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Japanese luxury hotel in Malibu

Nobu hotel open its first ryokan-branded luxury hotel in Malibu, offering a slice of Japan within easy reach of LA, writes Natasha Dragun.

A 50-kilometre drive west of Los Angeles, the city of Malibu is dripping with celebrity homes overlooking palm-studded beaches. It’s quintessential California. But the moment you step inside new Nobu Ryokan, you’re transported to an inn in Kyoto.


Luxury hotel in Malibu sunset deck

Image © Barbara Kraft Photography

The first ryokan-style Nobu hotel

While Nobu Hospitality – co-owned by chef Nobu Matsuhisa, Robert De Niro, Meir Teper and James Packer – has a number of hotel and restaurant investments around the world, the 16-suite Malibu property is the first with the ‘Ryokan’ label. And unlike the rest of California, you come here not to be seen. (Fittingly, the low-slung building is a remodel of the 1950s Casa Malibu Inn, also a hideout for the rich and famous.)

There’s no lobby; staff greet you at a prearranged time, leading you past pieces of George Nakashima furniture (custom made), and through a Zenlike courtyard of stone footpaths and waterfalls, palms and trumpet vines. It’s a calming welcome to the luxe, individually designed rooms, five of them right on the high-tide line. Make note, this exclusive stretch is known as Billionaire’s Beach for good reason.

Luxury hotel in Malibu ocean view room

Image © Barbara Kraft Photography

Tones of traditional zen

While rooms are unique in layout, there are common themes: bathrooms are styled on Japanese onsen, with natural light, Jerusalem limestone, handmade teak soaking tubs and open showers; niceties include bamboo-fabric towels, custom linen yukatas (robes) and Toto toilets. There are closet doors resembling shoji screens, suede walls and platform Ploh featherbeds wrapped in 800-thread count Anichini Italian sheets. There might be an open fireplace, paper lanterns or wraparound balcony.

The Zen room doesn’t have views of the ocean, but it does come with a private meditation garden and tatami mat seating, and then there’s the Rockstar room, with an outdoor Japanese soaking tub where you can ogle Marina Del Rey, or dolphins and whales. The Yashinoki Suite takes things up a notch with Lorna Piana cashmere robes, plus a mini-bar stocked with Matsuhisa wines, Nobu sake and premixed cocktails.

While you can order room service and dishes from surrounding restaurants, there’s no on-site restaurant, but who needs that when you have priority seating at the adjacent Nobu Malibu restaurant?

Luxury hotel in Malibu garden fireplace

All Images © Barbara Kraft Photography

This article appeared in volume 29 of Signature Luxury Travel & Style. To subscribe to the latest issue, click here.