When it comes to planning romantic getaways (read: Valentine’s Day) or badly needed solo trips, most of us don’t realize how lucky we are.
While the rest of the world battles officious airport security lines, crowded planes and rental car hassles, we just saunter over to one of our world-class resort destinations and check in.
I mean, seriously, people, we can actually walk or take a trolley to FIVE world-renowned resorts – Surf and Sand Resort, Montage Laguna Beach, The Ranch Laguna Beach, as well as Dana Point’s Monarch Beach Resort and The Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel. Even our northern neighbor, the sprawling Pelican Hill Resort, is just a 10-minute jaunt from Laguna Beach.
And, if we don’t want the full-on luxe resort world, we have a host of fabulous boutique hotels to choose from, ranging from North Laguna’s Hotel Joaquin to South Laguna’s Casa Laguna.
I don’t think any of us take enough advantage of this neighborly luxury. We might join friends for drinks or have an occasional dinner, but when was the last time you stayed at one of these resorts?
A 25 Year Anniversary for Me
Last weekend, when I was removed from my beach cottage for cracked sewer pipe issues, I called the resort that has always held a special place in my heart – The Surf and Sand Resort.
Exactly 25 years ago (January 1995), I was introduced to The Surf & Sand by a (then) terrible fiancé. That New Year’s Day, I made two resolutions – the first to remove him (terrible fiancé) from my life, and the second – in sheer gratefulness to same fiancé for bringing me to Laguna – I made it my goal to eventually move to Laguna Beach.
I moved here in 2000 and have probably frequented the Surf & Sand more than the other resorts simply because it bonded with me from the start. Besides that, it’s such a stellar property and everyone there treats you like a celebrity. The Chef Concierge there, Ali North, has become one of my closest friends, and I’m forever badgering Executive Chef Ron for new taste treats at the Splashes restaurant.
Neither friend was there on my Sunday evening visit, so I decided to play the unknown, unrecognized tourist.
Every room at the Surf & Sand is lovely, but the oceanfront rooms are astounding. They’re still astounding, even for a resident who has lived on the beach in Laguna Beach for 17 years. The proximity to the ocean is beyond words. So, forgetting my residency entirely, I had to stand on the balcony first and take a hundred and two photos for my Instagram account.
Of course, the rooms, themselves, are immaculate, too. There are tiny touches everywhere, from earplugs for people who can’t sleep because of pounding waves, to mini shampoo and lotion bottles of my favorite scent, Kai. No resort I’ve ever visited in the world has offered Kai. (I found out later that The Surf & Sand is the first hotel in the world to carry Kai!)
And, though this might be a new gadget employed by many resorts now, I receive a text message that assures me I can ask for anything I might need, and the resort staff will respond. It’s like a custom-made Alexa! I use it to ask for the wi-fi password and the same front desk agent who checked me in responds in a nano-second. Pretty cool!
The Closest Indoor Bar to the Ocean Ever
As it’s early afternoon, I venture down to Splashes, the bar I take every visitor I’ve ever had to town.
It’s a packed house, but I manage a seat at the counter by the window overlooking the scant sand and immense ocean. Everyone is happy and talkative here – they’ve fought airports, airplanes and rental car lines to get here, and they are euphoric.
I order La Bonne Vie (The Good Life) cocktail for the simple fact that I’m definitely enjoying my good life. A sparky mix of Ketel One vodka, St. Germaine, fresh grapefruit juice and sparkling wine, it arrives a few happy gulps before the Jumbo Shrimp Cocktail appetizer, which proves true to its name.
I may be the only solo person in the place, but I’m not treated as a solo person. The staff treats me beautifully and I don’t feel rushed. (For a single woman, this is important.)
Fortunes and Wine to Go
A couple hours after hanging out on my balcony again, I wander down and ask Christi, the Surf & Sand concierge on duty, what sort of food is within walking distance. She’s new here – she has no idea that I know the restaurants, their exact steps from the hotel and their entire menus. She’s extremely helpful, narrowing my preferences and still offering a handful of options. She also suggests dropping into the Pearl St. store for any snacky items I might prefer.
What a fine idea! I haven’t been in the Pearl St. store for ages. I wander in, collect my $1 fortune from Zoltar (because you cannot ignore Zoltar), and peruse the wine aisles. The front counter gent suggests a few favorites, and I leave with a nice rosé I’ve not tried before.
(Note: Just across the street and a few steps south, Wine Gallery Co-Owner Chris Olsen also personally curates wines that can be purchased by the bottle – something you may not have known.)
Rumari’s: Still Perfectly Perfect
Christi recommended four restaurants in close proximity. Because I spend more time at Wine Gallery and Mozambique, I opt, instead, for Rumari Ristorante, which changed ownership to Chris Keller last July.
If you’ve wondered if anything (or everything) has changed, I can assure you – it’s all the same, perfectly perfect Rumari’s. Longtime bartender Sammy greets me like an old friend. I order a great Pinot Noir from my family’s world in the Willamette Valley, and dig into a dish I’ve never tried – Pollo Siciliana. I’ve personally never had a bad meal at Rumari’s, and this proves the case again.
Although I’ve passed on their yummy baked bread and burrata appetizer, the entrée is still too hefty to finish. I tuck the “to go” foil under one arm, the rosé under another and walk the half block back to my oceanfront room. Turndown service has already occurred, chocolates included. Rather than open more wine, I opt for herbal tea and chocolates on my balcony, watch the mesmerizing waves roll in and ponder my rather fine life.
A Stay That Wasn’t Long Enough
In the morning, it’s an early walk on the beach and a visit to the resort’s little coffee shop (and always open to the public), Pacific Perk. I chat happily with the two cheerful girls as they prep my Americano and heat an enormous resort-made croissant egg sandwich. (I had considered Splashes for breakfast, but I’ve become very attached to my own room’s balcony view.)
I settle into my deck chair, nibbling on the gargantuan croissant. With a happy sigh, I nose my way into my favorite paper, The New York Times, which was left on my doorknob in the night like some kind of intellectual Christmas stocking.
Two hours later, I realize two things: Sadly, it’s time to check out. And, happily, I haven’t thought of my cracked sewer pipes even once.
It’s been 25 years since I stayed here last. This visit proves even more satisfying.
In the heart of town at 1555 S. Coast Highway, you can book online reservations at SurfandSandResort.com or call (877) 741-5908.
The best-selling author and blogger on The Best of Laguna Beach™, Diane Armitage is on an endless quest for the most imaginative adventures in Laguna’s restaurants, events and lifestyle. Check out chef interviews, retail and restaurant news, and favorite events at www.TheBestofLagunaBeach.com and follow on Instagram @BestOfLagunaBeach (look for Diane’s smiling face).