Set like a wedding cake on cliffs high above the crashing Pacific waves, the snow-white, Mediterranean-style Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel in Dana Point is the kind of place where you feel the need to pack flowing cotton resort-wear so that you can look and feel as beautiful as your surroundings. Every view from this Orange County property looks film-set perfect, every garden perfectly tended, every staff member smiling. Admittedly, it’s pretty easy to smile here. The suites' private balconies let you take in the sweeping ocean views, while marble bathrooms and plush beds definitely make you feel spoilt. (Even the views from the immaculate on-site fitness centre are stunning!)
But with a long stretch of beach fronting the hotel, tennis courts, and two outdoor pools, it is tough to stay inside for very long. Ever wanted to try surfing? This is the place: the OC’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. The hotel’s Eco-Adventure Center is dedicated to helping guests get the most from everything the spectacular setting has to offer. Book activities such as stand-up paddle boarding in Dana Point Harbour, beach banzai body boarding, or a garden tour to learn about the local flora and fauna and sustainable gardening practices. Seaside walks along the windswept ocean-front paths, led by a marine biologist or naturalist from the centre, can enhance an already exhilarating outdoor experience with an educational element as you learn about the rockpools and whales.
Afterwards, 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 one of just a few ocean courses in Southern California.
Dine on Pan-Latin coastal cuisine at Raya, celebrated chef Richard Sandoval’s oceanfront restaurant. Or pop into sociable Enosteak for succulent basted lamb chops and other meats sourced from Californian 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 cliff-top ceremony locations and elegant ballrooms, the Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel also makes for an exceptional destination wedding location.
From board shorts to mouse ears to designer clothes, what you wear in this sun-splashed corner of the state says everything about how you like to play. Whether it’s surf-perfect beaches or celebrated theme parks, all framed by oceanfront towns dotted with luxury yachts, “The O.C.” stands out as one of California’s—make that the country’s—most iconic destinations.
“Surfing is like golf. . . it keeps knocking you down. But when you stay with it and catch that wave. . . magic.” --actor Dennis Quaid
Shop at spectacular South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa, or get the surfer look in Huntington Beach, aka Surf City, USA.
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