By Andrew Sessa. Photos: Courtesy Nobu Ryokan Malibu.
Celebs, in fact, are very much involved with this 16-room hotel, which sits on Carbon Beach, one of the area’s most exclusive and least crowded stretches of sand. Joining Japanese sushi chef Nobu Matsuhisa in his hotel ventures are actor Robert De Niro and Hollywood producer Meir Teper, with Aussie businessman James Packer as the fourth partner. Oracle founder Larry Ellison, whose home is also on Carbon (known as Billionaire’s Beach), owns the hotel itself.
Formerly the Casa Malibu, the hotel has received a new lease on life, thanks to a redo led by Studio PCH architects, who reimagined the midcentury motel as a Japanese ryokan, traditional inns known for their natural hot spring–fed baths and familial hospitality. “We want guests to feel comfortable and relaxed here,” says general manager Janelle Eng, whose resume includes long stretches with Four Seasons and Auberge. As soon as you step within the confines of the horseshoe-shaped building, she says, “you can’t hear the Pacific Coast Highway outside at all. You feel like you’re in a Japanese garden.”
The designers individually decorated each of the rooms; 11 with terraces and water views, five with private garden patios. Among the standouts: an Ocean King room on a second-story corner with a wall of west- and south-facing windows that slide open, and a teak Japanese soaking tub on the private balcony; the beachfront Nobu Suite, with a living room, two fireplaces, and a deck set with chaises and a dining table for two; and the Zen garden room, fully decked out with tatami mats and Japanese stonework, and, on its patio, black rocks shipped from Japan.
You can’t hear the Pacific Coast Highway outside at all. You feel like you’re in a Japanese garden.
Every room telegraphs a feeling of calm, ordered minimalism, and a connection to nature, with simple furnishings and décor done largely in teak with bronze accents. Jerusalem limestone covers the bathrooms, which nearly all have skylight-lit teak soaking tubs and open showers that drain right through the wood flooring.
There’s no on-site restaurant, but guests receive privileged access to the Malibu outpost of Nobu’s eponymous restaurant just next door. While others have to wait to book a table until 30 days before they plan to dine there, guests of the ryokan can secure seats during their stays as soon as they’ve reserved a room—even if it’s months in advance.
“You go to Nobu’s restaurant and Soho House to see and be seen—but you come to the ryokan to not be seen,” says Eng, referring to the branch of the beloved British club that opened in Malibu last year. “It’s a little protected hideaway.” So much so that you can’t even book directly online, but must submit an inquiry on the hotel’s website.
“It feels like finding a Buddhist temple in the middle of bustling Kathmandu,” says Eng. “It’s that kind of serenity.”
This story originally appeared on Conde Nast Traveler.
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