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LAGUNA BEACH, California: Romantic Weekend Report: January 2009

LAGUNA BEACH, California: Romantic Weekend Report: January 2009

Feb 5th, 2009, 11:39 PM
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LAGUNA BEACH, California: Romantic Weekend Report: January 2009

Laguna Beach, California: Romantic Weekend Report, January 2009

My husband and I spent a sunny weekend in January celebrating our anniversary in Laguna Beach, California. We had to pinch ourselves to make sure we weren't in Hawaii. 8-)

Where else on the southern California coast can you find a hotel that is right on the sand, with the ocean rolling right up to the wall below our 1st floor balcony? We could have pitched pennies into the surf below at high tide. The Surf and Sand Hotel in Laguna Beach is “Hawaii in California”...and only a 1-hour drive from San Diego!

Surf and Sand Hotel
Our romantic room was Surfside room #410, King deluxe, 1st floor, in the building furthest north on the lovely beach where the Surf and Sand Hotel is located in Laguna Beach. We were delighted with this laid-back hotel on the beach. It is listed in the Fodor's guidebook to Southern California 2009, and recommended by many guests on-line, on fodors.com and tripadvisor.com.

We were impressed with the excellent service provided by the hotel staff, from the outstanding valets to the friendly restaurant staff, throughout our stay. Hotel details:
Surf and Sand Hotel, Laguna Beach
1555 South Coast Highway, Laguna Beach, California

We booked the Live A Lot package on the hotel's web-site, which is available until March 31 2009 if you can get a room. For $379 a night plus tax, the package includes a Surfside room with King bed plus a 3-course gourmet dinner for 2 in Splashes restaurant per night plus $100 resort credit for the weekend (towards food, alcoholic drinks, or massage, whatever you want to use it for); plus free valet parking. So while we felt $379 a night was a splurge, we got much more than a room for our money.

Splashes Restaurant
The dinners at Splashes restaurant at our hotel (Surf and Sand Hotel) were gourmet and creative. For a romantic dinner, reserve a table outside at sunset. Very special! The sun sets earlier in January so we had a 5:30 pm reservation at Splashes our first night. It was beautiful clear weather, and we could see both Catalina island and San Clemente Island...and a gorgeous sunset!

My favorite meal at Splashes was the Parmesan Crusted Wild King Salmon, with Maine Lobster Angel Hair Pasta, and Tahitian Vanilla Sauce. It also comes with Cauliflower. When my plate arrived and I saw the real specks of Vanilla Bean in the Tahitian Vanilla Sauce, I flipped, because real Vanilla Bean is one of the most heavenly flavors on the planet for me. I've never tasted it served so creatively...both the Salmon and the Cauliflower were wonderful dipped in the vanilla sauce.

My husband ordered the same dish the next night, but there was a different cook, and there was less Vanilla Bean in the sauce. He enjoyed the dish very much, but when I tasted the 2 sauces by 2 different cooks, I preferred the cook who puts more Vanilla Bean in the sauce. Both cooks are very talented.

We enjoyed 2 dinners and 2 breakfasts at Splashes, since our package included dinners and we spent our resort credit on breakfasts and wine.

Beach Poetry
The lovely beach setting of the Surf and Sand Resort is unspoiled in January...romantic, with the ocean rolling onto the shore. Sandpipers dart eagerly at the surf's edge. As the day darkens, the sandpipers look like tiny white ghosts flitting on the sand. There is no sound except for the rhythmic shushing of the waves.

In the dark, we see a path of moonlight upon the sea. Magic.

Zinc Cafe and Market
Zinc Cafe is our kind of place! It's casual, inexpensive, and prepares tasty foods with the freshest ingredients. We sat outside on the casual patio, watching locals reading the newspaper with their cups of coffee or tea.

I had a tasty grilled cheese sandwich with Gruyere cheese, tomato, and pickle, and it was accompanied by a salad made with very fresh greens, tomato, and onion and a nice light dressing. If I lived in Laguna Beach, I would join the locals on this little patio every weekend! Definitely recommended.
Zinc Cafe in Laguna Beach is at 350 Ocean Avenue. Their business card indicates that they also have locations in Solana Beach and Corona Del Mar.

Historical Society, Laguna Beach
If you enjoy the Zinc Cafe on the weekend, walk down the street from Zinc Cafe and find the “Murphy-Smith House Laguna Beach Historic Society” at 278 Ocean Ave. It's just a little cottage which is full of fascinating old photos of historical Laguna Beach, and it's only open on afternoons on Friday, Saturday, or Sunday. Good for a few minutes of satisfying time travel back into the past. Free admission.

Tuttoamore Gelateria Italiana
Fodorites told me that Tuttoamore has the best gelato in town. I would say this is the best gelato we have found outside of Italy. It's at 247 Broadway St., Laguna Beach. www.tuttoamoregelato.com

I asked to sample 3 flavors, which didn't narrow my choices down at all, because I loved all 3 flavors! My husband enjoyed coconut and also chocolate. I tasted the coconut, which was excellent. The flavors in the gelato taste genuine. I enjoyed the banana flavor.

If you like gelato, there are plenty of places in Laguna Beach to have one, but pass up the others and seek this one out, because it's worth it. We thought it was a little pricey, but it was the best gelato or ice cream that we've had in a while.

I'll post info on our walks and exploration of the area next... Thank you fodorites for your great advice! Be back soon...
Melissa5 is offline  
Feb 6th, 2009, 08:28 AM
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Sounds like you had a perfect time, we love the Laguna Beach area. We have enjoyed stays at the Montage, Casa Laguna Inn and the Laguna Reef. ***kim***
kimamom is offline  
Feb 6th, 2009, 10:19 AM
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kimamom, thanks for your reply. The Montage is too pricey for us. But I have my eye on Casa Laguna Inn. How was your stay there? We like a quiet room in a nice, friendly place.

We're from San Diego and Laguna Beach is delightful... it reminds us of a cross between La Jolla and Pacific Beach (San Diego County areas).

I'll be back soon to post info on our walks and explorations of the area.

Melissa5 is offline  
Feb 6th, 2009, 10:32 AM
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I love Laguna, too. If you are there on a first Thursday evening of the month, there is a wonderful art walk, with lots of free snacks, and very interesting and talkative artists.

Thanks for the great report, Melissa! I'm going to try the Surf & Sand and Tuttoamore gelato next time I go.
Kailani is online now  
Feb 6th, 2009, 10:38 AM
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Great Trip Report Melissa!
We love the Surf and Sand Resort as well and it is somewhat pricey..not as much as Montage, we prefer S&S..they were offering some good deals last month.
Always have had good meals at Splashes.
Glad you had a great time!
ksucat is offline  
Feb 7th, 2009, 05:22 PM
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kailani, thanks for the tip. I'll try to plan our next trip to Laguna beach for the first Thursday of the month as it would be fun to meet the artists and see their work.

ksucat, thanks for taking the time to comment.
Melissa5 is offline  
Feb 7th, 2009, 05:25 PM
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Laguna Beach: Impressions

Laguna Beach is a delightful beach town with inviting little cafes, shops, and art galleries. It's an attractive and artsy town, and the low-profile buildings give it a comfortable feeling. I feel dwarfed when I'm in a city surrounded by skyscrapers, so it's refreshing that there is plenty of sky in Laguna Beach, and no skyscrapers.

There are lots of healthy and fun dining options in Laguna Beach. Fresh local ingredients and organically grown products seem to be popular in town.

We didn't find a lot of night life for people our age (in our 50's) in Laguna Beach. I guess we were thinking of the small-town pubs of Ireland when we went into town on Saturday night. But in Laguna Beach on Saturday night, as we walked down the sidewalks in the vicinity of Ocean Avenue and nearby blocks, all of the faces in the bars & clubs turning to stare at us were very young...we wouldn't have fit in. So we returned to the Sand and Surf hotel at night, after dinner and sunset.

There are many great spots to watch the sunset in the Laguna Beach area. Why are sunsets over the ocean in Laguna Beach more gorgeous than in San Diego?! There was a lovely sunset each evening, no matter where we found ourselves. Maybe the weather was especially good for sunsets. It was certainly especially clear weather, with both Catalina island and San Clemente islands clearly visible.

Main Beach, Laguna Beach

Main Beach is easily accessible from downtown Laguna Beach, near Ocean Avenue. It's an attractive beach, fun and lively in the day-time on weekends, but dark and dead at night in January. The beach is surrounded by a park which isn't well-lit on a winter night, so we didn't want to walk into that park full of shadows at night in January.

You can park downtown in a 2-hour spot, if you can find one. Then you have enough time for a meal and a beach walk.

We walked to the tide pools from Main Beach, and clambered about, peering in to the tide pools for crabs or any sign of life. I stepped in the water with my walking shoes, of course. (Even on a sunny day, in January the ocean tends to be cold in Southern California. You can walk barefoot on the beach, but we got cold toes doing that in January despite the sunny weather.)

We were intrigued by a no-smoking sign at Main Beach near the public toilets. Is that to prevent cigarette-but litter? We don't smoke. We don't recall seeing a no-smoking sign at San Diego County beaches...
Melissa5 is offline  
Feb 7th, 2009, 05:32 PM
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Hiking, Beach Walks, and Nature

Crystal Cove State Park: El Moro Canyon Backcountry

We pulled on our dark, heavy jeans on a warm Saturday in January and left our hotel for a nature walk. We drove a short distance along the coast. Unfortunately, we were dressed all wrong for our first hike in the El Moro Canyon Backcountry at Crystal Cove State Park. It had been pleasant but cool when we dressed in the morning. By the time we started our first hike up a hill, it was hot for January, with no breeze on the trail.

We chose a trail that heads up hill in the El Moro Canyon Backcountry, which is part of the San Joaquin hills. We were hiking up the bluffs, across the street from the ocean. People wearing shorts and capris passed us on the trail.

We sat on the ground to rest, looking at the coastal view down the hill and across the highway. It's a nice view, but not exactly isolated in nature, with traffic below... We ate our pre-packaged tuna sandwiches from Trader Joe's (nearby), but they were yucky, with stale bread and fishy tuna.

We were too hot in our long dark pants, so we gave up this hike. But on the walk down we spotted a lot of wildlife.

RATTLESNAKE on the path! Yes, walking downhill, we came across a rattlesnake on the trail: a Southern Pacific (Western) rattlesnake. My husband the biologist/herpetologist said this was aberrant behavior on the part of the rattler, since it's too early in the year for him to be coming out. In fact, before we took this hike, my husband had assured me there wouldn't be any rattlesnakes out this early in the year!

Normal people walk away from snakes. [-o< Herpetologist walk towards them. (Don't try this at home.) The rattlesnake glided away into the brush when he saw my husband approaching. Don't worry too much about rattlesnakes. Think about it: if you are small and slithery, your best bet is to hide. They won't normally bother you unless you step on them, or unless you have been playing with mice and therefore smell like a tasty snack.

As we walked down the hill, I enjoyed warning other hikers about the rattlesnake, and watching the men pretend to be brave, while the women freaked out, their eyes wide.

ROADRUNNER! We observed a roadrunner scurrying back and forth across the path. Yes, rattlesnakes eat roadrunners. Run!

Several rabbits dashed frantically across the path. We also saw a number of birds.

Melissa5 is offline  
Feb 8th, 2009, 07:34 AM
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Out stay at CLI was perfect, we had an oceanview room on the second floor. Our room was a bit small but so cozy with a gas fireplace, king bed, jacuzzi tub, it was very nice. The breakfasts are really good here, the staff is friendly, there is a small day spa where you can get a massage and a nice wine and cheese reception each evening that we enjoyed by the fireplace. You can walk to Victoria Beach from the property. We made some very nice memories here on an anniversary trip. ***kim***
kimamom is offline  
Feb 8th, 2009, 10:44 AM
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kimamom, thanks for the details on your stay at Casa Laguna Inn. It sounds like exactly the type of cozy, romantic place that we enjoy!

In the last few years we've ventured further from home for anniversaries...Hawaii and New Zealand for example. While we still plan to travel internationally, there are wonderful places like Laguna Beach that are great for a getaway weekend.

I was amazed how much Laguna Beach seemed like a complete getaway to me, like Hawaii, and it's only an hour from home!
Melissa5 is offline  
Feb 8th, 2009, 10:45 AM
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kimamom, thanks for the details on your stay at Casa Laguna Inn. It sounds like exactly the type of cozy, romantic place that we enjoy! I was looking at their web-site and the ocean view room and the deluxe ocean view room looked good to me.

In the last few years we've ventured further from home for anniversaries...Hawaii and New Zealand for example. While we still plan to travel internationally, there are wonderful places like Laguna Beach that are great for a getaway weekend.

I was amazed how much Laguna Beach seemed like a complete getaway to me, like Hawaii, and it's only an hour from home!
Melissa5 is offline  
Feb 8th, 2009, 10:18 PM
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Crystal Cove State Park

We explored the busy, popular beach at Crystal Cove State Park. When you park in the lot, don't pay to take the bus to the beach, unless you need a ride due to a handicap. The beach is an easy walk from the lot.

We checked out the neglected historical beach cottages, many of which are falling apart yet can't be torn down. Some of them can be rented (the habitable ones!).

Food Services, Crystal Cove

The Beachcomber Cafe on the beach was crammed with people. But a short walk up from there brings you to the Crystal Cove Shake Shack, now owned by Ruby's. I enjoyed a peanut butter shake and a chili dog. You can sit outside, if you can snag a table or a bench, and watch the ocean while you eat. Pleasant and quick, and our food was decent.


I used these 2 helpful guidebooks to plan our weekend getaway to Laguna Beach:

Fodors Southern California 2009

Zagat San Diego Restaurants 2009
(includes Orange County and Palm Springs)


THAT'S IT for this trip! I'm already dreaming of more weekend getaways to Laguna Beach. I'd love to return to the Sand and Surf resort. I'd also like to try Casa Laguna Inn.

I stopped in the Holiday Inn in Laguna Beach to get a brochure. It's a modest property, walking distance to the beach and to town, but it's NOT on the beach. Looks like a decent choice.
Melissa5 is offline  
Mar 15th, 2009, 05:13 AM
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Nice trip report. Was your hotel within walking distance of some of those places you mentioned? We are staying at the Inn at Laguna Beach for one night (and will not have a car this day/night), and are in need of a walkable place for dinner. Also want to go to the gelato place you mentioned (salted carmel, I am there!).

Did you look at any of the tidepools at Crystal Cove? We also want to go there (another day, with our friend who lives there and has the car), but not sure what the best time of day is to go.
amelie is offline  
Mar 15th, 2009, 05:22 AM
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Ok, I see that Tutto Amore Gelato is .2 miles from the Inn.
amelie is offline  
Mar 15th, 2009, 05:31 AM
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GREAT trip report! I love all the details.

I was there (almost exactly a year ago) and we enjoyed eating at the Beachcomber. There was a little bit of a wait, but that gave us time to wander a few steps away and see the house used in the filming of Beaches. Silly, maybe, but I enjoyed seeing it.

amelie, if you want a great breakfast place, walk to the Orange Inn. A tiny local place but great breakfasts, sandwiches and coffee.

My friends' favorite store in the village is Tuvalu - and it was delightful

Happy anniversary, Melissa!
starrs is offline  
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