by Terry Ward
The wide-open Pacific Ocean views and bluff-top setting of this fabulous oceanfront Southern California resort are its most obvious attributes. And for anyone longing for a pampered version of that particular brand of California dream involving bright sunny days, crisp nights, and the sound of roaring waves on the wind, Laguna Beach’s refined urban setting strikes a nice balance with all the untamed appeal of the coast’s wildness. For a quintessential American West Coast beach vacation — the kind of family bonding time that lingers in the collective memory for decades — you’ve come to the right town. And if consummate luxury and impeccable customer service are high on your list of demands for a family beach getaway, the Montage Laguna Beach is the perfect resort.
For all the natural beauty of the resort’s 30 coastal acres, it’s the exceptional service at the Montage that really sets it apart from other all-encompassing Southern California resorts. It starts from the minute you and your family — large or small, with or without Fido in tow — arrive. Instead of milling around the reception area with kids antsy from the car ride and darting off in all directions, you’re efficiently whisked off to your oceanfront room or suite to complete the check-in process there.
The hotel has a very gracious indoor/outdoor feel in the main lobby where doors open onto a large balcony that overlooks the beautifully landscaped gardens, pools, and ocean beyond. The lounge here is a popular place for both guests and locals to gather for a pre- or post-dinner cocktail and is at its most inviting when the golden light of sunset is streaming in.
The hotel manages to be completely sophisticated and transporting for adults (you’ll spot quite a few honeymooners and couples celebrating special occasions here) while welcoming and catering to children and families in equal measure.
For families in search of a good balance of classic luxury resort amenities (great pools, a top-notch spa) on a large property that still manages to feel very much linked to the surrounding town, the Montage and the vibrant coastal community of Laguna Beach are a perfect match. Add to that the fact that you’re oceanfront on a beautiful beach with top Southern California family attractions like the San Diego Zoo, SeaWorld and LEGOLAND, to name a few — all an easy day trip away and you’ve got all the ingredients for a classic, fabulous family vacation.
Our Editor Loves
- All rooms have ocean views
- Children's pool next to oceanfront Mosaic pool
- Paintbox half-day and full-day kids' program
- Horse Back Riding
- Theme Park
- Water Sports
- Children Programs
- Connecting Rooms
- Family Room 5+
- Free Wi-Fi
- Kids' Theme Meals
- Onsite Dining
Find the Best Price for Your Stay
The Montage Laguna Beach Resort is a sprawling property, with 248 rooms stretching across the cliff top, among them 60 suites and another 37 beach bungalow-style rooms. It can take awhile to make your way from your room over to the spa or down to the beach. But the pathways are all gently slopping and stroller friendly. For such a big resort, the property feels surprisingly intimate. Credit that to the warm feel of the rooms, decorated with paintings by California artists invoking the state's natural beauty and the muted color schemes (yellows and creams).
Every room has a balcony allowing you to step outside and let in the fresh ocean air, and the balconies also let in plenty of light, making the rooms seem larger. All of the guestrooms and suites have bathrooms with dual vanities and marble throughout. There's a stand-alone shower that's separate from the oversized soaking tub, into which you could easily pile a gaggle of children for their nightly scrub. Large 32-inch flat-screen TVs are also standard in all rooms as well as DVD players, so you don't have to call down to have one delivered when you're ready to park the kids in front of their favorite Disney movie. All rooms also have mini-bars, and it's a nice touch that you can request to have the contents removed before your arrival to keep the little ones from getting into the tasty tidbits inside (it also frees up space for any snacks and drinks you've brought along).
Be aware that while all guestrooms, suites, and bungalows have balconies or patios with ocean views, some of the views are more front and center than others (the "Ocean Horizon" rooms have predominantly resort views, with the sliver of ocean on the horizon a distant view). You can fit up to five people in the guestrooms (though the hotel does not encourage it), and the most comfortable are those with two queen beds and a rollaway bed brought it at your request. Connecting rooms are a better way to go if you're traveling with a large entourage.
One-Bedroom and Bungalow Suites
In addition to the standard guestrooms, there are one-bedroom suites with a separate living area and, even better for privacy and luxury, bungalow suites. The latter are closest to the ocean and offer direct views of Aliso Beach as well as fireplaces and a bedroom separated from the living space by French doors, so you can close off part of the family in its own little realm. (You can request up to four connecting bungalow suites -- a good option for a family reunion, wedding party, etc.)
The hotel's most decadent accommodations are its two private villas: Villa Du Couchant and Villa Du Soleil. Each has an ocean view, three private bedrooms, a living room, a full kitchen, fireplaces, outdoor grill and a washer and dryer. Plus, space for outdoor or indoor dining. Consider it your own private beach house (with twice-daily maid service like the hotel's other rooms, of course) fronting one of California's prettiest coastal stretches.
In addition to the outstanding location, my husband & I were blown away by the immediate friendly & very welcoming service from the moment we arrived from the valet parking associates.
We experienced consistent, timely and friendly service throughout all the restaurants, and the selection & quality of menu choices from the Lobby to Mosaic and Studio were excellent. Being a Brit I particularly enjoyed the afternoon tea, the cakes were delish! Everyone we encountered were courteous, helpful, and knowledgeable when required.
I also thoroughly enjoyed the shopping options and it was a treat not to have to leave the property. All in all I would highly recommend this Hotel. Janis B.
I stayed at the Montage in Laguna this past July. I needed a couple days to rest, relax, and refresh. To say this hotel is gorgeous is an understatement. The view is overlooking the ocean and is one of the most gorgeous views I have ever seen. The rooms are spacious, super clean, and the beds are soooo comfortable. Most importantly, the staff and customer service is top notch! The food is delicious and the spa is incredible. My favorite part of the hotel is the spa pool. It’s smaller than the main, but the view is to die for. 5 plus stars for this hotel!!! I can’t wait to come back!
For families keen on together time, Laguna Beach is a wonderful destination and the Montage offers plenty to do on-property when you're not out exploring the town. For starters, there are the hotel's various swimming pools, all perched high on the bluff offering scenic ocean views. The main pool is the Mosaic pool; it's open 24 hours and kids are welcome. Just next to it is a children's pool that's only one-and-a-half feet deep. It's easy to be sunning on a lounge chair and still have your eye on your horse-playing preteens in the main pool as well as your little ones in the children's pool.
From the pool terrace, follow a winding pathway, lined with Coastal California flowers and flax, down the cliffs (it's paved) to the beach, a sandy stretch abutted with rocky outcroppings where you can spend some time exploring the tidal pools to spot urchins, anemones, crabs, and small fish. On a clear day, you'll be able to see Catalina Island to the west. If you want to spend time sunning on the beach, the hotel will provide chairs, beach toys, snacks, and towels, but be aware that the surf here is rough and the ocean is not a place to go for a swim.
The resort's kids' clubs are Paintbox, with programs for kids ages 5 to 12, Petite Paintbox with programs for the 2 to 5 year old set, and M-Teen for kids ages 11 to 16. Each day of the week has a different theme (Mondays are safari-centric, Tuesdays do the pirate thing, Thursdays are luaus -- you get the idea) to keep things interesting for the children, and the daily schedule is a good mix of indoor arts and crafts activities in a dedicated room and outdoor ocean-themed fun around the property and on the beach (perhaps a hunt in the tidal pools or time playing on the beach).
Each kid gets a souvenir Paintbox backpack to bring home. Paintbox Petite is a similar mix of arts and crafts and outdoor time, with most of the latter spent in the baby pool or blowing bubbles outside and playing lawn games. All of the staff working for Paintbox programs are CPR and First-Aid certified. You can sign your children up for half- or full-day sessions at Paintbox, and lunch is included with both morning and afternoon sessions. Full-day sessions run for about $100 per child. Paintbox Petite is available on an hourly basis and children do not need to be potty trained. Light snacks and lunch are provided at Paintbox Petite.
Teens enjoy boogie boarding, playing ladder golf and Frisbee or just hanging out at the beach. The concierge can also arrange babysitting anytime of day or night from the hotel's list of approved sitters.
In the evenings at the resort, you can order a S'mores making kit from in-room dining and gather around the hotel's fire pit to roast marshmallows and make the classic American fireside snack under the stars -- a lot more comfortable, though not necessarily less messy, than the camping version, for sure.
And for the outdoor recreation possibilities in this stretch of Southern California, they're almost endless. Want to take surf lessons together as a family? No problem, dude. Fancy a sunset horseback ride? Yeehaw. Some kayaking or perhaps a casual hike along the coastal cliffs? Done. It's all here for the taking, and the hotel's concierge can direct you to the best area outfitters.
LEGOLAND, the theme park dedicated to the LEGO building toys, is only about a 30 minutes drive south of Laguna Beach, and it's not too much farther to the San Diego Zoo and SeaWorld in San Diego if the kids want to spend the day getting splashed by Shamu.
Chances are you'll do most of your family dining at The Loft, the most casual and accessible of the resort's restaurants and open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Breakfast is served from 6 to 11 a.m. and standards for kids include French toast with maple syrup, cereals and oatmeal, waffles, pancakes, and bacon and eggs. The lunch and dinner menus for kids are the same, with the predictable range of burgers, beef hot dogs (kosher), chicken fingers, spaghetti and meatballs, pasta and butter, and macaroni and cheese on offer. If your kids can be convinced to opt for the healthiest option on the kids' menu, that would be the grilled chicken breast with steamed broccoli (good luck with that if they get a load of the cheeseburger and fries!). A highlight at The Loft is the "interactive cheese bar," which features more than 150 regional and international cheese selections.
Mosaic Bar and Grille
If you're hanging out poolside during the day, Mosaic Bar and Grille, right near the Mosaic pool and kid's pool, is a nice spot for lunch, serving up foods like fish tacos, nachos and calamari. Breakfast is also available on Sunday from 9:30 to 11 a.m. and chocolate chip pancakes are offered on the kids' menu.
The resort's fancier main restaurant is the Studio, perched right on the bluff and most certainly a fine dining restaurant where you'd probably really rather not have young kids interfering with the very sophisticated and serene vibe.
Breakfast, lunch, dinner and late-night snacks are available 24/7 in the comfort of your room.
Planning & Tips
All About the Extras
While the hotel doesn't provide any specific welcome amenities for kids, you can of course request cookies and milk or other favorite treats on arrival. During check in, you all will be offered a complimentary glass of champagne or apple cider. There are no coffee machines and microwaves in the rooms, but these can be brought in at your request for no charge. Complimentary coffee is served every morning in the hotel lobby from 6 to 11 a.m. There is no resort fee.
Public laundry facilities are not provided at the hotel but you can always head into the town of Laguna Beach to one of the coin laundry facilities if you don't wish to use the hotel's dry cleaning or regular laundry service that, as you might imagine, comes at a premium. The hotel's two villas include full washers and dryers.
Standard wireless Internet service is free for guests and good enough for checking emails and logging onto social networking sites. But if you're planning to watch streaming video or do heavy duty downloading, go for the hotel's premium Internet service that provides for up to 10 connected wireless devices.
Babysitting services with trusted sitters from the area can be arranged through the concierge and are available 24 hours a day.
After dinner at the resort or in town, the lobby lounge is a nice open-air setting for a nightcap and listening to the live music provided nightly.
The spa's fitness center has floor-to-ceiling windows that look out onto ocean views, making it a little more inviting to put in your time on the treadmill and other cardio machines or work your way through the weight-lifting circuit.
If you're traveling with babies and toddlers, you can request a baby-proofed room for no extra charge -- housekeeping will ensure that all electrical outlets within reach are mounted with protective covers and sharp corners on coffee tables and other furniture are blunted with soft rubber fittings.
Pets are also welcome at the Montage for an additional fee.
The Art of Smart Timing
The weather is pretty perfect year round on this stretch of the California coast, although in June there tends to be more cloudy and overcast days than throughout the rest of the year. The holiday season and summer months are the busiest at the Montage (Fourth of July gets packed!), so count on more people around the pool and down on the beach during these times. If the main resort area and pools are feeling crowded, you can always walk along the coastal pathway to find a quiet stretch of lawn to stretch on. There are several arts festivals held in Laguna Beach throughout the year, filling the town and resort with people -- particularly during the annual Pageant of the Masters art festival in Laguna Beach held every year in July and August.
The Montage Laguna Beach is located about an hour south of Los Angeles and less than 90 minutes north of San Diego. Alternatively, you can fly into the John Wayne Airport in Orange County, which is just 25 minutes from the resort. All major car rental companies are found at all three airports and a rental car will come in handy when exploring nearby attractions. The hotel's concierge can arrange for a taxi or car service to pick you up at any of the airports, but you can also arrange a taxi on your own at the airport on arrival.
The hotel offers a complimentary Cadillac Escalade and Mercedes SUV shuttle service into Laguna Beach, but during peak times it might not be available. (You can reserve it in advance if you know where you want to go, and when.) Valet is the only onsite option for parking your car and it's not cheap. (There are metered spaces just outside the hotel entrance, but you'll hardly want to run back and forth feeding the meter during your stay.) During the summer months, a free trolley operates in the town of Laguna Beach and young kids especially get a kick out of riding it around.
For Mom and Dad
The Loft and Studio Restaurants
Hire a babysitter and plan a date night. Even if you don't leave the resort's property, you're sure to be treated to a romantic dinner overlooking the ocean at on-property restaurants like The Loft (casual) or the more upscale Studio (a French-California hybrid perched on the cliffs with food as sublime as the views). If you dine at The Loft and are a cheese lover, you'll be most passionate about the restaurant's "interactive cheese bar," proffered by a fromage expert who can recommend the best of the 150 selections to match with gourmet condiments such as lavender honey and nectarine-and-cherry butter -- truly an experience in and of itself.
For a fun daytime date for two, why not sign up for surf lessons with local shredders at La Vida Laguna while the kids are off enjoying the activities at Paintbox?
For a fun outing during the day, do some wine tasting at the nearby Laguna Canyon Winery -- the grapes come from small-yield vineyards in Napa and Sonoma but the wines are all handcrafted onsite.
With 21 rooms and separate relaxation areas for men and women, Spa Montage is one of the best spas in Southern California. The spa includes sauna and steam rooms and a heavenly lap pool that's only open to those 16 and up (they shy from dubbing this pool adults-only, but it pretty much is). Sign up for any 60-minute treatment and you'll get access to the pool area and all the spa amenities for the entire day. On offer are the usual range of massages and detoxifying wraps and scrubs incorporating sea minerals to tie in the ocean theme. All guests are welcome to take part in the complimentary daily morning beach walk ritual where you'll wade into the ocean and be led through an invigorating stretching and yoga routine. There's a full-service hair and nail salon onsite and couples treatments are available, too.