With its Mediterranean climate, glorious beaches and laid-back vibe, the Californian city is a fantastic base for a US stay-and-cruise holiday, says Cruise International Editor Liz Jarvis

Cars along Hollywood Boulevard, Los Angeles © iStock
Cars along Hollywood Boulevard, Los Angeles © iStock

One of the most creative and glamorous cities in the world, Los Angeles is of course the hub of the movie industry, and home to some of America’s most exciting restaurants, attractions and shopping; but its wonderful location, close to the stunning beaches lining the Pacific coastline, also makes it the perfect destination for a longer holiday and an ideal place to start a cruise to the Mexican Riviera, Hawaii, Coastal California, the South Pacific or the trans-Panama Canal.

Nicknamed the City of Angels, LA – or La La Land as it’s affectionately known – was historically home to the Chumash and Tongva Native American tribes; it was officially founded in 1781, and briefly became part of Mexico during the Mexican War of Independence before becoming a municipality in 1850.

If you have time during your visit, it’s definitely worth hiring a car (preferably a convertible) and taking a coastal drive along the famed and spectacular Highway 1.

The famous Hollywood sign in Los Angeles © iStock
The famous Hollywood sign in Los Angeles © iStock

Must-sees: 

Santa Monica offers a glorious, pristine golden-sand beach, charming eclectic architecture including Art Deco and 1960s buildings, a retro-style fairground and superb boutiques. Venice Beach is brilliant for people watching, although if you want to spot movie stars you’ll need to head for Malibu. If you like theme parks or you’re travelling with children, then Universal Studios is unmissable, with attractions including the Wizarding World of Harry Potter; and for that quintessential Hollywood experience, head for Hollywood Boulevard and the Walk of Fame. Wander along Sunset Boulevard, explore Downtown Los Angeles or Beverly Hills. Chinatown is home to a thriving art scene as well as restaurants and shops; and the Griffith Observatory, as seen in the movie La La Land.

Griffith Observatory is a must-see in Los Angeles © Getty Images
Griffith Observatory is a must-see in Los Angeles © Getty Images

Eating: 

If you want to dine with the stars head for Spago. Created by legendary chef Wolfgang Puck, who does the catering for the official Academy Awards annual after-party, the Beverly Hills restaurant is a popular venue for celebrities, their agents and publicists.

There are endless options for casual and affordable dining in LA; try Belcampo Restaurant for cocktails and rustic, meaty Californian cuisine; Antequera Bakery (Mexican) in Santa Monica or Baby Blues BBQ for Southern food in Venice Beach.

Sunset over Venice Beach in Los Angeles © Getty Images
Sunset over Venice Beach in Los Angeles © Getty Images

Shopping: 

Shopping is an art form in LA, and even if you don’t have a movie star’s salary you can still enjoy people watching and window shopping along Rodeo Drive, home to designer shops including Bottega Veneta and Louis Vuitton and Prada, but also Saks Fifth Avenue and Barneys New York.

Santa Monica and West Hollywood are great for quirky finds, while the Hollywood and Highland Center has lots of cool boutiques including Victoria’s Secret and Guess, plus it’s where you’ll find the Dolby Theatre where the Oscars are held; and there are fantastic views of the Hollywood Hills throughout the mall.

Hotel Shangri-La, Los Angeles
Hotel Shangri-La, Los Angeles

Where to stay:

Built in 1939 and renovated in 2008, and located opposite Santa Monica Beach on Ocean Avenue, the Hotel Shangri-La is a superb luxury boutique hotel that has hosted everyone from Tom Cruise to Madonna. Stylish and chic, the hotel’s 71 rooms, decorated in white, grey and black with splashes of scarlet, have views of the Pacific Ocean. Bathrooms are marble with L’Occitane products.

The hotel has many interesting features dating back to the 1930s, but some very attractive modern touches too. The Onyx rooftop bar, which is widely acknowledged as one of the world’s best, is simply fabulous, ideal for having aperitifs or nightcaps on a balmy LA evening.

There’s also free wifi throughout the hotel and the food served in its restaurant, the Dining Room, is excellent (we recommend the American breakfast). One of the hotel’s highlights, though, has to be the swimming pool; it’s like being on the set of a Hollywood movie, with black and white striped lounge chairs and fluffy pink towels (rooms from £248 a night; shangri-la.com).

GETTING THERE: Cruise lines that sail from LA include Holland America, Princess, Norwegian, Seabourn, Oceania and Regent Seven Seas Cruises.