Located about halfway between Los Angeles and San Diego, Laguna Beach is a quaint, picturesque community that I wasn’t really all that familiar with before my arrival. It was the stomping grounds for the kids of the MTV show Laguna Beach apparently, but I had never watched the series. (Something tells me I’m not missing much.) So when my husband and I drove along the Pacific Coast Highway through town, on our way to the Montage Laguna Beach, I took in the ocean views and the edgy, artsy culture of the shops, cafes and galleries that line the main drag.
Laguna Beach, as you might expect, is an affluent part of California and is also an artist community. It’s home to the Laguna College of Art & Design as well as a variety of arts and music festivals that encourage and celebrate the arts. It was no surprise then to see the works of local artists gracing the walls of the impressive Montage Laguna Beach when we arrived.
I’d heard that Montage hotels were off the hook, which set the standard pretty high.
Why to stay here: I’d heard from a friend that Montage hotels were off the hook, which set the standard pretty high. The Montage Laguna Beach and its staff more than lived up to expectation. When my husband Johnny Jet and I checked in, we were escorted to our room, down a long and winding hallway. Our room was butter yellow and sunny, with French doors that opened on to a balcony that provided a spot to sit, put your feet up and contemplate life while enjoying panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean. The large marble bathroom had an oversized tub, a separate stand-up shower and luxurious Antica Farmacista toiletries. I loved the extra-large bathroom vanity with his and hers sinks and lots of space to spread out.
A superior food experience: The restaurants at the Montage Laguna Beach served up some of the best food I’ve ever had in my life. That’s not overstating the truth. The food was incredible. Breakfast at The Loft, the hotel’s all-day dining restaurant, starts with a complimentary slice of warm banana bread. I consider banana bread my own personal specialty (just ask my husband; he says mine is top-notch.) But obviously mine doesn’t hold a candle to this. It’s a lovely and tasty touch to start your morning, while you’re perusing the menu. At lunch, I sampled the lobster salad at the Mosaic Bar & Grille, the place to enjoy poolside dining. At $36, this salad was definitely not cheap but it was a flavour experience: fresh lobster, mango, avocado and grapefruit tossed on a bed of leafy greens nearly made my taste buds explode. For dinner, we headed to Studio for a fine dining experience. Here, chef Craig Strong serves up modern French cuisine with California influences. To try a little of everything on offer, we ordered the chef’s tasting menu. With decadent choices like truffle ravioli and scallops, each dish was better than the last. Guests are sent home with a lovely package containing a delicious loaf of ginger spiced bread for breakfast the next morning. Dining here is definitely pricey but worth it for every mouthwatering morsel.
Location, location, location: My husband and I drove to Laguna Beach from LA. The drive took about an hour to get there and as we approached the hotel along a road hugging the Pacific Ocean, I felt myself starting to relax. Away from the traffic and the noise of a big city, Laguna Beach seemed to have an air of tranquility about it. From the hotel itself, guests can walk straight down to the beach but be careful. The steps down to the beach are many and steep but there’s a ramp so take that if you need to. (I had injured my knee prior to my arrival at the hotel so I had to take it slow.) The beach directly in front of the hotel is called Treasure Island and it’s got soft, white, sink-your-toes-in-it sand. There are tide pools right there as well, where you can see beautiful marine life like sea urchins, starfish, sea anemones, mussels and more. Be sure to walk carefully and not touch or hurt anything. It’s a protected area with Marine Protection Officers keeping watch. It’s fun, educational and especially great for kids.
Get relaxed: The Spa Montage is part of a 20,000 square-foot facility and has 21 treatment rooms. There’s a studio for yoga and aerobics classes, a lap pool and a state-of-the-art fitness facility. It’s also home to a full-service salon run by Kim Vo, who Vogue declared ‘the best blonder in the business’ – so if it’s time for a hair appointment, Kim’s your guy.
The Montage Laguna Beach was a luxurious weekend getaway. While at dinner at Loft on our last night, we spotted Jenna Elfman with her husband. A quick check on Twitter confirmed that they were there to celebrate their 18th wedding anniversary. It’s the perfect romantic escape – maybe my husband and I will do the same. But not for our 18th anniversary. I can’t wait that long. I’m thinking next year!