Historic Malibu Rivera Motel transformed into the more upscale Hotel June

The mid-century style Malibu Rivera Motel was built at 28920 Pacific Coast Highway in 1949 by artsy newlywed couple Wayne and Helen Wilcox when there was almost nothing else on Point Dume. It was part of a wave of motels built in Malibu in the late 1940s and early 1950s; and was painted pink.

The couple lived on the property even after having two children, using rooms 1, 2, and 3 as the family residence. In the early 1950s, Wayne took up photography and started a side business in portraits named Wayne Wilcox Studios that lasted until 1994. A number of Malibu residents who got married during those years had wedding portraits done by him. 

Wilcox also photographed local landscapes as a hobby. One of his photos of the Point Dume area hangs in the Bank of America building on Malibu Road, and was published in The Malibu Times in its 21st anniversary edition in 1967. About a dozen of his images are preserved in the Pepperdine Libraries Digital Collection.

Members of the Wilcox family continued to own and operate the motel up until 2015 — most likely making it one of longest-held family-owned businesses ever to exist in Malibu. Gary Wilcox, one of two sons of the original owners, managed the business from 2005 to 2015 after retiring as a boat captain; but found there was just too much deferred maintenance by that time. He sold it to new owners — Shaun Gilbert, Sam Shendow and Reem Al-Zahawi — that promised to renovate the property and keep the Wilcox family legacy alive.

“What I have known my whole life as the Malibu Riviera Motel, which is where I was born, is now back, and better than ever as Hotel June,” Gary wrote on social media recently. “It features all of my Dad’s work in photography from the 1950s. When I sold the motel in 2015, [new owner] Shaun, on a handshake, agreed to bring the magic of Malibu in the 1960s back to the motel, and has done so with flying colors. I am so proud of what Shaun has done for my family’s legacy. It’s a whole new awakening for me, and a lot of wonderful history for all to enjoy.”

Part of the lore of the hotel is the fact that music legend Bob Dylan resided there while going through a divorce from his first wife. During his stays, he wrote all the songs for what some critics consider his greatest album: “Blood on the Tracks,” which came out in 1975. He always stayed in room 13 — the very end of the 13-room hotel.

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“Legend has it that Bob Dylan was a little promiscuous and his wife allowed most of his transgressions to go unseen, but she drew the line when he brought his mistress home for breakfast,” Gilbert told Rolling Stone magazine recently. “That’s when she kicked him out of the house, and he came down [to the motel]. He knew the managers at the time and it was a private space where he could relax into the quiet and seclusion.”

Gary Wilcox confirmed in a phone interview that Dylan’s house on Point Dume, which he still owns, was nearby; and he worked security for him on that property for a couple of years whenever he was home from the Coast Guard while stationed at Channel Islands. He remembered seeing Dylan play his famous tune “Mr. Tambourine Man” there.

The motel was also said to have hosted the likes of James Dean and Marilyn Monroe. 

The new owners completed an extensive renovation of the property from 2016 to 2018, which they re-christened the Native Hotel. The mid-century design was preserved, and the rooms updated with king-size beds, air-conditioning and Wi-Fi. 

The hotel wasn’t open for long before the Woolsey Fire of November 2018 caused extensive damage to it, causing it to close again for repairs. It re-opened in late 2021 under yet another name — Hotel June. But some changes weren’t finished until May 2022, including the new heated pool that replaced a funky hot tub.

Breakfast and takeaway food items are available for guests daily. All rooms include private patios with hammocks; and historic photos of Malibu taken by original owner Wayne Wilcox are displayed throughout the hotel.

“It’s important to us that people understand how much history the property has and how much love and thoughtful attention has gone into preserving not only the original building the Wilcoxes created, but also the dream their family had — sharing this incredibly special part of the world with like-minded travelers,” Shendow told Architectural Digest in July.

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