You may have driven by it thousands of times and unless you've actually had a reason to be there, you probably haven't really thought too much about the Malibu Beach Inn. The expansive building itself is almost impossible to take in all at once as your zip down Highway 1. After all, what's more important, gazing at the Malibu Beach Inn's ode to Spanish architecture or staying alive amidst the breakneck danger that is Pacific Coast Highway? (Judging from all the fender benders on that strip of road, I'd say the road is loaded with plenty of gawkers.) And it's a shame if all you know of the Inn is the view of its north side and the spattering of falsities that hamper it. When I told a couple of friends which hotel I was reviewing this week, they all gave me funny looks that I could only assume asked the question, "why?" But these were people who haven't visited the place since it opened in the late '80s. One even made reference to the fact that it's just a place where college students find refuge from nosey dormitory resident assistants.
"That's where my friends and I used to party," a Pepperdine University alum, explained to me. "It was nearly impossible to sneak alcohol into the dorms so [my girlfriends and] I would just get a room on a Friday or Saturday night at the Inn, sneak up to the room one at a time, and host a small party. We got busted by the front desk a couple times, but it was better than being expelled from school."
This is a common problem among hotels and motels in small towns with adjacent colleges, but the days of Pepperdine Waves (is that what Pepperdine students call themselves? The Waves?), renting rooms on the sly for a night of debauchery are over. Those were the early '90s, it's ten years on now and things have changed for the better.
First off, the balconies are worth the price of admission alone. Hanging almost literally over the ocean, they're the one feature that has put this place on the map. All 47 rooms have one and if you're lucky enough to procure one of the Beachcomber suites, you get an extra wide balcony with a cozy two-person Jacuzzi tucked in the corner. But enough about the balconies - since the Malibu Beach Inn is the only luxury beachfront hotel in Malibu, everyone already knows how cool they are.
Eventually you're going to have to come in from the balcony and spend some time in your room. Now admittedly, the suites at the Inn are on the small side and the standard rooms are even smaller, but you really have to weigh the pros and the cons: Sure your room might only be the size of your living room at home, but what you lose in space, you make up for with amenities like huge fireplaces, thick terry cloth robes, and private bars. Besides, what do you really need all that extra room for? If you're truly having a good time, the only two features in the room you're going to be using are the balcony and the bed.
But if you want to get specific about the rooms, reserve one of the Colony Suites. The don't have the much sought-after Jacuzzis (only the ground floor rooms have those), but with their vaulted ceilings, roomy sitting area with rattan furniture, and top-story view of the Pacific Ocean, these suites are easily the most desirable of the hotel.
If you can remember, set your alarm a little early so you can make the continental breakfast the hotel offers. It's on the house and it covers the basics like coffee, tea, fresh fruit, and pastries and while all these are pretty common, it's an entirely different experience eating a biscuit slathered with raspberry preserves less than a dozen feet away from the ocean as opposed to your stuffy nook attached to your tiny kitchen at home.
In short, the Malibu Beach Inn is a completely different hotel from what your preconceived notions might make of it. It may not be a boutique hotel with plasma televisions hanging from the wall and wireless DSL hookups, but the quaintness and lightning quick staff will make the stay memorable. Oh, and as for that former alcoholic Pepperdine student with the propensity for sneaking booze into hotels? I married her.