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Monarch Beach Resort
A relaxing environment both indoors and outdoors.
Fresh flowers in the rooms are details that make you feel at home.
An abundance of fitness and meditation class options included with your resort fee.
Not beachfront, and other properties nearby in same class are closer to the ocean.
Rooms stock slippers in the closets.
Most of the balconies are small, despite the rooms being spacious.
From its grand position atop a manicured hill in Dana Point, to its mammoth water fountains and Tuscan-inspired architecture, the Monarch Beach Resort beckons travelers and promises them luxury leisure time.
Owned by Ohana Real Estate Investors and managed by KSL Resorts, the resort continues to be one of the best options in Southern California for moneyed folks looking for an easy place to spend a weekend.
The impression starts before the lobby, as the driveway features two enormous Romanesque water sculptures and cascades as well as mature trees, archways, and a red-tiled carport.
As you enter the lobby, there are tiled alcoves with skylights. Check-in is just inside the door, sitting across the foyer at the concierge. People are quick to help, and bellmen and valet managers offer to take your luggage. The tidy and polished lobby spreads out before you with upholstered seating and a fireplace, and a market and a Cartier store flank the sides of the entry point.
Inside, the scale is still grand, with artful, light fixtures and staircases that form giant butterfly sculptures.
The entire hotel was refreshed in 2016, with contemporary furniture and a coastal chic palette of minty greens, crisp whites, and cool blues. And, there are currently 400 rooms that sit across seven floors and two wings.
Updated by LA-based Rodrigo Vargas Design, there is a sumptuous mix of textures throughout the ample-sized rooms. They all have a balcony, although most are small and don’t all have a full view of the ocean. However, you can still soak up some sun and read. Other spaces gaze out at the pool or the resort.
Most rooms have a King bed; some have two Queens. The bench at the end of the table is a great addition with lots of function (hold the suitcases, lay out your PJs, put on your socks and shoes). Either way, they are extremely comfortable. Suites add a seating area and second TV, which is helpful if couples have different morning schedules or bedtimes.
The resort is a bit too on-the-nose butterfly theme. In the rooms alone, you’ll find butterfly wall art, a 3-D fabric butterfly on a towel in the bathroom, as well as butterfly-shaped soap, butterfly boxes (the turndown chocolate), and an almost invisible pattern on the silky duvet cover. Some would be fine, but all of it together is too much. The nicest touch in the room, though, is a vase of fresh flowers, followed by a bowl of welcome saltwater taffy.
There is a minibar, which is not free. Neither is the water. Instead, you have only the option of paying for a large bottle of water or using water from the tap. We had a suite with a seating area as well as a reading chaise, but the room was dim once the sun went down. There were no overhead lights, and all of them seemed to be positioned along the far side of the room. At turndown, the resort provided chocolates for the pillow and placed water on each bedside table.
A comprehensive press reader service grants access to more than 3,000 full-content daily newspapers and magazines on personal devices, and Bluetooth-enabled alarm clocks and wall-mounted flat-screen televisions allow guests to sync their devices to play music and stream entertainment.
The marble bathrooms are spa-inspired, with rainfall showers, deep, soaking tubs, and a peek-a-boo window. It could be closed off with wooden blinds or left open to watch the TV in the other room. The frieze-style tile bathroom trim is classy, but a little dated. Toiletries are spa-branded. The biggest towel was oversized, so even plus-size people can wrap up their whole body post-shower.
There are multiple places to eat on the property including AVEO (seasonal Mediterranean) and Part & Parcel Market, which carries local products, hot coffee, pastries, and grab-and-go sandwiches and such. Perched on the fifth floor with big windows looking straight out to the Pacific, the lobby bar feels like a living room—there’s even a fireplace—and people gather there at all hours of the day. Seats on the outdoor patio, which features live music most days, go fast especially at sunset.
But you can't miss the fine dining concept from celebrity chef Michael Mina. Bourbon Steak is consistently voted as one of the best restaurants in Orange County.
For most people, the high price would make this a special occasion meal. However, diners are treated to several freebies: an amuse-bouche, a trio of duck fat fries, rolls basted in truffle butter, chocolates, and caramel popcorn to-go. Start with a classic cocktail, and then feast on something that is prepared tableside, like lobster pit pie and whole fried chicken with truffle mac and cheese. The martini cart there is Insta-famous.
Down at the Monarch Bay Beach Club, you can enjoy seafood towers, burgers (which can be made with a vegan Impossible patty), and pancakes. After a meal, you can even take your ice cream sandwich for a stroll in the sand, before playing lawn games and sitting by the fire pit.
If you love swimming, there are three pool options available at the resort. One is a workout pool at the spa, where you can swim laps. Afterward, enjoy a soak in the Jacuzzi.
The other two infinity-edged ones located on the main, hotel grounds, looking out toward the sea in the distance. It is an expansive, multi-tiered area with lots of landscaping, umbrellas and palm trees for shade, chaise lounges, and a few bookable cabanas with music and mini-bars. One is meant for just adults, while the other is ideal for families.
The resort also offers an award-winning 18-hole golf course modeled after traditional Scottish links. The resort fee also provides usage of unmotorized water sports equipment, beach chairs, and umbrellas, to get a day on the sand started.
Named The Miraval Life in Balance Spa, the spa is an outpost of the Miraval Group. The 30,000 square foot, multi-level space contains the spa, Pilates equipment, a yoga studio, a TRX studio, a lap pool, a café, Drybar, a boutique, and a very nice Deborah Lippmann nail studio.
With a bubbling fountain, inspirational sayings on the wall, and lots of holistic programming, some might find it to be a tad too new age. But once you get past the lobby, that fades, and you will just notice the size and scope of the place. It’s super clean, quiet, and dark.
Miraval offers around 70 treatments in 24 rooms and spa suites with comfortable beds and knowledgeable therapists. They offer all the massage favorites, from sports and prenatal to hot stone and deep tissue. They also have more specialized rubdowns, including one performed with a Kansa wand that claims to conduct subtle vibrations and move sound energy.
The facials and their ingredients tend to be inspired by the coastal location (think white algae and ocean-derived minerals). Their treatments also use a lot of magnets, wands, and gemstones. And, the complimentary juice welcome shots were a bonus.
One downside, however, is that their robe selection was fairly limited in an era where size inclusion should be top of mind. (The attendant said more were usually available but the laundry hadn’t come in yet that morning.)
Monarch Beach Resort offers one of the most comprehensive, complimentary class schedules. While many hotels offer classes, they usually aren't offered more than once or twice a day (very early in the morning). But that's not the case at this resort. You can choose from class options throughout the day, like energy balancing meditation, aqua aerobics, spinning, beach hikes, foam rollers, and more. There is also a stand-alone 24-hour gym that is massive and has Peloton bikes, cold towels, and free water. Guests can also access the RunGo app which shows local running routes.
Fast Wi-Fi is included throughout the resort. If you're planning to bring your pets, it's approximately $200 per furry friend to do so.
It's a great place to go with a romantic partner for an adults-only trip or with the ladies for a spa weekend.
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