Laguna Beach is not as high-profile as some other Southern California locations. There’s nothing “Hollywood” about it and it lacks the family theme-park attractions of San Diego. What it does have is an ambiance of the arts in full bloom, evident as soon as you turn west off Interstate 405 and begin noticing the array of artists’ studios and galleries, sophisticated restaurants and boutique shops lining Laguna Beach’s main street, which follows the coastline of the Pacific Ocean. Laguna Beach is a great place to relax and reconnect, as well as being ideally situated as a base for day trips to Los Angeles and San Diego.
An amazing view can be experienced in an ocean-facing room at Surf & Sand Resort.
Laguna Beach is famous for an annual artistic event called Pageant of the Masters. Since 1878, the town has been an artists’ colony. Tourists helped support the artists, and the community established the Laguna Art Association to promote their work. Things were rolling along pretty well until the Great Depression when, in a bid to keep paying the bills, the art community created a summer arts festival, the Laguna Beach Festival of Arts. The hit of the festival was the Living Pictures show created by artist and vaudevillian Lolita Perine. She dressed local residents in costume and seated them behind a makeshift frame to create living tableaus. This concept was later refined as the Pageant of the Masters and proved such a success that it’s going on to this day. This year’s Pageant takes its title and theme from Shakespeare's line, “All the World’s a Stage.” The show will offer 90 minutes of faithful art recreations of classical and contemporary works with real people posing to look exactly like their counterparts in the original paintings. The Pageant of the Masters will be performed in Laguna Beach in an outdoor amphitheater nightly from July 9 through August 30. Tickets for “All the World’s a Stage” are priced from $20 to $100. For further information, call 800-487-3378 or visit www.lagunafestivalofarts.com.
Laguna Beach Resorts
One of the charms of the Surf & Sand Resort is its amazing proximity to the ocean—so close that some people prefer rooms on the lower floors, just so they can hear the sound of the waves at night. The resort sits 20 feet from the waters of the Pacific and all 165 rooms have a view of the ocean from private balconies.
Dining at night in the property’s Splashes Restaurant is a uniquely atmospheric experience. Although the restaurant is hip and stylish, there’s also a nostalgic feeling to the setting—it’s easy to imagine Robert Mitchum and Susan Hayward in a film noir from the 1950s, dining at one of the window tables.
A balcony at Surf & Sand Resort.
The Aquaterra Spa has a full menu of treatments. Couples who want to explore their own creativity can try the Artistic Ritual. They’ll begin with a white French clay-mud wrap and then are given a palette of colored mud to paint each other—green seaweed, red clay and black Dead Sea chamomile. This is followed by a 20-minute bath for two and ends with a 50-minute, side-by-side Aquaterra Signature Massage. Spa reservations can be made by contacting Debra Klingensmith, the spa director, at 949-376-2772 or [email protected].
In conjunction with the Pageant of the Masters, Surf & Sand Resort is offering the two-night “Art of Relaxation” package. The package is priced from $1,200 and includes deluxe accommodations for two nights in an oceanview room with private balcony, two tickets to a night at the Pageant of the Masters, transportation to and from the resort and a special “Chef’s Palette Pleasure” two-course meal that includes two appetizers and a combination of three selected entrées. The package is available from July 9-August 30, Sundays through Thursdays only. To book the package, call 888-869-9299.
The 165-room Surf & Sand Resort is owned by JC Resorts and is a member of Preferred Hotels and Resorts Worldwide. The VIP contact for the resort is Jodi Vogt, transient sales coordinator ([email protected], 858-675-8533).
The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel has a commanding position atop a 150-foot bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. This provides 30 percent of the hotel’s rooms with views of the ocean, including 13 Ocean View Suites. The four-story, 396-room property is adjacent to an 18-hole golf course designed by Robert Trent Jones, Jr., making it a good choice for duffers. The hotel also has a two-story fitness center with panoramic ocean views and a spa with 11 treatment rooms. For advance reservations, contact Pamela Bower, spa manager, at 949-240-2000, ext. 5749, or [email protected].
The restaurant at Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel overlooks the Pacific Ocean.
The Ritz-Carlton Club on the fourth floor offers guests an elevated level of service and amenities. Club guests receive complimentary local transportation, full use of spa facilities and preferred appointment times, enrollment for children in the Ritz Kids program, pressing of up to two items per day, preferred seating in Restaurant 162´ and a continental breakfast daily. A concierge staff is available to assist with details and The Club Lounge provides light meals and drinks throughout the day. Because of its “hotel within a hotel” ambiance, The Ritz-Carlton Club is popular with honeymooners. The Club’s Oceanfront Rooms are the most sought after. These are even numbers 4004 through 4020. Travel agents can reach out to Laura Orfield, director of sales, leisure and business travel (949-489-5838, [email protected]).
Last year saw the resort’s opening of ENO, a 36-seat wine-, cheese- and chocolate-tasting room that offers flights of wines, as well as wines by the glass. ENO has more than 500 wines, 50 cheeses and a selection of chocolates from around the world. The resort offers an overnight “Reconnect” package that along with room accommodations and special amenities, includes a 90-minute private session with ENO Sommelier Holly Smith, a flight of five wines with a personalized cheese and chocolate pairing by the chef and a gourmet wine amenity.
Guests can also sign up for surfing lessons at the Hawaiian Surfing Experience. Lessons start at $150 per person for a 90-minute private session. The location for the lessons is based on the experience of the surfer and range from the beach in Dana Point (not for beginners) to San Clemente. Reservations for daily lessons can be arranged through the resort’s concierge and require 24-hour advance notice. Call 949-240-2000, ext. 5360.
The 30-acre Montage Laguna Beach is on a coastal bluff overlooking the Pacific. The 250-room, craftsman-style resort features beachfront accommodations, with every room having ocean views. If your clients want to be close to the ocean, book them into the property’s Bungalow Suites which feature fireplaces, walk-in closets and 1-1/2 baths. The Bungalow Suites are a good bet for guests on extended stays.
Guest rooms located on the north side of the hotel have the best view of Santa Catalina Island and the sunset, while Surf View Suites have the best view of the waves crashing against the shore. The resort has 30 connecting rooms; rooms located near the pool and on the ground floor are convenient for families.
Agents with special requests can feel free to contact the hotel’s managing director, James Bermingham at 949-715-6000. The travel agent liaison is Hanae Kalland, leisure sales coordinator (949-715-6138, [email protected]).
The 20,000-square-foot spa has 20 treatment rooms and one suite. The most popular treatment is “Surrender,” which begins with a brief consultation to discuss lifestyle and guest needs. The therapist then recommends the ideal treatment or series of treatments to heal and address these needs. The Surrender experience can be booked for as little as two hours or as long as a full day. The spa director is Julie Raistrick; she can be contacted at [email protected] for advance reservations.
Montage Laguna Beach is a popular destination wedding site. The resort limits weddings to one per day so the couple can enjoy being the only bride and groom on property. Contact Jaime Snyder, wedding specialist (949-715-6113, [email protected]).
Restaurant reservations are recommended for The Loft and are required for Studio, which is presently featuring a Chef’s Table for up to 12 people in a private dining room with expansive, open-air windows offering views of the coastline, a stone fireplace and an exclusive insider look at Studio’s kitchen, where Executive Chef James Boyce prepares each dish.
Montage is also offering a special package called “Market to Plate with Chef Boyce.”
Guests get the chance to join Boyce for a fresh-from-the-farm culinary experience. After meeting Chef Boyce for coffee in the lobby to discuss their own favorite summer dishes, they set off with the chef to a local farmers’ market to get his personal tips on selecting produce. Back at the resort, they’ll prepare lunch side-by-side with Chef Boyce. Finally, guests will savor the fruits of their labors as they enjoy a multi-course lunch at Studio. From Market to Plate with Chef Boyce includes one night in oceanview accommodations, custom chef coats for two and valet parking. Pricing begins at $2,000 for two, for a maximum of up to six people. It is available Fridays through Sundays only and requires a 14-day advance reservation, payment in full seven days prior to arrival and is subject to availability.