In need of a vacation? Or how about just a mental break? While many might be quick to associate Laguna Beach with MTV’s reality (or was it scripted … ) show of the same name, in actual reality Laguna Beach is a shorefront California gem that’s sure to top any explorer’s short list.
It’s a town worthy of everything from a road-trip pitstop to a week-long getaway, and recently Darling had the opportunity to spend a few days south of LA discovering Laguna’s Surf & Sand Resort, one of the few hotels in the entire state that’s technically situated right on the beach.
So, how to know if this place is for you?
On first glance, pulling into the resort’s valet-only driveway might be intimidating — especially if you aren’t one of the Corvette driving locals simply stopping by for lunch. Yet, within the time it takes to hide the gas receipts and leftover gum wrappers cluttering your cup holder, a brightly smiling gentleman opens your door and asks for your name.
Before you know it, you’re welcomed up the front steps without a second thought as to whether your luggage or sandals are fancy enough. The breezily decorated, open-aired lobby gently reminds you: You’re on beach time now.
After a quick minute at the front desk, you’re given directions to your room. Brace yourself before entering, because upon opening the door you’ll be hit with perhaps the best thing (among many) that this hotel has to offer.
Every guest room at the Surf & Sand features a balcony that opens up to sweeping views of the Pacific. Since so many of us are, if you’re searching for a reminder of something bigger than yourself — something grand, epic and awe-inspiringly beautiful — let the salt air fill your lungs while your eyes scan the waves for your favorite shade of blue.
If you’re lucky enough to snag a corner room, you’ll seem to hover over almost 360 degrees of beach, making a night here more than just a place to rest your head. It’s a cozy, calming oasis fine-tuned to provide any amenity you might need. Even bedside earplugs, just in case the waves are a bit too close to fall asleep soundly.
… let the salt air fill your lungs while your eyes scan the waves for your favorite shade of blue.
Before turning in at night, you’ll have the option of ordering room service ahead of time. Just fill out the menu and leave it outside your door before 2am. If you’re too beat to think about food, call down to Splashes in the morning. The resort’s in-house restaurant offers everything from red velvet pancakes (that are surprisingly not too sweet) to poached eggs with wild mushrooms (that sit on top of a delicious mound of potato, white bean and scallion).
You’ll want to be sure to eat something, though, before you explore the second best thing about this hotel.
Aquaterra is Surf & Sand’s on-property relaxation station, where your comfort is made their number one aim. Here you can schedule anything from an after-hours bridal or birthday party package to an antioxidant-packed facial and flower petal body scrub. Of particular note is the hair and scalp massage — even the most distressed tresses will benefit from this restorative blend of argan and ylang ylang oils.
You’re welcome to spend an hour (or even a full day) in the spa after you’ve indulged in a treatment, either soaking in the outdoor jacuzzi, reading on the private patio or catching a few minutes in the eucalyptus steam room. Robes, sandals and a locker are provided, along with chilled iced tea, lemon water and a few small bites.
Once you’re ready to cool off, head over to the pool for a dip on the ocean-facing deck. Cushioned loungers, both in the shade and sun, make it easy to curl up for rest of the afternoon sipping coconut water and lime. The layout is great for both small and large parties; plan for a one-on-one chat with your best friend or casual conversations with new ones.
If you’re feeling the salt water’s call, descend the nearby stairs for direct access to the beach. From there you can take off to explore the rest of your surroundings.
You can always discover Laguna Beach by car, but when staying at this hotel you’re also within walking distance of a dozen different finds. Take the crosswalk over to The Soul Project, a haven for super soft tees, beach apparel, and Etsy-like lotions, dainty necklaces and boutique candles. If you’re feeling crafty, you can even design your own tote bag in their art studio in back.
Then, as the sun starts to set, head down the street to Sapphire. Their outdoor patio provides a perfect location for people watching, Prosecco toasting and for soaking up the last little bit of the day’s rays. No matter the size of your appetite or your budget, you can find something to eat here. Appetizers are equal parts generous and delicious (definitely go for the goat cheese bruschetta), while entrées offer a sampling of many different regions and cultures.
Born in Iran and educated in Switzerland, Chef Azmin Ghahreman has lived and worked all over the world. His international-oriented style has enabled him to cook for more than 30 kings, presidents and heads of state, among them: President George W. Bush, President Bill Clinton and past prime ministers of Singapore, Thailand and Pakistan.
Check-out at the Surf & Sand is noon, but the front desk is happy to store your bags while you take advantage of one last lunch by the pool. While a stay in Laguna does come with a heftier price tag than other cities, you’re certainly not made to feel like you must spend a lot in order to be treated well here. If you’re looking for a classy bachelorette weekend, a romantic date night, or even a celebratory “treat-yourself” trip, it’s as simple as leaving the hills behind and heading back to Laguna Beach.
Do you have a favorite California beach city?
A humble thank you to the Surf & Sand Resort, as well as J Public Relations, for sponsoring this experience. All thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.
Images via Nicole Ziza Bauer