I leave Hot 8 Yoga and console myself with a $14 Date Shake at Moon Juice, the most raved-about cold-pressed juice bar and ‘lunar apothecary’ of the moment. I’m eavesdropping gleefully as the post-workout, pre-work crowd hotly discuss their favourite brand of whey protein and enzyme supplement, which Pop Physique (an LA-born barre workout) instructor has the best playlist, and their new obsession with Shape House, an ‘urban sweat lodge’ where you’re swaddled in an infrared blanket and left to sweat for 50 minutes like a dumpling.
Walking down 2nd Street, every other person is carting a yoga mat; most are wearing neon New Balances. Because what Rodeo Drive is to designer boutiques, Santa Monica’s 2nd Street is to designer workouts. On the same strip, I pass Equinox (swanky gym), Orangetheory (high-tech quantified cardio) and Exhale (boutique fitness studio) all interspersed with paleo-friendly pit stops with names like ‘True Food Kitchen’ or ‘Kreation’. All the gyms are open 24 hours. This city never sleeps – not because it’s up all night partying, but because it’s up at 4:30am for kundalini yoga. “There’s a lot going on here between 5am and 6am,” says Adam Gillman, co-owner of Cycle House. “In West Hollywood, you don’t see that. Santa Monica is definitely a super-fit and active part of LA.”
It doesn’t take long for Santa Monica – a city of superlatives, where self-improvement is the meaning of life – to work its spell on me; before I know it I’m celebrating my final Cardio Barre class of the week with a kaletini (yes, that’s a gin cocktail with cold-pressed kale) at the glossy bar in Elovate, the vegan restaurant run by Roberto Martin, former personal vegan chef to Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi. It’s Friday night, my fellow drinkers and I are clad in workout gear, accessorised with a post-SoulCycle glow. Admittedly, it’s not any old workout gear; we’re talking Onzie’s brightly patterned harem style pants, Lululemon tops and swathes of Kit and Ace’s technical cashmere.
Santa Monica isn’t about deprivation; it’s about guilt-free gluttony and hangover hacks. Much like my kaletini, this city is a careful balance of health and hedonism. It’s as though every facet has been given a health twist. So when someone talks about “the best burger in town”, they mean Rawvolution’s raw vegan ‘burger’ with sprouted onion chia bread topped with coconut jerky strips. That Lycra-clad girl licking an ice-cream? She’s indulging in a Kippy’s vegan goji berry and coconut milk concoction. And at hipster bars such as The Misfit, locally brewed kombucha is on tap alongside craft beers.
In Santa Monica, you can have your cake and eat it – just as long as it’s made with agave and raw cacao. You can have a stressful job in tech and stay serene – if you make it to 6am yoga every morning. Here, women aren’t shamed for showing a little self obsession. I’d always assumed SoCal women were born with it. But a week in Santa Monica has taught me that California girls don’t have an unfair advantage, they have an attitude of serious self-investment. They’ll fill their wardrobe with bum-flattering $100 leggings and drink double-digit juices, but they’ll also spend $200 on botox or on eyelash extensions. Their glowing skin isn’t just from hot yoga and wheatgrass shots, it’s from high-tech electronic facials. Contrary to what we might think, health isn’t a birthright in California. It’s a passion.
Overlooking the pier, this beachfront luxe hotel offers up a full gym (with daily classes from core conditioning to spin), farm-to-table dining and eco-friendly spa treatments. Splash the extra cash to upgrade to a cabana room with a balcony fire pit.
Pulled up sore after all of that jumping and lunging? Their signature Beachcomber Massage features warm tiger clam shells infused with self-heating, mineral-rich kelp and seawater that melts muscle tension.
Similar to Uber, the rideshare app matches you with local drivers at the tap of a button. Handy for jumping from class to cafe without the seven-block slog.
Cassia is a casually cool spot for upscale French-Asian fare and seafood that won’t undo all that hard work. Head next door to Esters Wine Shop and Bar for a sneaky glass of bubbles.
Save a few bucks and sign up for the monthly membership for access to Santa Monica’s top studios. Our picks? Mighty Pilates, Pop Physique and Pilates Platinum.