This New Hotel Is a Hidden Gem — and Only 90 Minutes From LA

Get to know this oceanfront getaway

March 24, 2023 6:15 am
Zachari Dunes hotel
Your oasis awaits
Claire Marshall (C&RC)

Ask a snob, and they’ll say there’s nothing to see between Malibu and Montecito, the twin beacons of wealth that have long lorded over the rest of the West Coast. But they aren’t the only places to see the ocean or spend the weekend along this beautiful stretch of beach. Consider, if you will, Oxnard, a long-disparaged agricultural hub that just might be the best place in California to book an oceanfront suite, thanks to the opening of the brand-new Zachari Dunes hotel, an all-suites property located right on Mandalay Bay. If you’re a points fiend, this guesthouse falls under Hilton’s Curio Collection umbrella, but the convenience of racking up points is exactly where any corporate vibes end. 

A former Embassy Suites property, the hotel has a heated pool and enormous jacuzzi interspersed with rock and water features, a selling point for both families and couples. A gated path to the beach is about a two-minute walk from most of the rooms. If that’s not enough of a sell, here are a few more reasons Zachari Dunes is worth the 90-minute drive from L.A.

All Suites With Ocean Views

Though it’s not a new build, this property was overhauled following its life as an Embassy Suites, meaning there are no rooms without a large, separate seating area in addition to the bedroom. This makes everything easier for friend trips, families, people traveling with pets or couples who need more space. Basically, these rooms are double the size of a normal hotel room, without any huge price increase. During my recent visit, we stayed in the Presidential Suite, which has two separate bedrooms, each with ensuite bathrooms; a living and dining area; a kitchenette; two oceanfront balconies; and a third bathroom/powder room.

The Hotel Restaurant Is the Best in Town

According to the hotel, nearly half of the diners at on-site restaurant Ox & Ocean are locals, which is always a positive sign. Helmed by executive chef Damien Giliberti, the restaurant draws on the region’s produce and seafood, featuring dishes like halibut with Brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes and preserved lemon hollandaise. As Oxnard is a haven for strawberry growing, there’s also a stellar fried strawberry hand pie and a strawberry smoothie for breakfast. If you venture off-site, nearby Waterside is the perfect spot to take in the sunset alongside bar snacks and drinks. Classics like caprese, short rib with risotto and grilled salmon can take a happy hour right into dinner, if you’re so inclined. 

Free Gear Rentals, Fitness and Excellent Amenities

At a quaint little shop called Henry’s Sundries — named in honor of Oxnard’s founder, Henry Oxnard — guests can pick up everything from forgotten sunscreen to late-night snacks, as well as rent all manner of water sports equipment. Surf boards, boogie boards, longboards, wetsuits and paddle boards are just some examples of what’s on offer, with two hours complimentary use for every room, every day. You can also rent a record player and selection of vinyl, as well as yoga mats for practicing around the grounds, in your room or on the sand. Sunrise yoga is taught on the beach when weather permits, and the fitness center is complete with Pelotons and bike rentals provided by a third-party vendor. Dive is a game lounge with TVs and a full-service bar, in case of rainy days or March Madness emergencies.

There are two main entrances to Oxnard public beach, and they happen to flank the hotel by several blocks on either side. This means the bulk of beachgoers in the area tend to stay near those entrances, leaving a wide swath of uninterrupted, undisturbed, powdery sand right in front of the hotel. Technically, this isn’t a private beachfront for Zachari Dunes, but it functions like one. Head out for an early morning stroll or surf, or just lay out on the sand and soak in the rays and soothing sounds of pretty substantial waves. If sand isn’t your thing, the pool area is massive and cabanas are available for rent, though beach chairs serve just as well. Pack a few books and strong sunscreen, and turn this unknown gem into your new beach escape.


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