New Life in Laguna

Surf & Sand Resort upgrades with $6 million spa

By: Lisa Jennings

Some impressive new neighbors have popped up around the Surf & Sand Resort in Laguna Beach, the relative granddaddy of high-end resorts along the Southern California “Riviera.”

But the folks at Surf & Sand aren’t worried. In fact, bookings are up this year compared to last, and the handsome beachfront property has been revitalized by ongoing renovations that include a new $6-million spa.

What began in 1948 as a motel is now a luxurious resort with rooms so close to the glorious beach that the noise of the pounding waves may keep light sleepers up at night.

The Surf & Sand is made up of four buildings, with a total of 165 guestrooms, including 13 suites, all of which have a view of the ocean.

And what a view it is. On a recent hosted visit, we stayed in “the tower,” which has nine floors and is one of the tallest buildings in Laguna Beach, offering a dizzying vista of the beach below.

At the heart of the hotel, the restaurant Splashes, also makes good use of the view with terrace dining for breakfast, lunch and dinner overlooking the beach. It’s a lovely setting, but the Mediterranean-themed menu at Splashes is worth a visit even when the view is gloomy.

The Surf & Sand doesn’t market itself as a family resort. But it’s a popular choice for upscale family travelers and the hotel makes children feel welcome. New in July is a half-day camp for kids ages 4-12 for $35 per session, available on weekends through Labor Day. And, in addition to Saturday evening barbecue events through the summer, the “Sundae Scooping” ice cream man will be visiting guestrooms in the evenings with a cart full of Ben and Jerry’s an upscale hotel’s spin on the “popsicle man.”

Aquaterra, the hotel’s new spa, has only eight treatment rooms. But that only adds to the intimate pampering atmosphere. Treatments run from facials to full-body massages, scrubs and wraps, with couples rooms and outdoor massages available. Complimentary yoga classes are offered on Saturdays, and the spa is expected to add a nail salon and a larger retail area later this year.

One of Surf & Sand’s best attributes, however, is simply its location. It’s a short walk to Laguna Beach’s village center. Guests can walk along the beach, or the Pacific Coast Highway, which is rich with charming art galleries, shops and restaurants.