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California Dreaming at the Supremely Stylish Surfrider Malibu

A 1953 motel along the Pacific Coast Highway has been reborn as a California-cool design hotel.


The Surfrider Malibu, a grimy, falling-down 1953 motel-turned-design-hotel, has done what a lot of properties cannot: make guests feel like complete and utter locals during their stay. Twenty bright, ocean-facing rooms (including two expansive suites) allow for a sense of ownership—thanks in part to the comfy, rustic custom teak furniture and flawlessly curated amenities like Grown Alchemist toiletries, Parachute bathrobes, and artisanal candles. The guests-only rooftop just serves to buoy that top-of-the-world feeling.

“Being exclusive means guests truly get to let their hair down and relax [as if] it is actually their personal beach house,” says hotel co-owner Emma Crowther Goodwin of the fire-pit-adorned rooftop, where playlists curated by renowned deejays are on constant rotation. Regardless of the time of day, only those staying at the hotel (plus their friends) can enjoy the perfect organic avocado toast and a Canyon Coffee cappuccino in a locally crafted mug, or a locally harvested Surfrider Grazing Board and bottle off the property’s impressive small-production wine list, while overlooking the waves breaking across Pacific Coast Highway on Surfrider Beach.

This world-famous break, as well as Malibu’s many others, can be explored using the hotel’s quiver of custom-shaped surfboards in a palette of vintage tones pulled straight from ’60s surf magazines. Guests can also surf alongside pro surfers, who are on call for private lessons. It’s just one of the VIP experiences that the Lily Ashwell– and General Admission–clad staff, hired not for their hospitality experience but for their high emotional intelligence, are happy to arrange. Other offerings include equipping guests with curated Surfrider playlists for cruises up the coast and the Surfrider Picnic Program, which comes complete with a map, blanket, and basket full of market-fresh gourmet goodies.

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This insider take on a design-forward boutique hotel is the work of a tuned-in trio: Ventura-born architect Matthew Goodwin; his Aussie-bred creative-director wife, Emma Crowther Goodwin; and race-car-driver-turned-hotelier Alessandro Zampedri. “I’ve been fortunate enough to see all corners of the world,” says the New York–based Zampedri, adding that a variety of cultures and traditions, including his Italian background, exercised influence in his latest venture. Still, the group’s number one priority was instilling in guests an authentic sense of place—and with that a first-name-basis approach to extremely personal service. There are original Le Corbusier furnishings and a Picasso on the wall, a collector-quality McIntosh amp and guitar sit in a loft-library space, and shoes aren’t required anywhere.

“We worked to maintain the nostalgia of the ’60s and ’70s, the hotel’s heyday, doing justice to its heritage in a way that was timeless with a modern architectural spin that appealed to many types of travelers, all united by the desire to experience California as a local,” says Zampedri. If the California Dream were a hotel, this would be it.

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