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Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel

Mediterranean splendor in The O.C.

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Set like a wedding cake on cliffs high above crashing Pacific waves, this snow-white, Mediterranean-style Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel in Dana Point is the kind of place where you load up on flowing cotton resort wear so you can look and feel as beautiful as your surroundings. Every view from this Orange County property looks movie-set perfect, every garden perfectly tended, every staff person smiling. Admittedly, it’s pretty easy to smile here. Private balconies off the suites let you take in sweeping ocean views, while marble bathrooms and plush beds definitely make you feel spoiled. (Even the views from the immaculate onsite Fitness Center are stunning!)

But with a long stretch of beach fronting the hotel, tennis courts, and two outdoor pools, it’s tough to stay inside for very long. Ever wanted to surf? This is the place: the O.C.’s world-class waves are right in front of you, and lessons with local instructors will get you out on the waves no matter what your experience level is. The hotel’s Eco-Adventure Center is dedicated to helping guests get the most from everything the spectacular setting has to offer. Book such activities as stand-up paddle boarding in Dana Point Harbor, beach banzai body boarding, or a garden tour to learn about local flora and fauna and sustainable gardening practices. Seaside hikes along the windswept oceanfront trails, led by a marine biologist or naturalist from the center, can enhance an already exhilarating outdoor experience with an educational element as you learn about tide pools and whales.

Afterward, indulge in a sea-inspired treatment at the spa, or spend a day on the links: no fewer than five world-class golf courses are located nearby, including Monarch Beach Golf Links, which is among the few ocean courses in Southern California.

Dine on Pan-Latin coastal cuisine at Raya, celebrated chef Richard Sandoval’s oceanfront restaurant. Or duck into clubby Enosteak for succulent basted lamb chops and other meats sourced from California farms. And of course, this being Southern California, poolside dining is often an option; do it here in style at The Dana Pool Café.

With bluffside ceremony locations and elegant ballrooms, the Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel also makes for an exceptional destination wedding location.  

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