Laguna Beach lifeguards used to lug their surfboards around the 30-acre headland above Treasure Island, Christmas Cove, and Goff Cove, because the long walk (or an even longer paddle) was the only way to reach the beaches below the cliffs. Today, guests of Montage Laguna Beach stroll to these once-secret spots on wide, paved ramps and stairs, at the bottom of which an attendant awaits with towels, beach chairs, and bottled water.
The 250-room Montage opened on this Southern California promontory in 2003 as the first property in founder and CEO Alan Fuerstman’s fledgling collection of “comfortably elegant” hotels. (The second establishment, Montage Beverly Hills, opened in November, 2008.) Montage Laguna Beach is indeed comfortably elegant, consisting of a five-story main building and four bungalows designed in the California Craftsman style. Rooms feature down-covered beds, marble baths, and views of the ocean and landscaped bluff.
The bluff above the beaches is now a public park, but Montage’s adjoining spa and mosaic-tiled pool offer private havens for resort guests. Those guests in search of a secret spot can still find one in Laguna Beach, although they have to ask around. Approach the concierge—or one of the locals strolling the cliff-top path—and inquire as to the whereabouts of a 1920s castle turret and the secluded ocean outcrop it overlooks.
Montage Laguna Beach, 866.271.6953, 949.715.6000, www.montagelagunabeach.com
Rates: $495 – $6,000