Quiet luxury in Southern California is personalized and healthy

Luxury hospitality is no longer limited to gold-plated toilets and diamond-crusted watches. A recent 24-hour visit to Dana Point, California, a half hour from number one-rated John Wayne Airport (SNA) and a model arbiter of quiet sophistication was a demonstration of the new, soft-spoken approach to pampering meeting attendees in body and soul and a fresh understanding of why the area is so popular with incentive travel, financial and medial meeting groups.

The Evolution of Dana Point

How did a sleepy surf town halfway between Los Angeles and San Diego reach the heights of Southern California Luxe culture? When Hobie Alter established his first surf shop there in 1950, the cove was known as Killer Dana. Engineering in the 1970s transformed the area into a bustling marina where dinner cruises in glass-bottom boats, kayaking and paddleboarding from yachts are the order of the day. In fact, Dana Point is now known more as the dolphin and whale capital of the world than as a threat to sailing vessels chronicled in the interactive exhibits at Ocean Institute and surf lessons from evangelists like Girl in the Curl are a popular visitor activity.

At 14 square miles and 32,000 residents, the four hotel properties totaling 2,200 guest rooms located in Dana Point on the Pacific Ocean encompass more chocolate-on-pillow turn-down service per capita than cities ten times as large and pets are welcomed with open arms.

A planned renovation of the harbor starting this year could bring two new hotels and the ones already gracing the sunny landscape have invested in advancing the quiet luxury aesthetic. Let’s take a closer look.

Laguna Cliffs Marriott Resort & Spa

The focus in this red-roofed resort designed as an homage to the iconic Hotel del Coronado is on the namesake lagoon. All 378 guest rooms, including 15 suites, were renovated in 2019 to bring the sand and sea vibe hues indoors. More than 53,000 sq. ft. is available indoors, including a 10,000 sq. ft. ballroom, but outdoor spaces are often brought into service tented or under the oak trees in the neighboring park.

Incentive groups are frequent visitors to the 14,000-square-foot spa but dry massages and HydraFacials can be brought into any of the spaces. Four pickleball courts and a bike loaner program keep groups active.

It is the attention to detail in the design, service and food and beverage program that elevates the experience to quiet luxury. Rooms have amenities tucked into thoughtful alcoves. Outdoor patios have been transformed into Mediterranean-inspired lounges adorned with cafe lights and striped umbrellas. Specialty serving dishes keep food chilled in style and sustainable materials allow everyone to rest easier. Those subtle touches add up to an experience that is elegant and comforting as if every need was anticipated.

The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel

hotel lobby
The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel

The 396-room Mission-style resort built in 1984 on the cliff overlooking Salt Creek Beach was completely renovated in 2021. Few pleasures beat opening French doors to your terrace to watch surfers bobbing in the sunset and hearing the sound of the waves. Ground-floor rooms include fire pits and S’mores kits. Inside, sparkling decor bring the brilliance of the water views to the bedside.

The five-diamond experience starts in the lobby where guests are greeted by a profusion of white roses. Dining experiences include the new Kahani traditional Indian cuisine in a sumptuous red and rich wood space and the intimate Taikun Omakase, which offers a curated 16-course sushi experience. Raya is Chef Richard Sandoval’s personal interpretation of coastal cuisine through sustainable seafood, local produce and pan-Latin flavors. Think lobster tacos and mussels a la chalaca with coconut aji amarillo.

The modern elegance extends to the 67,000 sq. ft. of meeting space that includes chandeliers even in many breakout rooms, more ocean views, elaborate molding and access to elevated catering menus, meaningful team building and local photographers.

Waldorf Astoria Monarch Beach Resort & Club

outdoor hotel space next to ocean shore
Monarch Bay Beach Club

This nearby property reflagged in 2021 as part of a $30 million renovation that polished all 400 guest rooms with decor that represents the warmth of the sun and sand and coolness of the ocean as seen from the grand lawn observation deck. At the same time, the gym moved into the spa to create a holistic fitness center. The property glows with more than 100 fire pits and fireplaces paired with cozy blankets and snacks for enjoying.

If action is the love language for your attendees, there is always something to do on the property’s 175 acres of ocean-adjacent property. The 18-hole golf course can be played with an assist from GolfBoards or Phat Scooters. A trolley shuttles guests to the beachfront Club 19 and beach concierges will schlep towels and picnics to the private sand for expert tidepool experiences and an array of ocean sports. Guided electric bicycle tours, more than 40 weekly fitness yoga and meditation classes, a running app and craft and spa experiences can be personalized to add that special touch to a reception or team building. Catalina Island is an hour away by boat or 15 minutes by helicopter.

Back up at resort level, Bourbon Steak Orange County by Michael Mina is popular for sophisticated group buyouts. A cozy, stone-walled wine cave boasts some 10,000 bottles, some coveted vintages, and an outdoor terrace.

The 30,000 sq. ft. of sophisticated indoor meeting space includes three ballrooms with the largest a 12,000 square-foot European-inspired Pacific Ballroom with access to an outside garden rotunda via a sweeping staircase. Outdoors, another 80,000 sq. ft., including a concert-primed Botanical Lawn awaits.

Client services managers are trained to create an immersive Southern California experience.

Waldorf Astoria’s Spa menu includes locally-sourced broad spectrum CBD massage treatments with menthol, camphor, capsicum and mushroom extracts for pain relief.

Waldorf Astoria Monarch Beach Director of Sales Jean Schulte explained, “Opulence for opulence sake doesn’t resonate anymore. Hyper personalization, the luxury of time and personal meaning are the ingredients of a richer stay now.”

Grounded Luxury Hospitality

New luxury may look more like natural healing than Tiffany boxes. Rather than bougie extravagance, for many, connecting with the earth and themselves is the ultimate indulgence. Palm Springs is making that easy with four new players on the scene designed to ground guests in very different ways.

Read More: Palm Springs: Your Oasis, Your Way

Agua Caliente Cultural Museum and The Spa at Sec-he

museum facadeLearning about the history of the land and the people who lived there for thousands of years before the convention center was built is an emerging best-practice in infusing a sense of place in an event. The new Agua Caliente Cultural Center and adjoining The Spa at Sec-he in Palm Springs is a compelling way to immerse visitors in the history and traditions of the Band of Cahuilla Indians who have called the natural hot springs home since time immemorial. The museum tells the story of the tribe in projected images and resin while outside the Oasis Trail replicates the canyons the Agua Caliente called home.

Indoor and outdoor meeting space incorporated into the education center add meaning to the meeting. Afterward, attendees can take the waters in float pods sourced from mineral-infused natural healing sources that started as snow on the nearby mountain peaks 12,000 years ago. Massage treatments, salt caves, Eucalyptus steam rooms, sound baths and zero-gravity chairs add to the holistic healing package. Hint, look for the basketweave symbolism all around you.

Tommy Bahama Miramonte Resort & Spa

This reinvention of an Indian Wells classic resort opened in late 2023 and is the first hotel venture for the lifestyle brand. The 215 generously-sized guest rooms and villa suites in the campus setting hug two pools (one adults only) and reflect the island vibe of the namesake. Olive trees anchor a fire pit-studded outdoor area.

The 15,000 sq. ft. of meeting space inside and equal proportions outside offer views of the San Ysidro Mountains beyond. Even the carpet mirrors the background.

The approachable Southern California cuisine restaurant Grapefruit Basil, has become a favorite of locals with a fun craft cocktail program, including zero-proof versions of classics. Guests are welcome to use pickers to pluck grapefruits and oranges from the groves of trees on the property and take to the bar to be squeezed for a custom drink.

Read More: How to Mix Business and Pleasure at Margaritaville Palm Springs

This is a property with history and Director of Sales and Marketing Robert Hatfield describes the experience of staying there as arriving at an island oasis in the desert. That is pretty luxurious.

Thompson Palm Springs

One of the most anticipated openings of 2024, Thompson Palm Springs, will fly a Hyatt flag and embrace the low-profile, mid-century aesthetic the area is famous for preserving. Craig and Kathryn Hall, the owners of Hall and Walt Wines in California’s renowned wine region of Napa, stepped in to revive what was originally going to be an Andaz hotel and the property is currently taking reservations for groups after May 1 when the first phase is scheduled to open.

Kelly Teo, director of sales and marketing, explains the down-to-earth appeal this way: “It is a mixed-generation, luxury psychographicaly relevant brand where culture is the focus.”

Picture $3 million in art, including murals from local artists, indoor-outdoor dining and meeting, modern, period-appropriate custom furnishings in oversized, unique guest rooms. Of course, there will be a ground-level Hall Winery tasting room. Activations on Palm Canyon Drive and nearby Agua Caliente Cultural Museum will connect the 8,000 sq. ft. of meeting space and penthouse, which overlooks with the happenings in the city.

An exploratory culinary focus in bohemian Lola Rose will serve up Middle Eastern and global cuisine to the private dining room.

The building incorporates natural materials, indigenous landscaping and covers two-and-a-half city blocks, resulting in a build-out that is close to the earth. In the meetings space, floor-to-ceiling windows bring the outside in and the geography adjacent to the porte cochere makes car launches a popular activity.

Sensei Porcupine Creek

In 2022, billionaire Larry Ellison opened the boutique high-tech wellness resort Sensei Porcupine Creek in Rancho Mirage. It includes a golf club, 22 luxurious guest rooms, “estate rooms,” casitas and private villas.

A wellness diagnostic center includes trained wellbeing consultants, dieticians and mindset practitioners to guide guest journeys based on personal data. Your VIPs will be encouraged to create a plan based on lifestyle practices that resonate with them.

The 230-acre retreat exudes quiet luxury with minimalist stone architecture, a spiritual landscape and Nobu dining experience. Making it an immediate hit with small corporate groups. This is the newest offering of the ultimate nourishing escape pioneered at Sensei Lana’i from Four Seasons Resort. It is exclusive luxury based on leaving guests feeling serene and centered.