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Surf & Sand Resort
1555 S. Coast Hwy.
Laguna Beach, CA 92651

Barefoot Elegance
By Kim Fay

Laguna Beach is one of the loveliest towns in the United States. Flanking a beautiful stretch of Pacific coastline, it offers an extravagant amount (given its size) of fine art galleries, great restaurants, eclectic boutiques and independent bookstores. It's also home to the world-famous Pageant of the Masters and fun and funky Sawdust Festival. The only drawback is that this town is a not a best-kept-secret. Crowds fill it up, especially on weekends and during the summer months. The solution to enjoying it year round? Hide away at the Surf & Sand Resort.

The Surf & Sand Resort is a local institution, just far enough away from Laguna Village, but within easy, leisurely walking distance. It sits on 500 feet of beachfront and is strategically tiered to offer ocean views from almost everywhere on the property, from the guestrooms to the restaurant to the meeting spaces. We've attended conferences overlooking the waves, and a sea-breeze-kissed wedding on one of the terraces; the experience was a delight each time.

Guestrooms and suites epitomize SoCal style. They are light and airy, with enormous potted palms, fresh cut flowers and furnishings that have a Caribbean feel to them, without the syrupy pastels. Amenities include honor bars, CD players and cotton robes, and thirteen suites include three penthouses with whirlpool baths, original art and patios for dining, lounging or entertaining. The best thing about the accommodations, of course, are the views, framed in floor-to-ceiling, blond wood shutters. Some corners rooms feel as if they are wrapped in sky and sea, and there are few things more pleasant than falling asleep to the sound of the waves. A must: order room service breakfast delivered to your private balcony.

A favorite with locals, Splashes restaurant is in harmony with the overall design of the resort. This multi-leveled venue serves Mediterranean inspired cuisine indoors (with a fireplace) and al fresco. The patio is shaded by palms, and both indoors and out enjoy views of the water. At beach level, Splashes Lounge offers cocktails and yet one more great place to enjoy the sunset.

Although the Surf & Sand calls itself a resort, the property isn't sprawling. There are less than half a dozen buildings in all, but they do include the essentials for luxury resort living: an attractive conference center, a fitness and yoga studio, a pretty oceanfront pool with private cabanas, and a spa. Citrus trees lead to the entrance to Aquaterra Spa, which offers treatment rooms with-you guessed it-ocean views. If families stay at this resort for the beach, couples come for romantic retreats and the well-known couples' treatments, which include the Artistic Ritual, featuring sensual body paints.

From a motel in the 1940s to the headquarters for the White House Press Corps whenever President Nixon was vacationing in San Clemente, the Surf & Sand has come a long way, baby. Certainly, this is its best incarnation. With its barefoot elegance and sunny demeanor, it feels like an organic extension of the area it inhabits.

Going to Orange County? Check out our guide.

(Updated: 06/27/08 HC)

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