Float like a Butterfly

Resolve to indulge and relax at Dana Point’s Monarch Beach Resort.

By Leslie A. Westbrook

Photo by Kristen Ahrens/J Public Relations

VAST RESORT: With 172 acres overlooking the majestic Pacific Ocean, the Monarch Beach Resort has everything for a luxury getaway: three pools, an award-winning spa, fine dining, golf, tennis, fitness classes and much, much more.


hat better place to float like a butterfly and land like a busy bee than Dana Point, just a two-hour drive from Ventura and home to the amazing Monarch Beach Resort. It made for the perfect post-holiday destination to indulge, relax and prepare for 2019.

My best friend, Ewy, and I headed south and checked in for two nights, with the intention of recovering from our respective family and holiday stresses while having a last blast before bracing for the new year ahead.

The Monarch Beach Resort is a sprawling, but easily navigated, five-story resort hotel set on a hill that slopes gently down to the golf course and coastline. Elegantly designed by Rodrigo Vargas Design with a restrained hand, the public areas and guest rooms are bright and airy. Pale celadon walls create a calming effect in the rooms; marble bathrooms are sumptuous and our spacious suite had a small balcony with a lovely view.

After checking in, we scoped out the lobby bar, where live music added to the festive atmosphere. We opted for a healthy walk down to the golf course and beyond for a spectacular ocean sunset view with Catalina Island silhouetted in the distance.

Then we dressed for dinner at Michael Mina’s upscale restaurant, Bourbon Steak. The handsome and inviting dining room features low lighting, comfy booths, superb service and a stellar menu.

The indulgent listings were well explained by our waitress. Although heavy on steaks (obviously) that include a variety of American Waygu beef cuts, the incredible array of additional offerings included plenty of shellfish and seafood: lobster, caviar, oysters as well as tasty appetizers and sides.

We started with a cocktail prepared tableside from the martini trolley — an experience in itself. The menu included numerous options and our choice of Nolet’s Gin or Ketel One Vodka. (Carl Nolet, Jr., eleventh-generation spirit maker, lives in the area and pops in regularly.). Ewy chose a fresh version with peach and cucumber bitters; I went for the dirty martini with blue cheese olives. My libation was topped with a couple of drops of extra virgin olive oil from an eye-dropper (to make it smoother!), while Ewy’s was infused with a spray of mint tincture. Incredible “truffle butter brioche rolls” and French fries (fried in duck fat - there goes the New Year resolution diet!) with dipping sauces were served to accompany our heavenly martinis.

For starters, we indulged in the “OC” salad of lobster, avocado and Bibb lettuce with a local citrus dressing and the “instant” bacon in Bourbon soy glaze with daikon, kimchi and succulent little squares of pork belly coated in masago arare (pearls of crispy rice).

Our entrees included the amazing Hon Jake Scottish salmon and the Mediterranean sea bass. Both were perfectly prepared. Crispy Brussels sprouts with apple slivers and totally irresistible creamy mashed potatoes pleased as much as the tasty fennel salad sides. Executive Chef Bryan Brown is killing it! Dinner at this self-contained oasis was one of the best of the year.

We awoke the next morning lazy, slightly heavy from the food and ready to atone for our sins. A spa day would include a yoga class on the beach, meditation at day’s end and one of the signature treatments: the 90 minute Shamana-Karma body ritual. This Ayurvedic-inspired treatment promised to “purify and boost immunity and spirits.” Lemongrass, mint, nutmeg and clove was steamed for a poultice rub. My “type” was determined to be “kapha,” so an invigorating, warming and revitalizing kapha oil massage and a scalp massage of rosemary and peppermint ensued. The oil bath was followed by an aromatic wrap and then by a hibiscus plant-powder scrub. The entire treatment not only restored my skin and spirits, but my therapist, Natalie, told me I would sleep really well (which I did, I had tossed and turned the night before) and my digestion would improve. The spa has a soaking Jacuzzi with a waterfall feature, eucalyptus steam rooms, saunas and relaxation rooms with tea and nibbles.

I checked out the lap pool at the spa (there is a large outdoor pool and kid’s pool at the resort as well) and passed by a class of aerial yoga participants swinging in hammocks. The spa therapist told me that she had tried the floating meditation, where you are rocked in a silk hammock to the sounds of crystal bowls.

“I felt like a marshmallow afterwards!” Natalie said.

A group of us met at the spa for a late afternoon yoga class on the beach followed by the Blue Mindful Meditation class. We rode a trolley that looked like a woody, complete with Beach Boys music played loudly, on a Mr. Toad’s wild ride down to the lovely crescent of beach.

Instructor Walter easily demonstrated the moves. I struggled to keep up, but did a good imitation of a pretzel, which made me realize that I really need to work on my balance and flexibility in the new year. It got too cold to remain for meditation, so we went to the Monarch Beach Club for a hot toddy, tasty squash soup and shrimp pot stickers — all enjoyed with an ocean sunset view.

It’s an easy two-hour drive from Ventura to Dana Point if you time it correctly and take the toll road that turns off toward the coast from the 405. The resort and its fab restaurants, spa and golf course are definitely a splurge worthy any time of year. The Monarch Beach Resort would also make a great place to take your Valentine for an indulgent romantic getaway. A “Couples Relaxation Retreat” includes a soothing bath followed by massages and quality time together in the co-ed relaxation area.

Five-star resort, 5-star restaurant, 5-star spa: All in all, it adds up to a sky full of stars for Monarch Beach Resort.

Oh and about those New Year’s resolutions? Mine include exploring more great places near and far, appreciating what we have in our own backyard and remaining grateful for a wonderful winter escapes just a short drive away.

Monarch Beach Resort Dana Point

There’s equal opportunity for indulgence and wellness at Monarch Beach Resort. Splurge on fine Modern American cuisine at Bourbon Steak (top), and work off the calories later with yoga and meditation on the beach (center). The soothing, sea-inspired palette of the rooms, with cool blues and greens and crisp whites, will lull you into sweet dreams at day’s end. All photos by Kristen Ahrens/J Public Relations





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