California oozes cool, especially down in the south where everything gets a little brighter, a little warmer, and a lot more laid back. From the breweries and bistros of San Diego to the beautiful vision of youth at party central Palm Springs, SoCal is the spot to be young and wild and free in an absolutely pristine environment. Riding the rich green waves of Dana Point defines the O.C experience, both in the water and ashore you can make a splash, because a rolling bank account will certainly buy you a slice of the good life. Despite the well turned out pockets of Dana Point, you can also find those artsy bohemian vibes that makes California such a kick.
Orange County is all sun-kissed and surf hip, with the scent of blossom and saltwater clinging to the air. On Dana Point you will find gorgeous gated communities where the inhabitants sip Napa Valley wine on their ultra-modernist terraces, in glass houses that invite you to lap up the views. Luxury resorts scatter the breathtaking bluffs and whales fan their tales out in the deep. For those escaping the stifling streets of LA, Dana Point is sure to freshen all your senses…
Where to Stay
Despite the easy-going nature of Dana Point, the environment is all about living well and the resorts more than deliver on that dream. The Ritz Carlton Laguna Niguel boasts a truly inspired location, perched atop the bluff with the prettiest Pacific views imaginable. Suites are white and breezy with those luscious touches like goose down bedding and outdoor fireplaces for making your coastal stay nothing but sheer comfort. The hotel boasts several restaurants including Raya that calls on the freshest sustainable produce from the ocean, and the Eco Discovery center is a firm favorite with families.
The Monarch Beach Resort is a family friendly choice without compromising on class. The ocean inspired color palate is a perfect mood pick me up, all clean greens, blues and whites with stylish beach house style furniture. The suites are all expansive living spaces, endless balconies and al fresco entertainment, and sultry French coffee to start the day. The Miraval Life in Balance Spa has an extensive menu with more than 70 treatments including float meditation and aerial and beach yoga.
A little further along the coast and the Montage Resort and Spa boasts museum worthy art, artistic architecture, and an emphasis on the OC experience. 250 guest rooms face the ocean and beautiful people can be found milling around the pools or shaking the salt from their hair as they head back from a morning surf. The villas offer la crème de la crème of accommodation, with 3000 square foot of space, gourmet kitchens, roaring fireplaces, and steam showers in the master suite.
Where to Dine
An ocean full of the finest fish and vineyards draped in California grapes, this part of the USA knows how to serve up food that is fresh, fancy and fabulous. Raya at the Ritz is the word on everyone’s lips, especially those who want to taste Pan Latin flavors that come with flair. Chef Richard Sandoval is no stranger to culinary success and his well-orchestrated menu of tangy ceviche, Brazilian cheese rolls, and miso Alaskan black cod with togarashi aioli is beautifully imagined.
The Stone Hill Tavern is another exquisite affair, especially when married with a choice sommelier wine and flickering sunset. Modern American cuisine is the name of the game, served in a space that lives and breathes clean lines, deep colors, and soft classical lighting. Start with the Russian caviar before moving onto the seasonal shellfish panache. The Wagyu cuts here are also worth writing home about, but for something a little lighter you can whimper in delight at the Hokkaido sea scallops served with citrus curd and a playful fish caramel sauce.
Where to Play
Art, surf, and coastal charm is how you should spend your days in Dana Point. The Huntington Beach Surfing Museum is the place to get you in the mood for tackling the white rollers that pound the golden coastline. If saltwater dreams aren’t your thing, then the Laguna Art Museum and The Bowers Museum have excellent collections that embrace cultural learning, community, and showcasing the best talent from the early 19th century right up until the present day.
For shopping we suggest staying close to Laguna Beach where you will find sweet ceramics at Pottery Place, one off pieces on Gallery Row, and a whole host of pretty boutiques for California fashion, costume jewelry, antiques, and laid-back home furnishings. For less bespoke and more high fashion head to the South Coast Plaza where you will find the dazzling displays of Chanel and Cartier.
But it’s the great outdoors that really calls people to Dana Point. Main Beach and Salt Creek are popular surf spots outside of the summer when the rips don’t cause danger, and Aliso Beach is a little gentler, best for wading in tide pools and practicing your balance on a stand-up paddleboard. For scenic hikes you can’t beat the romantic strolls around Badlands Park and the San Clemente Park.