’ll cover below, and it kind of depends on what you’re looking for.
In most cities, we usually have a “best for first-timers” recommendation, but we don’t have that here. It totally depends on the experience you’re looking for in Los Angeles.
Don’t have time to read the whole post? Here’s a quick summary (though we’d definitely recommend reading the section for the neighborhood you choose!).
- If you want to stay near the beach, stay in Santa Monica.
- For a quick weekend trip (and those on a budget), stay in Downtown LA.
- If you want to stay in one of the coolest neighborhoods in LA, stay in Silver Lake.
- If you want to stay in an area with amazing nightlife, stay in West Hollywood (also super LGBTQ+ friendly).
Santa Monica: Best Place to Stay Near the Beach
If you want to be close to the beach, the answer is Santa Monica. Plus, it’s on the west side of the city, which means getting around the city will be just a tad easier thanks to the reverse commute (ish).
This beachside neighborhood is a destination in its own right, boasting a mix of celebrities, surfers, and hippies who call this place home. While most people come here solely for the beach, and it is an amazing beach, there are plenty of other things to do in the area.
The famous Santa Monica Pier is a bustling attraction with arcades, shops, outdoor cinemas, and live music. Just underneath it is an aquarium which hosts educational talks and hands-on activities that are perfect for families.
Santa Monica can be an expensive area to stay; if you are on a budget, nearby Venice Beach is more cost-effective (more on that in a second).
Alternatively, if you want to just spend a day here, you can actually catch a train from Downtown LA!
Pros and Cons of Staying in Santa Monica
Pros: The beach! You’ll be within walking distance of the best beach in LA. The Farmers Market in Santa Monica is AWESOME too. The stretch along Montana Avenue is one of our favorite stretches in LA, with all sorts of bars, restaurants, and shopping that is worth a visit.
Cons: It’s going to take a while to get to Downtown LA, Silver Lake, and the rest of the east side. Plan on grouping those areas together if you’re going to make the trip over there. Parking is a nightmare here, and you’ll probably need to pay for parking – either at a hotel, or at a garage – if you stay here with a car. It’s also expensive – the closer you get to the ocean, the more expensive it’ll be.
Santa Monica Highlights
- Spend the day at Santa Monica State Beach and Santa Monica Pier. Santa Monica State Beach is a 3.5-mile long expanse of sand that is perfect for relaxing or partaking in water sports. Make sure to check out Santa Monica Pier, a long boardwalk packed with arcades, shops, and restaurants. While you’re here, stop by Pacific Park, the amusement park on Santa Monica Pier. The ocean views from the roller coaster and Ferris wheel are unreal.
- Stroll through Palisades Park. Palisades Park is 25 acres of greenery by Santa Monica Beach. It has fantastic views of the ocean and trails for walking, running, or biking.
- Head to Venice Beach. Venice Beach is an iconic part of Santa Monica with its t-shirt shops and street performers. Head to Muscle Beach to watch the bodybuilders work out in front of crowds of curious people. While you’re in the area, explore the Venice Canals where ducks and paddle boarders float on the streams.
- Grab some fresh food at the Santa Monica Farmers Market. This is one of the best farmers markets in LA, with tables full of fresh produce from the area’s quality farmers. You will be buying your food alongside celebrities and famous chefs. It is open Wednesday and Saturday mornings from 8 am to 1 pm.
- Browse the stores at Third Street Promenade. Third Street Promenade is three pedestrianized blocks packed with 80 retailers. You will find everything from indie boutiques to designer stores. Once you’re finished shopping, there are some great restaurants and bars to try.
Where to Stay in Santa Monica
In our opinion, the best place to stay in Santa Monica is the north end of the neighborhood, between the beach and near Montana Avenue, a strip full of restaurants, bars, and shops that was our favorite “cutesy” street in LA.
However, there are a couple of beachfront hotels that are worth looking at. But you’ll be paying for it. Hotels in Santa Monica are expensive since it’s such an in-demand place to stay.
Like I mentioned above, if budget is an issue, many of the hotels in Santa Monica are going to knock your socks off, at least in terms of how pricey they are. If you’re looking to splurge though – maybe you’re celebrating a special occasion – this is the place to do it. It doesn’t get any better than beachfront luxury in Santa Monica.
The Georgian Hotel
The Georgian is by far the most affordable hotel in this neck of the woods, which is surprising since it’s steps away from the Santa Monica Pier and Beach. They have 84 rooms, some of which have ocean views, and a rooftop restaurant where you can watch the sunset over the Pacific Ocean. It’s pet friendly too – with a surcharge, of course.
Palihouse Hotel Santa Monica
The Palihouse Hotel has been an iconic part of LA since the early 1900s. It has designer furnishings and is only five minutes away from the beach. All of the rooms except the classic rooms have kitchenettes. While It is too small for an onsite gym, they partner with local gyms that offer a range of different equipment and workout classes.
The Proper Hotel is a beautifully decorated delight to the senses. It has won awards for its stunning interiors, decorated in natural colors and materials. The highlights of this hotel are its rooftop pool and proximity to local restaurants and bars. It also has a focus on wellness with a yoga terrace with regular classes and an Ayurvedic Spa.
Casa Del Mar
Casa Del Mar is one of a few beachfront hotels in LA. It is a luxury hotel with a pool overlooking the beach and live music every evening. Each of the rooms is lavishly decorated and has four-poster beds, curated bookcases, and a little sitting area. The spa offers popular treatments like oxygen facials and hot stone massages.
Shutters on the Beach
Shutters on the Beach is the other beachfront hotel in LA. It is frequented by celebrities because of its high-end amenities. The hotel offers private yoga classes or surfing lessons. Even if you don’t stay here, make reservations at the onsite restaurant 1 Pico, where they host a weekend lobster brunch.
Downtown LA: Best for Short Trips + City Lovers
Downtown Los Angeles is a popular area to stay because it’s packed full of interesting attractions – from Grand Central Market to Staples Center – and bars, restaurants, and clubs. For that reason, it is one of the best places to stay in LA if you do not have a car.
While it is the historic heart of the city, the grand bank buildings have been turned into quirky shops and world-class restaurants. The number of skyscrapers in this neighborhood means that Downtown LA is the commercial hub of Los Angeles. This is the best place to visit if you want cool nightlife and some of the best eateries in town.
Pros and Cons of Staying in Downtown Los Angeles
Pros: If you’re here for a short trip, then Downtown LA is a great home base because there’s a ton to do and see in the area, and you can hop over to Hollywood, the Arts District, Chinatown, and Silver Lake pretty easily. It’s also relatively cheap, with a huge selection of great hotels. If you’re into art and culture, this is the place to be – the Broad, Staples Center, and a lot of the music venues like the Philharmonic are here.
Cons: It’s very much a concrete jungle, though there are a few green spaces. It’s also adjacent to Skid Row, which is infamous and not the best place to be. Parking is hard, so if you have a car you’ll have to pay for parking.
Downtown LA Highlights
- Try the best food in LA at Grand Central Market. Started in 1917, this LA staple collects some of the best LA food under one roof. No matter what you’re craving, you’ll find it here.
- Shop and eat at ROW DTLA. This downtown shopping hub offers 32 acres of unique shops, restaurants and cafes. It packs globally recognized brands and indie labels in one area. Don’t miss Smorgasburg on Sundays – it’s a HUGE open air collection of food trucks and stalls serving all different kinds of food.
- Check out what’s going on at LA Live. LA Live is a massive entertainment center which includes the Staples Center, a movie theatre, bowling alley, nightclubs, restaurants, and even a museum. If you are ever at a loss for what to do, there is always something fun happening at LA Live.
- Drink great coffee! There are some great coffee places in Downtown. Some great brands like Verve Coffee Roasters, Blue Bottle Coffee, and Stumptown Coffee have cafes here. But the pinnacle is Cognoscenti Coffee, which has two locations near downtown and is one of the best coffee shops in LA.
- Devour delicious tacos at Guisados. This is one of my favorite places to eat when I’m in Downtown LA. Aside from a couple of fillings, the whole menu is gluten-free, and all of the tacos are flavorful with a little bit of a kick.
- Browse the bookshelves at the Last Bookstore. This bookstore is housed in a former bank building, and the shelves of vintage books have found their home among the marble columns and high ceilings. Support your independent bookstores and stop by to find your next great read.
Where to Stay in Downtown LA
This part of the city is full of incredibly hip hotels, and the best part is that they are more affordable than other parts of the city.
If you have a car, be prepared to pay a little extra for parking every day.
The Freehand Hotel
The Freehand Hotel is decorated to look like you’ve walked into the 60s, with colorful print tiles, wood paneling, and shabby chic furniture. It’s one of the best combinations of style and affordability in the city. We have stayed at their location in New York City, and we liked it.
The traditional hotel rooms (they also have suites, which are plenty spacious) are on the small side, which the prices reflect, but you won’t be spending time in your room anyway – you’ll be exploring LA! The hotel’s restaurants and bars are regular hangouts for the cool crowd of LA.
The Broken Shaker cocktail bar is on many lists of the best bars in LA. There is a rooftop pool and a small gym in the basement.
The Hoxton, which is one of my favorite hotel chains in the world, has a classic feel to it, with vintage touches and a clean, neutral color scheme. It’s at the south end of Downtown LA, near Staples Center, the Fashion District, and Santee Alley, a fun flea market (ish) place to wander and shop for trinkets, some of which you didn’t know you needed. The building it’s in was once the home of the LA Railway HQ, but has since been restored with touches that give a nod to their London roots.
The hotel draws a trendy crowd of locals and tourists to its restaurants. There is a hotel pool that is open from sunrise to sunset and has great views of Downtown LA. The pool bar serves a range of classic and new cocktails.
Ace Hotel LA
The Ace Hotel, which is a hipster hotel chain that I have stayed at in both Seattle and New York City, resides in a theater building which was modelled after Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. The grandeur of the Gothic building has informed the vintage style of the hotel interior, and they have even restored the cinema in the basement.
Alongside classic rooms, the hotel offers spacious industrial loft-style rooms with huge windows overlooking the city. For a special treat, get one of the rooms with a view.
The NoMad Hotel oozes sophistication with its luxe interior and a gorgeous rooftop pool overlooking the city. Rooms range from cozy hotel rooms to spacious suites, all with comfortable beds, hardwood floors, and – this is the first time I’ve come across this one – complimentary newspaper delivery (I’m in). There’s also a gym with Peloton bikes if you want to get a workout in before a day of exploring.
The rooftop pool area also includes a popular cafe and a cocktail bar. Most of the suites at the Nomad come with a freestanding bathtub offering beautiful views of the city.
Hotel Figueroa is an oasis of calm in the middle of a very busy city. It’s one of the oldest hotels in LA, and it was remodeled over the course of two years to restore it to its “1926 Spanish Colonial splendor” (I liked the phrasing there). It was originally a destination exclusively for professional women travelers, and has kept some of that ethos as it has grown into one of the best boutique hotels in Los Angeles over the years since.
It is decorated with clean lines and plump, glamorous furniture with subtle pops of color. The décor celebrates women’s art, with female artists featuring heavily. However, the best amenity is the coffin-shaped outdoor pool with plenty of sun loungers.
Hotel Indigo is a great midrange hotel option in just about any city in the world, including Los Angeles. The rooms are stylish and simple, but they’re actually pretty spacious compared to a lot of other hotels. The Metropole Bar and Kitchen are the onsite bar and restaurant, and they also have a penthouse bar called 18 Social. Oh, and they have a pool, because of course they do it’s LA.
The Wayfarer Downtown LA sets itself apart from other hotels. Standard rooms are small, but thoughtfully laid out and designed so that you won’t even notice. Customize your experience by choosing from what kind of view you want – skyline or urban, which I think means “no view” – and what kind of bed situation you’re looking for – one king, two queens.
The rooftop pool includes a tiki bar with tropical cocktails. They also have a DIY restaurant on site where you select their meal and are given portioned ingredients to cook their own meal. This restaurant regularly hosts cooking classes and offers wine pairings too.
Silver Lake: Best For Feeling Like a Local
Silver Lake and Echo Park are adjacent neighborhoods that are close to Chinatown and Downtown LA. Since these areas cater mostly to locals, there are amazing cafes, quirky boutiques, and hidden gems to explore. There’s really only one place to stay here that’s not a vacation rental, and we think you should avoid vacation rentals in Los Angeles.
You should know before you choose to stay here that this is the epicenter of gentrification in Los Angeles. It’s a desirable neighborhood, which has brought more demand and caused rising rent prices that have forced out communities that have lived here for decades in order to renovate their apartments and turn them into vacation rentals, or open a new hip clothing boutique.
We’re not going to fix gentrification here, but you should go into staying in these two areas knowing the impact that your visit (and others like you) have had on this community. We definitely recommend staying in a hotel (there’s basically only one) rather than a vacation rental, which takes much-needed long term housing units off the market in service of making landlords more money.
With all that being said, we really liked this area of the city, and it’s nicely located for visiting the adjacent neighborhoods like Downtown LA and Los Feliz (and Hollywood).
Pros and Cons of Staying in Silver Lake
Pros: There’s a ton of great restaurants, bars, and more in the neighborhood. Plus, it’s surrounded by other cool areas to explore, and close to Dodger Stadium, Elysian Park, and Griffith Park.
Cons: This is a hotspot for gentrification in Los Angeles. If you’re not comfortable with that, look elsewhere. Sunset Boulevard isn’t the most pleasant street to walk on, since there’s multiple lanes of traffic zooming by (we thought it would be much more quiet), but the area near the reservoir is more charming and quiet. There’s not too many options outside of vacation rentals – in fact, there’s basically one good hotel – so your options will be limited (it’s a great hotel, though!).
Silver Lake Highlights
- Explore the best coffee scene in LA. Silver Lake and Echo Park are residential neighborhoods that are a little bit hipster; therefore, they take their coffee very seriously. If you have been reading this blog for a while, you know that I love my coffee and will seek out the best coffee in every place I visit. Go to Intelligentsia and Dinosaur Coffee in Silver Lake, and Woodcat Coffee Bar in Echo Park.
- Eat amazing Thai food at Night + Market Song. This unpretentious restaurant serves a mix of popular and rare Thai street food. While it is a relaxed atmosphere with loud communal tables and a small counter serving as a bar, the delicious and authentic food draws the LA elite crowd.
- Browse the shelves at Stories Bookstore. This bookstore’s shelves are full of preloved books from classics to rare finds. On the outdoor patio is a small cafe where you can sit and enjoy the book you just purchased.
- Hike to the best views in LA in Elysian Park. There is a place in Elysian Park dubbed “the Secret Swing” which has the best views over LA and is one of the most popular spots for Instagram pictures. While it is a little bit of a hike, the views at the top are completely worth it. The swing tends to disappear from time to time, so be mindful it might not be there when you visit.
- Grab locally-grown produce at the Silver Lake Farmers Market. This farmers market is open Tuesday evenings and Saturday mornings. Here you will find the freshest produce, grown right in LA.
Where to Stay in Silver Lake
Like we mentioned above, there’s basically one hotel option in this neck of the woods.
Silver Lake Pool and Inn
The Silver Lake Pool and Inn is a hipster’s dream, located right in the heart of Silver Lake. It’s right at the junction of Sunset and Santa Monica Boulevards, which puts you within walking distance of places like Intelligentsia Coffee and the farmers market.
The rooms are both spacious (the smallest are a whopping 250 sq. ft.) and beautiful, with local furniture and fixtures and tons of natural light. They also have double rooms with two beds, which are perfect for groups visiting the city.
The highlight, though, is the stunning rooftop terrace with a pool and beautiful views of the Hollywood sign. This truly is the best seat in the house for sunset cocktails. Each of the rooms has a Nespresso machine and a tablet with a guide on what to do and see in the neighborhood. Wifi is free (wooo!), and the hotel is pet-friendly, so you can bring the furry friends! Plus, parking here is only $20 a night in an underground garage, which is a steal in LA.
West Hollywood: Best Central Location
Hollywood itself – the main drag – is a bit of a tourist trap, if we’re being honest. The Walk of Fame really isn’t that cool, and it’s crowded and dirty. Plus, prices can be inflated, and you don’t really get a feel for the city.
Instead of staying in Hollywood, we recommend staying in West Hollywood, which is a short walk away from all of the sights but has more of a residential feel to the neighborhood and is closer to some of the food, drinks, and other parts of LA that we love.
West Hollywood is also the best place to stay in LA for nightlife. Sunset Boulevard is home to some of the best clubs in the world, and Santa Monica Boulevard is home to a huge concentration of LGBTQ+ bars and clubs.
Pros and Cons of Staying in West Hollywood
Pros: West Hollywood is THE place to be after dark. Plus, it’s super central, particularly to the areas on the east side, but not too far away from places like Santa Monica.
Cons: It’s loud and boisterous, so if you’re looking for a quiet retreat, this ain’t it.
West Hollywood Highlights
- Run into celebrities at Book Soup. Book Soup on Sunset Boulevard is an iconic LA attraction. Celebrities such as Elton John, Bette Midler, and Stephen King have been sighted browsing the shelves. They don’t only sell books here; they also sell record players and a great selection of LPs.
- Stroll down the famous Sunset Strip. During the day, the Sunset Strip is full of popular stores. At night, the strip transforms into one of LA’s biggest nightlife hubs. If you are looking for a sophisticated night out, head to one of the hotel bars, such as the Tower Bar at Sunset Tower Hotel. For a trendy night out, head to one of the rock clubs like the Viper Room.
- Laugh until your sides hurt at iconic comedy clubs such as the Laugh Factory or Comedy Store. These venues attract big comedy names like Tiffany Haddish and Dave Chapelle. Make sure to check out who is playing during your stay.
Where to Stay in West Hollywood
West Hollywood has a nice balance of hotels that offer a great value, and hotels that are splurge-worthy and great for special occasions (or just a treat-yourself weekend).
Andaz West Hollywood
The Andaz is a super stylish hotel right on the Sunset strip. It has amazing views of the LA skyline from some of its 240 rooms, and some even have balconies with that unforgettable view. If you’re not one of the lucky ones, you can always head up to the rooftop pool or bar to soak up the views (and the booze). It’s also pretty affordable, which makes it a great combination of value, style, and location in West Hollywood.
Kimpton La Peer Hotel
The Kimpton La Peer is popular because of the extra amenities you’ll have if you stay there. The hotel has bikes that you can borrow to explore the area, and you can even get short rides (under a mile) in the hotel Tesla if you need a ride somewhere nearby (bougie AF). The hotel also provides coffee, kombucha, and juice by the reception desk.
Sunset Tower Hotel
Sunset Tower is right from the golden era of Hollywood, today it is still a popular celebrity hangout and a monument to opulence. The service here is unparalleled, with staff regularly going the extra mile. The spa is by Joanna Vegas, and if you are in town around the Emmys, celebrities are often here for treatments before the event.
The West Hollywood Edition
The Edition is right on Sunset Boulevard. When you walk in, you’ll completely forget you’re in the middle of one of the biggest cities in North America thanks to a veritable jungle of greenery and tropical indoor plants. The clientele here are trendy and edgy, and you will feel a little bit cooler after just five minutes in the lobby. Check out the spa while you are there, which has a focus on natural and plant-based remedies (including those using CBD).
Hotels vs. Vacation Rentals in Los Angeles: Which to Choose?
One thing I do want to touch on is vacation rentals in LA.
If you didn’t already know, Los Angeles (like most West Coast cities) is in the midst of a full-fledged housing crisis, and while I wouldn’t point to vacation rentals as the primary cause, they’re certainly a contributing factor.
I have mixed feelings about staying in vacation rentals in cities.
On one hand, as a traveler who has Celiac Disease and usually needs access to a kitchen, they are a godsend that has allowed me to travel to places that just would not have been easy to visit if I had to stay in a hotel, where I MIGHT get a mini-fridge.
On the other hand, in cities where there’s a housing crisis driven by a lack of supply and surging demand (which basically describes every major city on the West Coast, at this point), vacation rentals contributes to the problem by taking long term rental units off the market, since the landlord can usually make more money by renting it out for a weekend at a time.
There are certainly pros and cons to staying in vacation rentals. To be a responsible traveler in LA, our recommendation would be to choose hotels in Los Angeles. There are tons of great hotels, so you’ll have no problem finding an amazing place to stay.
Los Angeles Geography: A Rough Overview
The city is enormous, which gives you literally hundreds of choices of where to stay, with all sorts of different pockets that all have their own unique characteristics and cultures.
At a super high level, we’d divide the city into east and west. And we’re going to speak in generalities here, so keep in mind that there are exceptions to the statements below. LA is massive, so we’re going to focus on the part of the city that you’re most likely going to want to consider when you’re searching for the right place to stay.
On the east side of LA, you’ll find neighborhoods like Hollywood, Los Feliz, Silver Lake, and Downtown LA (among many others, like Koreatown and Chinatown). This side of the city feels more concrete jungle-y, particularly Hollywood and Downtown, and is less expensive than its western counterparts (with the exception of places like Los Feliz and Silver Lake).
On the west side of the city, you’ll find the Pacific Ocean and neighborhoods like Santa Monica, Venice, and Culver City. The feel here is MUCH different, with beachy vibes all around and a more laid-back atmosphere. It’s also more residential, and significantly more expensive as you get closer to the beach.
Should you Rent a Car in L.A.?
LA is the second most populous city in the USA, and the third most populous in North America (Mexico City is the biggest).
It is sprawling, covering over 500 square miles, and has no real public transportation system (WTF LA?) which means you’re probably going to be tempted to rent a car to get the most out of your stay.
We’d recommend not renting a car and spending that money on rideshares instead. Parking can be a nightmare – plan on budgeting an extra ~$30 a night if you’re staying at a hotel with a car.
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Our main takeaway from our time in LA is that it is an ENORMOUS city. Even though we spent a full week exploring this last time, we didn’t make it to every place on our list. Or even close, really. That’s why it’s super important to carefully choose where you stay in LA – it can have a huge impact on your experience. And you’ll have to plan a return trip to hit all the stuff you missed on your first one!
More to Explore in California
Heading to the great state of California? Here are some other posts you might like.
- One Day in San Francisco: How to See the Best of San Francisco in a Day
- 4 Days in San Francisco: How to Plan an Amazing San Francisco Itinerary
- Where to Stay in San Francisco: A Local’s Guide to the Best Places to Stay
- Gluten Free San Francisco: A Complete Travel Guide for Celiacs
- The Best Day Trips from San Francisco: 10 Amazing San Francisco Day Trips
- 5 Days in Los Angeles: How to Plan a Perfect Los Angeles Itinerary
- Where to Stay in Los Angeles: A Complete Guide to L.A.’s Best Places to Stay
- Gluten Free Los Angeles: A Complete Guide for Celiacs
- 3 Days in San Diego: How to Plan a Perfect San Diego Itinerary
- Where to Stay in San Diego: A Complete Guide to the Best Places to Stay
- Gluten Free San Diego: A Complete Guide for Celiacs
- How to Plan an Amazing San Francisco to Los Angeles Road Trip
- Northern California Road Trip: The Best of the Northern California Coast