I have one main requirement for a truly wonderful oceanfront hotel experience. That requirement is to be able to hear the sound of the ocean from my room. A recent stay at the amazing Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel delivered just that, as I was able to drift off to sleep with the sound of waves crashing on the beach in the background. Combine that proximity to the ocean, with Ritz-Carlton’s legendary service and luxury and you have a perfect destination for a weekend getaway from Los Angeles
The hotel is perfectly placed on a bluff, 150 feet above Dana Point’s Salt Creek Beach. It sits perfectly at the center of a wide bay, offering an almost 180 degree view of the coastline and ocean. It really is a staggeringly beautiful view and I feel it competes with any coastline view around the world. Many of the hotel’s rooms and suites offer this view from their windows, balconies and patios.
I was in what the hotel calls a Fireside Oceanfront King Room, which had that amazing view as its best feature. The room had a full oceanfront view, but keep in mind the hotel is on a bluff 150 feet up from the beach, so you’re not “on the sand”. There was a spacious patio, reached via french doors, featuring a gas firepit. There were two chairs and a table on the patio and I must admit, it was a great place to share a glass of wine as the sun sent down and a great place to enjoy breakfast as the sun was just rising.
The room itself was what I would call standard size for a luxury hotel. Furnishings were “contemporary luxury” and I think they worked well in the beach setting. The bathroom was something out of a palace, all marble and mirrors, with those lovely high-end fixtures you find in all Ritz-Carlton hotels. Amenities included WiFi, a 42″ LED HDTV, iPhone dock and all the usual bells and whistles luxury travelers expect. I loved the Egyptian cotton linens and also enjoyed the twice-daily housekeeping service.
The Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel features two main restaurants, the Pan-Latin Raya and the steak-centric enoSTEAK. Their oceanfront lounge, 180blu combines the hotel’s amazing coastline view with great drinks, live music and small plates from Raya. I had a wonderful dinner at Raya which included a tasting menu. A highlight was the butternut squash soup, with hibiscus poached pear, candied pecans and a cheese mousse made from queso de valdeon, just a delicious combination of unique flavors. For my main course I had the Korean BBQ Jidori chicken breast, served with basmati rice, roasted corn and some chayote squash. The dish was completed with epazote (a Mexican herb) and a cilantro pistu sauce. It’s one of those dishes that jumps off the menu at you and I knew I needed to order it as soon as I saw it. It lived up to the hype and was as delicious and spicy as it sounds.
Things to see and do
The Dana Point area is a wonderful place to spend time because while a great resort, it’s also where real people live and work. Visitors have the standard tourist offerings but there are also great restaurants, shops and real life only a few minutes from the hotel. The Ritz-Carlton offers a full “ecoadventure center” which features activities in harmony with the environment and ecology of the region. The program offers some creative fun for both adults and children, with things from whale watching to cooking classes using the resort’s organic garden. The Dana Point area is famous for whale watching, and I do recommend taking one of the local day trips by boat. Dana Wharf is the main provider in the local harbor, offering whale watching cruises, as well as fishing trips and even sunset wine cruises.
The RItz-Carlton Laguna Niguel (One Ritz-Carlton Drive, Dana Point, CA) is about an hour (or two depending on traffic) from downtown Los Angeles, right off the 5 freeway.
Follow me on Twitter – @luxuryfred
(This article originally appeared on Yahoo! Voices in 2014)