Checking into the blufftop Montage Laguna Beach, with a mosaic-tiled pool and the Pacific Ocean at your feet, it quickly becomes obvious that this is a property you arrive to and don’t wish to leave. When carefree bliss is what you want and need during a global pandemic, the Montage more than delivers.
As much as I’m all for culturally immersive trips to faraway countries with my family, sometimes what everyone needs most is to slow down and recharge with no agenda. From skimboarding and exploring tide pools to checking out Laguna’s dynamic arts scene, there are fun adventures to be had and local history to be appreciated here. But most of all, the Montage gives you the time and space to just be.
Spread across 30 acres, the Craftsman-style hotel was built to give each of the 258 rooms some version of an ocean view; all rooms have either patios or balconies. First opened in 2003 as the flagship of the Montage portfolio, the iconic Orange County property completed an extensive refresh in 2019, with a redesigned lobby as well as furnishing upgrades throughout.
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Rooms are bright and generously sized (standard rooms start at 500 square feet), with writing desks and marble baths that include soaking tubs. From our Ocean Horizon Queen Bungalow, a double queen room on the ground level, we could hear the waves crashing just below — a truly special luxury. We played cards and Bananagrams on our patio table, stopping to look out at the water from time to time.
Many rooms also connect, making visits with grandparents or extended family easy. Or consider one of the hotel’s beautifully appointed three-bedroom villas equipped with state-of-the-art kitchens.
Beach, pool, repeat might as well as be the unofficial mantra here. The four saline pools on property include a central mosaic-tiled pool; a 1 ½-foot-deep pool perfect for very little ones; an adults-only spa pool; and a hot tub.
Down a flight of stairs sits Treasure Island Beach, named for the movie that was filmed there based on Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic. It’s a cove beach with plenty of rock formations that make for great tidepool exploration at low tide. The Montage sets up umbrellas and chairs for hotel guests and will even deliver food and drinks down to the shore. A volunteer from the Laguna Ocean Foundation is often around to share knowledge about the tidepools with beachgoers. We spotted sea anemones, hermit crabs and fish during our visit.
The hotel offers surfing and skimboarding adventures for older children with Blair Conklin, a Laguna Beach native and one of the world’s best known skimboarders. Skimboarding is a way of riding a shore break that can’t be surfed.
As a family-friendly resort, the property also boasts a popular kids’ club called Paintbox for 2- to 12-year-olds. The space was remodeled in 2019 and now includes an indoor ship play structure and outdoor snack tables surrounded by an edible garden. Along with plenty of arts and crafts, the team at Paintbox hosts science-inspired days with experiments such as an erupting sand volcano, and movie nights complete with s’mores.
With multiple eateries from the poolside grill and bar to fine dining, the Montage gives guests ample restaurant options right onsite. During our recent stay, we found great options for all diets, including a vegan menu at the Loft with dishes such as heirloom tomato, fig and stone fruit salad and wood-fired grilled vegetables with pistachio tahini and fennel pesto. Part of the fun of hotel stays is ordering room service and eating in between dips at the pool — what kid, or adult for that matter, doesn’t love eating fries in their bathing suit?
Paying homage to Laguna’s heritage as an artist colony, the property also features several plein air paintings as part of its extensive art collection. Look for works in the lobby arts, including pieces by renowned artists William Wendt and Edgar Payne.
If you do leave the property, downtown Laguna Beach is perfect for strolling. Along with restaurants, boutiques, art galleries and ice cream shops, there are dozens of murals and works of public art. For light fare, Zinc Café is a local favorite for breakfast and lunch and stays open through dinner hours during summer weekends. The Orange Inn Café, another local institution, is known for its smoothies and date shakes. Burn it off by ambling along the oceanfront path at nearby Heisler Park.
The rich arts heritage of Laguna truly comes alive during the summer with the Pageant of the Masters, a unique 90-minute show in an outdoor amphitheater featuring stunning recreations of classical and contemporary works of art with real people posing as subjects in the original paintings. The Pageant of the Masters is now in its 88th year. While families with kids are admitted, the show is best for older children.
Editor’s Note: The Montage Laguna Beach provided a media package in order to facilitate our review. As always, our opinions are our own on Ciao Bambino. Photos by Tanvi Chheda except where noted.
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