5 Aug 2010

St. Regis Monarch Beach, Dana Point, CA – September 2010

Just back from a long holiday weekend at the St. Regis Monarch Beach (now Monarch Beach Resort and not affiliated with Starwood). The resort is gorgeous, the food was excellent, and the staff was very friendly and helpful, but the clientele, specifically the younger clientele, leave much to be desired. The resort was overrun with children! With rooms running over $400/night and a hotel that bills itself as Forbes Five Star and AAA Five Diamond, you expect glitz and glamour, not screaming and crying. I could go on about this for awhile, however I won’t and I’ll just note the good stuff!

I will point out a few things first so that there aren’t any surprises upon check in. There is a daily resort fee of $25 ($15 for Starwood Platinum Preferred Guests) that covers use of the spa facilities, local calls, internet, and the daily newspaper. You get tochoose between 3 papers and Platinum  guests also get to choose between points and chocolate truffles as their welcome gift. There is also a daily valet fee of $30. So, when you add it all up, you are already out $55/day on top of what you paid for the room.

The resort is quite large and the lobby is situated on the 5th floor since the hotel is built into the side of a mountain. This confused me at times since our room was on the 4th floor, but most of the restaurants and shops were adjacent to the lobby. The resort also does not have direct beach access because of its location on the mountainside, but you are able to catch a continually running shuttle just outside of the main entrance. The ride to the beach is approximately a half mile and the beach area is private. We chose to stick to the pool area since the ocean is chilly and the fog kept the beach under cover most of the day.

We had booked a garden view room, but we’re upgraded to a poolview room upon check in because of my Starwood Platinum status. We had a lovely room that overlooked the Grand Lawn, which provided some entertainment for us since there were several weddings that occured throughout the weekend. It is quite an amazing setting for a wedding, but I also took note that because of that, the hotel will always be crowded! Our particular room had two queen beds, a nice flat panel TV, and a large bathroom with a marble shower, soaking tub, and dual sinks. One thing of note with the rooms is that the “Do Not Disturb” sign is fully electronic- when you want to be left alone, simply press a button on the thermostat. This illuminates a red light that can be seen by the staff just outside the door. This is also true for when you are ready for housekeeping. A green light will illuminate when you press the button to have the room made up. Just remember to make sure you remove the “Do Not Disturb” button prior to leaving the room for the day!

On our first evening at the hotel, we had secured reservations at Stonehill Tavern, which is the resort’s most popular restaurant. I had made reservations with the conceirge prior to arriving when they contacted me about a week before our trip. This was a nice touch, as it was good to get some questions out of the way before heading on our trip. They were also kind enough to note my dietary restrictions on my reservation, and when our waitress greeted us, she repeated the restrictions to me verbatim. The food was excellent, though a little bit pricey compared to our normal formal dining experiences. We ordered the cheese fondue snack, followed by steak entrees (filet for myself, ribeye for my boyfriend.) We each enjoyed martinis as well. If you are interested in ordering a bottle of wine or dessert, be prepared to spend well over $30o for your meal.

Instead of worrying about making a formal breakfast each morning, we chose to go to Crust, the resort’s coffee/bakery shop. We each ordered a bagel every morning and enjoyed sitting alongside the shop, which is a great place for people watching.

Our second evening in town, we chose to dine off of the property. If you know us at all, you can probably guess what we did! We drove approximately 4 miles into San Juan Capistrano and had dinner at Simply Fondue. It’s very similar to the Melting Pot Chain, but with a more ecclectic vibe and menu. We seriously regret not being able to eat more! We can’t wait to go back. We also wish we had allowed ourselves some time to check out the Mission of San Juan, which is right accross the street from Simply Fondue. I guess this calls for another trip?

We also spent each evening following dinner at the Lobby Bar and Lounge. This is another great place for people watching and they offer any brand of liquor you can imagine. I enjoyed quite a few 10 Cane Mojitos! The bar also offers a light fare menu and desserts. Had we not been so full, we would have indulged in the chocolate molten lava cake.

Now to the entire point of our little getaway- lounging by the pool! The main pool at the St. Regis is fully staffed with extremely attentive waiters and waitresses. We did not spend any time over at the lagoon pool, since it is designated for children, but unfortunately that is where the jacuzzi is located. Each time we wanted to sit in the jacuzzi, it was packed with children and their blow-up pool toys. I wish the staff would regulate this better. They did a good job trying to control the playing in the main pool, as noted on the signs at the entrance point. Anyway, we felt that our Evian spritzes, chilled Lavender towels, and tasty food and drink choices made up for the crowds and kids. The cabanas looked cozy and a bit more secluded, though I’m not sure of the cost to rent one for the day.

Overall, we enjoyed our quick getaway to the cooler weather and I would recommend the St. Regis to those who do not mind a luxury family atmosphere. I know that sounds like an oxymoron, but we really felt that the hotel lived up to its billing and its brand other than the having so many children staying there. Perhaps it’s not so much the children being there as much as the behavior of the children. That is obviously something beyond the hotel’s control and I can only hope that future guests of the hotel choose to preserve the ambience and prestige of the resort in mind when choosing it as a destination.

Meet me

    • My name is Janelle and I'm a luxury travel consultant with Luxe Island Escapes by Easy Escapes Travel and an avid traveler!

      I specialize in luxury island and tropical vacations, whether it be a quick get-a-way, honeymoon, or a bucket list adventure. In addition to being a Certified Tahiti Specialist®, I am also a certified specialist for Fiji, The Cook Islands, Hawaii, New Zealand and Australia, among other destinations. To learn more about me, my services, and my certifications, please visit the About page.

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