A Very Beachy California Christmas – St. Regis Dana Point

Genie Davis December 17, 2011 No Comments

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Whether you’re globe trotting and looking for a wonderful holiday destination, beachfront, or a Southern California resident seeking a close-to-home luxury spot for the holidays, the St. Regis Monarch Beach is a great choice.

St. Regis Resort Dana Point

Elegance personfied and family friendly - the St. Regis Dana Point

About the St. Regis Hotel

The elegant five star resort has large, beautiful rooms, many with ocean views, three swimming pools to choose from, beach trails to stroll, and a really accommodating club for children, the Sandcastle Kids Club. I’ve looked at or had my kids experience a number of children’s activities at a variety of resorts over the years, and this is one of the few that I can wholeheartedly recommend. Lots of interesting games and activities, a lot of staff attention, and entertainment that really does encompass ages five to twelve, rather than boring the older children or leaving the younger attendants behind. There are baby sitting services for younger children, too.

Family Activities

Our family liked several other child-friendly options even better. Best of all: an opportunity to board the  R/V Sea Explorer, a floating marine laboratory. Called The Ocean Institute and offered weekends only, families and children can board the vessel and see marine mammals up close and personal for a nominal, five dollar fee (as of 2011). Like everything else at the resort, it’s a first class offering.

We also loved both the large main pool and the Lagoon Pool which is geared toward families with children. We stayed primarily at the Lagoon Pool, which features a small pool for tots, a main pool area with a maximum depth of four feet, and a jacuzzi. You can find a little adults only time at the Lap Pool which also has underwater music playing – nice touch.

The service at the pools, kids club and throughout the resort is exceptional and personalized – but not in a daunting way. Smiles, greeting by name, attending to your needs; yes. No forced add ons and no constant hovering. The resort is not an inexpensive retreat, but families get a lot for their money here, and even if you come to visit and not stay overnight, you’ll find some fantastic holiday happenings available.

The Dana Point bluffs are gorgeous, and the view from the restaurants and lounge is spectacular at any season, but the holiday offerings are the icing on this holiday retreat’s – gingerbread. One of the hotel’s most enjoyable holiday offerings – and one you do not need to stay here to experience – is the Gingerbread House Academy, held Saturdays and Sundays throughout the holiday season. Both kids and parents can create their own gingerbread houses, and the ingredients from the decorations to the gingerbread itself are tasty and high quality. Families of up to four can all work on the same house, as we did, making the outing economical as well as delicious. There are visits from Santa and Mrs. Claus, too.

Family Dining

The hotel’s Kids Pass dining program is a good deal, too. Kids twelve and younger can, for a flat daily fee, have access to all-inclusive meals, from buffets, children’s menus, beverages, and pool-side offerings. Fresh fruit smoothies alone made this a great deal for us. The most family oriented of the resort’s restaurants is Motif. However, we found all the restaurants to be child friendly and special diet accommodating.

Having constructed only one gingerbread mansion, we splurged on the Holiday Afternoon Tea which runs throughout the month of December, Thursday through Saturday. Lovely tea selection, pretty holiday cookies and cakes, and tasty finger sandwiches in an elegant setting at the Motif restaurant – and open to the public as well as to guests, with a reservation.

Holiday Season at the Regis

Free with a suggested charitable donation, are visits and photos with Santa in the Monarch Ballroom, also throughout December.

Right after Thanksgiving, the St. Regis Monarch Beach holds an annual tree lighting and Sand Sculpture Dedication. The tree is lovely, but it’s the enormous sand sculpture – nine tons of sand this year – that puts a distinctive California beach spin on the holiday season. After the sculpting, as night falls attendees head out on the grand lawn for hot chocolate and cider, cookies, Santa, and the tree lighting. It’s a gorgeous setting, and a free event, although attendees are encouraged to bring canned food items or make a monetary donation supporting a charitable food drive for the Second Harvest organization.

Lobby at St. Regis Monarch Beach

Lobby sand sculptures for the holidays at the St. Regis Monarch Beach

Seeing a Christmas sleigh come to life will probably make your kids eager to create their own sand sculptures, and fortunately, the beach below the hotel has plenty of soft white sand. While the ocean is chilly past summertime, the beach is excellent for strolling and sand castle shaping. Hotel guests are offered free boogie board and surf board rentals, too, for the water-sports-active members of your family.

Not far from the hotel you’ll find the beauty of Crystal Cove State Park, with over three miles of gorgeous, cliff hugging beach access plus woodland trails for excellent walks and hikes, as well as horseback riding. With the ocean off shore itself designated as an underwater park, you’ll find a wonderfully unspoiled coast line, and some excellent tide pools at low tide. We happily spent an afternoon walked, touching sea anenomes, and collecting more of those must-have shiny stones that fill our planter at home.

Is it really just the waves lapping at the shore that you’re hearing? Or is it Santa’s last lingering Ho-Ho-Ho?

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Genie Davis is a multi-published fiction author, screen and TV writer, and travel writer. If it was possible, she'd like to spend every day traveling. www.geniedavis.com

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