DOWNTOWN — Tourists flock to Santa Monica’s sun-soaked beaches, but if they intend to turn their day trip into an overnight stay, they had better be willing to part with some significant coin.
According to a survey by Cheaphotels.org, Santa Monica is second only to Newport, R.I. as the most expensive place to get a hotel room during peak summer vacation times.
It costs an average $287 to stay in one of Santa Monica’s central hotels, compared to $319 for the eastern town.
Santa Monica narrowly beat out Calistoga, Calif. at $285.
California, in general, got high markings on the survey.
Santa Monica and Calistoga were joined by Avalon and Laguna Beach to take four spots in the top 10, and Napa came in at the 12th spot.
However, not only are Santa Monica hotels more expensive, they’re also almost always booked.
According to the Santa Monica Convention and Visitors Bureau, hotels are boasting 82 percent occupancy rates so far this year, topping the 2011 projections and 2010 actuals listed in a report on lodging statistics compiled by PKS Consulting for nearby cities.
Los Angeles, which did not make the list, filled only 65.4 percent of its rooms during 2010 and hoped to hit 68.7 in 2011.
Long Beach only racked up 63.1 percent occupancy in 2010 with projections for a 3 percent bump the following year, despite its beachside location.
“We live and work in a beautiful destination, and we’re all very fortunate for that,” said Kelly Nagle, spokesperson for the Convention and Visitors Bureau. “Others see value in the location and are very willing to pay for that.”
If $287 is a little bit above your price range, don’t worry.
The survey compared every destination town in the United States with a minimum of 10 regular hotels. It looked for the cheapest available double room at establishments with two stars and above during four-day stretches in June, July and August.
Cheaphotels.com staff only looked at hotels within a mile of either the beach or Downtown of each city included.
Other hotels that don’t fit into that strict geographic range like the Comfort Inn or Santa Monica Pico Travel Lodge hit in the middle of the price range, coming in at $179 and $128 per night, respectively, Nagle said.
A bit further up the price range were Best Western Gateway at $239 per night and The Ambrose at $245 a night.
No matter where travelers choose to spend the night in Santa Monica, they’re never far from the ocean views on which others place such a high premium, Nagle said.
“The total destination, as a whole, is only 8.3 square miles,” she said. “Even if you are in the hotels a little further on the east end, you’re not going to have a lesser experience.”
According to a report by the bureau, over 6.7 million people visited Santa Monica in 2011. While they were here, they spent $1.39 million, a 20 percent boost over 2009.
The increased spending created 1,700 new jobs in or around the local hospitality industry, and helped fill public coffers as purchases and hotel stays began pumping extra tax dollars into the General Fund, which covers essential services like police and fire.

ashley@smdp.com