Living like a Rock Star in Malibu
The Nobu Ryokan hotel serves up low-key luxury on one of the country’s most exclusive beaches
Photos by Barbara Kraft
After my long flight from the East Coast and traffic-choked drive from the airport, entering the Nobu Ryokan hotel on Malibu’s most exclusive stretch of beach was an almost spiritual experience. And after spending two nights there recently, I realized that’s probably exactly what Oracle Corporation co-founder Larry Ellison had in mind when he bought and started transforming the property that was the site of a 1950s vintage motel on Carbon Beach way back in 2007.
The serenity, Japanese elegance, impeccable service, and most of all, privacy of this beachfront escape are striking because it’s so close—yet worlds away—from the multi-lane mania of the Pacific Coast Highway. Warm feelings of escape began when General Manager Janelle Eng welcomed me at the door. But that was nothing compared to the feeling of peace, awe, and ease I experienced when she showed me to my large room on the second floor.
The entire hotel is inspired by the minimalist aesthetic of a traditional Japanese ryokan (inn) and built to the highest possible standards. Each of Nobu Ryokan’s 16 rooms—filled with copious amounts of teak woodwork, bronze fixtures, limestone, and custom-built furnishings—provides a unique, sensational experience.
High-profile guests are encouraged to feel completely at ease on the lavishly built teak patio near the central courtyard overlooking the ocean and they never have to worry about privacy because the hotel and patio are open only to guests.
First-floor garden rooms blur the line between indoors and out with private patio spaces, outdoor fireplaces, lush gardens, and soothing stones imported from Japan. You can’t get any closer to the ocean than the beachfront rooms, which feature king beds, enormous flat-screen TVs, and large private decks that are literally built over Malibu beach. All the bathrooms are filled with natural light and are equipped with gorgeous, handmade teak soaking tubs (a ryokan hallmark), limestone showers, bath products that even the most discerning guest will enjoy, and high-tech, hands-free electronic toilets that are smarter than you can imagine.
For me, nothing compares with the view from my second-floor ocean room. Lots of exclusive “oceanfront” rooms have what I’d call a two-dimensional view: essentially limited by the rectangle you see beyond sliding glass doors or from a balcony. But the room I was lucky enough to call home had large glass walls on two perpendicular sides that allowed me to ponder the waves breaking on the beach and see the entire coastline all the way up to Santa Monica and beyond without even getting out of bed. Of course, the view from the private wraparound deck was better, but the view from the deck’s teak soaking tub was simply the best. It’s the only room with an outdoor soaking tub, and that’s why it’s unofficially called the “rock star” room.
But the simple truth is every guest is treated like a rock star. Janelle and her staff do more than just provide good service. They’re warm and friendly. They truly understand what their high-profile guests need (including strict privacy) and pride themselves in being able to deliver whatever is desired by those who can afford rates starting at $2,000 per night with a two-night minimum. Of course that means everything from the valet parking to the mini bar to use of the well-equipped fitness room is included.
While the hotel does not have a full kitchen, it does offer an extensive menu that’s available from neighboring Nobu Malibu restaurant, including the Nobu French toast with caramelized bananas for breakfast that simply should not be missed. Come to think of it, the Nobu Ryokan Malibu experience is actually more exclusive than it costs.
No other hotel in Malibu combines the high-octane star power of the Soho House Malibu (next door) and VIP access to the culinary excellence of the Nobu resturant (next to the Soho House profiled on page 48) with exclusive access to the most exclusive beach in Malibu. The fact that this oasis of calm and tranquility is so close to the moving and shaking of Hollywood makes it hard for guests to leave. In fact, one recent guest got all the way out to the FBO in Santa Monica and was about to board her private plane before changing her mind and returning to stay for several more nights.
So consider yourselves warned. The Nobu Ryokan Malibu could be hazardous to the stress in your life.
For more information, visit noburyokanmalibu.com.