Saturday, March 15, 2014

Foghorn Harbor Inn, Los Angeles (Marina del Rey), CA - Hotel Review

Usually when I travel to La La Land, or anywhere else in Southern California for that matter, I don't have to bother with a hotel, because my in-laws live in the area and are more than happy to provide free food and accommodations while we're there.  Back in January, though, we were headed to LA for a very special reason - my brother was invited to appear on the Jeopardy Battle of the Decades tournament, and the taping had been set for January 21st.  Contestants aren't given specific times until the day of taping, so if you're a family member, you just have to show up in the morning and wait for your favorite contestant to come on.  We needed to be at the Sony Studios in Culver City by 10 A.M., which is a really long drive from my in-laws' place out by San Bernardino, especially factoring in that we'd be fighting rush hour traffic in LA.  Plus, my sister and her two kids would be flying in and had a terribly early flight out of LAX early the morning after the taping, so we decided to just get a hotel.  The choice:  the Foghorn Harbor Inn in Marina del Rey.

About the Hotel

Rates:  $159-259, depending on season and room location
Facilities:  "Beachfront" hotel, free breakfast, LAX airport shuttle, restaurant next door, fully non-smoking

Where Is It

The Foghorn Harbor Inn is located in Marina del Rey, about 10-15 minutes north of LAX on Highway 1 (Lincoln Blvd./Pacific Coast Highway), and about 20 minutes from the 405 (San Diego Freeway) via Washington Blvd.  From LAX, take Highway 1 north, turn left at Fiji Way, then right at Admiralty Way.  Proceed to the end of the road, and turn left at Via Marina.  The hotel will be immediately on your left.  From the 405, exit at Washington Blvd., go west, and proceed to Via Marina/Ocean Avenue (BEWARE - when traveling west, it is labeled only as Ocean Avenue, and thus easy to miss).  Turn left, pass the first traffic light (Admiralty Way), and the hotel will be immediately on your left.

The Review

First off, I have to say I'm really impressed how close the hotel is to LAX.  Trying to get anywhere in LA can be a challenge due to Southern California's legendary traffic, but it took only 13 minutes from LAX, at 4 in the afternoon on a Monday.  The return trip an hour later to pick up my sister from Terminal 1 took about the same amount of time.  This is a HUGE plus if you're looking for a place to stay near the airport, such as for an early flight the next morning.

Admittedly, the hotel doesn't look like much from outside.

However, the place was actually pretty clean for a "beach" hotel.  Usually, you're having to watch for stuff like sand and shell fragments all over the floor, but they do a pretty good job here of keeping the interior clean.  As you would expect, the walls have a decidedly "seafaring" theme.

The room, a beachview room on the second floor, was a tad on the small side, but perfectly functional for a short stay.

Most importantly, the room came with a balcony, which proved to be a nice spot to enjoy breakfast and a cup of coffee while overlooking the "beach".  One thing to be aware of - the "second" floor of this hotel is actually at ground level.  Rooms on the first floor have much larger balconies, but you have to go down a flight of stairs to get to them.  We didn't realize this until we checked in, and since my mom has trouble with stairs, we had to switch to two second floor rooms.  Luckily, a Monday in mid-January doesn't appear to be a particularly busy time around here, so we were able to switch with no trouble.

Speaking of which, I've used the word "beach" in parentheses a couple of times, for a good reason which you should definitely be aware of.  The hotel is indeed a beachfront property, the only one in Marina del Rey as a matter of fact, but be aware that the beach is, in fact, artificial.  The harbor in Marina del Rey was repurposed to provide a place for yachts to dock, and for shopping/restaurants along the water, with a beach put in for good measure.  It is not, however, the Pacific Ocean, so if "beachfront" to you means "oceanfront", this isn't the place for you (we knew this when we booked, so it wasn't an issue for us).  Despite being manmade, the beach is perfectly fine for beachy SoCal activities, with a volleyball game and sunbathing in full swing when we arrived.
And below are a couple more photos in the morning, when the beach was empty.

I mentioned that one of the features of the Foghorn is a free breakfast, available downstairs from 6-10, I think.  This is a pretty solid setup, with both indoor and outdoor sitting areas, and a good selection of hardboiled eggs, fruits, yogurt, milk, juices, and microwaveable breakfast foods in the fridge.  A selection of breads and cereals is also available; the photo just didn't come out.

Probably the best aspect of this hotel is the location.  As I mentioned at the beginning, LAX is only 10-15 minutes away.  Marina del Rey itself has many shops and restaurants, all within walking distance of the hotel (there is a halfway decent Mexican fast food joint at the corner of Via Marina and Washington, next to the Subway - can't remember the name, though).  And, if you'd like to see a real beach, LA's world famous Venice Beach is only a 10-15 minute walk away down Washington.  A few photos of Venice Beach on a beautiful Tuesday morning are presented below for your enjoyment.

I couldn't help but wonder how much these beachfront houses would cost, but then again, if I have to ask, I obviously can't afford them.

I liked this scene, personally - a flock of seagulls enjoying a quiet morning on the beach.

Service at this hotel was friendly and personal.  The lady who checked us in was, shall we say, a bit slow, but she was nice enough, and gave us suggestions on what to do in the area.  They also arranged a shuttle to the airport for my sister for Wednesday morning (if the shuttle isn't running because your flight is too early or too late, the hotel will pay for a cab for you, which is a nice touch).  About the only negative was that there isn't much to watch on the TV, but hopefully, if you're coming to LA, you're not spending a whole lot of time in your room watching TV. 

The Verdict

Not the fanciest hotel in the world, but the Foghorn Harbor Inn provides a great location at a reasonable price.  It's a good choice if you have an early morning flight out of LAX and want something a little different from a typical airport hotel, or if you'd like a beachfront experience without the exorbitant prices, especially with Venice Beach only a short walk away. 

Rating:  3 1/2 stars.  Nothing fancy here, but a solid value for those on a budget, with an extra 1/2 star for good service.

P.S.  If you're a Jeopardy watcher, you would have seen my brother, Babu Srinivasan, on TV on Monday, March 4th.  If I have now piqued your curiosity and want to watch his episodes (this was actually his 4th appearance on the show), past episodes are usually available at or on YouTube.

1 comment:

  1. The list of things to do in Los Angeles is as long as the city is vast. If your time in town is limited, you could spend days in the museums alone, and never make your way to Hollywood. Hit up Venice beach, but don't miss out on a hip eastside 'hood. Finding the Cheapest Hotels in Los Angeles is hard. You need to check the rates and your budget as soon as you plan to stay there.