So Cool: 50 Miles of Pure Pleasure
               LAGUNA BEACH: PUTTIN’ ON

                                                 Part four of a series

On the last leg of our 50-mile Southern
California (SoCal) journey, we opted for three days of utter
indulgence.  Exhaustion was setting in
from all we had seen and done in the last ten days.  Therefore, we decided, it was time for a
truly hedonistic, sybaritic vacation in an idyllic sanctuary on the California
With that being said, we began our “operation
recovery” with an upgrade to the Captain’s Lounge on the Catalina Express
vessel that was to take us from Catalina Island to Dana Point.  This private lounge, available on only four
of the fleet’s boats, is located on the top deck directly behind the Captain.  Bloody Mary’s, Captain Tony, and a doting
stewardess were at our service as we pre-boarded and lounged on leather
banquettes in what seemed like our own private catamaran. 

Upon disembarking in Dana Point, we had time to
stroll the quaint harbor while awaiting the Ritz Carlton Laguna Niguel’s car
that would drive us to the hotel, a very few minutes away.   Dana
Point Harbor,
dedicated on July 31, 1971, is one of the world’s most beautiful man-made
harbors.  It is also the “Whale Watching
Capital of the West.”   Dana Point
has a surfing history to rival anywhere outside Hawaii. 
Hobie Alter, of Hobie Cat fame, opened the very first retail surf shop
in Dana Point in 1954.  
The Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel is located
halfway between Los Angeles and San Diego. Perched atop a
150-foot bluff with panoramic white-water views of the Pacific
Ocean and two-miles of sandy beach, The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna
Niguel is consistently ranked among the finest resorts in the world.
Upon arriving at the hotel, we were ushered
into our spacious room with views of the Pacific Ocean
dashing toward the shore below. Although it was morning, we could hardly wait
for sunset time to arrive.  The glowing
sun, sinking into the Pacific horizon is an unforgettable sight.
Whatever your taste buds crave, the Ritz
Carlton will assuage your desires. 
Breakfast at the Market Place offers a wide variety of coffee, espresso,
sweet treats and more.  ENO is a wine,
cheese, and chocolate sensation where guests can indulge in three of the world’
greatest pleasures.
In 2010, RAYA, a restaurant concept by
acclaimed chef Richard Sandoval opened in the Ritz Carlton.  It showcases Pan-Latin Coastal Cuisine
prepared with sustainable seafood, local produce, and chef Richard Sandoval’s
signature Latin flavors.  
Dinner got off to a great start with a Mojito
Cuzco and an Orange Ginger cocktail. 
Latin inspired entrees included Chile Ancho-Pistachio Crusted Tuna,
Chipotle-Miso Glazed Black Cod, and Achiote Barbecued Salmon.  Dulche de Leche Pudding or Lemongrass Panna
Cotta can top off the dinner.  A dramatic
Brad Oldham stainless steel forest sculpture backdrops the restaurant’s ocean
Nearby Laguna
Beach is a magical seaside village with a history that
dates back more than 2000 years. 
Laguna’s reputation as an artist’ colony began with the arrival of
Norman St. Claire in 1903.  St. Claire
arrived by train and stagecoach from San
Francisco to capture Laguna’s dramatic surf, sand, and
picturesque hillsides.  After eyeing his
work, many of his artist friends made an exodus to Laguna Beach and it has been an artistic
haven ever since.
In 1932, The Festival of Arts staged its first
show.  Today, ninety minutes of “living
pictures” are presented at the Festival’s Pageant of the Masters where real
people pose to look exactly like their counterparts in the original pieces of
art.  It has been voted one of the top
three festivals in the United
The Sawdust Art Festival, located in a
beautiful eucalyptus grove, features artwork created only in Laguna Beach. 
The nearby Art-A-Fair features fine art by international, national, and
local artists.
Wyland, the world-famous marine
artist, posted his first Whaling Wall on Pacific Coast Highway in Laguna Beach.  Mrs. John Wayne dedicated the mural on July
9, 1981.  It was repainted in 1986 and
then tiled in 1996.
Art Museum, the oldest museum in California, is located
about 300-feet from the ocean on Cliff
Drive.  It
is one of the most spectacular and impressive locations of any museum in the
The dining options in Laguna Beach are as
diverse as the artist community itself. 
Dining patrons can travel the culinary globe in a matter of a few blocks. Our fabulous dinner experiences took us to Tabu
where we were immersed in a South Pacific ambiance.  The following night, our dinner at Mozambique was as if we had flown off to South Africa.  Our final dinner at Raya was divine food with
a Latin American twist.  Lunches at
Watermarc and Sundried Tomato were pure California.  Be sure to try the latter’s namesake soup,
spiked with rich Gorgonzola cheese.  
Togetherness took on new meaning for my husband
and myself as we opted for the “Couples Ritual” in the Aquaterra Spa at the
Surf and Sand Resort.  For 110 minutes we
nurtured our bodies and souls in unison. 
Wrapped up like tortillas, with seaweed, blankets and who knows what
else, we lay side by side on heated massage tables as Sasha and Lauren tended
to our corporal needs.  
Continuing with the healing elements of the
ocean, we relaxed in a special seaweed bubble bath for two.   We giggled like teenagers, plotting how we
would ever lift ourselves out of that deep, bubble-filled bathtub.  We contemplated calling the fire department
or the possibility of renting a crane.  
Well, we made it out of the bathtub…don’t ask
how…and it was back to the massage tables. For our side-by-side finale, we each
received an Aquaterra Signature Massage, combining time-honored Swedish
techniques with our individual therapist’s personal expression of tension
reduction and relaxation.  


Laguna Beach
is one of those destinations that top my “Must-Go-Back List”.  The natural
beauty of this 8-mile stretch of picturesque coastal village, plus all it has
to offer, is already calling me to return.  And, I will!

JANET STEINBERG is the winner of 38 national Travel Writer
Awards  and an International Travel Consultant with The Travel
Authority in Mariemont, Ohio.