I have to own up to being a little intimidated when I first arrived at the Waldorf Astoria Beverly Hills. This six-year-old, five-star hotel, is more than merely upmarket, it practically defines the concept. From the plush art deco lobby, to the 1000 thread count bedlinen, to the fluffy towelling bath robes, and everything in between, this place just feels like money.
Luckily, the staff are warm, relaxed and approachable. Opulence has never been so homey.
The hotel sits at the entrance of Beverly Hills, at the tip of what’s known as the Golden Triangle, where Santa Monica Blvd crosses Wilshire Blvd. If you squint, you can see the Hollywood sign from the intersection.
Sitting directly across from the famous electric fountain, the hotel is a ten-minute walk to Rodeo Drive, a three-minute Uber to West Hollywood, and about the same to Hollywood and Vine, and the Walk of Fame. But forget those tourist traps, everything you need for a luxe holiday is within walking distance.
Across the road from the hotel is a charming tree-lined walk that takes you to Beverly Hills Gardens, and Beverly Hills City Hall , which includes a cactus garden, and the famous Beverly Hills sign.
Shaped like a wedge, the hotel has two views: the hills, and the city. Both are great. I was glad to get a city view, however, as it turned into a glittering carpet of lights at night.
The Waldorf has 170 rooms, including 51 suites. It also has villas with terraced outdoor areas for entertaining. The concept behind the hotel is that it’s a secret garden in the city – you drive in and leave the real world behind.
The clientele is a mix of business types, film industry folk, well-heeled families and upmarket tourists. I saw someone arriving with a gaggle of security and retainers at one point. To give you a sense of how upmarket this joint is, one of the most exclusive stores on Rodeo Drive, House of Bijan, has a satellite boutique in the lobby.
The triple height, deco-style lobby is quite breathtaking, with its giant palm tree paintings, and the enormous cut-glass chandelier in the lobby bar. It sets the tone for the room to come.
I stayed in a Superior King room, with a city-facing terrace. The room is about 58m2, which is, frankly, massive – about the same size as the average flat in New Zealand.
Entering a room designed by Pierre-Yves Rochon is like stepping into a plush daydream. Everything is bright, fresh and airy. The decorative objects are eye-catching without making too much of a statement. The colour palette is restful and chic.
The bed, a plush Californian King, comes with four pillows – there’s a pillow menu, but I was happy with what was already on the bed.
For your browsing pleasure, there’s a bookshelf dotted with brightly coloured Assouline travel books, as well as some choice fashion books.
The large double wardrobe opposite the bathroom is roomy enough for all your luggage, so you don’t need to clutter up the room.
But it’s the bathroom that’s the diamond in the room’s crown. Lined in white and gold marble, there’s a large shower and toilet in separate glass cubicles, as well as a deep tub. The toiletries are by Aesop, and include the Australian brand’s signature Resurrection hand wash.
Out on the terrace, a lounger, and seat with a coffee table wait for you to kick back and make like your script just got optioned. I ate lunch there one day, and it felt like dining at a luxury resort.
Forget coffee in a sachet, there’s a Nespresso machine in the room. And if you are made of money and a bit peckish, the mini bar is packed with goodies from nearby Erewhon, the posh organic supermarket down in the triangle.
The TV is 4k and has access to several film streaming channels which are included in the price of the room. Wi-fi is also free anywhere in the hotel.
The lighting, drapes and TV are controlled by Alexa. There’s also a tablet for ordering room service.
The hotel has a hair salon and La Prairie spa on site. A facial can include the brand’s signature skin caviar products, which are delightful. My technician had the softest, gentlest touch and manner I’ve ever experienced in a spa before. It was genuinely magical.
The hotel also offers the use of a house car to take you anywhere in a three-mile (4.8km) radius of the hotel, totally for free.
There is a pool on the roof which is open to guest only from 9am to 9pm. Loungers are on a first come, first served basis.
Breakfasts are either in your room, or in the gracious “conservatory” restaurant, Espelette, just behind the lobby. The food is excellent, as you’d expect from Michelin-star chef Steve Benjamin. I recommend the chia porridge, with fresh fruit – mind-blowingly good – and the breakfast burrito, which came with the best salsa verde I have ever eaten.
Next to the pool is The Rooftop by JG, which has an almost 360-degree view of LA. We dined there on Halloween night, and were entertained by the bright lights of West Hollywood, as well as the Beverly Hills Police department’s security drone light show.
The fare is New American, designed by prolific restaurateur Jean-Georges Vongerichten. I recommend the signature lobster burger, which comes with fries. Sweet and delicious, the only issue was the spongy brioche bun, which got a little soggy towards the end.
Worth stepping out for
Fancy a pre-dinner drink? Hit Wally’s wine bar, a cosy spot on Nth Canon Drive that proudly advertised its New Zealand wines.
In the mood for some Hollywood location spotting, the Beverly Wilshire hotel, from Pretty Woman, is a 15-minute walk from the WABH, and the entrance of Rodeo Drive.
Home to more than 100 of the world’s most exclusive stores, from Dior, to Gucci, to Chanel’s largest flagship store outside of Europe, Rodeo Drive is one of the most expensive and exclusive shopping streets in the world.
While they can be intimidating, anyone can enter the stores – except Bijan, and Chanel, which are both by appointment only. Be prepared to line up behind a velvet rope and wait your turn to enter the most popular brands.
Contrary to what Pretty Woman taught us about service on Rodeo Drive, I was greeted warmly by staff and asked several times if I needed any help in every store I went into.
A couple of streets over on Nth Beverly and Nth Canon Drives are more affordable stores, such as Guess and Kitson, where you will get all the cheesy souvenirs you could possibly desire.
Beverly Hills has positioned itself as the ultimate dining destination, so you are really spoilt for choice at dinner time. Restaurants like Avra, Il Pastaio, The Hideaway, Dante at the Maybourne Hotel, and Funke are just a tiny sample of the dining must-dos in the city. If you’re very lucky, you might even get in at Gucci Osteria… but don’t hold your breath. The wait list is supposed to be months long.
The Waldorf is also about a five-minute walk to the TikTok/Insta favourite Sprinkles cupcake store and its 24-hour ATM machine, where you can get a cupcake for about US$5 (NZ$8.50) any time of the day or night.
Worth staying in for
It’s a toss up between the bed – one of the most comfortable I’ve ever slept in – and the view.
The breakfasts – I will be dreaming of that chia porridge with fresh fruit and edible flowers for weeks.
The holding fee – refundable, but charged when you check in – is a whopping US$400 (NZ$670) a day.
By far one of the delightful hotels I have ever stayed in – ideal for a cashed-up honeymoon.
The rooms start from NZ$1688 per night for the Superior King. Add breakfast for an additional NZ$90 each day. See: waldorfastoriabeverlyhills.com
Getting there: United Airlines flies from Auckland to LAX three times a week, with a fourth departure coming in December. See: united.com
Carbon footprint: Flying generates carbon emissions. To reduce your impact, consider other ways of travelling, amalgamate your trips, and when you need to fly, consider offsetting emissions.
The writer was hosted by United Airlines and The Waldorf Astoria Beverly Hills.