So today it was on to Day 3 of the LivingWells California road trip. The morning began with a fond farewell to the Lake Arrowhead Resort and Spa and a descent of some 5,000-plus feet back to reality en route to Laguna Beach, another slice of wonderful located just about 85 miles west of the Lake.
I’ve been coming to Laguna Beach for years and yet each time I approach the beachside community I am no less awed, not only because of the spectacularly arresting beauty of the seaside town but also because, for such a relatively small destination, it continues to evolve. With every visit comes the revelation of some new treasure that no prior visit has ever unearthed. And, true to form, today’s visit to Laguna Beach kicked off with yet another new discovery in the form of The Retreat in Laguna, an off-the-beaten path collection of eight luxury beachside villas just steps away from the heartbeat of downtown Laguna Beach.
For this trip, I specifically sought out intimate places or hidden gems and The Retreat in Laguna definitely fits that bill. The property’s villas are vacation rentals that evoke the spirit of living like a Laguna local while simultaneously enjoying direct access to the beach, proximity to the best dining options in the area and amenities including full kitchens and a shared deck from which to take in what must be counted among the most staggering sunsets in Southern California.
What immediately struck me about the Retreat in Laguna, which is tucked discreetly away on an alley just off South Coast Highway, is its casual sophistication. Sterile, packaged charm isn’t difficult to find these days, but what’s harder to find is a place that, like the Retreat in Laguna, invites with every gesture from the property manager who greets guests upon arrival with her adorable Brussels Griffon show dog Miss Skittles Calderone Malfitano as her sidekick to the laidback beachy décor of the accommodations. For pure escape, The Retreat has clearly won an esteemed spot on my current list of faves in Laguna Beach.
After a quick rest, it was off to The Rooftop Lounge at Hotel La Casa del Camino to take in the sunset and imbibe a few of the bar’s signature Mojitos of which the Champagne Mojito is my favorite. This rooftop bar, located atop the 1920’s hotel that was once the playground of Hollywood’s elite, is a year-round happening in Laguna Beach because it offers one of the best vantage points from which to enjoy the sunsets that are the stock in trade of Laguna which is annually gifted with nearly 300 sunny days. Complementing the view are the Lounge’s signature appetizers like the Coconut Shrimp and Chicken Empanadas that make the Mojitos all the more enjoyable.
After sunset, I popped across the street to the patio of Chef Azmin Ghahreman’s Sapphire Laguna for dinner. A veritable festival of global cuisine, Chef Ghahreman’s menu traverses the world with menu items ranging from starters like Malaysian Black Pepper Prawns and spicy North African Lamb Dumplings to Buttermilk Fried Chicken with Cheese Grits, Rosemary Roasted Lamb Sirloin and Hawaiian-Style Steamed Local Halibut. That this culinary world tour occurs against a cozy backdrop in the mix of Laguna Beach with the sounds of the Pacific Ocean lapping up onto the shore only enhances the magic of the experience.
Sated and tucked into bed at the Retreat in Laguna as I type this, I’m all packed and ready for tomorrow’s next stop in Newport Beach but first here’s a snapshot of Day 3 on the LivingWells California road trip adventure. Find out more about Laguna Beach at www.visitlagunabeach.com.
(Photos by Rob Musick)