Tourists love Los Angeles so much that they’ve made it one of the world’s top destinations. Those of us who live here love it too, and there’s no reason out-of-towners should have all the fun.
L.A. is chock-full of phenomenal pools, spectacular spas and supercool five-star hotels just waiting for us to explore. Now there’s a way to do that without spending $500 a night.
It’s called a day pass. For as little as $20, you receive access to pools and other hotel amenities. Spend a day lounging beside a posh pool, drinking margaritas and nibbling on fish tacos while palm trees sway overhead. Then return home — all without paying a room charge.
Some of the most popular day-pass bargains can be found at rooftop pools that overlook Los Angeles, with spectacular views from the Hollywood Hills to the Pacific Ocean. You can grab a lounge chair and while away the day by yourself or visit with friends and splurge on a cabana, which may set you back $300.
It’s one of the closest things to vacation you can find without actually traveling anywhere.
You can access deals through websites or apps. Log on, browse current specials and sign up for a pass on a specific date. The big players in this niche are ResortPass and Daycation, but other organizations also advertise day passes.
Like other segments of the travel industry, the day-pass business stumbled during the pandemic especially when California’s stay-home order went into effect in December. Since the order lifted on Jan. 25, sales are burgeoning as hotels reopen and add pool amenities.
Hotels must follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines and implement safety measures such as physical distancing, sanitation protocols and requiring face coverings in public areas.
Despite the regulations, people love the chance to do a little pool partying.
North Hollywood resident Elena Richardson, 23, thinks it’s a great way to spend a day. “I heard about it last summer when a lot of things were closed and there wasn’t much to do. My experience was so good. The hotel took my breath away. I felt like I was relaxing in elegance.”
Richardson spent the day at the W Hollywood with three friends. “When you walk through the doors, you know you’re in a special place. I live in North Hollywood, so being able to just go down there — it was so close — and have a daycation was incredible. My girls and I had a chance to do something luxurious without spending a lot of money.”
Day passes are a boon for both hotels and short-term guests, especially since the pandemic struck. Vacancy rates are high at most hotels because few people are traveling. New customers like Richardson are introduced to the hotel, learn about its restaurants and bars and spend money while having a pleasant poolside experience.
The trend also helps hotels serve their communities, said Sam Jagger, general manager at Fairmont Miramar Hotel & Bungalows, a Santa Monica oasis with gilded gates, an incredible 140-year-old fig tree in the entrance courtyard and a garden pool you’ll never want to leave.
“People can take advantage of the lovely pool, have lunch and add on a massage or a facial,” he said. “It’s another way for us to have outreach to the local community.”
How does it work? When you arrive at the hotel, “we have someone escort you to a chair or table at the pool and introduce you to the staff,” he said.
Although a few hotels have tried setting up day-pass programs, most utilize outside partners such as Resort Pass and Daycation.
“Hotels sign up because of our wide reach to thousands of guests that are looking for the daycation experience,” said Matt Boney, who founded Daycation in 2016. The Miami-based organization has contracts with about 100 hotels.
Resort Pass, the industry leader, is headquartered in Los Angeles and has more than 600 participating hotels in the U.S., Mexico and the Caribbean, with the largest segment in Southern California.
Chief executive Amanda Szabo said participating hotels offer a range of prices: $10 to $139 for a day pass. “Locals don’t need the spend the night; they just need access to a hotel’s pool and amenities. You can have a good time by spending $25 or $35 just to go to the pool, compared to spending $250 for a hotel room for the night.”
More than 100 Southern California hotels participate in a day pass program, with prices as low as $20 per person at the Hotel MdR Marina del Rey and the Marina Del Rey Hotel to as high as $55 per person for a pool and beach pass at the Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel in Dana Point. Cabanas cost $250 and up, but you’re usually allowed to bring four guests. Parking usually is not included
We took a quick look at some local hotels to let you know what kind of deals you can find in Los Angeles. Tip: We list starting prices, which may be available only when the hotel is not crowded.
Andaz West Hollywood
Grab a Moscow Mule at the pool bar and settle in for a day of fun at this Hollywood icon on the Sunset Strip. Led Zeppelin, the Who and other classic rockers once frequented this boutique hotel and it still appeals to rock enthusiasts and visitors looking for fun on the Strip. Andaz has the highest rooftop pool in Los Angeles (it’s on a hill), which means great views in every direction, from downtown skyscrapers to the Pacific Ocean.
Day pass: $25; cabana, $225
Yes, this hotel usually plays host to the Golden Globe Awards and the official Academy Awards luncheon. (Pre-pandemic, of course.) It’s legacy Hollywood and will make you feel like a star as you lounge at the Aqua Star Pool, which claims to be the largest heated pool in Beverly Hills. A pass is pricey but includes a comfy day bed.
Day pass: $50; cabana, $300
You can’t get much closer to the Hollywood vibe than the W Hollywood, a massive complex at the famous intersection of Hollywood and Vine. The hotel is known for its palm-fringed rooftop pool called Wet Deck, which has expansive views of the Hollywood Hills and downtown Hollywood, and is considered one of the liveliest pool scenes in town.
Day pass: $30
This is the place to take your aunt and uncle from Kansas when they visit — or anyone else who’s impressed by Old Hollywood. The hotel, across the street from TCL Chinese Theatre, opened in 1927 and was once the home of Marilyn Monroe. (It’s supposedly haunted by Monroe, Montgomery Clift and Errol Flynn.) The large, ground-level pool is California cool with lots of palm trees and comfortable lounges.
Day pass: $45 ($20 per person food and beverage minimum)
Fairmont Miramar Hotel & Bungalows
Is the ocean calling you? The 5-acre Fairmont Miramar, at the edge of Santa Monica’s blufftop Palisades Park, overlooks the Pacific and is within walking distance of the pier. It’s also close to Third Street Promenade’s shops and restaurants. But you won’t want to leave after you settle in to the park-like grounds surrounding the pool. The vibe is pure luxury.
Day pass: adults $30; kids $20
Hilton Universal City
Parents looking for a fun day with the kids might consider this hotel and pool that are close to the freeway. The hotel usually holds nearly 500 guests and has high occupancy rates, but there are fewer guests because of the pandemic. (The theme park is closed; Universal City Walk is open on a limited basis.) That means more space for day-use guests at the large, nicely landscaped pool. Parking is discounted.
Day pass: $30; cabana $165 (four people), with $75 food and beverage minimum
SLS Beverly Hills
This ultra-stylish hotel, on the border of Beverly Hills and West Hollywood, was designed by Frenchman Philippe Starck and is known for its quirkiness and eclectic style. It’s also known for its rooftop pool, which has been voted one of the best in L.A., with views of the city, ocean and Hollywood sign.
Day pass: $60; day bed $350 (four people); cabana $300 (six people); grand cabana $450 (10 people). Food and drink minimums may apply.
This downtown property, founded in 1926, has seen a lot of Los Angeles history. Beginning March 14, it’s offering locals a chance to decompress without leaving DTLA. On-site perks and amenities for day-pass guests include a complimentary smoothie from outdoor restaurant Veranda Al Fresco, a reserved poolside lounge chair and pool access for four hours, high-speed Wi-Fi, complimentary towels and valet self-parking for $5 with validation.
Day pass: $35 (four hours only, morning or afternoon), $60 for all day